Light up the Night
The streets of Nolita lit up Saturday night as video projections blanketed the facades of the New Museum, Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the stretch of Mulberry Street from Houston to Prince Street. It was an exhibition titled Flash:Light, the second installment of Nuit Blanche New York, which coincided with the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas.
The exact origin of Nuit Blanche (which translates to White Night) is disputed between Paris, St Petersberg, and Berlin, but taking elements from all of these, the idea of a night-time festival of the arts has spread around the world. A Nuit Blanche will typically have museums, private and public art galleries, and other cultural institutions open free of charge, with the center of the city itself being turned into a de facto art gallery, providing space for art installations, performances (music, film, dance, performance art), themed social gatherings, and other activities.
The first attempt at hosting a Nuit Blanche in New York took place last year on the waterfront of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Although ambitious, the event was only marginally successful. It was widely unknown, felt thrown together in an ad hoc fashion, and required a pilgrimage to attend.
This year’s incarnation of Nuit Blanche New York achieved much greater success. This year’s event was far more organized, curated by Anna Muessig and co-produced by Jeff Grantz of Materials & Methods, specializing in the design and implementation of events and permanent installations that merge digital media with the built environment. It was far more accessible being in the heart of lower Manhattan. And being tied to the Festival of Ideas, Flash:Light practically had a built-in audience.
But beyond that, Flash:Light not only reached the informed viewer who came for the show. The phenomenal experience captured the attention of the masses lurking in the Lower East Side on a particularly beautiful Spring evening. The power of public art is not only to respond to the site-specific context of the work but also to engage an audience who typically wouldn’t frequent galleries and museums. This year’s Nuit Blanche New York succeeded on both accounts.
The video “Let Us Make Cake”, documents the 20-minute video loop that was projected onto the 174-foot facade of the New Museum.
For more information, including a list of all participating artists, check out http://www.flashlightnyc.org/