360° Coverage : Impossible Light: How San Francisco's Bay Bridge Became...

2 Updates

Impossible Light: How San Francisco's Bay Bridge Became Illuminated

Apr 29 2014, 10:03am CDT | by

I grew up in a town just south of San Francisco, and have crossed the Bay Bridge countless times without giving much thought to its history – how it first opened in 1936 to four days of regional...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

20 weeks ago

Impossible Light: How San Francisco's Bay Bridge Became Illuminated

Apr 29 2014, 10:03am CDT | by

I grew up in a town just south of San Francisco, and have crossed the Bay Bridge countless times without giving much thought to its history – how it first opened in 1936 to four days of regional celebration, and then six months later fell into the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, which soon became one of the city’s icons – considered not just a bridge, but a piece of art.

Last month I was visiting the city and heard someone I was with enthusiastically say, “Oh look, you can see the Bay Bridge lit up from here.” I looked over and from a distance confirmed that, indeed, the bridge was shining brightly against the night sky. But at the time I didn’t know anything about it, so turned my head and carried on with the conversation I was having. Two weeks later I crossed paths with Ben Davis, the driving force behind this large-scale art project, and attended a private screening of the documentary film “Impossible Light: The Story Behind An Iconic Light Structure.” I now look forward to returning to San Francisco, standing beneath The Bay Lights – the largest LED light sculpture in the world, and paying proper respect.

The moment of inspiration for The Bay Lights came on the morning of September 18th 2010. Davis had just purchased a coffee near the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco and was looking up at the western portion of the Bay Bridge, contemplating the bridge’s 75th anniversary that was soon approaching, and feeling as though there must be a way to let this bridge shine in the region’s consciousness again. As the sun was coming up behind it, he realized it didn’t have to just be a functional bridge – it could become a canvas of light. The vision took his breath away, but he knew delivering against that vision would be logistically complicated, and feared being judged crazy for even attempting it. Says Davis, “It’s one thing to imagine lights on a bridge. It’s another thing to figure out how to design, install and then hang them 500 feet over water and 200 feet over traffic in the middle of the night.”

The film is largely a story of successful stakeholder engagement, as there were thousands of people responsible for making this project come to life. This included negotiating with Caltrans and multiple government agencies to secure needed permits, learning best practices from expert engineers and designers, testing out products sourced from various suppliers, collaborating with Leo Villareal – a highly respected artist who Davis discovered through a friend that had recently attended one of his exhibits, and raising $8 million in private funding within one year. “This project was almost killed a thousand times,” Says Villareal. Davis admits that, “Whenever people would say ‘whatever,’ I’d just take it as a yes and keep going.” One thing that helped, particularly in the early stages, was a one-minute video rendering Villareal created, and which consistently resulted in people wanting to make what they were seeing a reality. “It was a game changer,” says Davis.

Jeremy Ambers was looking to make a film at the time he met Davis, and was immediately intrigued by The Bay Lights project – Ambers had lived in San Francisco for five years, and the Bay Bridge had always held a special place in his heart, so he found the meeting more than coincidental. He felt the need to follow the story, and wanted to watch it unfold, so asked Davis if he could film him an his team during the process. Davis agreed, and says he’s been blown away by how accurately Ambers captured their journey. Interviews are interspersed through the film, providing necessary back-story and emotional connection. I particularly enjoyed having a window into Villareal’s previous work, and better understanding his various sources of inspiration. Says Villareal, “I’ve always been interested in scale, but not just scale for scale’s sake. For me the unique part comes from combining technology, new media and software with art history, and adding the element of time, and light to that dialogue.” Burning Man has been a big influence.

Davis established a nonprofit organization called Illuminate the Arts and raised his first $100,000 from WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, which allowed him to bring Amy Critchett on board and have an expert’s help in executive production and fundraising. An anonymous patron who was already a fan of Villareal’s work, and has a view of the bridge, came in with an offer to create a matching fund valued at $3.5 million, challenging the community to chip in. That proved to be a struggle, and at the final hour Mullenweg came back in and donated the final $1.65 million needed to complete the project, unknowingly allowing Davis to tear up the loan he’d taken out against his home. One of my favorite moments in the film comes when Davis is reflecting on the risk he’s taken on for this project, and contemplating aloud whether any of it really matters. “It’s just art on a bridge,” he says looking away. But then he looks directly at the camera, smiles, and assuredly says, “I don’t know, it matters to me.”

