LOS ANGELES has long been known for its stars, both corporeal and celestial, but for one night, its oceanfront sibling hopes to shine as the West Coast's own City of Light.
Santa Monica, taking a page from Nuit Blanche, an all-night cultural festival that premiered in Paris in 2002 and has since spread to more than a dozen cities around the world, will host the Glow festival, a dusk-to-dawn celebration of temporary public art. From the ring apparatus on Muscle Beach to the cannons in Palisades Park, a variety of public spaces will be transformed into unconventional works of art that play off Santa Monica's natural and manmade environments.
"We wanted a level of enchantment, of beauty and a sense of astonishment. And we wanted work that encourages the public to interact with it, work that invites people to do more than just stare at something," says the festival's artistic director, Marc Pally.
Just north of the pier, London-based artist Usman Haque will stage Primal Source, a mysterious voice-responsive installation that involves projections onto a vast outdoor water screen, while Taiwanese American artist Shieh Chieh Huang will transform the pedestrian and bicycle tunnel that runs under the pier into an underwater grotto using 20 sculptures made from found objects and everyday hardware.
"Shieh Chieh's work is a little weird, and it has a sense of the surreal," Pally says. "It's both attractive and a little bit odd. We like that. I'd like people to be freaked and puzzled at the same time."
There will be plenty of opportunities for that. Floating off the Santa Monica Pier will be a trio of illuminated sculptures made from 4,000 plastic bottles strung together with bailing wire and attached to stainless-steel forms. On the pier, "scientists" from the official-sounding Center for Marine Intelligence will encourage pedestrians to ask questions of the "creatures," who will reply by way of LED lights that pulse out Morse code. It's all part of "The Migration of the Marine Tumbleweed," an installation by local art collective Greenmeme.
Hoping to raise awareness about the "trash vortex," a Texas-sized mass of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean, Greenmeme founders Freya Bardell and Brian Howe transformed plastic detritus into three relatable characters -- a papa, mama and baby "tumbleweed" -- with which participants could interact. "Right now, the tumbleweeds have a limited vocabulary," Bardell says. "They haven't really evolved. Hopefully, they won't. Hopefully, plastic bottles will be banned, and we'll never have the opportunity to use this material again."
Glow features an equally eccentric array of music events. A live orchestra will perform an original composition while sitting inside the baskets of the rotating Ferris wheel. The Society for the Activation of Social Space (SASSAS) has joined forces with DJ collective dublab to present Tonalism, which will transform the carousel building into a backdrop of projected images for musicians and spoken-word artists. And on the south side of the pier, open-source drawing application Tagtool will allow people to engage in a video jam session while KCRW DJs Garth Trinidad, Jeremy Sole and Raul Campos spin tunes.
At 6 a.m., the festival will culminate with a performance and parade led by Viver Brasil. Beginning at Palisades Park, more than 30 musicians and dancers will dance down to the beach for a ritual honoring the goddesses of the sea. The public is invited to join in. And as the sun rises, Glow will disappear like petals drifting out with the ocean tide.
WHERE: Various locations in Santa Monica
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday
INFO: (310) 458-8350; www.smgov.net/smarts/glow/