The LED billboards of Times Square, New York City, are among the most famous sites in the world. They advertise wealth and trends and are an art form in themselves. And to be featured upon them is one of the peaks to which an artist can aspire. They are, perhaps, the most well known sites for public art on this planet.
Shahzia Sikander, Pakistani-born and educated artist, will be featured in those lights. Her animation, titled Gopi-Contagion, will swarm in full color across the dozens of screen every night for the month of October.
The digital artwork unfolds in sequences evocative of dreaming—swarming shapes that could be birds or bats or insects, flowing in murmurations and changing colors. The individual shapes (actually the silhouettes of women’s flowing hair, with nothing left of face or body) are intentionally hard to decipher, allowing the viewer to interpret, as they will.
Sikander’s style evolved out of her love of traditional Persian-Mughal miniature format, a kind of impressionism based on repeating tiny images in deliberate arrangements. She has worked in 2D and 3D, and has projected her digital animations on buildings and trees before, but the Times Square billboards are a whole new scale. And she is ecstatic to have them be part of New York’s visual history.
In story issued by Times Square Arts, the sponsor of this project, Sikander describes her creative process:
My process is driven by my interest in exploring and rediscovering cultural and political boundaries, and using that space to create new frameworks for dialogue and visual narrative. In my work, deconstruction is not limited to the miniature-painting format; it extends to the reimagining of historical content and entrenched symbols.
Gopi-Contagion runs every night at 11:57pm until midnight, from October 1st through October 31st. It’s part of “Midnight Moment,” a monthly presentation by the Times Square Advertising Coalition and Times Square Art.