Monday, November 06, 2006

the building of the future?

On Thursday evening we had a talk by Jan Edler, the co-owner of a company called Realities:United, about media/interactive facades on buildings. These media/interactive facades consist of lights put on the outsides of buildings, and when they are programmed by a computer, they create the illusion of images on a screen. The company primarily uses low resolution lights rather than LED lights (due to their high cost),

One commission that R:U undertook in Potsdamer Platz was at the request of a client who wanted their empty office building to become famous in order to attract renters (we actually saw this building on our bus tour on Saturday). R:U encouraged these clients to use their light screen to display artistic rather than commercial images as this would better distinguish the building from those that already display advertisements. The client agreed with this idea, and currently has an alternating list of artists’ projects displayed on its lights. This commission, which was constructed in 2005, is called Spots, and will be on display through February 2007.

You can notice that I have been using the word commission to describe these media screens, but Jan referred to them as installations, thus specifically positing them as art, at least in my opinion. While I am somewhat familiar with/can understand the concept of light as art, the thought of these media screens as art still seemed like a fairly new and appealing concept. That’s probably due to the fact that I really like the idea of large scale art in public spaces. I like this idea because I believe that art should be made accessible to everyone. I also believe (hope) that the presence of art in public places will be inspiring to the people who see it, as well as make them consider things in new ways. (Maybe this is a naïve hope, but that’s how I roll.)

While I think that the projects that R:U is currently undertaking are interesting, one very important issue that must be raised when speaking about media facades is that of where, or when, they will stop. During our discussion, John raised the question of whether the City of the future will consist of buildings covered entirely with media screens. I think this is an extremely disturbing vision, and though it is certainly not how I would want cities to look, I have a sneaking suspicion that it could happen, at least in the most commercial districts of major cities. If this happens, it would also mean that the media screens would most likely no longer display art or anything remotely creative, but rather commercial images.

This phenomenon already exists in some of the larger East Asian cities, and while these buildings are not everywhere, I wonder what would happen if these advertisement-screen covered buildings were everywhere. It just seems to me if this happened, the City would become an ugly and much harsher place, where people were only concerned with commercialism and money, influenced thus by the looming commercial screens surrounding them. While some people might already consider major cities to be like this, I do not, and am actually quite afraid of dark, futuristic societies such as the one featured in the film Blade Runner. I hope that the City, as well as creative media screens, don't evolve into that, and that art in public spaces remains intact.


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