American artist Mark Jenkins is one of the eight artists featured in WINTERACTIVE, an interactive exhibit produced by the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District (BID). WINTERACTIVE is designed to encourage wintertime exploration and promote visits downtown during the winter months, January 17th through to April 14th, on view 24 hours a day.
WINTERACTIVE is being produced by the Downtown Boston BID in partnership with three curatorial partners from Canada’s Québec province: EXMURO Arts Publics of Québec City; LeMonde Studio of Montréal; and Quartier des Spectacles International (QDSI) of Montréal.
American artist Mark Jenkins’s contribution to WINTERACTIVE features a series of five hyperrealistic sculptures, each located in different areas of Downtown Boston. The sculptures, made from clothing, wrapping tape, wigs, wood, metal, rope and fishing rod, are designed to blend in with their surroundings and appear as if they are real people engaged in playful activities.
Check out these five sculptures if you’re looking for unique art installations. Untitled #1 (Fisherman) is located at the corner of Summer St and Chauncy St, while Untitled #2 (The Swing) can be found at Winter St and Tremont St. Untitled #3 (Woman Suspended) is situated at 60 Temple Place, and Untitled #4 (Stair Walker) can be seen at 31 Bromfield St. Finally, you can find Untitled #5 (Clothesline) at 9 West St. These sculptures are created at human scale and dressed in ordinary clothes, so realistic that they often make passersby do double-takes to ensure they aren’t real people in alarming positions. The art installations encourage reflection on our norms for acceptable behaviour in public spaces and blur the boundaries between what is real and what is fake.
Mark Jenkins creates sculptures that are unique to each location, allowing them to interact with the built environment in extraordinary and often bizarre ways. His art transforms public spaces into a stage for his figures, creating an immersive experience for passersby. Through his site-specific process, Mark Jenkins takes over the urban landscape and infuses it with his creative vision. His sculptures are a testament to his artistic talent and ability to turn ordinary surroundings into something extraordinary.
In 2021, the BID collaborated with QDSI to install the very first WINTERACTIVE art piece, Echoes – A Voice from Uncharted Waters is a stunning 11,000-pound sculpture of a whale made of steel, designed by Mathias Gmachl. This interactive artwork serves as a reminder for us to pay attention and listen closely. The sculpture’s vibrant and massive design represents our planet’s marine life and encourages us to contemplate the impact of our actions on the environment. It reminds us of the delicate nature of our planet and urges us to engage in respectful interactions with the crucial spaces of marine mammals. When we approach the sculpture with respect and care, it takes us on a journey to a mysterious, melodic world. However, if we disregard its space, we are confronted with the harsh sounds of industrial pollution. The installation is a beautiful and thought-provoking meditation on the detrimental effects of human activities on our planet’s ecosystems.
“With Echoes—A Voice from Uncharted Waters, I aim to create an open space – a platform – for the public to have conversations about the future of our planet. Not just about whales, but about all life that exists. The need to make room to learn and dream of a better future feels more pressing than ever. The installation is my small contribution towards a larger shift in the narratives and actions needed.”
The medium of this artwork is a steel structure on a base that was installed at the Steps at Downtown Crossing in December. The artwork, Echoes, has become a focal point for downtown visitors and has inspired hundreds of social media posts due to its imposing, life-size presence.
If you’re looking to view some interesting artwork, check out Endgame (Nagg & Nell) by Max Streicher. This installation features two oversized, inflatable clowns peering from a small alley off Washington Street. The Harlem Place Alley, located between the former Felt nightclub and the Modern Theatre, is the site of this peculiar scene. The two inflatable clown heads wedged between the walls of the buildings create a surreal and intriguing sight. However, the absurdity of the installation is contrasted by the unsettling nature of the clown figure, which can be interpreted differently depending on the viewer’s perspective and sensitivity. The artwork takes inspiration from Beckett’s play of the same name, featuring two characters who spend their remaining days in a dumpster after losing their legs. The medium used for the installation includes recycled vinyl signs, fans, and steel cable, creating a unique visual experience. The artist behind this thought-provoking piece, Streicher, is based in Toronto, ON, Canada.
The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District has partnered with LeMonde Studio to bring five play elements to the neighbourhood.
The Light Bikes by LeMonde Studio project images and music across the Summer Street Pedestrian Plaza when activated by people-powered energy. Boston is quickly transforming into one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, and with Light Lane Bikes, you won’t even need to break a sweat pedalling up Bunker Hill, Beacon Hill, or Bellevue Hill! The four Light Lane Bikes at WINTERACTIVE are breathtaking during the day, but at night, they come to life through illuminated displays, projecting a beautiful image onto the Summer Street Pedestrian Plaza. Select the right bike, and you might even hear the sounds of one of Boston’s most iconic anthems. However, when you hear it, be ready to pedal quickly, as the song is not meant to be heard in slow motion! This all-encompassing installation can be enjoyed solo, with friends and family, or with new friends you meet while sharing the Light Lane Bike experience!
