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. California Highway Patrol officer stop the flow of traffic on the 110 freeway as protesters unsuccessfully attempted to rush the freeway in a November 11, 2016, rally to oppose the election of President Donald Trump.
    Equity

    The States Trying to Pass Laws Protecting Drivers Who Hit Protesters

    After the Charlottesville attack, Republican lawmakers are seeking to distance their efforts to pass driver immunity legislation.

  2. Equity

    Meet the 26-Year-Old Mayor Taking On Jeff Sessions

    Michael Tubbs on being singled out by the DOJ, and his plan turn his city around.

  3. Skyscrapers tower over Singapore's historic Chinatown.
    Economic Development

    How Do You Measure the Value of a Historic Site?

    Debates over historic preservation often run into a problem: There’s plenty of data to support economic arguments, and much less to address questions of cultural value. A research team in Singapore wants to change that.

  4. Equity

    How Baltimore Removed Its Confederate Monuments Overnight

    For a city dogged by violence and unrest, this was a big deal.

  5. Transportation

    New York City Could Finally Try Congestion Pricing

    Here’s how a governor-backed plan could win this time around.