Shadow Hallucinations

Take a look at this bit of fun that’s on display in MoMA’s atrium until the end of the year. Seemingly rational, mature adults are dancing and flailing their limbs in front of a giant lightbox. This installation is Shadow Monsters by British artist Philip Worthington. Before throwing a shadow up against the wall, it’s first filtered through some custom Java script and physics software. This is the result:

Not only are the images distorted, but motion-generated sounds are added to include chirps, grunts, squeaks and, best of all, great, wallowing belches. Groups of people are fun to watch because they generate the most noise, but there’s a beauty and elegance to watching a lone dancer.
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In honor of the holiday season, American Atheist erected a billboard just north of Times Square.


This is pretty inflammatory stuff and it’s going to offend a lot of people. Some poor mom and pop just want to bring the kiddies to Radio City to watch the Rockettes high-kick. They turn the corner and get smacked with this. The next thing you know, the kids are asking a lot of uncomfortable questions.

The atheists aren’t going to win any converts this way. Aside from the name-calling, they’ve mixed up their holidays. It looks like they’re referring to Easter. My initial reaction was a surprise to myself. Instead of passing judgment on the appropriateness of the message or sparking an internal debate over whether or not God exists, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride that I live in a democracy. You’d never get away with something like this if you lived in China or the Middle East. Can you imagine if you lived in Iran and put up a big billboard implying that Allah is a myth?! You’d get chopped up into tiny morsels.

23 thoughts on “Shadow Hallucinations

  1. Yes, someone has confused the crucifixion with the nativity.Wrong place, wrong time to open public debate, but I’m with you on the democracy angle.Just a pity that some folk think “democracy” means they can plead the 2nd and do what they damn’ well like.Perhaps “Happy Holiday” is appropriate, after all.

  2. My guess is you’d get chopped into tinier morsels if you lived in Saudi Arabia. The Iranians are unpredictable in their response to insults. I’d like to see Village People do their YMCA dance in front of that light screen.

  3. love the shadow dancing! there’s an exhibit in one of the Chicago Museums (Science and Industry?) that has butterflies landing on your shadow – responding to your movements… as for the billboard? probably lost in the noise. the kids just want to go to toys-r-us, buy some M&Ms and pose with Spiderman… i had a hard time training my spawn to question advertisements. for a long time they referred to catalogs as magazines. had to nearly beat the distinction into their little consumerist heads!

  4. A fun way to get exercise.Freedom of speech is a precious commodity and it would be miraculous if people remembered my Mum’s homily: is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?

  5. Completely agree that free speech is to be applauded; I’m no Jesus Freak. Agnostic myself, but I’m not a fan of the atheist conversion movement. Seems just like they are proselytizing just like any other group of believers.

  6. Shadow Monsters is tops, I want to play! I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in a god (I certainly don’t believe in a one moment loving, one moment vengeful super-male), and am very glad I live in a society in which I can say that without risking my safety. But I have to say the atheists piss me off as much, if not more, than most religious sorts. They insist they have reason on their side, then fail to make use of it, preferring instead to appeal to emotion, as this poster shows. If I don’t make it back here before it all kicks off I’ll say now: have a marvellous Christmas and New Year with Mrs Wife and the girls.

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