The Bay Lights’ opening ceremony took place on March 5th of 2013 and the installation will remain up through March 5th 2015. Davis and his team are seeking the additional funds needed to keep it lit for another ten years – this would mean taking down the 25,000 LED lights currently stretched across 1.8 miles of infrastructure and reinstalling the piece with optimized materials based on lessons learned. Also on Davis’ current agenda with Illuminate the Arts is a project called Pi in the Sky, which involves sky writing the first several hundred characters of Pi’s infinite non-repeating sequence in a 150-mile arch over urban areas. The ephemeral installation first flew over the San Francisco Bay Area as part of the 2012 ZERO1 Art & Technology International Biennial, and it will happen two more times in the coming year – once over New York on May 28, and once over Los Angeles at a date yet to be determined. Another project that’s quickly gaining traction in San Francisco is called Light Rail, which aims to illuminate Market Street, reflecting above your head what’s happening beneath your feet with the transit system. He also has a big vision for illuminating the wall dividing Israel and Palestine, called Common Light.

The film “Impossible Light” recently premiered at SXSW to rave reviews, and has been an official selection at the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival. For those interested in seeing it pre-Netflix, you can check out a list of upcoming screenings here or order an advance copy at TheBayLights.org. The story told is a powerful example of what’s possible when you dream (very) big, and can successfully inspire engagement among all key stakeholders. In many ways, the finished piece of art reflects the unity that was required to create it. When asked to describe the impact The Bay Lights is having on those who look up in observance Davis says, “When we’re in the presence of something large it just melts our differences away, and lets us experience a sense of wordless awe together.”

 
Update
2

2 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the workfo ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

2 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedie ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

President flies out of Vietnam
Ho Chin Minh City, Sep 17 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday wrapped up his four-day state visit to Vietnam and flew back to India.
 
 
Artwork an extension of the creator
New York, Sep 17 (IANS) Know why we do not view a Picasso sculpture or Leonardo da Vinci's portrait in the same way we look at a bed no matter how fancy the bed is?
 
 
Be careful with wearable lifestyle monitoring devices
New York, Sep 17 (IANS) If you plan to buy a wearable device fitted with health apps to improve your well-being, do not go by its flashy advertisements but check if it matches your requirements.
 
 
UN chief welcomes US assistance to fight Ebola
United Nations, Sep 17 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the US support against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and called for "bold and courageous" international efforts to fight the epidemic.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Mild earthquake hits New Zealand
Wellington, Sep 17 (IANS) An earthquake measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale jolted New Zealand's Wanganui region Wednesday, a media report said. The tremor hit the region at 7.28 am, New Zealand Herald reported citing...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Beyoncé and Jay Z had 'commitment ceremony'
Beyoncé and Jay Z had a ''special commitment ceremony'' on her birthday. The couple - whose marriage has been dogged by speculation it is on the rocks in recent months - reportedly decided to ''wipe the slate clean''...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Vatican car carrying drugs intercepted
Paris, Sep 17 (IANS/EFE) French police have confiscated cocaine and marijuana from a car with Vatican plates, after it entered the country from Spain, RTL radio reported. It said Tuesday police officers stopped the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Is Samsung ready with its first selfie phone?
London, Sep 17 (IANS) At a time when the world is going crazy over the selfie phenomena, Samsung is rumoured to have developed its first selfie-centric smartphone. The Galaxy Grand Prime reportedly has a 5MP front-...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Shooting for next James Bond film starts in December
Los Angeles, Sep 17 (IANS/EFE) Shooting of the next James Bond film, the 24th instalment of the popular spy series, will begin Dec 6 at Pinewood Studios near London, Variety reported. Sam Mendes is back to direct...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Meteorite that killed dinosaurs helped forests bloom
Washington, Sep 17 (IANS) A giant meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs along with evergreen flowering plants 66 million years ago gave rise to deciduous plants - plants that lose their leaves at some point during the...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling welcome a baby girl
Los Angeles, Sep 17 (IANS/EFE) Actors Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling became first-time parents last week when the Latina gave birth to a baby girl, the US Weekly has reported. Mendes, 40, and Gosling, 33, have had a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Spain may prosecute citizens who join jihadi groups
Madrid, Sep 17 (IANS/EFE) The Spanish government is thinking about amending the criminal code to allow Spaniards who take part in foreign conflicts, especially those in which radical Islamic groups are involved, to be...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Obama calls for gun control on anniversary of Navy Yard shooting
Washington, Sep 17 (IANS/EFE) US President Barack Obama renewed his call for "common-sense" gun control measures, one year after a shootout in a US Navy facility in Washington left 12 people dead. "One year ago,...
Read more on Politics Balla