Public art has always been essential to New York, but the pandemic brought on a new need to easily accessible, outdoor pieces that the community can enjoy. Now, a new installation at Domino Park, Reflect, by American new media artist Jen Lewin, encourages New Yorkers to stop and take some moments of introspection while observing the piece with a skyline backdrop.
Reflect is an immersive, multi-sensory experience inspired by the dynamic patterns created by organic systems found in nature. Spanning 2,400 square feet, the sculpture consists of three concentric rings, each made up of interactive platforms that respond to visitors’ steps, triggering splashes of light that create an ever-changing composition. The installation aims to encourage New Yorkers to pause for reflection and discovery, and inspire connection as the city enters 2021’s new era of hope and revival.
During the day, Reflect’s glossy dichroic surface mirrors the sky and surrounding environment, creating a surreal space and eliciting a profoundly connective experience. At night, the sculpture animates and glows as viewers move across its ever-changing illuminated panels, powered by complex code and hardware, all custom developed by the artist.
Domino Park is the first exhibition venue that will display Reflect in the United States. Created as a part of the larger 15,000 square foot work Cosmos, Reflect was first featured in Tokyo over the spring and summer of 2020.
Reflect at Domino Park allows for multiple people to engage with the work simultaneously, while maintaining six feet of social distance. To ensure all safety measures are followed, Domino Park staff will check on the installation as part of their regular park rounds.
Reflect is the latest addition to Lewin’s “Have Art, Will Travel” program. “I’m thrilled that Reflect will make its American debut in my hometown of Brooklyn at Domino Park, where I hope New Yorkers will find a much-needed escape in the vibrant, playful nature of this work,” said Reflect artist Jen Lewin. “Reflect will continue to travel around the globe, bringing joy to adults and children alike during these extraordinary times.” Greenpointers caught up with the native Brooklynite to learn more about her process, her work, and how to best enjoy this new local art.
How does this setting, the Brooklyn waterfront inspire your work?
This is my home, and I couldn’t be more excited to share my work with the community. I’ve always wanted to have an exhibition in one of New York’s parks, and I couldn’t be happier to get to work with such an historic site—right in front of the Domino Sugar Factory, overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge. It’s spectacular to see my work amongst the tall buildings and bridges, but there is also a mesmerizing and continuous reflection that happens in the afternoon when light cascades across the water and onto Reflect‘s platforms. Bringing nature together with technology and architecture is what I’ve been aiming to do with my work over the last 25 years, and presenting Reflect in a context that so perfectly brings together the natural and human-built parts of New York is an absolute delight for me.
The goal and concept of Reflect work is two-fold—firstly, to inspire community participation, and secondly to mirror the work’s environment and shift people’s perception of light and space. For me personally, this is a way to show my very deep appreciation for the vibrance, strength, and beauty I see in New York City. It’s a way for me to demonstrate my love for this community, as well as to appreciate how challenging this last year was—but that in the end, we stuck it out together.
Like most New Yorkers, I went into “shelter in place” almost exactly one year ago due to the pandemic. This year has been extremely isolating for most of us, and I hope this exhibition can be a celebration of togetherness in a safely distanced way. To bring one of my newest works to an outdoor, safe place in my home city feels very special for me.
What work went into planning and creating this public art piece?
Reflect was originally created in the early spring of 2020, as part of a much larger work called Cosmos that was featured in the heart of Tokyo last year. Cosmos spans over 15,000 square feet, creating a large, illuminated playground of light. As soon as I saw it installed, I dreamed of bringing this experience to New York. I reached out to Two Trees to pitch my dream, as I’ve been closely following Domino Park.
Reflect was designed, built, and assembled in Brooklyn, at my DUMBO studio. I love to work on the tech and fabrication side—for Reflect, I developed custom LED controllers that sense movement and vibrations. Each platform has a computer, which allows it to communicate with the other platforms. This also allows me to communicate with the work as a whole to create different color palettes and interactive features. I program each exhibited work, so there are “pathways” coded into the art that will light up and glow when people activate them—I’m not going to tell you how to find these “buttons,” you have to find them yourself!
From where do you find inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is the power of community—the feeling of joy that people get from interacting with each other, and the transformative energy that groups create. My sculptures aim to create a platform for this experience, while also reflecting their surroundings—bringing people closer to each other, and to their environment.
Reflect is part of a family of works that began in 2008 with The Pool. This body of work explores the idea of collaboration and interactive play within a larger public landscape. Designed to reflect the sky by day, while illuminating at night, Reflect becomes a platform for human connection as your footsteps create pathways that intersect with those of the people around you. At the heart of these projects is the idea that we can transform public space to create collaborative, participatory, connected, and joyous experiences—not just on our own, but together.
How do you expect Brooklynites to experience and enjoy this installation the best way possible?
After such an isolating year, I want people to have a moment of joy, play, and wonder—and do enjoy being together again. I think of this exhibition as a celebration of life, of perseverance, and of community. I hope that the residents of North Brooklyn and visitors from throughout the city and beyond will have a reconnecting experience that reminds them of the joy of life, and the importance of being together—even if together still means 6 feet apart. In fact, I have been thinking of Reflect as a way for people to interact safely—as light paths meet, they create a touch without physical connection.
What do you love most about public art?
Public art has the ability to transform public space and create connected and engaging experiences for everyone. Whether the work is static, or dynamic, art that exists in public space is inherently “interactive,” as people encounter it in daily life and react to it as a part of their habitat. The element of surprise is important, as people don’t always expect to find art around them. It is an honor and a joy to create revelatory moments in an otherwise normal day. Creating an instance of discovery, or a joyful interaction is why I make public art.
Reflect is free and open to the public between 8 a.m. EST and 10 p.m. EST every day.