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. a photo of yellow vest protesters in Paris, France.
    Equity

    To Understand American Political Anger, Look to ‘Peripheral France’

    French geographer Christophe Guilluy has a controversial diagnosis of working-class resentment in the age of Trump, Brexit, and the Yellow Vests.

  2. A rendering of a co-living building in San Jose.
    Life

    The Largest Co-Living Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

    The startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

  3. a screenshot of a video about Baltimore's Metro
    Transportation

    It’s Time to Celebrate Baltimore’s Much-Maligned Metro

    In 1987, the Maryland Transit Administration busted out a brass band to open a subway that never had a chance.

  4. Equity

    Is It Better to Be Poor in Bangladesh or in the Mississippi Delta?

    The Nobel laureate Angus Deaton discusses extreme poverty, opioid addiction, Trump voters, robots, and rent-seeking.

  5. a photo of a striking Uber/Lyft driver
    Transportation

    Uber and Lyft Really Don’t Want California to Pass This Worker Rights Bill

    As California considers a gig-work bill to make ride-hailing drivers employees eligible for benefits and bargaining rights, Uber and Lyft ask for compromise.

×