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Herds of Sheep Are Invading Times Square Billboards

For the latest Times Square Arts Midnight Moment, video artist Tal Yarden brings Wyoming sheep to New York.
Images courtesy the artist and Times Square Arts.

Sometime whilst creating filmed backdrops of sheep for the Brokeback Mountain opera, video artist Tal Yarden realized he had much a bigger pastoral project that he could turn into a series of peaceful video lullabies. The artist recently turned this footage of the retired Wyoming ranchers into Counting Sheep, the current Midnight Moment on Time Square’s electronic billboards, giving “the city that never sleeps” some sheep to count so that they might find some dreamy peace.


Yarden, who has worked with Cindy Sherman and shot video for the David Bowie Lazarus musical, tells The Creators Project that Counting Sheep is the merging of two projects. The first, of course, was the documentary with his collaborator, Jessica Medenbach, in which he followed brothers Peto and Don Meike over the course of their last year of ranching. The other project was a series of “peaceful lullaby” projections on billboards in the city that never sleeps so that they would be “benevolent reminders to sleep and dream.”

“The two ideas came together for me with the desire to create a meditative series of visuals that reconnect an urban audience to nature and the seasons,” says Yarden. He and Medenbach filmed the Meike brothers in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming near Kaycee. Originally he was drawn to the area because of its connection to Annie Proulx’s story, Brokeback Mountain.

“Peto Meike brought us up to the summer pastures to film and offered his dogs as assistant directors,” Yarden says. “I would ask for the sheep to move over the landscape in certain directions and the dogs would make it happen.”

The artist has returned to Kaycee and the Meike ranch in various seasons to continue filming the sheep. To shoot the video, Yarden used a Canon 1DC for 4K footage, and a Sony FX700 for slow-motion scenes.

“Yarden is a seminal artist changing environments via moving image and whilst most of those are indoor environments of theater and opera and musical events, he creates works for seamless, non-framed or non-proscenium screen stages,” says Times Square arts director Sherry Dobbin.


“Through conversations about his current projects and personal creative exploration, we were taken by these pastoral landscapes over the year of seasons. Sheep are a symbol of sleeping, dreaming, passing over into a new threshold and seemed perfect for the month leading to our New Year.”

Yarden wants the sheep passing through the canyons of Wyoming to mirror the mass of humanity passing through Times Square. Ideally, he hopes that the images stop people dead in their tracks for a few moment’s worth of self-reflection.”

“[It's] not so much to count sheep as to rediscover themselves as individuals with a sense of place in the universe,” says Yarden. “The video is a meditation, an opening to peace within ourselves. Maybe it sounds hokey but I want people to find peace. Peace to sleep well, peace to be awake with hope and peace to be with each other.”

A first look at the December #MidnightMoment, "Counting Sheep" by @tal_yarden. See the sheep every night this month at 11:57pm. #SheepTSq

A video posted by Times Square Arts (@tsqarts) on

Dec 2, 2016 at 9:39am PST

Counting Sheep appears on Times Square Arts’s electronic billboards from 11:57 PM until midnight on Duffy Square at Broadway and 46th Street. A soundtrack to Counting Sheep, composed by Yarden and his brother Guy, will be available on Soundcloud.

Click here to see more of Tal Yarden’s work.


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