From September 20 to October 14, Philadelphia’s skyline was transformed nightly by the mesmerizing patterns of 24 of the world’s most powerful robotic searchlights.
Open Air, brought to the city by the Association for Public Art and created by internationally recognized Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, was a huge success.
In part because of its innovative combination of public art and mobile technology — the searchlights were controlled by the sounds of people’s voices recorded on their iPhone or computer — and in part because of its lively, nearly month-long animation of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway, one of the city’s main thoroughfares with potential to become a major boulevard a la the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Open Air’s success can be enumerated in some fun facts and figures:
• The Open Air iPhone app was downloaded more than 7,000 times.
• An estimated 17,000 people visited the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during Open Air — making it the largest crowd-sourced public art project ever seen in Philadelphia.
• Nearly 63,000 people visited openairphilly.net, from 92 countries around the world.
• Close to 6,000 messages were recorded in more than 20 languages — Russian, Portuguese, Hebrew, Cantonese and more.
• The voices of 127 famous Philadelphians were featured, including Louis Kahn, M. Night Shyamalan, Will Smith, Tina Fey, Questlove and many more.
Open Air turned the Philadelphia skyline into a platform for public self-expression. Messages ranged from marriage proposals to memorializations of lost loved ones to lullabies to grammatical rants.
It was an amazing slice of Philadelphia diversity, in fusion with global culture, and yet another example of the fact that Philadelphia is undoubtedly a city of the future.
A huge thank you to the Association for Public Art and Lozano-Hemmer for bringing Open Air to us.
Although Open Air ended on October 14, the website openairphilly.net will remain in perpetuity, allowing visitors to send, listen to and rate messages, as well as view their own messages as virtual web designs.