Monday, September 3

Mediating the environment

Open on a shot of a kid walking the street with a black backpack, followed with a handheld videocam. He reaches his destination and unzips the bag. Spraycans? Homemade bombs? Surprise, sliding out of the bag is a digital projector. Snaking a cord to a nearby lamppost, the kid's just created a 50 foot screen - and an audience.

Years ago you'd have to know these guys personally. With the internet they can share it with interested artists and activists from Sydney to Paris - 8 in-depth steps on Instructables, including all the gear, best locations via Google Maps, and open-source code written in C++.

What's interesting here are not the tags themselves (sometimes juvenile or straight digital translations) , or the illegal buzz associated with it. Look past that, and you'll find kids mediating their environment - 'growing' generative graphics on slick corporate hotels, talking back to patronising billboards, humanising concrete with colour and line.

In the past this took the form of physical modifications. Modernisms famous whipping boy is the story of Le Corbusiers houses for factory workers in Pessac. Almost as soon as they were built, workers added shutters, paint, and knick-knacks to personalise their 'machines for living in'. In the future, this might be more abstract - students escaping their 30 square apartments in Auckland for a simulated or gaming world which is more expansive, both conceptually and in terms of 'space'.

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