Greenpoint Festival Brings Experimental Art to Light
The first sign visitors got that they had reached Bring to Light, a temporary art festival on the disused East River waterfront in Greenpoint, was an enormous, bright, leering green eye, peering down at the arriving crowds.
The giant eye, projected on the bottom of a water tower, Greenpoint’s tallest building, was just one of over 50 light- and sound-related installations placed for an annual art festival on the post-industrial banks of the East River.
The festival, Bring to Light, subverts most of the traditional norms of art festivals. It takes place at night, and outside. Far from orderly museums, the event takes advantage of a cluster of mostly abandoned buildings — a former slaughterhouse, factories, grimy piers. And most of all, the festival makes its home in the disused waterfront only temporary: it invites visitors for only six hours, once a year.
The idea originated in Paris, where the festival is called “Nuit Blanche,” or “white night.” Every year, on the first of October, cities around the globe — from Singapore to San Diego, Malta to Montreal — host simultaneous open-air art festivals, with the goal of bringing art to unconventional places in unconventional ways.
This was the second year of New York’s version, Bring to Light. If you wandered through the event space, which encompassed several city blocks and two piers, to the playground that hosted many of the pieces on display, the event took on the air of a small-town autumn festival. Well-dressed art patrons brought their children — and quite a few dogs. In one corner of the playground, Amanda Long, a New York-based artist, set up motion capture cameras in front of a swing set and allowed participants to use the swings, projecting accumulated images of the night’s collaborators in primary colors against a nearby wall.
Many of the installations, works by over 50 different local and international artists, had a similar sense of playfulness. Some of the highlights of the festival included two audio-based offerings: in one dark, wood-paneled room, the Los Angeles-based experimental band Lucky Dragons offered an accompaniment to a video, directed by Sarah Rara, that, according to its website, explores “forms of visual and aural interference: from the failure of a message to be discernible, sudden interruptions, visual disturbance, the interaction of two sound signals, instability and optical effects.”
In a cavernous room on the pier nearby, an installation by artists Ellis & Cuius, composed of several dozen old-style tungsten incandescent light bulbs in a suspended arch, accompanied live music by a rotating series of acoustic bands. In the dark room, the lights fall in and out of sync with each other in tune to the music.