The Most Memorable Midnight Moments of Times Square Arts
Midnight Moments are three-minute-long events that happen on Times Square in New York City and feature synchronized creative content on the electronic billboards and newspaper kiosks present at this major commercial intersection of the Big Apple. These short presentations are the world’s largest and longest-running digital art exhibition with an estimated annual viewership of 2.5 million.
Presented by the Times Square Advertising Coalition and curated by Times Square Arts since 2012, Midnight Moments organizers hire various contemporary artists to create the content for the three-minute-long shows.
Favorite Times Square Arts Midnight Moment Countdown
Fascinated by the visual achievements and the originality of these digital artworks, we’ve put together a selection of the ten most interesting Midnight Moments that took place in the last five years, presented in no particular order.
Midnight Moment October 2015: “Gopi-Contagion” by Shahzia Sikander
Shahzia Sikander – Gopi-Contagion
As her own addition to the Times Square Arts project, Pakistani-American contemporary artist Shahzia Sikander used hundreds of digitally animated drawings in order to create the idea of swarming shown on Times Square’s electronic billboards each night in October 2015.
Centered around the idea of synchronized collective behavior and a hive mind, Gopi-Contagion relied on the silhouettes made from hair from the Gopi, female worshipers of the Hindu god, Krishna. When in motion, the silhouettes looked like insects, birds or bats, all swarming on the billboards of Times Square.
January 2017: “Open My Glade (Flatten)” by Pipilotti Rist
Pipilotti Rist – Open My Glade (Flatten)
Pioneering video artist Pipilotti Rist was behind Open My Glade (Flatten) show, one of the most memorable events of all the Times Square Arts projects.
The artist surrounded the intersection with multiple screens in vivid color, all showing her face squished against the glass as if she was trying to break through and fall straight into Times Square. Humorously distorted, Pipilotti Rist’s face transgressed expectations for women in media while also questioned the invisible boundaries of our societies.
October 2016: “Eyes Looking” by Tim Etchells
Tim Etchells – Eyes Looking
Simultaneously a dynamic poem, a video installation and an ephemeral sculpture, this Midnight Moment aimed at creating poetry by melting text. Words made from frozen letters melt slowly across the giant screens of Times Square featuring simple, everyday phrases that strike directly at the human stories of the New York bystanders.
November 2015: “Servitudes” by Jesper Just
Jesper Just – Servitudes
Jesper Just touched on society’s obsession with youth and beauty in Servitudes, a Midnight Moment that presented the American actress Dree Hemingway and was shown on Times Square’s billboards each night in November 2015.
Presented in partnership with Performa 15, the world’s largest performance arts Biennial, Servitudes explored the tension between femininity and autonomy commonly found in the capitalist society. A young girl, played by Dree Hemingway, sat alone in an office eating corn while her hands were secured by Continuous Passive Motion devices which both aided and hindered her ability to eat.
January 2014: Laleh Khorramian, Water Panics in the Sea
Laleh Khorramian – Water Panics in the Sea
Water Panics in the Sea was the fourth in a series of five short films by Laleh Khorramian based on the great elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether.
Water Panics in the Sea aimed to question our society’s habituated perception with an intricate use of scale, distance, time and space. The film followed the voyage of a ghost ship as it traversed the ocean waters through an accelerated, indistinct chronology.
December 2016: “Counting Sheep” by Tal Yarden
Tal Yarden – Counting Sheep
A visual lullaby for the citizens of the New York City, Counting Sheep was a work of a filmmaker and theatrical video artist Tal Yarden. It used Times Square’s advertisement boards to shepherd us into a soothing American pastiche of expansive Wyoming landscapes.
Counting Sheep follows the Meike brothers, octogenarian sheep ranchers, as they deal with all four year’s natural seasons, starting with the winter fields of the Big Horn Mountains. Ironically presented in the center of the city that never sleeps, Tal Yarden toyed with the idea of counting sheep to help bystanders pass into a good night’s slumber.
February 2017: “Blue Moon” by Alex Da Corte
Alex Da Corte – Blue Moon
Created in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art, Blue Moon showed a man holding a crescent moon and crooning along to the classic Rodgers and Hart hit song Blue Moon. Characterized by strong pop colors, the piece was made interactive by the insertion of karaoke-style lyrics at the bottom of the screen.
June 2017: “Applause” by Alex Prager
Alex Prager – Applause
Applause turned viewing expectations upside-down, reversing the underlying tension between a performer and audience as the viewers were transformed into the ones in charge of entertaining. Alex Prager created a film of costumed audience applauding on an eerily endless loop as if they were being amused by the everyday life of the accidental observers.
April 2017: “Sound of Ikebana (Spring)” by Naoko Tosa
Naoko Tosa – Sound of Ikebana (Artist Spring)
Part of a video art series designed to express Japan’s four seasons, Sound of Ikebana (Spring) relied on the unpredictable natural phenomena of sound vibrations and colorful hues of flowers and cherry blossoms. This resulted in intriguing shapes that evoke the art of ikebana – Japanese flower arrangement based on asymmetrical triangular forms.
May 2015: Andy Warhol “Screen Tests 1964-66”
Andy Warhol – Screen Tests 1964-66
Andy Warhol‘s famous Screen Tests from the 1960s, made in his Silver Factory featuring the likes of Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Lou Reed, Harry Smith and Edie Sedgwick were shown publicly for the first time in Times Square in May 2015.
An extremely interesting footage, these videos were made in a time Warhol’s studio was a diverse scene of artists, friends and celebrities, many of whom posed for short films titled Screen Tests. The icon of Pop art made almost five hundred of these silent slow-motion 16mm film portraits in the span of three years.
Featured images: Times Square, New York City, via wikimedia.org; Times Square Arts – Shahzia Sikander – Gopi-Contagion, 2015; Times Square Arts – Pipilotti Rist – Open My Glade (Flatten), 2017; Times Square Arts – Tim Etchells – Eyes Looking, 2016; Times Square Arts – Jesper Just – Servitudes, 2015; Times Square Arts – Laleh Khorramian – Water Panics in the Sea, 2014; Times Square Arts – Jack Goldstein – The Jump, 2013; Times Square Arts – Alex Da Corte – Blue Moon, 2017; Times Square Arts – Alex Prager – Applause, 2017; Times Square Arts – Naoko Tosa – Sound of Ikebana (Spring), 2017; Andy Warhol – Screen Tests 1964-66, 2015. All images via timessquarenyc.org.