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Times Square as public theater

Six filmmakers introduced to the heart of Gotham

Walking through the corporate advertising mecca that is Times Square, you could be forgiven for mistaking a giant Panasonic screen for a video art exhibit. Yet that’s what’s being screened on Panasonic’s Astrovision through a unique collaboration with a nonprofit art organization to bring the work of six filmmakers to the heart of Gotham each year.

Since 1996, Panasonic has owned the screen at Broadway and 43rd Street in a joint venture with NBC, and in February this year it launched “The 59th Minute” video art project. Every hour, just before the hour, between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m., a filmmaker’s 60-second piece is screened: the perfect length for those stuck in traffic or waiting for a don’t-walk sign to change.

Besides films, promotional videos and advertisements, Panasonic also donates free space on the Astrovision to nonprofits.

Anne Pasternak, exec director of Creative Time, a public art organization, teamed with Panasonic to furnish artistic works. Each piece runs for a two-month period.

“The partnership is bringing artists into Times Square and reclaiming an area that is no longer accessible to artists,” says Pasternak. “All the work has to have a relation to the context of Times Square.”

Marco Brambilla’s “Superstar” shows a man floating dreamlike through a canyon of buildings, while the waves of characters traversing the screen in Kentridge’s “Shadow Procession” reflect the 1.5 million people who pass through Times Square each day.