Next time you are in Times Square, don’t be shy when you see a spotlight– no matter how lame your dance moves are, you are guaranteed an explosive roar of applause from an invisible, enthusiastic crowd of people as long as you are moving. (What a refreshing departure from the notorious American Idol jury.) This location-appropriate spotlight installation is an interactive public art work by Adam Frank, an installation artist and a product inventor, whose body of work “represents an ongoing investigation of light and interactivity.” His shadow-casting oil lamp, LUMEN, is one of the MoMA Store’s best-selling items.
Frank’s Performer installation near Times Square–a spotlight, speakers, and an “auto-affirmation” machine–provides a virtual 500-person audience culled from hundreds of live recorded reactions, such as clapping, whistling, hooting, and mumbling. Unsuspecting visitors passing by will only see a spotlight, while speakers, motion sensor, and wiring are cleverly hidden in the semi-enclosed breezeway, a location that effectively provides an open acoustic environment that can make the mechanics of the installation invisible. While the recorded enthusiasm begins when someone walks into the spotlight, it will increase or decrease depending on the performer’s motion. There are even uncomfortable coughs and awkward throat-clearings if you stop being charming by standing still.
“Performer flips the typical viewer-and-artwork relationship: the viewer’s performance is necessary to activate and control the work,” said Frank. This reversal of roles is especially potent against the backdrop of the flashy Theater District, where normally a passive, receptive role is expected.
“Over a year ago, we got over 400 responses to our open call for art projects in Times Square–the second we saw this, we knew we wanted to do it, ” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. “For over 100 years, Times Square has been a magnet for people who love being in the spotlight, and that particular phenomenon has only intensified, with technology’s help, in recent years.”
While Tompkins rightly points out the relationship between technology and stardom–what with all the Youtube fames, blog stardom and whatnot–what modern technology enabled us to do may not be true to the classic concept of being a star, a performer–a light-and-stage kind, a la old Broadway. Instead, more and more “stars” are born off-stage, often secluded in their dark room with a brightly-lit Macbook. Frank’s Performer, then, is a classic throwback, demanding a public performance with a physical spotlight (but with a forgiving audience).
So next time you want to practice for that dreaded final review or presentation, bring your architectural models to the most easygoing 500-people panel of all.
WHEN: Open to the public Oct 13th to Nov 22nd
WHERE: Anita’s Way at the Bank of America Tower, One Bryant Park (Passageway connecting West 42nd and West 43rd St.)
Photos by Ariel Rosenstock.