Reflecting the Stars – Public Art Installation – The Windmill FactoryPress CoverageWatch the lights twinkle on as the sunsets over the Hudson. Jon Morris and histeam at the Windmill Factory mounted 217 LED capsules on the remnants of apier to resemble constellations.Engineered by Google’s Adam Berenzweig, “Reflecting the Stars” reminds us ofthe light pollution that masks the night sky for more and more of the world.At Pier 49, Hudson River Park at Bank St., until the end of Oct. when the sun canno longer power the installation.Information: +1-818-987-9435; http://www.thewindmillfactory.com.Free associate New York and you are bound to think of lights. The fantasy imageof a city in lights is likely more of a faux-pas-fantasy today in the face of Green-ness and concerns of light pollution. Just think of the difference between a nightsky in New York and say . . . Kentucky. That’s exactly what Jon Morris, directorof the Brooklyn-based The Windmill Factory did. Born in a small Kentucky townwhere he frequently gazed at stars above Lake Cumberland, Morris grappledwith the idea of the disappearing night sky over New York City and othermetropolises of the east coast.In a gesture to bring the night sky back, Morris teamed up with T/K firm/collectiveKontraptioneering, Google Senior Software Engineer Adam Berensweig, andinterns from MIT and NYU’s Interactive Technology Program, who all startedtoying with wirelessly-controlled, solar-powered LED lamps for the decayingpilings of Pier 49. The result is Reflecting the Stars, an interactive lightinstallation consisting of radio-controlled, steel encased luminaries perched ontop of the pier posts. Each luminary, named after constellations that arebecoming increasingly obscured, can be dedicated with a personal messageonline here.So flip, switch, and clap off your thoughts of bright lights in the big city andremember the lights you used to wish upon. Reflecting the Stars happens fromsunset to midnight through October 25. Special events at the Pier 49 site in the
Hudson River Park include a sunset launch with Charles Renfro (DS + R) andAssembly member Linda Rosenthal, and starting on Tuesday, August 30, weeklyonsite telescopic stargazing with astronomers. Read more here for informationabout Reflecting the Stars.Due to damage by Hurricane Irene, the opening reception of and sunsetpicnic for Reflecting the Stars is rescheduled for tomorrow, August 31, 7:17at the Pier 49 site in the Hudson River Park.See the Stars...in the Hudson; Honoring Zone A EvacueesHUDSON RIVER — A team of volunteers rowed out from Pier 49 to install 217LED lights on top of posts in the Hudson River. The point? "Reflecting theStars," a public art project with the goal of "recreating a night sky with visiblestars on the Hudson River." After a one-day delay thanks to Hurricane Irene, theprojects opening reception is tonight at sunset, 7:17 p.m. sharp. Special guest:Charles Renfro of Diller Sofidio + Renfro. [CurbedWire Inbox]Reflecting the StarsJon Morris has been a theater producer, social entrepreneur, championspringboard diver—and an artist, in which last capacity he serves as director ofNew York-based arts collective The Windmill Factory. Since 2007, he and a bandof likeminded collaborators have conceived and crafted a series of elaboratepublic projects, ranging from a grassy 30-foot-tall slide in the Nevada desert to amulti-media performance piece on themes of atomic destruction. The group’s newest endeavor is “Reflecting the Stars.” Located just off the shoreof Manhattan’s West Side in the Hudson River near Bethune Street, two hundredseventeen solar-fed LED light capsules, lashed to defunct shipping-pier posts,mimic the natural night sky above light-polluted New York. Users can punch updifferent constellations using a purpose-built console fixed to the walkway railing.The project was two years in the making, and it made its debut August 31st with
