Bring To Light
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
October 1, 2011
It quickly became apparent we were all looking at the same thing. The same cell phone conversation played on repeat: “I’m here. Where are you?” As I walked through the newly turned crisp autumn air, the hint of impending rain slowly dripping down, it became very clear we were all in this together. One turn of the corner from a standard Brooklyn block, and epic projections climbed the walls of a towering warehouse. We had made it to Bring To Light.
A free nighttime public festival, Bring To Light featured works by over sixty international artists. For one night only, site-specific installations invaded the waterfront near the Greenpoint Avenue G line stop. Awe-inspiring projections scaled the sides of industrial buildings. Interactive sound and video works occupied a playground. Projection invaded storefront windows. Bring To Light ran in conjunction with other Nuit Blanche events throughout the globe, truly drawing the Brooklyn audience into a transnational network of cultural production.
Bring To Light presented a commentary on community, on our perpetual struggle to simply connect. The charged environment of a one-night outdoor show filled with hepped-up New Yorkers scripted a kind of meta-narrative alongside the show: everyone was talking about the same thing, trying to figure out the works, at times literally seeing through the increasingly darkened four-block pseudo-gallery. This was an event, for a few hours, when we all had to participate, negotiate our place in relation to other beings around us, take a slight risk and experience something new. Long Island City-based artist Amanda Long created Swings, 2011, an interactive video sculpture that weaved itself into the existing jungle gym structure. Viewers were invited to swing, their motion instantly projected onto the building wall behind the play structure. Live-feed enabled an instant, insistently participatory moment.
To make use of the urban landscape, invite artists to respond and restructure, then offer it up to a community for free poses a slew of poignant questions about the art world today. Brooklyn-based Jason Peters’ Structural Light, 2011, invades a handball court with a geometric, pyramid-like structure formed of fluorescent lighting tubes. His interruption into a banal urban space, one we take for granted, hints at the overall perceptual imperative Bring To Light brings to its audience. By literally lighting up an alternative exhibition space, Peters’ piece interrogates the gallery space, the museum, the institution of the art fair. What if we take work and bring it outside those constraints? Can we find wholly new meaning, together?
On several wooden pedestals standing in the warehouse-surrounded alley, Dustin Yellin’s series of collage installation boxes were illuminated by a few spotlights. Viewers slowly peeked into the cut paper scenes. Murmurs of surprise, eventual realization spread with each new group to look at Yellin’s sculptures. The impressively detailed scenes, part of the series Surfaces For Rent, forced the audience to stop, look closer, think. Through the little world Yellin constructed, we were invited to reimagine the world around us, the ways in which we inhabit it together.
Bring To Light flipped the often-clichéd script of public art. We couldn’t rely on the work in itself, the structure of an art show, or the guidelines of a tangibly present curatorial hand. In the damp night air, for a span of only six hours, we had to make the show really light up, really mean something. The works were there waiting for the crowds to arrive. Only in our collective participation, in our ooh-ing and aah-ing, the mutual moments of befuddlement and incipience did the art actually start to do something.
~Hannah Daly, a writer living in New York.
Images: Amanda Long, Swings, 2011. Interactive video sculpture. Artist rendering; Jason Peters, Structural Light, 2011. Fluorescent lighting tubes. Installation shot . Photo credit Hannah Daly; Dustin Yellin, Surfaces For Rent, 2011. Glass, collage, acrylic. Image courtesy of artist.