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Open Air

Philadelphians have always been outspoken, but only now have they been empowered to put their words in lights.

Eakins Oval, PhiladelphiaThrough Oct. 14

Philadelphians have always been outspoken, but only now have they been empowered to put their words in lights, said Amy S. Rosenberg in The Philadelphia Inquirer. This fall, Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is taking 30-second recordings provided by the public and using the intonation and volume to control 24 robotic spotlights pointed at the sky above downtown. The effect looks like “a giant game of cat’s cradle,” with “an angular web of intersecting beams, collapsing and expanding, narrowing and expanding, its apex 600 feet high.” The soundtrack, meanwhile, shows the residents of the city to be “a slightly eccentric crowd.” Key it up on the project’s website or iPhone app and you’ll hear everything from dark poetry and choral singing to the voice of the late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas.

“With any large-scale project, controversy abounds,” said Molly Eichel in the Philadelphia Daily News. Astronomers have complained about light pollution, and the Audubon Society has expressed concern that the light show may disrupt the migratory patterns of birds. Lozano-Hemmer has made efforts to address critics’ worries, working with ornithologists and even purchasing carbon credits to offset the energy the project is using. The project should at least create a better Philadelphia, said Hallie Sekoff in HuffingtonPost.com. By locating the work on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a park-like boulevard in the museum district that’s often devoid of pedestrians, Lozano-Hemmer is inviting the public to re-engage with an important urban space. If you submit a recording from the Parkway, the spotlights even converge above your head before continuing their dance.

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