An artist is experimenting with how contagious yawning can be, New York-style. Every January evening at 11:57, a wide-mouthed Sebastian Errazuriz appears in a three-minute black-and-white video (“A Pause in the City That Never Sleeps”) across the billboards of Times Square, a work he calls “an act of protest.”
Since March 2012,Midnight Momenthas been a production of the Times Square Advertising Coalition and Times Square Arts. Errazuriz joined spectators at the crossroads of the world last Saturday to yawn along with himself, and told us how it all came together.
Where did you get the idea for this project?
I have wanted to do this project for almost a decade. New York is The City That Never Sleeps, and its inhabitants are the most competitive workaholics in the world. When you live here you understand how important it is to protect yourself from the sensory overload in order to live a somewhat normal life.
Was your yawning contagious? Did you succeed?
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Yes. It’s fun to be there, you are so mesmerized by the screens that you almost forget to look around you. It’s beautiful when you catch people yawning and then see their friends feel the effect and join them contagiously.
How did you get permission to do this?
At the beginning I started like any normal person by trying to find out the requirements and costs of renting the giant screens. I tried to raise the money; however, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t manage to get the necessary funds. Eventually as my works became more known in the art world, different doors started opening. One of those doors was meeting Sherry Dobbins, the incredible curator for The Times Square Alliance.
What message do you want to spread with this project?
The slow black-and-white video in dozens of screens completely changes the look of Times Square. Now with less stimuli, we can see the space itself which gets lost otherwise. I believe that space allows us to see ourselves. At the same time we get to interact with one message and one person instead of dozens. Yawning in that context constitutes a peaceful act of protest.