This Saturday artists will transform the neighborhood of Teusaquillo into a living museum.  Public spaces ranging from churches and schools to parks and pedestrian bridges will provide the backdrop, and in many cases the canvas, for multimedia installations, theater performances, and live music.  From 6pm to 1am, pedestrians can roam forty-four blocks between Parkway and Avenida Caracas as part of La Noche en Blanco, the first contemporary arts festival of its kind in Bogotá.

“More than an event, it’s an experience,” explains Mónika Barrios, the general director.  “People can take part in the art and interact with the installations.” La Noche en Blanco encourages urbanites to explore their city and rediscover neglected public spaces. Barrios hopes that when city dwellers see a park or a street corner revamped by an art installation, they will start to appreciate that site.  “If we get to know what we have and if we see that it can change, we will take care of it,” she says.

Although this is the first La Noche en Blanco in Colombia, this event has temporarily transformed over forty cities worldwide, filling capitals from La Paz to Berlin with contemporary art.  The festival’s name translates to “The Sleepless Night,” a reference to the fact that in many cities La Noche en Blanco lasts for a full twelve hours, from 7 pm to 7 am.

Exhibitions vary from place to place, but an emphasis on innovative and interactive pieces is what sets this festival apart.  Bogotá’s inaugural event features an installation of LED light strips strung in Parque la Magdalena, for example, that changes color and brightness depending on how many people are talking nearby.  In another installation, portraying a crashed car, viewers see themselves trapped inside as they lean forward to peer through the windows.

The forty-five pieces selected for this event explore everything from graffiti art to native seeds, running the gamut from the universal to the hyper local.  A video installation exploring memories and dreams, an audiovisual presentation featuring Bogotá’s street vendors, and an ode to the Río Arzobispo, which runs through the neighborhood, are just a few examples.

While all but one of the artists featured this year are Colombian, the event’s organizers plan to include more foreigners in the future.  Barrios has invited her counterparts from Bolivia and Uruguay to attend in the hopes of fostering an international network of La Noche en Blanco exhibits.

Fundación Vértice Cultural, the District Council of Technology, Information and Communications, and the Mayor’s Office of Teusaquillo invite everyone in Bogotá to “let themselves be dazzled with light, movement, words, color and music, and surprise themselves with a different experience.”  The idea, say organizers, is to “take to the streets without worrying about traffic or wallets.”

For more information and a map of the event visit www.lanocheenblancobogota.co 

La Noche en Blanco is free of charge.