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The View from Couch Place

Hamburg is Chicago's sister city. The mist and lights reflect the Elbe and Chicago rivers. Photos by Barbara K. Iverson
Hamburg is Chicago’s sister city. The mist and lights reflect the Elbe and Chicago rivers. Photos by Barbara K. Iverson

It’s an alley, no, it’s an interactive art scene. Couch Place Alley at 171 N. Dearborn, which runs between Dearborn and State St., is being taken over by Luftwerk and  ZipTunes mobile.

They’re cranking out music and blocking Dearborn, but it’s all for a reason – the FLOW/Im Fluss project.

Traces for trumpet, radio, speaker, objects and tape feeds by Birgit Ulher and musical performances in Couch Place Alley will be happening every evening of this project, according to the Goethe Institute, one of the sponsors.

Don’t be timid like some of the passers-by who just walked on. Enter and you’ll be rewarded with a full body experience. There are three gentle curtains of water, misting the alley. The water vaporing out of the installation makes curtains of mist, which in turn become the screens for the light show.

If you have ever been near a waterfall, you will recognize the effect. The music is pulsing, like a house beat, but probably more up-tempo.

FLOW/Im Fluss, which runs from September 17th — 20th, 5:00 p.m. to midnight in Chicago’s Couch Place Alley, was made as a site-specific light installation celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Sister Cities Chicago and Hamburg, and presented by Goethe Institute, Chicago Loop Alliance and NRDC.

The light reflects and is highlighted by the mist curtain. Photo by Barbara K. Iverson
The light reflects and is highlighted by the mist curtain. Photo by Barbara K. Iverson

With the NRDC being an environmental group, this is art with a soul of science in it. That means that the water and light show that you see isn’t random.

“Based on scientifically collected measurements like oxygen levels, currents, contamination, and chemical compounds FLOW/Im Fluss interprets data from the two rivers to create a visual experience,” according to the artist statement

Participants are supposed to be drawn to ” … immerse themselves into the flow of data collected from both rivers.”

At about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a line was forming on the State St. side and for those who were in the know and had RSVP’d, there was a free drink ticket. Wine and beer is for sale, but you can get all the effects of the interesting installation without it.

Some spectators were standing outside the mist curtains, not wanting to cross to get wet. I asked several spectators if they knew about the Elbe/Chicago River connection or that Hamburg was our sister City, but that wasn’t what had bought them to this quaint little street space.

The “maid of the mist” style raincoats were free, however lots of patrons just walked quickly through the three lines of mist, and decided the rain gear was unfashionable.

IMGP3174There were lots of people taking pictures, but it was challenging owing to the mist and also the show itself. The effects were easier to see than to capture on film, though I expect as it got darker, the light show became more spectacular.

Everyone was having a good time, judging from the smiles on faces. The ZipTunes’ music was pulsating and loud, so there wasn’t too much conversation going on. I danced briefly in one of the mist curtains with a young man who was enjoying the feel of the mist.

There is still time to wander down to Couch Alley and take a stroll for yourself.

The idea behind these pop-up art events is to bring people out in the Loop after work, and this one is worth a stop. It certainly evokes impressions of water and waterfalls, and how lovely clean water is.



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