Preparing for "Open Air" in Philadelphia

arts / Article

By Susan Myers, Project Manager, Fairmount Park Art Association

In preparation for the Knight-funded public art project Open Air by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the Art Association’s Project Manger and Development/Communications Manager recently had the opportunity to travel to Montréal and view Lozano-Hemmer’s installation, Articulated Intersect, commissioned as part of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Triennale Québécoise 2011. The outdoor artwork, like the artist’s proposed Open Air project for Philadelphia, used powerful searchlights to create three-dimensional light sculptures in the night sky, so we were eager to experience the work first-hand. Unique to this installation, however, was the artist’s use of large “joystick-like” control tubes that invited viewer participation by allowing individuals to draw, direct, and control 18 searchlights on scaffolds and on the rooftops of numerous buildings adjacent to the project site. In addition to being at the project site under the canopy of lights, it was also a visually rich experience to see the searchlights moving over the city as we emerged from our hotel and initially walked to the site. We were given a full tour of the installation by the on-site Project Supervisor, including a look at the operational computer control room, and appreciated talking with him about the details of the installation and the day-to–day concerns of maintaining a large public artwork.

Staff also benefited from meetings with Marie Fraser, the curator at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, as well as with the Production Manager for the Articulated Intersect project and the museum’s PR staff person. We came prepared with a long list of questions for them, and they were all very generous with their time and attention. Since Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is based in Montreal, we were treated to a tour of his studio and had the chance to meet a few members of his studio team. It was evident that Lozano-Hemmer has an impressive group of programmers, technicians, and fabricators that are enthusiastic about helping him articulate and realize his artistic vision.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, "Articulated Intersect, Relational Architecture 19", 2011. Triennale Québécoise (curator: Marie Fraser), Musée d&squot;art contemporain de Montréal, Québec, 2011. Photo by James Ewing

The trip was a great success, and we returned to Philadelphia eager to continue to move our project forward. Currently, Open Air is scheduled to premiere in September of 2012.

  • Information and a video of Articulated Intersect can be found on the artist’s website.
  • Information on the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Triennale Québécoise 2011 can be found at the museum’s website.

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