There’s some movement over at the website for my new venture. I mentioned Hubbub before: it is a design studio I am setting up for physical, social games that are played in public places. We hope to address social issues and the like using these games.
I’ve adjusted the temporary site to fit with the brand that’s being developed by my friends at BUROPONY.
This is a transcript of my presentation at The Web and Beyond 2008: Mobility in Amsterdam on 22 May. Since the majority of paying attendees were local I presented in Dutch. However, English appears to be the lingua franca of the internet, so here I offer a translation. I have uploaded the slides to SlideShare and hope to be able to share a video recording of the whole thing soon.
In 1966 a number of members of Provo took to the streets of Amsterdam carrying blank banners. Provo was a nonviolent anarchist movement. They primarily occupied themselves with provoking the authorities in a “ludic” manner. Nothing was written on their banners because the mayor of Amsterdam had banned the slogans “freedom of speech”, “democracy” and “right to demonstrate”. Regardless, the members were arrested by police, showing that the authorities did not respect their right to demonstrate.1
Good afternoon everyone, my name is Kars Alfrink, I’m a freelance interaction designer. Today I’d like to talk about play in public space. I believe that with the arrival of ubiquitous computing in the city new forms of play will be made possible. The technologies we shape will be used for play wether we want to or not. As William Gibson writes in Burning Chrome:
“…the street finds its own uses for things”
For example: Skateboarding as we now know it — with its emphasis on aerial acrobatics — started in empty pools like this one. That was done without permission, of course…
Only later half-pipes, ramps, verts (which by the way is derived from ‘vertical’) and skateparks arrived — areas where skateboarding is tolerated. Skateboarding would not be what it is today without those first few empty pools.2
I’ve been researching street art and related topics lately, and have come across a range of interesting things people have placed in public spaces. I thought it would be fun (and perhaps enlightening) to collect them here. Each entry follows a similar format, listing what was left, by whom and with what intent, what it was made of, and what the reactions were.
Clearly, ‘playing’ in public spaces is not without risk. Reactions can vary widely and are dependent on such a huge range of things that you can essentially not predict what will happen. If you want to leave things with the aim of changing the public’s attitude, you’d best embrace this unpredictability, make use of it, and not be naive about it.
World famous street artist Banksy has created many interventions in public space. A recent one in London being a mural showing a girl raising a flag bearing the logo of Tesco’s while two children look on, hands on their harts. The piece is filmed for an hour and the result shows a huge amount of people stopping and looking at it. (Which is interesting in the context of to the next example.)
As an experiment, critically acclaimed contemporary painter Luc Tuymans paints a mural on the walls of a busy pedestrian street in Antwerp. Hardly anyone (less than 10%) pays the work any attention, as this video shows. What does this say about people, what does it say about contemporary art?
LED displays showing a Mooninite, a character from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force animated show are attached to metal surfaces throughout 10 major cities in the USA. They are part of a guerilla marketing campaign to promote an upcoming ATHF film. After being up for a few weeks, Boston police are alerted to their presence and mistaken for possible bombs, launching a full-on scare. The artists responsible for putting them up (Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28) are arrested but later released.
Street artist Poster Child publishes instructions for the creation of blocks faced with question marks taken from the game Super Mario Bros. online. Inside the blocks are the traditional power-ups from the game. His intention is to comment on the onslaught of advertising in public space. Many create the blocks and put them up in various public places, some as a statement, other for fun. One group of young women is arrested for doing the same, but are ultimately not charged.
The RAE Rag Committee plants six small-sized saucers at equal distances on a straight line in the south of England. The saucers are made from fiberglass resin, contain electronics to make them bleep when tilted at certain angles and are filled with a mixture of flour and water boiled at high temperature to represent alien life. The resulting reaction is comparable to the War of the Worlds scare of 1938. The intention of the hoaxers: to raise funds for charity. They were not persecuted, although some authorities were less than amused.
Description based on an article by John Keeling in Fortean Times #228 from which the image is taken as well.
Can you think of any other weird things placed in public spaces? Do let me know.