The Congregation Opening

Published On February 20, 2014 | By Sweet1Lani | The Arts

congregationMarket Square is getting a high-tech makeover tomorrow, with a new interactive multi-media art installation, Congregation. The installation is the inaugural project of the Market Square Public Art Program, which is an initiative to engage the city’s residents and visitors with public art, produced by Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, with technical assistance from the Office of Public Art. Their goal is to encourage more people to visit the square during winter months, transforming the park into an important arts destination. Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will continue to produce temporary projects in the square during the winter months of 2015 and 2016.

Described as “an interactive kinetic light installation that responds to pedestrian movement,” Congregation also integrates music composed by Peter Broderick, creating a visual and sonic symphony as the public interacts with the work. The piece works on a 25-minute cycle that contains the same music and programmed prompts to engage participants. While the music and prompts remain consistent, each time the piece is experienced, it’s completely unique based on how the public responds. As the cycle begins, viewers meet the central figure of the piece, a mystical primitive human form. The light projections track the participants in their relation to the figure, creating intersecting lines from their positions, and offering a series of prompts on how to engage with the piece. In the end, participants are prompted to gather around the figure as it slowly disappears. They are left pondering what it was and why it’s gone, but it also liberates them to interact with each other with their new found connections.

Congregation from Office of Public Art on Vimeo.

The installation was created by KMA a collaboration of two innovative artists, Tom Wexler and Kit Monkman. Described as “Staggeringly inventive! ” by the Daily Telegraph, their work is always high tech and interactive. They are inspired by the physical patterns in social interaction while developing creative ways to use technology to make public theater.

The idea of communities gathering after dark to enact or watch a drama or ritual lies so deep within us and our ancestral history it’s surely one of the oldest and most essential of human responses to our shared fate. The mutual empathic response to participating in this way is a powerful feeling. It’s not generated by allegiance, or ideology, but simply a common response to the moment. It’s strong, it’s simple – it’s a primitive feeling – and one that summons a sense of connectedness and belonging between strangers across cultural and linguistic barriers. So much of our culture and so much online technology is tied directly to language and we communicate very rarely with our bodies, particularly in public space.

It’s fascinating how a very ancient human instinct to engage with others in public spaces can be enabled in an empathic, ego-less way by very new technology. This coming together of the very ancient and the very new; the very technological, and the very human is at the heart of our excitement with the work.”
— Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler, KMA

Congregation will be on display beginning Friday, February 21 at dusk. It will be ‘open’ Monday through Thursday dusk to 10pm, Friday and Saturday until midnight, ending on March 16th, 2014. There are plenty of festivities around the opening to go play with the installation! On Saturday, Feb 22, there will be an Artist Lecture at 3:30pm at GRW Theatre, 414 Wood Street. Monkman and Wexler will discuss their creative and technical process for this and other projects. After the lecture, everyone is encouraged to walk over to Market Square to experience the work. At 6:30pm an Opening Reception will take place at The Original Oyster House, featuring some snacks and a chance to meet the artists. The Office of Public Art will also host weekly 30-minute talks on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 7:30pm.

Be sure to make it down to Market Square to experience this unique installation before it’s gone!

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