As clock strikes 9:32, Rosslyn art phenomenon ensues

August 1, 2019

WTOP/Neal Augenstein

If you’ve ever been to Rosslyn, in the northeast corner of Arlington County, Virginia, chances are you’ve passed a fascinating combination of art and science without knowing what it was.

Just off Route 50, as you travel into Rosslyn, you’ll see several large concrete-ish spheres and tall poles — this is Dark Star Park.

Thursday, dozens of people gathered on a sunny traffic island to witness a phenomenal exhibition of planning, art and science that only happens once a year.

“We’re celebrating our 35th anniversary of Dark Star Park Day,” said Angela Adams, Arlington County’s director of public art.

The focus is a piece of artwork created by land artist Nancy Holt in the crook between North Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive.

Holt worked with an astrophysicist to make the shadow alignment work.

In a piece of work based on minute details, Adams said the date for the alignment was intentional.

“August 1 is the day in 1860 when William Henry Ross acquired the land that became Rosslyn,” said Adams.

Cellist Janel Leppin and guitarist Anthony Pirog began playing a seven-minute instrumental piece at exactly 9:25 a.m. that they had composed to synchronize with the anticipated alignment.

Pirog, whose band Messthetics is on Arlington-based Dischord Records, said that while the sonic sounds were timed to end at 9:32 a.m., the live performance on a small stage near the sculpture wasn’t performed in a vacuum.

“We use improvisation in our performance, so we had a little wiggle room,” he acknowledged. “So, yes, we were looking at the ground,” and watching the shadows snap into place.

Leppen, who has been called “an absolute virtuoso” by Downbeat Magazine, and Pirog visited Dark Star Park before composing their piece, in hopes of evoking the earth’s rotation, which is instrumental in the sculpture.

“I felt like everyone went somewhere today, and that’s really special to us — that’s the most important thing,” she said.

See a video of the alignment:

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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