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Fallen Lighthouse Art Installation Broadcasts Messages of Regret

 David McQueen's fallen lighthouse at Socrates Sculpture Park translates texts into morse code messages.
David McQueen's fallen lighthouse at Socrates Sculpture Park translates texts into morse code messages.
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LONG ISLAND CITY — Is there something you wish you'd said, but never got the chance to? Text it, and your words could light up the East River.

An interactive installation at Socrates Sculpture Park is turning people's unspoken words into art.

David McQueen's "One of us must have been sleeping, so I'll tell you again tonight," is a replica of a lighthouse lantern room fallen on its side, displayed in the park next to the river's shore.

The exhibit gives a phone number, prompting visitors to text anything they never got the chance to say. Software translates the texts into Morse code, and a strobe light inside the installation flashes out the messages every day at sunset.

"There are all of these things that we leave unsaid because we're either not wise enough to know them yet, or we're too afraid to say them," said McQueen, who recently started a Twitter account to publish some of the 200-plus messages the project's received so far.

"A lot of people send silly things, because they like the idea of 'boobies' being flashed out in Morse code, and then there are things that just kind of break my heart," he said.

Among the recent messages sent: "The letters were never opened," "I drink black coffee for you. I wear your clothes now," and, "You should have picked me."

"They're all really beautiful and tragic, and so universally experienced," McQueen said.

The installation is modeled after the Blackwell Island Lighthouse, which is located on the northern end of Roosevelt Island and is visible from Socrates Sculpture Park.

"I had been working with lighthouses, just because I kind of love the fact that they're these monuments and they're also completely obsolete — they no longer guide people," McQueen said.

The idea was to represent two versions of the Blackwell — the past and the present — similar to the messages the installation sends out, McQueen said.

"With the benefits of hindsight, what are the things we would say to our past selves, to the people we can no longer talk to?" he said.

The project is one of 15 currently on display at Socrates Sculpture Park as park of its Emerging Artists Fellowship, which features a different group of new up-and-coming artists each year. The exhibit will be on display through the end of March.