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Artist Unites With Cyclists for 'Magical' Public Event in Uptown

By Erica Demarest | September 26, 2013 8:27am
 Chicago artist David Rueter will kick off Chicago Artists Month with his Kuramoto bike gathering in Uptown.
Kuramoto Bike Gathering
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UPTOWN — David Rueter will help kick off Chicago Artists Month in Uptown this Friday — and he needs the public's help.

The Noble Square artist is presenting Kuramoto Model (1000 Fireflies) — an interactive public event where up to 250 cyclists wear blinking lights that self-synchronize with one another like fireflies.

"I design these blinking bike lights," explained Rueter, 35, a former software engineer. "A radio chip [inside each light] lets them communicate with each other.

"They’re programmed to essentially adjust to other broadcasts that they hear," he said, "so if you have a whole group together, they’ll synchronize."

The effect is "magical," said Tricia Van Eck, the former Museum of Contemporary Art curator who will orchestrate Friday's festivities.

Rueter's Kuramoto Model — which was named for the famed Japanese physicist Yoshiki Kuramoto — is part of EdgeUP, an art festival that connects Edgewater and Uptown artists.

The festival launches Chicago Artists Month at 6 p.m. Friday with an art exhibit in FLATS Studio, 1050 W. Wilson Ave. The Kuramoto Model begins at 9 p.m. in the adjacent parking lot.

Those who want to participate can buy Rueter's LED lights — which he handcrafted with mini circuit boards, "tweezers and a lot of patience" — online or at the festival for $15, which covers the cost of materials. Each light is reusable and comes with a red Velcro band.

"I love this piece and I think the public will too," Van Eck said of Rueter's project. It "connects people and creates a magical synchronicity among them."

Rueter first orchestrated a Kuramoto Model event in Minneapolis last year using 1,000 lights. He was able to fund the "ambitious" project with grant money, and said he was excited to debut a smaller version in Chicago — where he recently earned a master's degree from the School of the Art Institute.

Rueter, whose background is in complex system science, said he chose to focus on cyclists because they have their own "unique and interesting dynamics," he said.

"Cycling is an important part of the city’s ecosystem of transportation," Rueter said. "I like challenging notions of how we think events have to be organized and how people have to be coordinated.

"Order and agreement can happen outside of any top-down control. Consensus can happen more organically."

Participants are welcome to keep their lights, which run on batteries, after the event.

The project "has a lasting life," Van Eck said. "Most interactive or performance works end when the event is over, [but] this work can continue and be repeatable or just create special moments of connections later."

The EdgeUP festival starts Friday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. in FLATS Studio, 1050 W. Wilson Ave. and runs through October. Highlights include:

• Silent Dance Party: Artists Meg Duguid and Carl Warnick team up for a dance party that won't blow your ear drums. Friday, Sept. 27, 6-9 p.m., 1050 W. Wilson Ave.

• Art Boat: A handmade boat crafted from fallen Chicago trees is rowed from Berger Park to Montrose Harbor. Saturday, Sept. 28, 9 a.m., Lake Michigan.

• Knit Up!: Help artist Pate Conaway construct a two-mile scarf to connect Edgewater and Uptown. Finished scarves go to local social service agencies. Saturday, Sept. 28., 1-3 p.m. Three Chicago Park fieldhouses: Berger Park, Margate Park and Clarendon Park.

For a complete listing of events, visit the website.