Ask a New Yorker what they think about Times Square and watch them cringe. At the very least, they’re protectively desensitized to all this stimuli. This is for them. “People who work will get the biggest benefit,” Vartanian explains. “Did you know that 10% of the city works in the Times Square district? Sherry Dobbin from Times Square Alliance told me that. That blew my mind too. Most art you need to see more than once to get the full benefit of it.” Wouldn’t knowing that you’ll be walking through an art exhibit put some pep to your zombie schlep to work? “Our hope is to make them critical of their environment, to get them to think ‘What am I seeing? Do I like this? Should I not be looking at this?'”
“Tourists are going to Times Square for the spectacle. The fact that they’re going to see art is a bonus for them,” Vartanian explains, dreaming bigger. From Pipilotti Rist to Jenny Holzer to Robert Wilson, high profile artists have projected their work in Times Square, but while those were ephemeral glitches in reality, this would be a takeover. Like street art taking over an urban landscape, like net art taking over the web, this is infiltration, on a giant scale.
“The tourists want the photos and that is going to have interesting reverberations around the world. They’re going to come home and show the photos to their friends who wouldn’t otherwise see art and they’ll go, oh, what’s that? Oh, that’s art by so and so. They’ll go Google it. And so on. That will be great. We’re so excited.”
So, art lovers: First we take Times Square, then the world?