Lightscape returns to Brooklyn Botanic Garden to cast a ‘Winter Spell’

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By Dan Sears

When it gets dark, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be getting lit.

The third annual “Lightscape” returns on Friday, Nov. 17, with 18 glowing art installations that feature thousands of lights, spread across a mile-long walking trail around the garden grounds.

“It’s very much about getting you to look at things that maybe you’re not looking at on a day-to-day basis,” said Zoe Bottrell, the UK-based creative producer behind this year’s show.

Katie Pidgeon, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s programs director, agreed.

“We have some really tall specimens here that I think sometimes you would miss if you don’t look up and notice the lights reflecting on the branches and on the leaves as well,” she said.

“Winter Spell”

Photo by Liz Ligon, Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

For about an hour, visitors can immerse themselves in nature and lights as they walk the trail to music from David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Miley Cyrus.

The installation “Winter Spell,” which features hundreds of glowing poles spread across a grass field, might hypnotize young visitors with lights that turn on and off at different times.

If you’re unfamiliar with the garden’s history, then you’ll get an introduction to it with “Trinity.”

This piece features illustrations of pond leaves, plants, and flowers from the garden’s archive, projected onto the bark of three 100-year-old chestnut trees.

The most interactive part of the show is the installation “Submergence,” a large geometric block that people will walk through as suspended bulbs shift colors around them. It seems poised to become one of the show’s most Instagrammable works.


Photo by Liz Ligon, courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden

“I feel like I’m in ‘Euphoria!'” one visitor exclaimed upon seeing “Submergence” during a preview of the event, referencing the lighting aesthetic of stills from the popular HBO Max show about teenagers.

The cube-shaped art installation, which was created by the artist collective Squidsoup, features thousands of suspended LED lights that plunge visitors into a sea of colors that go from bright pink to blue to white. The experience could be described as similar to being inside a (nontoxic) jellyfish.

“Submergence” debuted in 2013 in Oslo, Norway, at Gallery ROM for Art and Architecture. Since then it’s appeared in a number of places, including UK electronic musician Four Tet’s London and New York DJ sets.

While the other art pieces are about highlighting the natural world, “Submergence” is more about highlighting digital media juxtaposed with nature.

“It’s a way of putting virtual spaces into the physical world,” said Anthony Rowe, Squidsoup’s founder.

“Frost Tree”

Photo by Liz Ligon, courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The piece “Frost Tree” features solid gold lights running up the tree’s bark and branches.

It was featured in last year’s show and returns brighter than ever before because the lights illustrating its root system have gotten longer.

Bottrell said the toughest part of working with older trees is making sure they stay intact while heavy equipment is attached to them.

“It’s not just about the technology, it’s not just about the power, it’s not just about the artwork,” she said, “but it’s that case of trying to ensure that we are constantly working to protect the collection that’s been here for hundreds of years and needs to be here for hundreds of years as well.”

Lightscape starts on Nov. 17, and runs through Jan. 1, 2024. Tickets start around $16 for kids and around $29 for adults. For more information visit here.

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