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Art Under BQE Will Light Up in Response to Traffic Noise

By Janet Upadhye | October 11, 2013 8:10am
 The Silent Lights sculpture lights up in response to noise.
Silent Lights
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FORT GREENE — Walking under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will soon be an illuminating experience.

An interactive sculpture set to be installed under the busy freeway at Navy Street and Park Avenue will transform traffic noise into glowing light patterns.

"The sculpture called 'Silent Lights' consists of a series of five arches that people can walk beneath," local artist Valeria Bianco said in a recent presentation to Community Board 2. "The arches take something negative and unpleasant like traffic noise and makes it into something beautiful."

Tiny microphones embedded in the arches will pick up sound from traffic, explained Bianco, who is also an architect and member of the Artist Build Collaborative. A computer will then process the sound, triggering the light from each arch to intensify.

As an added benefit of the city Department of Transportation-approved artwork, the lit arches will make walking under the BQE feel safer, Bianco added.

"Silent Lights" was originally planned for the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Clinton Street under the Gowanus Expressway in Red Hook. But the state DOT began work above the proposed site, making it a poor match for art, according to Emily Colasacco, manager of the city DOT's Urban Arts Program.

Bianco and her team were forced to look for a new spot after nearly two years of planning, she said.

"We were looking for an underpass that was dark, loud and unpleasant," Bianco said.

When she and her team happened upon Navy Street and Park Avenue, they knew they had found the right place.

Construction on the artwork will start in November, and the installation is set to go live Nov. 22.

"Silent Lights" will remain in Fort Greene for at least one year, with the possibility of an extension.