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Washington, D.C. is known more for its politics than its art, but for two weeks, the nation's capital has lit up with activity over two innovative art installations in Navy Yard. Vibrant, luminous, gargantuan—these are the words that describe the rabbits and cubes located adjacent to the Potomac River, only steps from Nationals Park.
The event, dubbed Light Yards, kicked off February 20 and is set to end March 6. Each weekend from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., The Yards organizes musical performances along with food and beverages available for purchase.
Australian artist Amanda Parer told Curbed that she chose rabbits not because they're oh-so-Instagram-worthy, but because they're naturally invasive creatures. While most cultures see rabbits as simple, adorable animals, in Australia, they instead remind the public of colonialism.
When the first white settlers came to Australia in 1788, they brought rabbits with them for meat and sport. Eventually, the rabbit population spread so rapidly that it devastated the environment, consuming cropland at an immeasurable pace.
This inflated rabbit sculptures aren't meant to allude to innocence or Easter, but to a being negatively affecting a pristine environment. By having all of the rabbits in different poses, Parer said she wanted them to appear as though they had just hopped onto the site and made themselves at home. They’re not welcome, though, which is emphasized by the title of the piece, "Intrude."
Her focus on environmental themes arose in the Galapagos almost 20 years ago. Alongside her uncle, David Parer, a natural history filmmaker who makes films for BBC and National Geographic, she witnessed a fishing trawler dragging along the bottom of the ocean.
"It really affected me, and it really sort of illustrated to me sort of our role as stewards for the planet as well as how we don’t have a lot of forethought for our effect for the environment … I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, but it’s a sort of overall picture of us unable to see our effect." —Amanda Parer
Initially, Parer created the rabbit installation for the Australian light festival, Vivid Sydney. Soon, it will travel to Portugal for the Lumina Festival before heading to Hong Kong for the Harbour City Gallery and then finally Tennessee's Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Alongside this image of colonialism, guests will be able to discover New York architect John Ensor Parker's 20-foot-high sculpture, "Point Cloud." While Parer taps into invasion, Parker brings up progress. The geometric forms and the steel of his sculpture juxtapose the growth of Navy Yard.
The steel scaffolding structure is lit by a cold, white light until every so often, an audio file chimes, marking the hour, while a light sequence initiates, allowing the public to interact with time as well as the massive interior spaces.
As an architect, Parker often works with projection mapping and three-dimensional models. When he scans an image, he is able to create a point cloud, which is what he describes as "raw data," thousands of little points that collectively define the external surface of a physical, literal object.
"It's kind of useless," Parker said. "What we have to do then is take it, clean it up, and start connecting those dots to create the 3D model."
While the data in point clouds has to be worked with to find functionality, Parker's sculpture is also something that can be interacted with to find beauty. It's worth mentioning that the artwork is not meant for climbing. Even so, Parker doesn't mind that people often do so. He mentioned to Curbed that it's not recommended that people climb on the scaffolding, but he still said others' interplay with the piece is "pretty awesome."
This isn't Parker's first project in Washington, D.C. In November 2013 as part of the Art Yards event, he along with Integrated Visions and United VJs created "Illuminated Ops," which was a projection of images over the now razed National Geospatial Intelligence Agency facility.
The two massive sculptures aren't the only light installations to focus on at The Yards. Guests should also take note of the waterfall beside the wading pool adjacent to "Intrude." There, the water is illuminated by a spotlight, colors changing behind the rippling spray. Colors similarly undulate along the edges of the pedestrian bridge connecting Parker's and Parer's works. Additionally, in the lumber shed at Navy Yard, there are tree trunks wrapped in lights. As a final layer to the event, there are often performers, swinging their own electric lights as well.
If you miss Light Yards, expect another related event next February. About a year and a half ago, D.C. developer of The Yards Forest City Washington began the goal to host a light-focused event every February, during the doldrums of winter.
In February 2015, the organization hosted a light-focused event, called Laser Cat. This event, sponsored by the Washington Project for the Arts and Forest City, was a dance party with a massive inflatable cat head shooting out projections of artworks submitted digitally by the public.
For now, while you can, you should definitely get your smart phone ready for the final weekend of Light Yards. There are nearly 1,000 Instagram posts already that feature the rabbits and cubes. It's time to hit those quadruple digits.
[UPDATE: This weekend, there will be no musical performances and no food or beverages sold. Additionally, expect the bunnies to be lit from dusk until 10 p.m. when Yards Park closes.]