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Over the Olympics, Art Lights Vancouver’s Nights

Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is shining another kind of spotlight on Olympic Vancouver. Internet participants can help program 10 different 10,000-watt searchlights as part of the installation called "Vectorial Elevation."

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    Finally tonight: a spectacular light show in Vancouver, Canada, created by you.

    The artist behind the project tells the story.

    RAFAEL LOZANO-HEMMER, creator, Vectorial Elevation: My name is Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

    Vectorial Elevation is a large-scale interactive installation which takes place over English Bay in downtown Vancouver. It's basically 20 robotic searchlights, the brightest in world, which are placed along the shores of this bay and which can create huge light sculptures over the sky, with the trick that these light sculptures are in fact designed by anybody.

    You log on to the VectorialVancouver.net, and you see a three-dimensional representation of Vancouver. And then you can select individual searchlights and move them, orient them, point them in any direction you want, and create pyramids or meshes or zigzags over the skyline of Vancouver.

    And then, once you're happy with your design, you basically sign it. You put your name, your location, maybe a dedication to somebody, and you submit it to Vancouver, where it is received. And every 12 to 15 seconds, a new design appears in the night sky, exactly as the participant had sent it from his or her computer.

    And, then, finally, what happens is, the system photographs this design with four cameras that are placed in the site, and builds a Web page automatically for each participant.

    And, so, you go to your personal Web site, which documents what you have done. The piece is kind of like public space itself. People can sign their designs. They can make comments. They can add all sorts of dedications to their Web page. So, oftentimes, what people do is, they use this almost as an electronic postcard to send it to somebody with a dedication — the difference being that the postcard is actually made out of 200,000 watts of power, and it can be seen in Vancouver from a 10-mile radius.

    The goal of Vectorial Elevation is, on the one hand, to mix the virtual world, that solitary world that we inhabit during our work or our studies, where we're connected individually to a computer with our keyboard, and it's not a particularly connective kind of experience, to something that is more social or more connective, something that, all of a sudden, you're working through your Web site to make your light sculpture, but then it actually gets realized in real space to be viewed by millions of people.

    The entire urban landscape is transformed through people's participation. People are authors. They, themselves, are the ones who are controlling these massive technologies. So, the capability for people from all over the planet to log on and have that kind of shared experience is of importance to me.

    The piece is up every night from 6:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. And there's no beginning and no end. And, so, what we see is people just sort of strolling and looking at the — the size of these light sculptures. And it's been very positive.

    We have now recorded designs from 141 different countries. And that's a record for us. I mean, the project had been staged before in different cities. It started in Mexico City. Then we took it to Vitoria, which is the capital city of the Basque Country in Spain. Then we took it to Lyon in France, and, finally, Dublin, Ireland.

    I guess this Olympic message really did go around the world. And, so, that's a really exciting part, too, to see that it's not just a local project for the city of Vancouver, but that people from not just all regions of Canada, but also the world, can take part in it.


    The light show in Vancouver continues until the last day of the Olympics, February 28.