Public Art Proposal: Neon Neurons in Times Square
Strolling in Times Square at night elicits an altered state of consciousness. Pulsing electrical signs, flashing colors, streams of jostling pedestrians, honking horns, sirens, subterranean rumbling and subway vapors merge into a heady experience. Like consciousness itself, Times Square is a central node of vibrant human communication; a neuronal network extending neural fibers in all directions, receiving and emitting electrical signals that encode human desires and planned actions. "Neon Neurons” is a project which reflects the neural nature of Times Square as a plexus of global communications.
"Neon Neurons" is an animated series of at least 20 images of neural cells to be intermittently projected on a large digital display LED screen exemplified by the Panasonic “Jumbotron” (or more recent digital billboards) on the 1 Times Square building. The specific billboard will be negotiated and the times during which the images can be projected will be explored with corporate sponsorship of the project. Potential sponsors include Zeiss, Olympus, Nikon (makers of microscopes and leaders in micro-digital imaging). The images are fluorescent, multi-colored, and animated to reveal neural forms in three dimensions. These designs were inspired by photomicrographs of neural cells from my research laboratory. Brain tissue was cut into very thin sections (10 to 20 microns) with a sharp blade and were stained with antibodies tagged with fluorescent molecules that glow when stimulated by laser light of specific wavelengths. Amazed by the beautiful glowing neurons and by the fact that they exhibit a fractal pattern (design is the same no matter what scale), I drew a series of neurons using a 3D fractal drawing program. This series systematically shows the structure of developing neurons, from their stem cell origins to their beautiful fractal branching structures and their inter-connections.
Is the brain as chaotic as Times Square? Yes, if one is able to shrink to a few microns in height and travel the fibers of the brain at a microscopic level. There will be perceptions of apparent chaos as electrical signals, action potentials, flash by carrying pulses of information to synapses, where there is a delay, like at a traffic signal, before packets of molecules are released to carry the message onwards. New York City is a central node in the global consciousness defined by communications at all levels. Times Square symbolizes the vibrant hub of these apparently chaotic communications that in reality represents orderly transmission of human information. “Neon Neurons” will resonate with the sounds and sights of Times Square.