Skyscrapers line a dirt road, their tiny windows illuminated by a golden glow within. But as I traverse this dirt road, it is apparent that I tower over these Lilliputian buildings. A giant in an alien land, I am too large to see the lifeforms within, but their presence is visible. A small flash of blue. A rippling sparkle. The plankton inside communicate through light, a beautiful phenomenon called bioluminescence. Tonight, I step into the darkness of their world; tonight, I am illuminated by their brilliance. bioluminescence
After almost two years in the making, Night Life LA invited guests to their latest installation: a ninety-minute journey into the mountains for a rigorous moonlit hike, interactive conversations, and the exploration of communication and connection. This communication is centered around the fascinating bioluminescence of plankton, masterfully flanked by experiences in which analog phones ring and cookies are shared among patrons. While this phenomenon is often challenging to seek out, the team at Night Life LA have curated a vast playground of algae and plankton to provide a surreal landscape for this adventure.
With only three primary artists, Night Life LA aims to connect Angelenos through poetic disruptions of everyday life. These works have included a lifeguard station turned tea-house in which guests sipped tea from lounge chairs, a renewal of a concrete factory into a floral paradise, and a golden repair of the dead black wood from the recent La Tuna fires. Using the city as a muse and a canvas, their events are always free and participatory—a love letter to the city.
Whether guests came to unleash their inner child, to experience the sapience of nature, or to self-reflect and grow as a human, Night Life LA does not disappoint. With almost pure darkness needed, guests were encouraged to sheath their phones in a protective wrapper and be present in the moment. At the pinnacle of the hike, a large wading pool filled with algae allowed guests to laugh, kick their bare feet, or thrust their hands into the darkness, only to have every movement to shimmer and glow. Cleverly hidden waterfalls allowed light to rain from the walls as guests watched in awe.
But this experience was more than just a hike and an interaction with science. Reminiscence of Alone in past years or the more recent The Boanthropic, Night Life LA filled its moments with clever immersive interactions and surreal moments that perfectly blended the real world with the alien world of the plankton. Dressed in achromatic outfits, intake officers referred to us by number, seated us for processing, and handed us tongs to extract paperwork from an over-sized manila envelope. Silent guides led us up the mountainside with only the light from a lantern at the end of a long stick and the windows of tiny skyscrapers lighting our path. And scientists at the top of the hill performed eager experiments in which they poured water that glowed into existence with each splash as they punched measurements into antiquated machines. It’s these moments that truly excited the immersive fan inside of me, and I wanted to further explore this world of wonder, learning more about this organization conducting midnight experiments against a moonlit backdrop.
Night Life LA perfectly captures the childlike wonder of exploring something so beautiful that it feels like magic—but it’s real. Marrying immersive elements with nature only serves to heighten their experiences and provide an intimacy that current audiences crave. I highly recommend seeking them out and applying for their free tickets the next time they offer guests a chance to enter a new world and be transformed by this city that is Los Angeles. bioluminescence
For upcoming events by Night Life LA, check out their website here.