Sunday, September 26, 2010


Oh Saint Monica, patron saint of difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of adultery and unfaithfulness (too good, right...look it up), I didn't think it would be this way. As a writer, and someone who has a rather difficult time living in the moment, I have a confession to make. I often have an idea of what I am going to say about one of my destinations before I even go. Never was this truer than with GLOW. I was prepared to give A+'s across the board. I mean it combines three of my favorite things- the beach at night, installation art and walking outside with an alcoholic beverage.

The first and only other GLOW was two years ago, and it was extraordinary. Conceived as an all night, interactive art festival featuring local artists tightly spaced on and around the Santa Monica pier, my friends and I were among the thousands who marveled at glowing orbs in the water, a tower made of glow sticks, florescent tunnels one could run through and conceptual pieces performed by fantastical creatures on stilts. It captured the magic and mystery of the shore and the city on the shore. My friends and I thought we had died and gone to a heaven filled with Gatsby's elusive green lights. Apparently the city of Santa Monica thought it was more like a Fellini-esque hell filled with rollers, drunkards and trippers.

So this GLOW ended at midnight and had the stifled, corporate feel of a half empty municipal art museum that just happened to be on the beach. The pieces were spaced ridiculously far apart (wet sand+food and drink=exhausting) and designated by great white lampposts. Many of the works were lackluster, appearing to have been designed by a committee of landscaping drones. Something called "the battle of earth and the moon" turned out to be two hippie dudes dancing around in head dresses while someone played a drum. Another exhibit was just a light shining on the water.

A car's headlights would achieve the same effect.

Children running around thrilled to be up late were a charming sight, and there were a few lovely works. There was a giant white orb high in the sky that projected a participant's face so that he or she became the man in the moon. Of course, one man in the moon proposed to his girlfriend. There was an architecturally precise bridge of light one could walk through that looked like a ship leaning towards the water, and a mass of bubbles frothed out of a pale blue lifeguard tower. Another piece used a projector to magnify participants' hands and arms in full color across the sand.

So there were some impressive experiments, but the joie de vivre, the anarchist spirit of the first festival was missing. Instead, there were orderly, looooonnnnngg lines to actually get to participate in anything and cops policing, some on horseback, at every turn. The best thing about the night was the communal joy of sitting in the damp sand, bs-ing with friends while waiting to meet or find other friends. No matter what the occasion, that always seems to be the thing that makes me glow the most.

P.S. Note the orbs all over my photos. I know it is light pollution, but the southerner in me thinks it's lots of art world ghosts with a few lost sailors and surfers thrown in for good measure.

Travel: D (parking was a nightmare).
Ease: D
Content: B-
Subjective Coolness: C+
Overall: C

Directions: At the Santa Monica Pier (who the heck knows if they will even do it again).
Parking: Just had to find it, cost anywhere from $10-$30.
Hours: 8pm-12pm.
Price: Free, besides the soul disappointing disappointment.

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