'Swarm Street' sculpture not worth the wait

July 8, 2014
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Had it been ready along with the rest of the commissioned artwork along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Vito Acconci’s “Swarm Street” might be seen in a more positive light.

But given the year-long delay, the underwhelming piece of public art is more likely to generate a “so what?” rather than a “wow.”

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Don’t get me wrong: There’s wisdom in the installation of a light-based work in the problematic Virginia Ave. parking garage portion of the Cultural Trail. But the hodgepodge of open-steel framework above accentuates rather than reduces the claustrophobic feeling of the space. Ideally, the focus of attention, instead, would be on the thousands of sensor-driven LED lights in the pavement and above that "swarm" around you as you move through it. But on my daytime walks, the effect was like a lesser version of the airport’s “Interactive Passage” (at least “Swarm Street” has a better name) and the technology didn't feel any more impressive than a decent high school science fair project.

I'm sure the effect improves as darkness descends. But why create a sculptural piece for a bicycle/pedestrian throughway that only has any kind of visual power when few people are going to experience it? 

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  • Is it finally open?
    Is Swarm Street finally open? That section of the Trail has been closed for YEARS while issues have been addressed. I think Trail users would rather have an easy to use Trail rather than some lights that won't really do much for their experience as it never really gets dark because of other lighting in the garage and city lights.
  • Check it out at night?
    If you are going to publish a review of a light installation it seems reasonable you would visit at night before offering substantive criticism Lou. Physics being what they are the visual impact could never as dramatic during the day my friend.
  • Appropriate
    I don't know, I actually quite agree with Lou's daytime review. The piece is site-specific, which implies that it should be designed with the probable audience experience in mind. Which is primarily daylight or half-light considering all the lighting structure in the garage. It was a lovely idea for a sculpture and hopefully it earns some late night admirers. The rest of us daylight commuters will have to take their word for it.
    • Like a Fountain
      This rationale is akin to reviewing a fountain (empty much of the year) without the water.
      • fountain
        Jeremy, If a fountain was touted for its amazing water display, yet only trickled 90% of the time that people were seeing it--and was this unappealing when conditions weren't optimal--I would offer equally unenthusiastic commentary. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
        • And yet
          Thanks Lou. Light installations are most fairly judged at night. At the Art Museum in Bloomington there is a large Light Totem with LEDs. During the day it isn't much to look at it and you might wonder about the fuss and expense but it would truly be your loss not to take a look in the evening. Judging other people's artistic efforts in serious minded work. Your reasonable criticism would have more resonance if you took the time to see the work at night. Thanks for all you do for Indianapolis.
          • Light
            Thanks, Jeremy. I'm also a fan of the light totem at IU. The differences, for me, are that that piece doesn't call attention to itself during the day and it's in an area that experiences evening foot traffic. I certainly intend to take a look at "Swarm Street" in the evening and add to my comments. But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it. Oh, and for those interested in light sculpture, make sure to see "Impossible Light" at the Indianapolis International Film Festival. http://indyfilmfest.org/films/impossible-light/
          • If it's so unnoticeable
            "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

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