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FIRST NIGHT NOW: AHS grad leads show to help welcome 2014 in Boston

Years out of Arlington High and nearly seven years after Boston police overreacted to a marketing stunt, media artist Peter Berdovsky is back -- this time with a video-and-music show to usher in 2014 at First Night.

At 11:50 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, the show built in Somerville by his 12-person team will project sight and sound on the facade at the Boston Public Library opposite Trinity Church at Copley Square.

"We want to unite everyone," Berdovsky said, "and help them become one with the city."

What the video artists have created

In an interview at Artisan's Asylum, Berdovsky, known as "Zebbler," talked about what frozen revelers will see not far from the site of last April's Marathon bombings.

Supported by $50,000 in private funding, those at Zebbler Studios use a process called "video mapping" to beam iconic scenes from Boston's history.

In concert with images will be a soundtrack using music created for the occasion by partner Ben Cantil, a Boston-based musician whose artist name is "Encanti."

You will see library "walls fall apart." As bricks fall, the accompanying sound track changes.

Tracing Boston history from 1630, the music changes from 18th century to more modern to "beyond modern" as the show continues after midnight.

'We like everything'

"We like everything," Berdovsky said with a gentle smile, his dreadlocks shorter than in January 2007, when he and a pal hung 40 lighted boards around the city and suburbs to promote the Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" movie.

Similar displays in other cities drew little notice, but Boston's reaction brought ridicule, as police closing bridges, roads and public transit for hours before authorities realized the signs showing a cartoon character making an obscene gesture were a publicity stunt.

Berdovsky and his partner were at first charged with placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic and disorderly conduct. But the charges were dropped when they agreed to community service, as YourArlington reported in a detailed follow-up feature later in 2007.

At the time of the early 2007 story, Thomas Menino, Boston's mayor, expressed outrage. The current effort has drawn his support.

That project involved building a three-dimensional replica of the Boston Public Library. That was then traced by a computer-aided design program, followed by the use of a CNC machine. In essence, high-speed robot drills carve UP the library.

A link to Patti Smith

Berdovsky is excited about his team's effort, but he also hopes First Nights provides the opportunity to meet Patti Smith, the longtime punk rocker who is a  headline entertainer for the evening.

A native of Belarus who was supported by an Arlington family, Berdovsky held parties in 2008 to help his mother emigrate. She is now in Poland. Smith was among those who contributed money.

"I would like a chance to thank her [Smith]" face to face, he said.

Christopher Cook, Boston's director of Arts, Tourism & Special Events, who oversees First Night, told WBUR in November: "At this point, we just recognize him as one of the premier video artists in the country. The hiccup six years ago was that, a hiccup. … They were new to it, and we were new to it. Since that time he’s established himself as a legitimate businessman and artist."

Berdovsky, now 34 years old and a Mass. College of Art grad, told the Boston Herald: “I’m honored to have a chance to pay back to the city of Boston through my projection and light art. This will hopefully give everyone a chance to celebrate our unity. We are a great city. Let’s remember that, and be unified in our voice."

This year's First Night events

Find out more about Encanti and Zebbler here >>

Nov. 14, 2007: 'Urban terrorist'? No, just an artist making his multimedia way

This story was published Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

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