Fire flashed. An explosion was heard. The voice of a young man recounting the firsthand experience of being in a foxhole during World War I also filled the air.
I stood frozen. The sounds and imagery before me were quite captivating.
This was thought-provoking. This was art. This was the latest creation of the Winston-Salem Light Project: MCX.
Over ten years ago, Norman Coates, the Director of Lighting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, began a quest to create a venue in which his students would be able to apply the concepts and techniques they had learned in the pursuit of their career in theatrical design and architecture. His vision included a public art installation which would be produced solely by the students. No script. No score. Instead, the students, themselves, would become the creators of the art.
Every year since 2008, the Winston-Salem Light Project has been able to create a fresh, innovative work of art which has touched the lives of those who have been fortunate enough to view it. This is a unique experience, indeed! Viewing the composition is immersive, as the spectator's eyes and ears are instantly engaged. This year’s production was the most innovative-to-date.
The historic Millennium Center was the 2018 installation site. This 1906 classical building first housed the US Post Office of Winston and later became a major US Federal Building for the region. After being abandoned in 1992, it has since become a nationally recognized event center. For 5 consecutive nights, this building’s elegant 200’ X 40’ façade became the canvas in which 8 large format projectors shared a very noteworthy chapter of human history: The War to End all Wars.
2018 Winston-Salem Light Project
Images of propaganda, nationalism, and soldiers’ experiences were skillfully woven together. Combined with a soundtrack narration of first person accounts of World War I, one quickly felt the sincerity and reality of the message being presented. Artistry was apparent in the manner in which the images were cast upon the building: sometimes distinguishing the architecture—sometimes flouting it. The background noise of the city and the adjacent bus terminal seemed to swiftly vanish as one’s senses became captive of this 20-minute theatrical extravaganza.
Suddenly, a young man stood before me. The brightness of his eyes, combined with the conviction of his voice, gave clue to his involvement with this work of art. He shared with me why this particular theme was chosen for this year’s creation: It is the 100th anniversary of the signing of The Treaty of Versailles.
Although neither of us had been present when this monumental document had been created, our lives have certainly been affected by it. Passing a packet of poppy seeds to me, he thanked me for attending.
Hesitating a moment, he shared: “Those who forget history are likely to repeat it.”
My mind seemed to abruptly stop, His words resonated with the wisdom of someone many years his senior. Precipitously, I understood.--If we don’t share the stories of where we have been, and the mistakes we have made along the way, future generations may take the same erroneous path.
I turned to thank him.
Alas, he was gone. He seemed to simply disappear among the crowd of bustling spectators.
Art has a way of interacting with each of us in a unique way. It can leave us with a burst of new ideas, passion, and reflection.