The Heat Light Water Project

Gary Lights Open Works

Completed installation of the first solar-powered Gary Lights Open Works “streetlight” outside the Borman Square Park pavilion in Gary, Indiana. The streetlight is powered by a 50W solar panel, and is completely re-programmable from the ground. Rueter will be available during “office hours” and workshop during the summer and fall of 2017 to provide community members the tools to program and re-program the light.

About the Project

The Heat, Light and Water Cultural Project intends to create and sustain hubs of creative and cultural activity across the city by partnering with intergenerational educational and community-based arts organizations to offer workshops hosted in the city’s Parks Department pavilions and other local venues.

As an inaugural project of the Heat, Light and Water Cultural Project, Gary Lights Open Works will engage Gary residents in the process of designing custom streetlights while modeling new possibilities for the intersection of art and city infrastructure.  Throughout 2017, artists David Rueter and Marissa Lee Benedict will develop and install a series of 10 lighting installations in public parks across the city of Gary, Indiana. The “streetlight” installations, in conjunction with a series of public workshops for youth, adults, and seniors, comprise the artist’s collaborative research initiative Gary Lights Open Works (funded in 2016-17 by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Legacy Foundation). The installations and workshops question the idea of the “standard” streetlight by developing alternative visions, such as lights that can produce any visible color, blink and fade, react to speech and music, or communicate with other lights. Through these experiments, the project aims to uncover, shatter, and reconfigure the settled politics embedded in infrastructural space, sparking the imagination of new potentials for artistic agency through the playful and participatory reconfiguration of civic technology.

Gary Lights Open Works is made possible through the partnership and support of The City of Gary Department of Public Parks, The Knight Donor Donor Advised Fund at The Legacy Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts “Art Works” program.

WHY STREETLIGHTS?

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Paulo Freire

As the first project under the umbrella of Gary Lights Open Works Marissa Lee Benedict & David Rueter choose to examine and reproduce the form of the streetlight in order to ask critical questions of ownership, technologic progress and institutional memory in the city of Gary.

The project is inspired by artist Jakob Jakobsen’s project entitled The Switch (1997), in which the artist retrofitted an existing urban streetlamp with a publicly accessible on/off switch. In follow-up conversations with neighbors, Jakobsen found that when given a choice in the matter, people developed widely differing opinions about when and how the switch should be used, and for what purposes. As Matthew Fuller writes, Jakobsen’s intervention sparked an “irruption of potential in a settled technology. By shifting the address of the streetlighting system to a decision-making process that did not previously exist, it brought the possibility for such a process to come into being…”

Jakobsen speculated that his intervention was likely removed by the city the day he left town, effectively ending the local dialogue and engagement it prompted. Urban planning discourse about “smart cities” and networked public infrastructure has revived these questions. In February of 2015, the Chicago-based ComEd utility announced a new “smart” streetlight pilot program designed to “help improve safety, security and quality of life for the communities we serve.” While programs such as these aim for a generically defined “public good,” they often fail to acknowledge or mitigate the potential for centralizing and technocratic politics. In contrast, GLOW aims to grant communities — not just city planners, administrators, and multinational corporations — the tools needed to imagine and build new prototypes for participatory infrastructure. This approach invites a more equitable, and likely more challenging, negotiation of the politics and climate of urban space.

Within these conditions and contexts the following questions emerge:

How might the common streetlight become an energetic medium for dialogue?

Can infrastructure – in particular a streetlight – serve as a working archive of both city and citizen? How might this participate in practices of “place keeping” over “place making”?

And can alternative narratives about technologic progress emerge in the city of Gary? Can relationships between city and citizen, educator and student, artist and public, be interrupted in such a way that the redistribution – rather than the consolidation – of power begins?

WORKSHOPS

UPCOMING
Please check back for updates on workshop times and dates for September and October. 

Sensing the Environment
Alejandro Acierto
Borman Square Park
Thursday June 29
11 AM – 12 PM; 1:45 PM – 3 PM
Offered in partnership with the City of Gary Youth Services Bureau and Department of Parks
In this workshop participants will learn how to build and use environmental sensors to read and to activate the landscape.

Lights, Camera, Action !
David Rueter
Borman Square Park
Tuesday, July 8
11 AM – 12 PM; 1:45 PM – 3 PM
Offered in partnership with the City of Gary Youth Services Bureau and Department of Parks
In this interactive workshop, participants will play with lighting equipment and make quick, improvised videos. Then, they will discover how to translate these videos, frame by frame, into animated sequences of multi-colored light. In the first half of the day, participants will learn how to play with light, color and video editing; the second half of the day will be devoted to playing with basic programmable LED electronics. Work produced during this workshop will become part of a public art installation in Borman Square Park.

