In a city as busy and all-consuming as New York, the idea of immersive installations in public space might seem like overkill — just another layer of manic energy in a metropolis already teeming with it. Of course, anyone who has lived here for long will likely argue otherwise. Random art, no matter how experiential, often brings brightness to bleak corners, infusing love and care into spaces that otherwise lack anything but real estate and throngs of pedestrians.
This year, the NYC Parks Department’s Art in the Parks celebrates half a century of installing art collaborations throughout the city. The program, which began in 1967 with an outdoor Sculpture in Environment exhibit in the East Village, serves to set art loose into the city and tap into a new setting for display. In addition to the obvious benefits — educating youth, giving a platform to new artists, etc. — the pieces also help to promote a mentality of curiosity among city dwellers young and old, tantalizing New Yorkers with the prospect and potential of finding color, light, and warmth hidden in plain sight among some of New York’s most popular public places.
Here are six unique interactive pieces on display right now.
“Luminaries,” Battery Park
Up above the shops of Brookfield Place is a sea of illuminated cubes, periodically coordinated with music and perpetually emanating a suspended, glowing field of color. The holiday light installation, “Luminaries,” was created by experience design studio LAB at Rockwell Group. It immerses visitors in its warm rainbow of lights in an attempt to evoke the seasonal traditions of giving and sharing. It’s on display in the Winter Garden through January 29.
The High Line is an immersive exhibit unto itself: a formerly abandoned railroad repurposed as a public park. Until March 2018, a series of weather-responsive sculptures, called “Mutations,” dot its elevated trail, adding something of a sci-fi element to the park’s uniquely isolated existence between towers on the West Side of Manhattan. The pieces vary widely, from Ionna Malinowska and C.T. Jasper’s “The Emperor’s Canary,” consisting of two gramophones semi-hidden within the foliage, to Marguerite Humeau’s “SPHINX JOACHIM,” a winged lion protecting its corner of the High Line with roars triggered by motion detectors. All the pieces are intended to explore humanity’s relationship with nature in a world of shifting technology.
“Flatiron Reflection,” Flatiron
Sitting pretty amid the skyscrapers of East 23rd Street and Broadway through January 1 is “Flatiron Reflection,” a bundle of fluted tubes that are reflective to the point of iridescence. The piece puts into perspective the surrounding landscape’s overbearing height, offering a small nook in its center where passersby can get briefly lost in the mirrorlike vessels. “Flatiron Reflection” was created by local design firm Future Expansion and was the winning design of the annual Flatiron Holiday Design Competition.
“Whiteout,” Madison Square Park
Through March 24, 2018, hundreds of white LED lights bring the grassy floor of Madison Square Park to life at night, glowing in the moonlight. The animated spheres project patterns on the ground, throwing their light in a way that creates the illusion of movement. Called “Whiteout” and designed by Austrian-born artist Erwin Redl, the gentle installation is almost a controlled mimicking of the lights illuminating nearby building windows: small orbs of warmth in the cold winter days.
“Circadia,” Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
A circular seating system, sculpture, and interactive installation, Fort Greene Park’s “Circadia” appeals to a wide demographic of park goers — from bike riders to stargazers and everyone in between.