Sebastian Errazuriz Triggers Contagious Yawning in Times Square

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The glowing, blinking, buzzing, bustling crossroads that is New York’s Times Square doesn’t lack for much—except serenity. Artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz is looking to inject calm into the chaos this month with A Pause in the City That Never Sleeps. Created for the Midnight Moment initiative, which synchronizes electronic billboards and newspaper kiosks throughout Times Square to display creative content nightly from 11:57 to midnight, in partnership with Performance Space 122’s COIL 2015 Festival, the work is a black and white moving image of a bored-looking man who peers down at the passing crowds and yawns, repeatedly. Sound like a yawn? Not until you remember how contagious—and calming—a yawn can be.

“To be able to trigger in the audience a positive contagious physical reaction, an involuntary mass yawning performance, and to plant a brief sensation of much-needed rest in thousands of people is a fascinating possibility,” says Chilean-born Errazuriz, who lives and works in New York with parallel workshops in Santiago. “It is our intrinsic empathic quality that makes yawning contagious, and empathy is a scarce quality in New York City. I like the idea of imagining families of tourists fascinated by the flickering NYC lights suddenly finding themselves yawning and deciding its maybe time to go back to the hotel and spend some family time together.”