a subdued sundown function for some forty-odd attendees scattered on picnicblankets near the riverbank. “It was just a beautiful night,” said Morris.The event took place one day behind schedule, after Hurricane Irene torethrough town and threw the installation equipment of its delicately engineeredbalance. Charles Renfro of firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro credited Morris forlogistical perseverance—including, crucially, the artist’s dedicated “schmoozing”of key leaders in business and government who helped make the project areality. One of the latter, State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, was on hand,and she too had praise for “Reflecting the Stars”. “Every child,” she said, “shouldbe able to see the night sky. Reflecting the StarsLiving in the city, we are well aware of the effects of noise and air pollution; justwalk down Broadway pretty much any time of the day and feel your bloodpressure rise. But what about light pollution? It obscures constellations, disruptsnatural ecosystems, and can also negatively impact our health. The WindmillFactory wants to bring these issues to light during Climate Week NYC. Theyveinstalled solar-powered LED lights on the decaying posts of Pier 49 to recreatethe constellations of our night sky. Now you dont have to leave the city to do alittle bit of stargazing.”- Whitney Eden, FlavorpillVideo Piece: Melena Ryzik on the Hudson River art installation “Reflecting theStars,” and a tour of a housing development in the South Bronx with thearchitecture critic Michael Kimmelman.Produced by Gabe Johnson
The Stars Come Out in the HudsonBy Rosanna BoscawenWednesday night, as The Observer crossed the West Side Highway at BankStreet and walked over to Pier 49, the pink-orange sun was reflecting onto theHudson River, and people had filled the surrounding patches of grass, waiting forthe official unveiling of a new public artwork by artist Jon Morris called Reflectingthe Stars, which was sitting out in the water.Mr. Morris and his team had spent the past few days attaching wirelesslycontrolled, solar-powered LED lamps onto the gnarled wooden posts that onceconstituted the pier in an arrangement that replicates the constellations that onewould see in the night sky, looking west from the pier, were it not for New York’ssubstantial light pollution.The opening had been delayed by 24 hours because the threat posed byHurricane Irene had forced his installation team to remove an accompanyingplaque and solar panels days before it was due to open. “They can get rained on,but they can’t be submerged,” Mr. Morris told The Observer.“We left the stars in the water,” Mr. Morris said, “and some of them got skewedout of place, but we didn’t lose any.” He sounded elated. “Then we had toreprogram everything and there just wasn’t enough time.”The project had cost $25,000 to install and was paid for by a variety ofcompanies and foundations. It will be in place until there is no longer enoughpower from the sun to light them up at night—“probably the end of October or thebeginning of November,” Mr. Morris said.New York assemblyman Linda Rosenthal and Charles Renfro of Diller Scofidio +Renfro, the architecture firm behind the nearby High Line, were on hand todiscuss their support for the project.For Ms. Rosenthal, the work also has political significance. She is currentlyworking to pass a bill that would create dark-sky reserves, light-free areas setaside to allow people to see the night sky, and promote new shades forstreetlamps that would lessen their blinding glare. “At the moment I have a lot ofopposition,” she said, “but something like this could really turn things around.”Mr. Renfro took a more philosophical approach to the work. “Reflecting the Starslinks itself to realms near and distant,” he said. “It is a new way of observing oursurroundings, helping us imagine the invisible if mankind were not so visible.”New York has become a bastion for public art lovers of late. We asked Renfrohow this was different from public art elsewhere in the city.
