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Urban Echo: Art Project Displays Thoughts and Imaginings

Nominated by Sarah Kuck

As night falls, illuminated letters crawl up the broadside of a public building. From across the way, the artists behind Urban Echo choose a question, like "what is your greatest hope for America?", or "what am I?", and beam it and a phone number upon the structure. Viewers respond by sending in messages via SMS or voicemail, and the Urban Echo crew projects the thoughts and imaginings of the city-dwellers on the wall. This art project has been carried out on buildings and museums around the world.

Urban Echo @ Kitchen Budapest from Christopher Baker on Vimeo.

This piece is part of Worldchanging's Attention Philanthropy campaign. All week long, the Worldchanging Network will be delivering "attention grants" to worthy projects, individuals, resources and more. You can learn more about these gifts of notice and find other entries by clicking by clicking here.

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Nice nomination. I believe that in some instances there are also actors inside building that perform while the projection occurs, further blurring the line between the the reality of the text messages and the staged happenings inside the building. Good stuff.

Posted by: keith on 8 Jul 09

@Keith -- you are completely correct in your observation about the role of occupants. In most cases, occupants have been very enthusiastic about the projections on their building. But on occasion, even with the building owner's permission, the occupants have lodged their own form of protest. In one case they protested by shining their brightest table lights out of the window in an attempt to disrupt the projection (see this projection in Copenhagen The table lamp protest did cause us to shut down the project early out of respect for the sleepy occupants, but from a practical perspective, these "protest" lights served to highlight the lives lived behind the fa├žade. On the other hand, it generated some serious questions about the nature of participation and "democratic" process in my interactive art practice -- particularly how to make room for dissent, even in the community projects intended to creatively unite the audience.

Posted by: Christopher Baker on 8 Jul 09

@Christopher -- Thanks for the response. I may have been mistaken about the actors inside the building but the role of occupants is indeed an interesting angle. When working in a public place, and on a surface that is the boundary between public and private, all sorts of interesting situations can arise. Like you, I see this project as a a unifying endeavor, but it's silly to expect there to be no dissent when you're truly working democratically. By leaving both the content of the messages and the building open to chance, you are truly providing a platform for acceptance or dissent, while functioning as the intermediary. Sounds like the true role of an artist to me and I dig it! Excellent work.

Posted by: keith on 8 Jul 09

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