Dumbo Arts Center

A roving exhibit lets anyone write in.

Text messages inhabit a strange duality: on the one hand, they are now one of the most prevalent forms of communication in the urban setting, and on the other, they are meant for the eyes of the sender and receiver only. Any threat to the privacy of digital word is seen as an invasion of the mind; why else do we tilt our phones away from view when on public transportation? This privacy also allows text messages to be uninhibited—some would say too much so. But what happens when texting becomes a public act?

New York-based artist Paul Notzold explored this with ‘TXTual Healing,’ a travelling interactive urban installation recently stationed in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as part of Wooster Collective’s Sheboygan Project. It works thus: text bubble frames are projected onto walls along with images. Passersby send text messages to a projected number, and these messages are then cycled through the text bubbles. The result is a spectacle in which one tries to guess who in the crowd sent what, and contradictory thoughts are juxtaposed in physical space. Since there is no filter on the content, some messages may get obscene or raunchy, and yet the overall tone of the installation tends to be positive.

Image: Paul Notzold
Image: Paul Notzold

It is also interesting to note how the content of the messages changes depending on its urban context: there are the obvious changes in language, but also in length and verve. It seems, however, that humor is a universal. Perhaps the most exciting outcome is simply the interaction between the digital world and the physical world; what was once communicated between two people becomes communicated to a multitude, and the very act of communication changes the physical environment through the mechanism of light.

Projection in Munich. Image: Paul Notzold
Project in Sheboygan. Image: Wooster Collective
Projection in Milan. Image: Paul Notzold
Projection in New York. Image: Paul Notzold
Projection in San Francisco. Image: Paul Notzold
Projection in Amsterdam. Image: Paul Notzold



This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner blog.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    The Map That Made Los Angeles Make Sense

    For generations in Southern California, the Thomas Guide led drivers through the streets of Los Angeles. Now apps do that. Did something get lost along the way?

  2. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  3. Life

    Staying Afloat on an Island of Wealth

    Each summer on Martha's Vineyard, year-round residents and seasonal workers struggle to find affordable housing amid the island’s luxury real estate.

  4. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×