Sensing the Environment
Lindsey French
Borman Square Park
Tuesday, July 11
1:45 PM –  3 PM
Offered in partnership with the City of Gary Youth Services Bureau and Department of ParksLights, Camera, Action !
David Rueter
Borman Square Park
Tuesday, June 27
11 AM – 12 PM; 1:45 PM – 3 PM
Offered in partnership with the City of Gary Youth Services Bureau and Department of Parks

Lights, Camera, Action !
David Rueter
Borman Square Park
Thursday June 22
11 AM – 12 PM; 1:45 PM – 3 PM
Offered in partnership with the City of Gary Youth Services Bureau and Department of Parks
In this interactive workshop, participants will play with lighting equipment and make quick, improvised videos. Then, they will discover how to translate these videos, frame by frame, into animated sequences of multi-colored light. In the first half of the day, participants will learn how to play with light, color and video editing; the second half of the day will be devoted to playing with basic programmable LED electronics. Work produced during this workshop will become part of a public art installation in Borman Square Park.

Gary Lights Open Works Community Forum
Borman Square Park
Saturday, April 1st, 2017
10 AM – 12 PM

Gary Lights Open Works: Opening Installation Celebration
Come celebrate the unveiling of a new public art project – the first in a series of unusual streetlights for Borman Square Park and Reed Park – along with the installation of original works of by students of Thea Bowman Leadership Academy and Steel City Academy, with students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, incorporating light.
Friday, March 31, 2017
7:30 PM

Gary Streetlights Community Forum
Borman Square Park
Saturday, July 2, 2016
7 PM

Gary Streetlights Community Forum
Borman Square Park
Saturday, June 4, 2016
9-11 AM

March 2017

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Students from Thea Bowman Leadership Academy and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) working together with art teacher William Thomas and artists and professors Jan Tichy (SAIC), Lindsey French (SAIC) and David Rueter (University of Oregon) during a workshop on light and color. During the high energy workshop, students produced drawings and sculptures that used battery and solar powered LED lights. Their work was installed at Borman Park pavilion for a one night celebration, and was shown alongside the opening of the first GLOW streetlight

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To build the custom streetlight head, David Rueter worked at an electronics fabrication facility in Chicago (mHUB). Rueter modified an LED streetlight enclosure (in the center of the image) to house custom circuits and sensors, including radio transceivers and remotely re-programmable microcontrollers.

David Rueter and Marissa Lee Benedict

davidrueter.com and marissaleebenedict.com

David Rueter is a visual artist, programmer, and professor in Art and Technology at the University of Oregon. His creative practice makes use of a range of new technologies – including custom software, custom electronics, data dumps and feeds, GIS software, and computer-assisted manufacturing – and a variety of traditional media, including sculpture, photography, film, and performance. At the core of his work is a focus on the social practices embedded in both new and old technologies, the ways these practices can reinforce or challenge established categories and hierarchies, and the politics of visibility these practices engender and operate within. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s MFA program in Art and Technology Studies, Rueter was awarded a 2013 Prix Ars Electronica Honorary Mention in the category of Interactive Art, and received a John W Kurtich scholarship for travel to Scandinavia. His work has been exhibited internationally, at galleries and festivals including Contemporary Art Brussels, the International Symposium on Electronic Art, and Northern Spark. Born in Ann Arbor, MI, he graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Politics and a focus in Political Theory and was previously a Visiting Assistant Professor in New Media Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Marissa Lee Benedict is a sculptor, writer, lecturer and avid amateur of many fields and disciplines. Motivated by a deep curiosity about the function and dysfunction of social, ecologic and industrial systems, her practice is one of active observation; of engagement; of instigation; of experimentation. Currently an Instructor in Sculpture and Fiber at the University of Oregon, Benedict previously was  Lecturer  at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in Sculpture and Fiber & Material Studies and worked as the Program Coordinator for the Arts, Science & Culture Initiative at the University of Chicago. She has shown most recently in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), threewalls (threewallSOLO), the DePaul Art Museum, Chicago Artists’ Coalition, Harold Washington College, Columbia College, Mana Contemporary, the Sullivan Galleries; in NYC at the Cue Art Foundation; and in Brussels at Contemporary Art Brussels. She received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and an MFA in Sculpture from the Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).