PHILADELPHIA — Last night, thousands of spectators gathered on the historic Ben Franklin Parkway to take part in the largest crowd-sourced public art project ever seen in Philadelphia. Open Air, created by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and commissioned by the Association for Public Art, combines public art with mobile technology in a spectacular interactive light experience directed by participants’ voices and GPS locations. The project (on view through Oct. 14) is funded in part by the inaugural round of the Philadelphia Knight Arts Challenge and presented in conjunction with the 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and the 2012 DesignPhiladelphia Festival.
The opening night celebration featured performances by Grammy Award-winning musician and legendary beatboxer Rahzel and internationally renowned extreme vocalist David Moss. Moving forward, each evening of Open Air will be kicked off by select community groups and their messages; participating groups include Project H.O.M.E. (Oct. 3), Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (Oct. 7), ArtReach (Oct. 9) and many more. (See associationforpublicart.org/open-air-infofor more information.)
Lozano-Hemmer will also be speaking at several special events throughout the project’s run. On Sept. 22, the artist will participate in a free panel discussion titled “Performing Freedom: Art, Spectacle and Agency in Public” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On Oct. 2, Lozano-Hemmer and astronomer Derrick Pitts will present “Planetarium on the Parkway” in conjunction withthe Franklin Institute (See below for full special events schedule.)
“This project is meant to be a new public space for Philadelphians to express themselves,” says Lozano-Hemmer. “Open Air is at once a visible voicemail system, a rant line, a public stage and an archive of recordings from Philadelphia’s past and present.”
For more information on Open Air project partners, special events and community group nights, visit associationforpublicart.organd openairphilly.net.
SCHEDULE OF SPECIAL EVENTS
Performing Freedom: Art, Spectacle and Agency in Public
Saturday, September 22, 2 p.m., FREE (tickets required), philamuseum.org/calendarEvents
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway
A panel exploring the possibilities of technology in service of art to reinforce the public sphere as a site for connective spectacle, alternative narratives and individual agency.
Open Air: Richard Sommer and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Conversation
Wednesday, October 3, 6 p.m., FREE, register at openairpublicart.eventbrite.com
PennDesign, University of Pennsylvania, Meyerson Hall, 210 S. 34th St.
In conjunction with DesignPhiladelphia and PennDesign, Richard Sommer, Dean of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, in conversation with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.
Planetarium on the Parkway
Tuesday, October 2, 8:30 p.m., FREE, fi.edu
Project Information Center at Eakins Oval
In conjunction with the Franklin Institute, this interactive presentation of Philadelphia’s night sky is hosted by Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts, who will direct the robotic searchlights to highlight salient stellar objects viewable from the Parkway. This is a free event, and amateur and budding astronomers are welcome to bring their telescopes.
RAFAEL LOZANO-HEMMER (b. 1967, Mexico City) is an internationally recognized Mexican-Canadian artist currently living in Montreal. He has produced large-scale interactive art installations across the globe, including the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the 2010 Light in Winter Festival in Melbourne, Australia, and the 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2009. His work in kinetic sculpture, responsive environments, video installation and photography has been shown in museums and biennials in four-dozen countries. He also represented Mexico in the 2007 Venice Biennale. Concurrent with Open Air, Lozano-Hemmer will have an exhibition of his work on display at New York City’s bitforms gallery and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. lozano-hemmer.com
PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS of Open Air include: the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; Audubon Pennsylvania, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC); Center City District; Parkway Council Foundation; Canadian and Mexican Consulates; Mexican Cultural Center; Park Towne Place Apartments - an Aimco Community; Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum; The Victory Foundation; Independence Foundation; 6abc; WHYY; Metro Philadelphia; Tierney; Expert Events; Catering By Design, and individual donors, among others.