‘T’is the festive season,
and the San Francisco Travel
Association, part of the city’s convention and visitors bureau, is making
it brighter still with six light installations that are setting the streets
aglow in a radiant citywide gallery called IlluminateSF.
“Light art is a trend
that’s gaining traction around the world thanks to technology and programming,”
said Lisa Hasenbalg, director of arts
and culture for San Francisco Travel. “And since San Francisco is only seven
miles by seven miles in size, visitors can easily get around to all the
installations by public transport.”
To flip the switch in
style, the city’s Exploratorium science museum and the Black Rock Arts Foundation are hosting an IlluminArts Walk on 5 December.
This free guided tour will begin at 5:30 pm at the permanent Language of the Birds installation, designed by Bay Area artists Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn and
located at the
intersection of Columbus and Broadway in North Beach. If you can’t make the tour, all the
installations are accessible until the end of December, with four remaining in
the city permanently.
At Language of the Birds, solar-powered books mimic birds in motion: the
open pages and bindings appear as wings and LED lights within the books create
patterns. Pedestrians passing under the flock will see words in various
languages embedded on the plaza floor, which appear to have fallen from the
pages above and represent San Francisco’s American, Italian and Chinese communities
that intersect in this neighbourhood.
Continue along San
Francisco’s waterfront Embarcadero or up Telegraph Hill via the Filbert Street
steps for unbeatable vistas of the Bay Bridge and Bay Lights, the world’s largest LED
light sculpture from artist Leo Villereal. The 25,000 permanent lights move in
shifting patterns and were
first lit in March on the bridge’s western cables.
to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 to see Homouroboros,
a 24ft steel
tree featuring 18 human-sized dangling monkeys. When spectators pound on the
drums built into the base of the trunk, the top of the tree spins and the
monkeys turn on their branches This exhibit by San Francisco
artist Peter Hudson first debuted at Burning Man in 2007.
“We are one of the rare cities in the world that get to live everyday
amongst the primary artists and art of Burning Man,” Hasenbalg said. “This makes San Francisco pretty special.”
Firefly, a permanent 12-storey kinetic sculpture by Bay
Area artist Ned Kahn,
is located on the front of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
building at Golden Gate and Polk Streets. The
lattice front is made up of thousands of clear polycarbonate panels that shimmer
in the wind, creating what looks like undulating waves. At night, as the wind
presses on the panels, a small embedded magnet connected to an electrical
switch triggers tiny LED lights that are coloured to resemble flickering fireflies.
Golden Gate Park, catch a glimpse of Three
Gems, designed by local artist James Turrell. The subterranean installation, commissioned as a
permanent fixture in the de Young Museum
sculpture garden, is entered via a
tunnel carved into a hill and features views
of the sky that are altered by subtly changing LED lighting inside the chamber.
Finally, Future’s Past by New Yorker Kate
Raudenbush is a 12ft pyramid and tree that
pays homage to the collapsed civilization of the Maya and the jungle ruins of
Ta Prohm in Angkor, Cambodia, located at Octavia and Hayes
Streets until May 2014.
Illuminate SF is expected to become an annual winter
event with new installations already in
the works for 2014 and 2015. For more information visit the SF Travel website.
Kimberley Lovato is the San Francisco