Jason Akira Somma is a filmmaker and choreographer who investigates how we experience, process, and participate in the cultural systems that surround us. A self-proclaimed “hacker” interested in challenging social and technological power structures, he frequently creates video work using custom-built or hacked analog technologies. Somma is also an accomplished art documentarian who has shot and edited pieces on Times Square Arts projects, including many Midnight Moments, since 2015.
Times_Square_Analog_Portrait is a conceptual portrait of one of the most distinctive aspects of the neighborhood: the spectacular electronic billboards that display advertisements — and the Midnight Moment program itself. The work is part of Somma’s series of institutional portraits designed to reflect the environment of the presenting institution or platform.
Somma created Times_Square_Analog_Portrait from footage of the electronic billboards, video feedback enlivened with hand-operated camera movements, and signal manipulation using electromagnetic and light frequency information he recorded in Times Square on custom analog devices. Exhibited as a part of the Midnight Moment program, the outcome is a mesmerizing abstraction that loops back onto the digital displays from which it was generated.
“The inspiration came from years of watching and documenting works exhibited in Times Square. My aim is to get people to think and reflect on the space they are inhabiting as well as the technology displaying the video work.”
–Jason Akira Somma
“For Summer Season 2019, we are presenting a trio of Midnight Moments that are idiosyncratic portraits of Times Square, accentuating significant aspects of this neighborhood, and revealing almost as much about the artists who made them. Jason Akira Somma as a documentarian has been adept at capturing the energy and character of any given night in Times Square. In Times_Square_Analog_Portrait he makes fascinating use of the visible and invisible frequencies radiating from the electronic billboards that make Midnight Moment, in his words, “the only public art program that can be seen from space.”
–Andrew Dinwiddie, Acting Director, Times Square Arts
Jason Akira Somma (born 1980, Virginia Beach, VA) is a practicing analog-digital artist and choreographer based in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been featured at The Guggenheim Museum, The Park Avenue Armory, New Museum, MoMA PS1, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UT), Center of Contemporary Art (Glasgow, UK), and the Chrysler Museum of Art (VA). Jason’s inaugural solo gallery show, Phosphene Variations, premiered at Location 1 Gallery (NY) in 2012 and featured the first free-floating-interactive-holographic-film installation with subjects as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert Wilson, among others.
Photo courtesy of Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts