For the Winter Season, Georgetown’s GLOWing Once Again
By December 8, 2022 0 961•
Despite December darkness, Georgetown’s aglow once again for the holiday season. In “the region’s only free outdoor light art experience,” GLOW has returned to the commercial district for its 8th season. Each evening from 5 to 10 p.m., through Jan. 22, 2023, the show’s installations will light up to bring visitors and seasonal merriment to Georgetown.
Promising “mega-watt merriment,” with the five curated installations from international and national artists with a “diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives,” the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) and 2900 M Street have sponsored the creation of an easy and pleasant walking tour with sites – both meditative and Instagrammable – along the Georgetown waterfront at Washington Harbour, M Street, on the grounds of Grace Church, and in the East Market Lane alley by Georgetown Park.
GLOW-themed yoga and pilates, a silent disco, a late-night shopping event on Dec. 9, and 30 professionally-sponsored walking tours have also been promoted by the BID this season.
Since the installations explore deep themes – life/death, time, environmental preservation, power/powerlessness, playfulness, chaos vs. order, etc. – viewers who carefully read the artists’ statements posted at each site will be rewarded with a thought-provoking as well as aesthetically rich experience.
“It’s our first back-to-normal GLOW since the pandemic,” BID Events Director Debbie Young told The Georgetowner. “We haven’t been able to enjoy this beautiful light art during the holidays since 2019! It’s certainly bringing me so much joy, and I hope our visitors feel the same. This year we’ve created an easy and manageable walking route that enables folks to see all five light art installations, while still allowing plenty of time to shop and dine as part of their evening out in Georgetown.”
Last night, a very foggy Georgetown evening, I took the walking tour and indeed found it quite enjoyable. Allowing for shooting photos from different vantage points, contemplative observation, and chatting with others doing the same, the tour takes about 30 minutes – but, can be done quicker if you’re a social influencer and just want to pop quick selfies and be done with it.
My first stop “Light Falls” at 2918 M Street by artist Leandro Mendes of Brazil, was one of my favorites of the tour. Capturing “the power of nature in its most beautiful form: the waterfall,” the installation that appears to be pouring down from the roof to the sidewalk is 16 feet tall and composed of a “series of illuminated tubes cascading downward” to “create the effect of water hitting the rocks, accompanied by the ambient sounds of the Amazon rainforest.” A stark contrast to the commercial ambiance of M Street is presented, while passersby stop in wonder. With the pulsating rhymes and vibrating base tones accompanying the purple and blue shadings from deep-to-light, this installation draws the viewers close in fascination. “Water is vital to human life,” Mendes says. “But [it] has frequently been contaminated by humans. ‘Light Falls’ represents the importance of our connections to nature and water, and our role in preserving this life-giving resource.”
A brief jaunt a few blocks later, at Washington Harbour, I found the second installation, “Picto Sender Machine,” by artist Felipe Prado of Chile in collaboration with Light Art Collection. The piece “transports the visitor back in time, when there was no such thing as ‘high definition,’ Prado says. Consisting of an “enormous low-resolution screen of 1200 enlarged pixels,” the installation “invites people to record a short video message.”
But Prado has certain conditions. Words are not allowed in the messages – “only your silhouette, dance steps, and gestures” may be used to “express yourself in the simplest ways, without thinking about it too much.” While I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity to post a video of my own movements as prescribed, I did appreciate simply sitting meditatively on one of the Adirondack chairs provided on the lawn and watching folks play with creating abstract social media works for their own audiences as Prado might have imagined.
Next stop, also at Washington Harbour, I can’t miss Texas artist Alicia Eggert’s “All the Light You See,” an arresting billboard of changing words prominently mounted on the Georgetown waterfront at Wisconsin Ave. and K Streets NW. Playing on physics and brain research, Eggert conceptualized the notion of light’s “travel time” as a means of measuring time’s motion. “Light takes a moment to travel from one point to another, and to reach our eyes,” she says. “The travel time varies – from eight minutes for the light from the sun to reach the Earth, to millions of years from a star at the edge of our universe.” So, the information our brains receive is “always dated.” Her piece is therefore “a poetic statement written in light that changes meaning with a small intervention.” The project, however, has a more existential purpose. Beginning with “All the Light You See is From the Past,” the text then drops lighted words to read “All You See is Past.” Eggert’s intention is to have the viewer “reflect on mortality.” The installation reminds us that “in no time at all, we, too, will belong to the past.”
Stop number 4, the grounds of Grace Church at 1041 Wisconsin Ave. NW, where Masamichi Shimada of Japan in collaboration with Light Art Collection has installed “Butterfly Effect,” another of my favorites on the tour. “Six gigantic butterflies have landed on the surface” of the church’s lawn, “their wings glowing blue against the dark night,” Shimada says. While the visitor’s first glance of the butterflies might produce a “peaceful, almost magical scene,” he says, the illuminated and massive butterflies are intended to convey the “immense power” of the creatures normally considered so “delicate.”
Shimada selected the title “Butterfly Effect” based on American scientist and meteorologist Edward Lorenz’s 1961 lecture on chaos and randomness exploring how “a seemingly insignificant action, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, can activate a chain of events that can result in much bigger changes – such as the emergence of a destructive tornado in Texas.” Shimada’s installation therefore serves as “a metaphor that demonstrates how daily life, from the weather to the stock market, has a certain degree of unpredictability, with chaos or crisis just around the corner.” But individual empowerment is his deepest message. “A small act by just one person can make all the difference in the world,” he said.
A pleasant walk down Grace Street where many holiday lights are glowing and then a brief uphill swing to East Market Lane at 3276 M Street NW, next to Georgetown Park then lands me at stop number 5, the most playful and romantic of the installations. In a series of swings “suspended from three glowing cloud structures, in which color and light are created as people engage with the artwork and swing through the air,” New Orleans artist Lindsay Glatz presents the interactive playset feature: “The Cloud Swing.”
The piece allows both young and old to enjoy the simple wonders and cherished memories associated with swingsets. Glatz has choreographed the lights of the clouds to correspond to people’s swinging. When no one’s on a swing, only a simple white is glowing. But, when participants are actively swinging “the transformation begins, and the white glow is replaced by vibrant colors that become more saturated as the swing moves faster.” With the installation, Glatz intends to provide folks with “a sense of nostalgic joy and [to] connect [them] to childhood delights and the wonders of simple play.”
What could be more delightful during these dark December days?