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Light Research @ MMU

The Seasonal Lights of Manhattan

Manhattan is legendary for the numerous illuminations that continue to enchant the most modern city of New York, and they have been captured by innumerable photographers, artists and filmakers. Most celebrated are the lights of the city’s nocturnal slihouette viewed from Brooklyn, the buildings geometrically studded with changing configurations of lit windows, and the multiple screens that cover the vertical surfaces of Times Square, blaring commodities, celebrities and television shows in an endlessly changing postmodern collage that distracts and confuses vision. There are the brightly illuminated landmarks of the Empire State Building, New York Life Insurance Building, One World Trade Centre and Chrysler Building that provide orientation. And at Christmas time, the illuminated window displays of Macy’s and other department stores lure large crowds of onlookers after nightfall as does the renowned Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Centre with is saturated festoons of lighting. However, I want to focus on three less famous attractions that were sited in Manhattan’s public spaces this year.

Xmas tree and Menora

Firstly, the World’s Largest Menora, celebrating the Jewish festival of Hannukah, lies at 5th Avenue and 49th Street, but rather than featuring this illuminated icon, I have included an image of the Christmas Tree at Wall Streeet at which a Menora is also situated, underscoring the multi-faith character of New York City as well as the ways in which many religions ritualistically deploy light to convey a host of symbolic meanings.New York Light

Secondly, I have included  the temporary installation New York Light, created by design company Inaba. Situated at the Flatiron Plaza next to Madison Square, this steel tube sculpture incorporates flashing LEDs that illuminate the cellular structure and are reflected by mirrored panels. Visitors can enter the enclosing form of the sculpture to experience a discrete calm space in the midst of busy traffic and pedestrian traffic flows, or they can step back and experience views that draw in the skyline, including the Empire State Building. The work convincingly transforms a familiar landscape so as to make it strange. It reconfigures the relationship of the square with surrounding buildings, and in attracting photographers, locals and tourists, it powerfully reanimates this well-known public space at night.giant lights

Thirdly, since 2010, a giant string of 31 vintage Christmas lights  has been installed during the festive period in front of the McGraw Hill Building on 6th Avenue, and they are now fitted with LED illumination. Together with the equally giant baubles that lie next to them, these striking lights were devised by PRG Scenic Technologies and designers from the American Christmas company. As enormous replicas of familiar everyday objects, they recall the gigantic modernist sculptures of Claes Oldenburg.

December 31st, 2014 - 18:18pm

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