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As the Lights Go Out in Cabrini, Public Art Illuminates Final Building

By Karl Klockars in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 25, 2011 6:00PM

"Last Cabrini-Green Building Standing" by K Tao.

If, on Monday night, you were to gaze up at the final building in the Cabrini-Green project left to be demolished, and saw hundreds of winking lights, you'd be well within your rights to ask the disembodied Yahoo Answers in your head: "Hey, what are all these winking lights doing in the last Cabrini-Green building left to be demolished?"

The answer to that question, as well as similar followup questions throughout the four-week demolition process, is that it's a living piece of public (some might say even performance) art. Project Cabrini Green, an installation by artists Jan Tichy and Ephrat Apple, as assisted by community members and students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has placed tiny lights in 134 of the vacant apartments in the building at 1230 N. Burling.

March 30th is the first scheduled day of demolition, and as the building comes down, so do the lights. Those lights are timed to flicker in rhythm to poems written by youth in the Cabrini community, poems which also have a demolition-free home at the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you want to watch every last second of the demo take place, you can find a live webcam feed of the project here.

Although the ratio of "good riddance" versus "sad to see it go" feelings about Cabrini likely skew heavily towards the former, few can deny that the housing project served to define how Chicago and its problems with public housing were viewed for decades. For the people who both grew up in Cabrini as well as people who grew up with its shadow falling across the city, one last recognition of its existence before the last big building falls is worth, for lack of a better word, illuminating.