If you are making your way through New York’s Time Square very late one evening this month, you may see the LED boards around the area suddenly fill up with flowers, in an art project called Midnight Moment.
At 11:57 each night, the ad rotation changes over to public art for three minutes – and artist Jennifer Steinkamp’s video piece Botanic is running right now.
It’s an art program that’s been running for four years, put together by Times Square Arts since 2012, with support from the Times Square Advertising Coalition. Obviously, the big board owners would have to be cooperating to free up the time and sync up systems.
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In Steinkamp’s short, three-minute animation, flowering condolence plants slide slowly across the lit screens. As they tumble against the edges of the frame, they quietly scatter the components of their being, transforming into piles of leaves, petals, twigs, and seeds. “The opportunity to create artwork on such a grand scale within extreme iconic architecture is amazing for me,” Steinkamp says in an announcement released by Lehmann Maupin. “I am excited about my work being presented in this context, and the meaning that the artwork can lend to the context and vice versa.”
The neighboring architecture does indeed define the work. The screens may be huge, but the flowers seem trapped in a narrow space behind their flat surfaces, forced to break apart as they come into contact with the indomitable elements at their sides. The Bubba Gump, McDonald’s, and Forever 21 signs aren’t going anywhere, and several non-participating, flickering billboards are still vying for attention, trying to sell you a soda or George Clooney’s latest movie. The relief from the ads is only partial. It may be that no art is strong enough to unseat the powers that be here, and the giant plants, bouncing around overhead, point out those limits.
You can view video here …
The art work changes each month:
A year ago, Rafaël Rozendaal filled those same screens with kissing faces, and a couple of months ago, Lorna Mills made the sun rise at midnight. Such interventions have been organized by Times Square Arts since 2012, with support from the Times Square Advertising Coalition. In fact, this May marks the program’s fourth anniversary.
It’s great to see these big advertising machines take a visual break to run art, but it would be even greater if it wasn’t late at night, when a fraction of the potential audience might see it. Yes, 5PM is probably a peak time for ad rates, but would surrendering one or two instances of a spot in an endlessly rotating loop affect that? Dunno …