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. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  2. Transportation

    Spain Wants to Ban Cars in Dozens of Cities, and the Public’s on Board

    As Madrid bans cars in the city center, the national government plans to do the same in more than 100 other places. A new survey suggests broad support across the country.

  3. A photo of the Vianden castle rising above the tree-covered Ardennes hills in northern Luxembourg
    Equity

    Luxembourg’s New Deal: Free Transit and Legal Weed

    It’s not just public transit: The Grand Duchy’s progressive new government also raised the minimum wage and gave everyone two extra days off.

  4. The dramatic, triangular National Australia Bank building in Melbourne's Docklands.
    Environment

    Is ‘Climate-Positive’ Design Possible?

    Advocates say we could design city buildings and neighborhoods that cancel out more carbon than they emit, with the right policies and mindset.

  5. A vegetable farm next to high-rise apartments in Hong Kong.
    Design

    Just How Much of the World Is Urban?

    Experts at the European Commission assess the world as more urban than experts at the United Nations or New York University do. We need to resolve this debate.