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Art Imitates Life in NYC

New York City is often described as "the city that never sleeps." But as day turns to night New Yorkers and their city take on a different rhythm, a different energy and a different interaction between people and their urban environment. A recent large-scale public art show in downtown Manhattan, "Sleepwalkers" set out to capture the city's unique nighttime experience. For producer Joseph Mok, Elaine Lu has more on "Sleepwalkers."

The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg officially opened the exhibit in January. "Sleepwalkers" is a joint art project between the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Creative Time, a New York City-based public art organization.

Glen Lowry, the Director of MOMA, explains the timing of the project. "This is a project about projecting images on the outside of the building. So it had to be done in the winter months when it gets dark early. We would disturb our neighbors unduly by projecting too late at night. So the timing was really dictated by needing it to be dark early in the evening."

"Sleepwalkers" consisted of eight large-scale moving images projected onto the exterior of the museum, making them accessible to audience from different vantage points.

Artist Doug Aiken, the project's creator, is known for his works exploring the interaction between people and the urban environment. "I think it is a meeting place for the city. It's the role of a museum to be a place of exchange. I think in many respects I want to see if it is possible to turn these buildings inside-outside. Open them up. Take private lives and make them very public, and very generous in a way."

The moving images of "Sleepwalkers" depict five New Yorkers: a businessman, a postal worker, an office worker, an electrician and a bicycle messenger. The video narrates their different journeys to destinations throughout the city. Lowry says "Sleepwalkers" created a very different experience for museum patrons with the goal of inspiring them to think about art in relation to the city itself and the larger urban experience.

One visitor to the exhibit said, "Sure, it can be seen as clips of everyday life. People sort of going through their daily routine and inadvertently overlapping with each other in some way. And we are just having a very fun night."

"I don't know if it related to my life specifically but it is great to have art out on the wall of the city where you can enjoy it and react to it and let it brighten your day," said someone else.

Another visitor remarked, "I am visiting here from Scotland. This location and the visual impact of the work is so different from anything that I'm used to. It's actually very unreal to me.”

"I think it completes MoMA in a way,” thought another patron. “They should have something like this all the time actually. I think it will make it more inspirational as a civic space. And it's free!"

As dusk descends, the hustle and bustle of New York seems to mirror the moving images of "Sleepwalkers," and vice versa.