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LIGHT CYCLE OVER CENTRAL PARK: TERROR AND LOATHING IN GOTHAM IN THE NAME OF HEALING

August 7, 2010

(originally published in LA CityBeat’s 2004 “Best of LA” issue)

Okay, this was in New York and not Los Angeles, but ever since 2001 when those crafty A-rab rug-riders commandeered a couple of airplanes and deconstructed twin towers of commerce and steel into mere ash and corrugated, spindled metal, a nation mourned, civil liberties were set on fire in the name of a greater good and we’re all in this together now, yeah?

Two years and four day s later, Chinese meta-artist and pyrotechnician Cai Guo-Qiang has a brainstorm. Get a government grant; come to America and light off something called The Light Cycle Over Central Park. The basic idea was thus: Set off a sequential battery of timed explosions in the heavens above Central Park, and allow the smoke to congeal in a halo of atonement (?!) and benediction. It would be an epic gesture in the form of a giant smoke ring shadowing the entire perimeter of Central Park.

Whatever. This correspondent is always a fan of gratuitous explosions, even when it is in the name of healing and a city coming together. So: Guo-Qiang is going to detonate his fireworks display at 7:45, come overcast skies, hell or high water. The official word — via the Village Voice and Channel 7 news — is that he will abort the show only if it rains.

At 7:41, four minutes before show time, it rains. Nay, it pisses. It pours. The skies open up. Art-damaged horn-rimmed culcha’ chimps dressed in black reach for umbrellas and run out of Central Park and seek shelter under the awning of the Plaza Hotel or the trees lining Fifth Avenue. Likewise, couples, singles and families oblivious to any benediction stop strolling and cycling through Central Park and attempt to get out of the rain.

Some of the stragglers notice thunder and lightning booming and flashing over muted skies, and kinda go, “Wow.” But the thunder and lightning suddenly gathers momentum, velocity and intensity. BOO-UUHHMM. (beat… beat… beat… ) BOO-UUHHMM. (beat… beat… ) BOO-UUHHMM. It was immediately all too apparent this wasn’t nature doing its thing.

Those tapped into the arts realized that the light cycle healing was a “go” anyway, damn the weather, the clouds and the torrential downpour. Others, who were just cruising Central Park and were unexpectedly caught in a squall, just heard explosions going off and went “Holy Fucking Shit!” and ran and ran and ran. For five minutes on 9/15, 2003, the Central Park area of New York was terrorized in a twisted echo of the very event that attempted to come to terms with This Millennium’s First True Cataclysm.

Because of the wet and the clouds, there was no smoke ring to be seen. Which underscored this point: This whole Benediction and Healing gag ain’t gonna be easy. And irony still ain’t dead. — Cole Coonce

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