The Art Group Behind Last Night’s OWS Light Projection

One of the most memorable moments for those who marched in last night’s sweeping Day of Action for Occupy Wall Street came as thousands poured across the Brooklyn Bridge in the evening. All of a sudden, the side of the Verizon building lit up with a projection with a birthday message for the movement, flickering slogans like “WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE” and “DO NOT BE AFRAID” in towering letters of light. It scrolled through a list of the names of all the Occupy encampments around the country, at last ending with the slogan, “OCCUPY EARTH.”

The Verizon building has been the target for art interventions before — artist James Powderly of Graffiti Research Labs, for instance, projected the words “NSA” on the edifice in July 2008. We immediately wondered who was behind the audacious project, and now BoingBoing has the story in the form of an interview with 45-year-old Mark Read, who helped mastermind it. The piece is well worth reading in full, but here are some highlights:

  • The action was hatched in an OWS action coordinating committee, and came together in a week. Read was assisted by Complacent Nation founder Will Etundi (see an interview with Etundi, here), as well as Max Nova and JR Skola from the art production company Dawn of Man. As for the technical details, the projection used Modul8 VJ mixing software and a Sony 12K lumen projector. “The whole thing was a combination of high tech and super jerry-rigging on the fly,” Read explains. “The Modul8 software we were using can do amazing things: sense the angle you’re projecting at, even if it’s extreme, and modify the image so it looks straight. But then, we held the projected in place with gaffer tape, a broomstick, some baling wire. We only had 20 minutes to get it ready.”
  • As for the location of the projection, this is one of the more moving details of the account. Read describes scouting for a location in the nearby housing projects — “the housing feels like jails, like prisons,” he says — and at last finding a willing party in Denise Vega, a single working mother of three who made her 16th floor apartment available for the projection. According to Read, after the eviction of Zuccotti Park on Tuesday morning, Vega refused the group’s offer of money for use of her space. “I can’t charge you money,” she said, “this is for the people.”

See video of the action, below: