It's not the urban experience you might expect from a visit to Times Square: flocks of sheep roaming through the iconic New York City square, like clockwork, from 11:57 p.m. to midnight. The scene, which is displayed across more than 20 electronic billboards each night, is part of a synchronized digital art exhibition curated by Times Square Arts, transporting a glimpse of ranch life from Kaycee, Wyoming, to the city that never sleeps, reports the New York Times.
The footage is part of a yet-to-be-released documentary called "Counting Sheep" by filmmakers Tal Yarden of Brooklyn and Jessica Medenbach of Kerhonkson, New York. Medenbach described the project as being about “nostalgia for childhood and the pastoral American ideal that, I think, a lot of Americans yearn for that is both hidden and fading away.”
The film will document the lives of two brothers, Don and Peto Meike, Wyoming sheep ranchers situated on a plot of land that tells a story of the withering history of the American West. It's a land where dinosaur bones lay hidden underneath the soil, where Native Americans once thrived and were tragically chased off, and where the future seems to hang, hazy like dust in the air.
Don Meike said he was unsure how long he and his brother would continue on the ranch. “We thought we were retired, but we seem to work every day,” he said.
The Meike brothers are among the last of an endangered breed. There's an art to their lifestyle, which threatens to be lost as the ever-encroaching sea of concrete paves over the past.
Medenbach said the ranchers “have a whole choreography with the sheep dogs where they can artfully maneuver herds of several hundred.” She added that when a sheep got stuck in a pond, the dogs would come from different directions to motivate them “to catapult themselves out of the bank of a pond when otherwise they may sit there in the mud for hours.”
For now, a bit of that magic seems to live on in the footage captured by Medenbach and Yarden, mesmerizing visitors as it beams across those Times Square screens and offering a contrast to the busy city life, even if just for a fleeting moment.
“The light, the sparse landscape and the ranch so quickly distinguishes itself from the man-made, highly-technologic environment,” wrote Sherry Dobbin, director of Times Square Arts.
The exhibition began broadcasting on Dec. 1 and will continue to be shown each night through Dec. 30, until eventually giving way to the square's famous ball drop on New Year's Eve.