Saturday, August 1, 2015

An illuminating Empire State salute to endangered animals

Tonight, using 40 stacked, 20,000-lumen projectors on the roof of a building on West 31st Street, digital projection mapper Travis Threlkel and film director Louie Psihoyos "will be illuminating the night from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. with a looping reel showing what Mr. Psihoyos calls a “Noah’s ark” of animals. A snow leopard, a golden lion tamarin and manta rays, along with snakes, birds and various mammals and sea creatures will be projected onto a space 375 feet tall and 186 feet wide covering 33 floors of the southern face of the Empire State Building — and beyond, thanks to cellphones and Internet connections."

Tom Roston of the New York Times writes:

For years the landmark Empire State Building has been drawing the city’s attention with changes to the lighting scheme on its spire, and the displays have been growing more adventurous. In 2014, in honor of the retiring Yankee Derek Jeter, the building put his number, 2, up in lights at the base of the antenna. And this spring, to note the Whitney Museum of American Art’s move downtown, it interpreted famous paintings, like Warhol’s “Flowers,” with a light show running from the 72nd floor up. But actual moving images have never been displayed on the building and never with the clarity of 5K resolution.

Four years ago, Mr. Psihoyos’s Oceanic Preservation Society hired Mr. Threlkel’s San Francisco company, Obscura Digital, to put on elaborate light shows to help draw attention to the alarming rate at which species are dying out in what Mr. Psihoyos contends is Earth’s sixth mass extinction. The men began discussing “the most dramatic thing we could do to get the world to know about what we’re losing,” Mr. Psihoyos said. They wanted to use the photography of Mr. Psihoyos’s colleagues at National Geographic, incorporate a musical element and project the images on a newsworthy facade.

The project is coming to fruition at the end of a week when wild animals have been prominent in the news, among them endangered elephants, whose plight was emphasized in a speech President Obama gave in Kenya announcing restrictions on the sale of African elephant ivory, and Cecil the lion, a tagged animal lured from a wildlife preserve in Zimbabwe, shot by an American hunter with a crossbow, then tracked and ultimately killed.

The Empire State Building was an obvious choice for the project, not only because of its high-profile global status but also because, after a refurbishing in 2009, it became known as one of the most sustainable buildings in New York.

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