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Canvas over English Bay - Metro US

Canvas over English Bay

The skies above English Bay were set ablaze.

Thursday night with a dizzying aerobatic display of lights that would confuse Batman.

At 6:30 p.m. the city and organizers of Vancouver’s Olympics flipped the switch on the city’s most highly visible art installation.

Vectorial Elevation, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, features 20 10-kilowatt robotic searchlights along the shores of English Bay.

“I have to pinch myself to believe that it’s actually happening,” said Rich Newirth, the city’s acting managing director of cultural services. “It’s such a major installation, such a major project.”

The lights spin, blink and shine over a one-kilometre patch of sky and will be visible from more than 15 kilometres away, although the best viewing is likely along the shore of English Bay.

The display is also interactive. People can go online to vectorialelevation.net and use a virtual model of Vancouver to design their own light shows.

An email alerts people as to when their design will run and even sends them a custom email with photos of their design from four different vantage points. People can dedicate the designs to friends.

Lozano-Hemmer said the installation was initially commissioned for the centenary celebrations in Mexico, where the city’s air pollution added to the magnificence of the show.

“Sadly,” Lozano-Hemmer said, “Vancouver has very clean skies.”

Vectorial Elevation has since been held in Lyon, France and Dublin. The installation runs through the Olympic Games, ending Feb. 28.

Initially, concerns were raised that the 10,000-watt lights would come blazing through West End apartment windows in the middle of the night.

Newirth said the artist was diligent in ensuring that the lights would not shine into apartments.

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