One of the pieces, LeMonde Studios’ “Le Jam du Nord (Guitar Slide),” is installed at City Hall Plaza. The Guitar Slide is a unique musical experience that relies on people-power to promote a more sustainable future. This 14-foot slide is free of any electrical components; instead, it’s powered by the energy of its riders. By cranking the wheel on its side, visitors can share their energy before riding on this incredible slide. This all-ages play experience is a must-try at #WINTERACTIVE, and it’s crafted with love and care to provide a fun and interactive way for visitors to engage with sustainability.
Did you know that birds in Boston don’t always migrate somewhere warm for the winter? This whimsical birdhouse sculpture at #WINTERACTIVE relies on your elbow grease to bring it to life. By cranking the lower box, visitors can activate the two winter residents up top, who will come alive in a colourful display and offer some harmonious musical delights. This installation is sure to have visitors eagerly anticipating the spring season ahead and is a playful reminder of the resilience of nature in the face of winter.
The Music Box relies on people-power to highlight a more sustainable future, as this musical experience is electricity-free. Share your energy by cranking the Music Box and listening for the sounds of a familiar tune…
This is no ordinary photo frame! Be sure to crank the wheel beside the frame to have the perfect soundtrack to accompany your picture-perfect moment!
Images Courtesy Downtown Boston BID WINTERACTIVE
Blissful Rendezvous, a vibrant mural commissioned for WINTERACTIVE 2024, showcases the similarities between Boston and Quebec province. The artwork features the flora and fauna of both locations, set against the backdrop of Downtown Boston’s historic landmarks. With its playful and whimsical design, Blissful Rendezvous encourages visitors to use WINTERACTIVE to explore the city with loved ones and create new memories. This vinyl digital print was created in 2023 by Canadian artist Kezna Dala.
ATOMIC3’s “Island of Warmth” offers an interactive and multisensory experience. It is an urban bonfire that comprises 220 light bulbs, which respond to the movements of the spectators. The bulbs flicker, dance, and swirl in response to the sway or dance of the festivalgoers, creating a musical, visual, and luminous experience that brings warmth, light, and music. The Island of Warmth is a shared experience designed to pay tribute to Montreal’s inclusive festive tradition and unite people. In the words of Felix Dagenais, co-founder of Atomic 3,
“The idea is to create a downtown space where people can gather around a high-tech bonfire. The ‘fire’ is made of 220 incandescent bulbs that generate heat. A bonfire is a primal ritual for all Quebecers. Even though ours is modern and interactive, people will naturally gravitate to it.”
The medium for this installation is steel and light fixtures, located at 125 Summer St, and it is a must-see for anyone looking for a unique, engaging, and immersive experience.
A fascinating display case catches the eye at the intersection of Washington St and Court St. The frosted glass of the case creates an intriguing effect, blurring the forms of a realistic-looking creature – a unicorn. Despite being partially concealed, this legendary symbol of purity and grace still manages to exert its magnetic powers of fascination on the viewers. The creature is made of urethane animal shape, faux fur, metal, polycarbonate, plywood, and wood and was created by Canadian artist Mathieu Valade in 2017.
A mysterious metallic cube has surprised the city at 175 Federal St. Its interior showcases a starry sky, drawing the attention of many curious onlookers. The cube houses a carefully designed diorama that tells a story of a natural environment dramatically transformed by human intervention and climate change. This artwork is Territories 2.0, the second version of Canadian artist Olivier Roberge’s work. The artwork showcases a summer climate and nature during transformation. Graffiti and billboards interrupt the land, symbolising the (in) compatibility specific to Roberge’s artistic approach. These colliding symbols allude to the capitalist interests perpetrated by consumerism and the need for individual expression that counterbalances them. The visuals on the boards could mean destruction or hope of regeneration. The artwork is made of steel, polycarbonate, paint, miniature models, and LED lighting created in 2021.
WINTERACTIVE is a brilliant concept that aims to bring people together and inspire them to explore interactive art in downtown Boston during the winter season. By providing unique and engaging installations, this initiative helps foster a sense of community, even during the year’s colder months. Visitors are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and try something new while enjoying the playful and colourful displays. WINTERACTIVE is an excellent opportunity to experience the joys of winter in a new and exciting way.
If you want to learn more about WINTERACTIVE and explore all the artworks, don’t hang around. Visit winteractive.org for more information and a map to navigate the full circuit of artworks.
WINTERACTIVE is presented and funded primarily by the Downtown Boston BID, with major support from Meet Boston. The exhibition is supported by the City of Boston, the Consulate General of Canada to the United States in Boston, the Québec Government Office in Boston, and the Hyatt Regency Boston.