Santa Monica Lookout
Thousands Flock to Santa Monica Beach for Incandescent Art Show
By Jason Islas
September 30, 2013 -- With a shout of “Let's glow!” Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day loosed a crowd of thousands upon the beach Saturday night.
Together with Axel Cruau, the Consul General of France in Los Angeles, O'Day spoke to the masses that had gathered just before sunset in the intersection of Colorado and Ocean Avenues -- between the Pier and Tongva Park -- as part of the opening ceremony for Glow 2013, the bayside city's third all-night art show featuring incandescent works by local and international artists.
Also among the crowd were former mayors, including Assemblymember Richard Bloom, Judy Abdo and Michael Feinstein.
Feinstein, who stayed at the festival until 5 a.m. said, "I love GLOW because it's how life should really be: tribal like Burning Man; universal, because all of Southern California's diversity occupies our beach, and almost totally free-spirited, because anything goes, as long as its non-violent.”
The crowd, which numbered in the tens of thousands, was the most obvious indicator that, as in 2008 and in 2010, Glow 2013 was a huge success.
But for some, that success worked against this year's experience.
“I really like it,” said Jacque, one Ocean Park resident. “But it isn't as good as last year.”
She stood about 20 feet away from “6:43 PM,” a piece by French artist Mathieu Briand. Towering over the work -- a series of shipping containers pieced together to create a tunnel -- was a ring of fire.
Briand had decorated the interior of the shipping containers as “a chamber of mystery from a past or future time,” according to the sign posted outside the piece.
However, to view that chamber, visitors had to brave a line that snaked through the sand for several hundred feet. For Jacque, the wait wasn't worth it.
Instead, she headed over the nearby “GLOWbal,” where visitors were loudly posing in front of a wall covered with phosphorescent paint.
The artist flashed a bright light as people posed and their shadows would temporarily be imprinted on the wall.
Closer to the ocean, some visitors had pitched tents and marked their territory with glow sticks they had bought from roaming vendors.
Here, the smell of sea salt commingled with the something like sage, only less acrid. “It smells like Venice Beach,” joked one visitor.
A giant circular screen, about 10 feet above the sand, broadcast a silent video on repeat featuring a bird in flight. According to the artist's description, it was an arctic tern, whose annual migratory pattern takes it from Antarctica to the Arctic and back again.
To the south of the Pier, beneath the glow of the Ferris wheel, people pressed shoulder to shoulder as they wandered through “Swarm” by the artist collective Aphidoidea.
Children, atop their parents shoulders, reached out to play with the seven- to eight-foot tall jellyfish sculptures, which would flash different colors and blare sounds evocative of vintage video games as the crowd interacted with them.
As midnight approached, the crowd showed no signs of thinning. Visitors lined up around the carousel for a chance to experience Jacaranda's “The Rest is Noise,” a collection of music by 25 of the most influential composers of the 20th century.
Inside, the carousel's speakers blasted a piece by Phillip Glass.
A field of bright colors danced on the windowless, beach-facing side of the Wyndham hotel, located where the Pier meets Ocean Avenue.
Each of the multi-colored lights was a person holding a cell phone, wandering through artist Steve Boyer's “Colorfields” several hundred feet south of the Pier.
A camera filmed them as they wandered and projected the image on the side of the hotel.
From Palisades Park, high above the festivities, the din of the crowd and the swirling lights blended together in a surreal abstraction. At that height, with the ebb and flow of the masses of humanity -- their cheers, shouts and laughter from below -- interweaving themselves between glowing works of art, the festival itself became a piece of art.
“It was really a peaceful vibe,” Feinstein said, “and that was probably the most redeeming value of all.”
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