“I like the city’s public art,” he said. “But this has the whimsy of The High Line; itconnects with something else.”Later, Mr. Morris told the crowd that Buddhism advises its devotees to go out andlook up at the night sky in order to relieve stress. We tried to imagine looking upat his LED stars from the bottom of the Hudson, but we couldn’t quite manage it.“We look down at the stars today,” we thought, as the blue-white lights flickeredon and off in their constellations in the now dark, starless sky.Star Light, Star BrightBy StaffThe little-guy-against-the-odds story of Jon Morris continues this week. Creativedirector of The Windmill Factory, two-and-a-half years ago Morris had the idea ofcreating a starry night sky over the Hudson River for New Yorkers who wanted aglimpse of something other than smoggy skies.With no real knowledge of electronics and no money, Morris managed to inspireenough people to believe in his dream that the result was the invention ofwirelessly controlled solar-powered LED lights, all creating Reflecting the Stars atPier 49, just off of Bank Street. You can even dedicate one of the “stars.”Originally aimed to be unveiled at sunset, Aug. 30, Hurricane Irene sweptthrough town and did extensive damage to the 217 LED lights Morris and a teamof volunteers had assembled along the raised posts just beyond Pier 49. Now thesunset picnic has been postponed until 7:17 p.m., Aug. 31, to give workers a dayto repair the damage (as you can see in the image). Speakers such as Morris,Charles Renfro of DS R, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and Google andProject Software Engineer Adam Berenzweig will deliver opening remarks, withan after party immediately following the reception.Reflecting the Stars will continue twinkling over the Hudson River every night,from sunset to midnight, through Oct. 25. For more information (or to dedicate astar), visit www.thewindmillfactory.com.
Lighten Up! "Reflecting the Stars" Opens at Pier 49Now that that the Hudson has calmed down in our neck of the woods followingHurricane Irene, tonight might be a good night to stop by the opening of JonMorris "Reflecting the Stars" at Hudson River Park. Morris, creative director ofcollective the Windmill Factory, has placed 217 LED light "stars" atop thedecaying posts popping out of the Hudson near Pier 49 to raise awareness aboutair light pollution in New York City (Indeed, local readers likely have "Whatare...stars?" think balloons over their heads right now.).Even neater, visitors on shore can press buttons to highlight constellation patterswithin in the lights that are otherwise obscured by the citys haze. The installationwill be up starting today through October 25th, from sunset to midnight, as is tiedto Climate Week NYC September 19th-26th. Here are some shots of "Reflectingthe Stars" all lit up as well as photos of the installation process.Reflecting the Stars Splashes Constellations on the HudsonBy Alexander GeorgeNew York City’s light pollution leaves the stars invisible to the unassisted eye,making the city feel “like living in a low-ceilinged room,” according to artist JonMorris.In response, the Brooklyn transplant created Reflecting the Stars, an artinstallation that re-creates constellations on the surface of the Hudson River. Thedisplay, unveiled earlier this week after a delay caused by Hurricane Irene, bringsthe natural wonder of the night sky down to sea level off Pier 49.“I grew up in Kentucky, and I’d go lay out on the pier and look at the stars,”Morris told Wired.com. “You think about what happens when you can’t see stars.Are we losing our sense of humility?”Off the west side of Manhattan, near 11th Street, Morris and his collaboratorshave installed 201 lights on the stray pylons of an abandoned pier. The lights areactivated by a nearby plaque, which visitors can operate to evoke the pattern of areal constellation on the water’s surface. As the tide rises and falls, the lights willtake on different patterns. As Morris says, “Nature consumes the installation.”
