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In Arts & Entertainment

"Pedestrian Dramas" is a permanent installation. (PHOTO: Royal Bonde-Griggs)

In Arts & Entertainment

The dramas have a "flip book" quality to them. (PHOTO: Royal Bonde-Griggs)

"Pedestrian Dramas" appear on Wisconsin Avenue


Whether walking down the street to grab lunch or marching across the state for an important cause, at some point in our lives, most of us are pedestrians. A new public art display in Downtown Milwaukee called "Pedestrian Dramas" celebrates this fact.

The much-discussed display went up last week and features five kiosks on the north side of Wisconsin Avenue in front of Northwestern Mutual.

"As intended, this public art project enhances the pedestrian experience through it's whimsical and interactive nature," says Department of Public Works' Commissioner Ghassan Korban.

Each kiosk is mounted to a light pole and shows a short animated "drama" that takes place in five different weather conditions. The stop-action-like pieces were created from a series of rapidly flipping photos. A motion sensor above the screens detects viewers.

More than 200 Milwaukeeans were involved with the project that was created by Janet Zweig, a New York-based artist who was born in Brew City. Zweig spent 55 percent of her commission hiring local filmmakers, actors, directors, engineers and more. She says Milwaukee's John Schneider, Deb Loewen, Rebecca Holderness and Dan Wilson were instrumental in the process.

A contest was held for local people to submit ideas for the ideas for the videos, which are very short vignettes. The dramas all feature a stark white background with a couple of actors and a few other props. They are about eight seconds long, but loop over and over and can be watched repeatedly.

One of the dramas, for example, features five people holding umbrellas. They lower the umbrellas in front of their faces and when they raise them again, all but one of the people have been replaced with new people. A lot is said and not said in the imagery, and all of the dramas can be deeply analyzed or simply entertaining.

"The idea was to create scenes that you might actually see on the streets of Milwaukee," says Zweig. "I didn't have specific messages in mind. People can bring to it what they want and take away from it what they want. I just wanted it to be thought-provoking and amusing."

Zweig was chosen from 50 artists who responded to the Streetscape Public Art Advisory Committee's open call for someone to design and implement a public art project that would promote walking as an alternative form of transportation.

Zweig has worked on public art in many parts of the country, including a moving light sculpture for a Washington library, a sentence-generating sculpture for an engineering school in Orlando, two sculptures for a bridge in St. Louis and a system-wide interactive project for eleven light rail stations in Minneapolis. She also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University.

"Pedestrian Dramas" took about two years to complete. According to Zweig, two years is an average amount of time for a public art project of this kind. Plus, she says she wanted to take the time to find as many local people as possible to be involved and for the cast to be as diverse as possible, with both professional and amateur actors.

"Pedestrian Dramas" is a permanent installation and there will be two more rounds of imagery in the next two years. Then, the dramas will rotate.

"The next rounds could be either radically different then these, or similar in feel," says Zweig. "We welcome input from any Milwaukeean who would like to participate: an e-mail address is on each kiosk."

Talkbacks

MilwaukeeCity | Aug. 20, 2011 at 3:39 p.m. (report)

Sure, who cares about national debt and the deficit. $300,00 here, 63-100milion for a 3 mile street car there. As a art lover I am all for more art projects and local citizens getting involved instead of paying someone from New York. Why are we paying for this? I can think of hundreds of house plots that are now "brownfields" on the northside, never mind roads that need to get fixed many of those which are on the northside. What a waste of money!

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Massaconsin | Aug. 20, 2011 at 11:53 a.m. (report)

That is really cool!

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TosaJim | Aug. 20, 2011 at 9:12 a.m. (report)

above the sensor monitors, I hope they install cameras to record the idiots who will probably vandalize the units.

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