Times Square is the number-one visited place globally with 360,000 pedestrian visitors a day, amounting to over 131 million visitors a year. This translates into $4.8 billion in annual retail, entertainment and hotel sales, with 22 cents out of every dollar spent by visitors in New York City being spent within Times Square.
Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, Times Square is sometimes referred to as "The Crossroads of the World. Over 100 different sized and shaped giant screens compete for attention offering services and products. The ads displayed simultaneously 24 hours a day 365 days a year are characterized by their short time frames, intense colors, camera movements, fast editing and strong motion graphics. The Times Square billboards and screens are the most coveted and expensive and are only affordable by the biggest commercial brands.
“A Pause in the City that Never Sleeps” is a site-specific video installation created by artist Sebastian ErraZuriz for Times Square. The project is part of Midnight Moment, a monthly presentation by The Times Square Advertising Coalition (TSAC) and Times Square Arts. The video is shown simultaneously in approximately 50 different screens within Times Square.
The 3-minute video by Sebastian ErraZuriz contrasts with its environment by being extremely slow paced and filmed exclusively in black and white. There are no camera movements, no editing cuts and no motion graphics. The video portrays a close up of the artist slowly looking around him and yawning multiple times during the whole duration of the video. The simultaneous projections of slow black and white images of the yawning figure dominate and momentarily transform the environment of Times Square. Many of the visitors looking at the screens find themselves suddenly coerced into joining the artist in yawning, consequently getting others around them to contagiously yawn too.
The video can be interpreted as a peaceful and personal act of protest by the artist against the overwhelming market system that he is surrounded by. The contagious character of the yawn video seems purposely designed to get others to yawn with him and appear as if they had voluntarily gathered every night to join the artist in his protest.
Sebastian ErraZuriz expressed that he hopes the video can offer a brief moment of pause that can remind us of our urgent necessity for free space and time that can allow us to recover a stronger sense of awareness. When asked if the project was strictly criticizing the market, he expressed he also finds himself tired of how the art market in influencing much of the current artistic production. "I'm yawning at everything and all of us; we need to wake up"