The project began as a guerilla art installation. “I was thinking I’d just grab somelights, jump in, and attach them,” Morris said, but he thought it was too beautiful aconcept to install with haste.The idea went beyond haphazard wires and waterproof lights. “The lights neededto disappear and not disrupt the beauty of the wood posts,” he said.Morris began with no knowledge of electronics, but fulfilling his vision forReflecting the Stars meant adopting some major science. He worked withindustrial designer Andy Baker to design the lights; when the question ofcompensation came up, Baker just asked that Morris take him to his first BurningMan festival in Nevada.Morris and Baker tried every way to make the lights work, but they kept runninginto problems with the solar charging sustaining bulb life. Jon reached out to afriend of a friend from his Indonesian dance ensemble, and soon Googlesoftware engineer Adam Berenzweig came on board.Berenzwieg had to realign his expertise. Rather than working with servers wherememory is measured in terabytes, the lights for which he was writing softwareheld around 1 kb of data. “I would spend an hour debugging and realize theproblem was that I would overwhelm it with debugging code,” Berenzwieg said.The problem was power consumption. The lights had to conserve power duringthe day and run at a steady power level at night, all while self-monitoring batterylife. “I designed a radio protocol to run every five seconds,” pacing the poweroutput, Berenzwieg said.Once they finalized the light setup — each unit consists of eight LEDs with fourwhite and four blue lights, a small battery, and an integrated solar panel — theyhad to be sure the lights were ready to go. “We covered it with a marine sealant,”Morris said. “We could scrape at it and smash it, but once we set them, wecouldn’t fix them if we wanted.”‘Blue does crazy things with your eye along the visible spectrum.’The last days of testing were conducted on the roof of Morris’ apartment building.They decided to go with the blue lights. “Blue does crazy things with your eyealong the visible spectrum,” he said. More importantly, the blue light distinguishesthe constellations from the New Jersey skyline.Once Berenzwieg and Morris finalized the design, the lights were set in pipecasings that would rust and decay with the wood upon which they were set.When the lights were ready for mounting, Morris and five other eager volunteerspaddled out to the jagged pylons in canoes, donned wetsuits and lifejackets, andentered the Hudson’s opaque water. “Everyone wanted to come and installthem,” Morris said. “‘They were saying, ‘Enough of this coming over to solderdiodes. We want to get in the water.’”
Morris and his installers took four and a half hours to set up the lights. Theyarrived at high tide and rode the flow from the highest pylons down to the lowest,affixing each light with a zip tie, legs akimbo, clinging to the barnacle-encrustedwood.At Reflecting the Stars‘ unveiling, after speakers discussed light pollution and theimportance of humility in the face of stars, a woman whose mother had recentlydied came to spread her ashes across the lights. She spoke about how hermother would be moving on to a new galaxy this way.The lights will be on display as long as the LEDs last.
Full List of Coverage:Adaequatio: http://adaequatio.es/blog/All Green Info: http://allgreeninfo.com/200-solar-powered-leds-light-up-nyc-s-hudson-river-for-reflecting-the-stars/Antenna Magazine: http://www.antennamag.com/online/2011/09/reflecting-the-stars-a-solar-powered-light-instalation-on-the-hudson/Apartment Therapy: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/the-weekend-guide-august-26-2011-national-local-online-sales-and-events-calendar-154428Architizer: http://www.architizer.com/en_us/blog/dyn/28340/28340/Arch Paper: http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/22725Art Cards: http://artcards.cc/newyork/show/28540-The-Windmill-Factory-Reflecting-the-Stars-Recreating-The-Night-Sky-in-The-Hudson-River-curated-by-Jon-Morris-Hudson-River-ParkBOMB Magazine: http://bombsite.com/issues/1000/articles/5366Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-02/tiesto-headlines-electric-zoo-lauryn-hill-trinity-s-bach-n-y-weekend.htmlClimate Week NYC: http://www.climateweeknyc2011.org/events/2011-09-25Cool Green Mag: http://coolgreenmag.com/2011/08/30/200-solar-powered-leds-light-up-nyc%E2%80%99s-hudson-river-for-%E2%80%98reflecting-the-stars%E2%80%99/Curbed: http://ny.curbed.com/tags/reflecting-the-starsDexigner: http://www.dexigner.com/news/23700Dwell Magazine: http://www.dwell.com/articles/reflecting-the-stars.htmlEditor at Large: http://www.editoratlarge.com/interiordesignevents/reflecting-the-stars-sunset-launch-picnicI4u: http://www.i4u.com/related_articles/01Yfgfmcxj5SHInhabit: http://inhabitat.com/nyc/217-solar-powered-leds-light-up-the-hudson-river-for-reflecting-the-stars/Flavorpill: http://flavorpill.com/newyork/events/2011/8/31/reflecting-the-starsLowe Counsel: http://www.lowecounsel.com/blog/2011/09/wishing-star-preserving-art-stargazing