We’ve all played that game where we perch ourselves at a great people-watching point in the city and imagine what that awkward couple across the street is saying, or what that shady dude checking his phone in the alley is texting, or what that pigeon really thinks about humanity. Now you can play it online with a whole bunch of unwitting Londoners—quote bubbles and all.
The super fun digital installation is called Exhausting a Crowd, and it comes courtesy of tech-minded artist Kyle McDonald, who arranged it for a new exhibition on “the public realm and urban experience” at the Victoria and Albert Museum. At the project website you’ll find footage of London’s Piccadilly Circus shot over a 12-hour period on May 17-18. A cursor allows users to draw a line and caption the words, thoughts, or actions of the people in the scene.
Think: Pop-Up Video meets London’s heavily surveilled city center meets lots of selfies.
The site is incredibly addictive, though the amusement factor varies depending on the particular users involved at that moment. As an example of what’s possible with the project, McDonald posted this clip of imagined dialogue (complete with a great Simpsons reference) from a young couple strolling through the area until the moment overwhelms them and they just have to kiss right then and there:
Indeed, a few creative users apply this clever comic-book approach to Exhausting a Crowd and whip up a fictional scene. (In one great bit we spotted, a girl admits to being a witch then runs away from her friends, who chase after her.) Some are just helpless wags (“Paris looks beautiful”). Too many others abuse the privilege of omniscience by making comments that range from tasteless to offensive. (What could possibly go wrong with giving the Internet free reign to describe the lives of an unsuspecting public?)
Still others exploit the production for personal means: