On Sept. 20, the skies of Philadelphia will light up with sweeping searchlights. City residents who don't know they're part of an interactive art project will assume there's either a huge Kimmel Center gala or a spate of violence so intense, the Philly PD is sending out multiple bat signals.
In fact, as a new website explains, the lights will be the most visible facet of Open Air, a participatory project conceived by famed Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The lights won't merely reflect Lozano-Hemmer's artistic vision—put aside all notions of artistic authority. Instead, they'll be the expression of countless Philadelphians who take part in programming the lights via smartphone.
Here's how it'll work. Joe Philadelphian will download the mobile app from iTunes and submit a message—a song, an ode to Butterscotch Krimpets, a loving tribute to Arlen Specter, whatever works. The lights will be programmed in response, so Joe will see his Krimpet ode in the night sky. Others will be able to hear his ode on the app or at the project's HQ at 24th and the Parkway.
Of course there has to be an American Idol audience-particpation element to the whole thing, so the messages that get the highest ratings from website visitors will be the ones that get featured on opening night.
There's much more to the project—it's quite complex—so check out the new website for an FAQ. And if anyone does write a 30-second ode to Butterscotch Krimpets, we will vote for that.