Santa Monica To Paris: 'Glow' Will Prove Who the Real City of Light Is

The beach will literally glow this weekend in Santa Monica, as the city launches its first-ever light installation / art festival. While it may be true that they got the idea from the Parisian art festival Nuit Blanche, which goes on all night once a year, this is the first all-night, light-based interactive art fest that's being held in our country. Dubbed Glow, after the iridescent grunion in the ocean, the fest is an all-night psychedelic light party that starts at 7 p.m. Saturday night and goes till 7 in the morning. Bring your one-hitter for maximum amplification.

Two years in the making, the fest will feature a broad range of artists and musicians, including four DJs from KCRW and the Dublab crew. In all, cultural affairs manager Jessica Cusick says there will be over “100 participating artists 4 countries, 24 locations, over 12 hours.” It’s either a “recipe for insanity or magnificence,” she says. We think it’ll be a bit of both. Our interview with Cusick continues after the jump.

Defamer: This is the first year of the festival, so I imagine that makes something like this even more difficult to produce.

Jessica Cusick: It is extremely difficult. There’s no pre-existing template for it. Producing this kind of event requires a lot of partnerships. It’s a huge collaboration, when you have to build those relationships for the first time, it’s challenging. The cliché that it takes a village— in this case it takes an entire city.

I only know of one other event like this in Paris —Nuit Blanche. Have you been?

I haven’t but Mark Paley, the artistic director has gone twice. We became aware of it in Paris and really thought they were doing very exciting things. At the same time, the city of Santa Monica we had just completed a cultural plan, and we were looking for a signature cultural event like Venice’s Biennale.

What’s unique to Glow is this idea, in addition to being a museum without walls that’s free and open to the public, is that every artwork is some way participatory. It’s not just about looking at art. It’s about changing the paradigm. Instead of just looking at it, you are in some way contributing to the experience. It’s what each of the artists is striving for at Glow.

What’s similar and what’s different than the event in Paris?

What’s similar is the idea that these are all original works of art created specifically for this event, placed in public setting. What’s different is our public setting is a unique natural environment—the beach in Santa Monica.

The emphasis is on iridescence and light —it’s called Glow because of the grunions. While we hope they will come that evening.. There is a possibility of grunion sighting, but it’s more symbolic of the mythology of grunions in Southern California and the symbolism of the wonderful second moment when everything starts to get an iridescent glow.

Any personal favorites? What’s a “must-see?”

A must-see is Primal Source by Usman Haque. He’s from London. He’s essentially creating a mirage on the beach, north of the pier that’s 40 feet tall and 150 feet wide. He’s using technology from theme parks, waterfall technology, projecting on it in a way that is interactive and responsive to the public. It’ll pick up people’s voices, it’ll interact and respond in imagery to that. My personal favorite spot is up in the Palisade Parks on Ocean Avenue. Artworks re in the park, but you can kind of see all the projects on the beach spread before you on the pier.

Why did you use a different name?

What we wanted to do make sure anything we were creating was authentic, genuine, and homegrown and we really wanted to both back the important precedent but we want to create something new.

Southern California has amazing artistic traditions. The space movement, the film industry, our artistic association in culture with light and the magic of light is very strong, we wanted something that was about here, about this place.

Another reason why we didn’t call it Nuit Blanche. Santa Monica is known for its work with the environment—several of the artists are creating works of art with environmental sides to them. Like Greenmeme—they are doing a project that they are calling Migration of the Marine Tumbleweed.

The tumbleweed it references is the huge vortex of plastic trash in Pacific Ocean. They are beautiful sculpture of recycled bottles with LED in them floating off the pier, as if they were migrating like tumbleweed.

It’s gonna be the kind of art event where everybody can have a new art experience and find something magical.