The wide range of screens and shapes at the Fulton Center subway station (and retail center) have generated a lot of attention since it opened in 2014 – in part because it is part of the World Trade Center redevelopment area, but also because there has been a focused effort to make the screens more than just a cacophony of commercial ad spots.
The screens are regularly used for original digital artworks, and a whole program is built around new material commissioned by the NYC transit authority’s Arts & Design program. Fulton Center art regularly wins awards, including one a couple of weeks ago at DSE.
The program is the baby of Paul Fleuranges, who works for the MTA and is also a fellow board member with the Digital Signage Federation.
He’s understandably proud of the content that gets part of the rotation throughout the Westfield Digital Network at Fulton Center.
“When we rolled out our first piece – New York Minute by Gabriel Barcia-Colombo – after Fulton Center opened in 2014, I insisted that Arts & Design staffers working on the digital art program come to DSE to learn about digital signage, take the tour of other installations and learn about signage, CMS systems, etc, through the educational seminars,” says Fleuranges. “They joined me for at least two DSEs. It’s my belief that attending those seminars, and taking those tours, helped them immensely in dealing with our partners at Westfield and ANC Sports. It also informed how they go about evaluating the art and their ability to assist the artists once their art is chosen for inclusion in the program.”
“Yaling Chen, who is the principal manager, spoke during NYDSW2018 at Barco Labs, and led a tour of the facility, as well. Slowly, they have become subject matter experts,” he adds.
The latest commissioned site-specific digital artwork is called Fulton Flow.
Says a press release on the latest work:
Fulton Flow is a stop-motion animation by Brooklyn-based artist Ezra Wube, who took meandering walks around Fulton Center and lower Manhattan, tracing the original path of the IRT Lexington line extension from the Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall station to the Wall Street station.
These walks formed the inspiration for Fulton Flow generating memories and impressions that incorporate movement, architecture, street signs, colors, and shapes into a visual rhythm that resonates with the placement and dynamic compositional settings of Fulton Center’s digital display monitors.
“Ezra’s newly commissioned digital artwork is truly place-specific – vividly celebrating and honoring the past, present, and future of Lower Manhattan and Fulton Center,” says Sandra Bloodworth, director of MTA Arts & Design.
“Through the use of dynamic digital signage, our Digital Art program allows us to engage with our riders in an immediate way, transporting them to another place, space or time as they go about their daily commute,” adds Bloodworth.
The making of Fulton Flow is a heavily process-orientated creation built upon layers of a single painting by Wube. Referencing his visual impressions of lower Manhattan and Fulton Center, Ezra painted a single, wall-sized canvas, from which the myriad digital animations that comprise Fulton Flow were then adapted. After painting a scene, Wube takes photographs of the painting and then continues to paint the next frame as a new layer of that same painting. As the process culminates, Wube then combines the sequential photographs into an animated work.
Fulton Flow considers both the original development of lower Manhattan’s subway service alongside present-day Fulton Center, highlighting the neighborhood’s unique locations while connecting its historical past to contemporary everyday life.
“As an everyday commuter, I was excited to be working on trains as a subject and learning the history of the neighborhood,” says Wube, who was born in Ethiopia. “I also feel that there is a strong poetic connection between trains and animation or motion pictures.”
The immersive, joyful animations air simultaneously for two minutes at the top of each hour on 52 digital screens throughout the Fulton Center complex and the Dey Street pedestrian tunnel that connects multiple New York City Transit lines to the World Trade Center PATH station. The Westfield Fulton Center network synchronizes 44 LCD video walls, totaling more than 1,200 square feet and nine locations of LED screens, totaling more than 2,100 square feet. The complex media network plays in one and two-minute loops, offering news feeds, sports, weather, advertising, transit information and digital art. The MTA Arts & Design Digital Art program is presented with technical support from Westfield Properties and ANC Sports.
“The network at Fulton Center offers a unique canvas for new media artists, and the back-end synchronization allows the content to be displayed as envisioned,” said Yaling Chen, Deputy Director and leader of the Digital Art team at MTA Arts & Design.
“Ezra worked with our team and partners from Westfield Properties and ANC Sports and the outcome exceeded his and our expectations” added Chen.
Fulton Flow is the sixth digital artwork presented by the award-winning Digital Art program administered by MTA Arts & Design, and will be on display at Fulton Center through summer 2019.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.