LINCOLN PARK — In a snappy twist to their traditional event, the Lincoln Park Zoo has unveiled a black hole in the center of the Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House.
“A big part of what makes ZooLights so successful every year is storytelling,” said marketing director Jon Mamba, 43. “We usher visitors through a dazzling display of lights, streamlining the crowds and showcasing our most gorgeous animals.”
Not all animals crave the red-and-green grow of the string lights, however, creating a logistical snag for the zoo. “We want to lift up the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and naked mole-rats as much as the light-chasing rhinos and flamingos, but we were scratching our heads about how to make darkness and dank, airless holes festive,” noted Mamba. Many animals fear Santa as a predator, and overcoming that intractable law of nature proved difficult in board brainstorming meetings.
Then astrophysicist Kyle Apple, 76, walked in with an idea, and ZooDarks was born. The concept?
“A region of spacetime filled with gravity so powerful that no particles can escape,” Apple wrote in an Instagram caption advertising the event. “Pure darkness. The abyss, the void, the rot at the center of the universe. That’s what ZooDarks is about, and I could think of no better place to showcase it than next to the blue-tongued skink tank.”
Visitors can seek relief from the glistening holiday decorations bedecking the zoo by entering the Reptile House and admiring a few of the snakes and lizards before crossing the event horizon and being sucked into the hole.
“Total immolation. Complete loss of self. Your form will transcend corporeality and your past will become an abstraction,” noted Apple. “Kind of like Christmas at your mother-in-law’s house, right? I kid, I kid. Anyway, can I borrow three bucks for the bus?”
Mamba notes that some visitors might find the ZooDarks pop-up in the middle of the holiday event jarring, but trusts in the holistic vision of the installation.
“It’s yin and yang, good and evil, the duality of man,” he said, watching the steady stream of zoo-goers flow into the Reptile House. “It’s holiday lights and black holes, that’s it.”