Grand Intervention: A Digital Forum

Grand Avenue Intervention:
Submission Gallery

A Digital Forum 

Submitted by Anne Bray, Ted Fisher & Doug McCulloh

In the end of the park nearest City Hall ? the heart of the new civic space ? we imagine a gathering place for citizens to celebrate and speak, for passersby to weigh in and comment, for city and county workers to lunch and absorb. We propose a multidimensional speakers corner, a place to say, tell, and show what people are thinking civically and personally.
We propose an electronic glass wall. It will allow people within view, in the space itself, to use a local Wi-Fi network to contribute photo images and text messages via cell phones and computers. Offerings join the circulating pool of images, being at first highlighted, and then being swirled into the growing mass of comment to resurface every now and again. Subsequent people can overwrite offerings with newer messages ? a collage of passing peoples’ tags. The images and words are programmed into an evolving conversation about meaning, place and person. All messages and images will be archived with contribution date and time.
In additional to continual contributions from citizens, there are three additional sources of input. First we will provide an initial seeding of images, a baseline archive. That is, we will make some 4,000 photos of the park, people and area. These will serve as the initial contents of the database "trying" to get on the wall randomly. Second, there will be a surveillance camera posted with an overview of the space; it will contribute a steady stream of overall images. Third, we will invite Los Angeles citizen "constituencies" to visit and contribute focused bursts of image and text to the database. Thus, elementary school children, a group of war veterans or a Native American dance ensemble would contribute a set of comments and images. As the art budget for the park includes a percentage for continuing events, artists could work in residence with local groups to produce pieces for the wall, e.g. writers, programmers or collagists in concert with the Central City Action Committee, Legal Aid, Catholic Youth Association, etc. (It should be noted that when people send cell phone pic images those take precedence, living for a short time each on the wall but also being collected.)
Finally, once a year, Los Angeles artists will be invited to propose "curating" work from the massive trove of comments and imagery contributed by citizens. These newly shaped pieces created from the stored material will, themselves, become part of the work, just as each set of civic meanings help create the next.
The shape and size of the wall is adaptable to final design, though north-facing and shade are ideal. A Plexiglas case will protect the video wall from natural elements and vandalism. The database can filter out commonly offensive language. It could be long and thin, short and fat, one massive facade or small lines integrated into the amphitheater seating. That part is open to discussion. The programming, servers and video displays exist to actualize this project now. In the years ahead more options will certainly exist.
Great civic spaces in great cities are not simply concrete and glass, stones and trees, but meaning. It is citizens contributing individually and in concert who create that meaning. How does this happen? How do people make meaning in public spaces? Can we watch it progress? Can we give every person a voice? Can we join together and view this creation of meaning, this definition of a civic space? This project proposes art that is such a public forum.
This piece is submitted in light of ideas articulated by Joe Trippi, Manuel Castells and others describing the glacial but sure shift happening to power in our networked society from a top down approach to the new movements emanating from bottom up.
The public art that we most appreciate (1) shows we live in a media culture, which can express personal intentions if programmed to do so; (2) counteracts our commercial world by giving without demanding a price tag; (3) reflects technology’s flexibility toward individual and collective gain if pursued; (4) offers audiences a challenge in a milieu that usually associates change with fear; (5) infers trust of people’s potential and treats them as creative equals in a society stratified in every other category; (6) emphasizes art as an experience more than a commodity or luxury; (7) offers a surprise; (8) gives the artists the same forum for presenting their work as discovering inspiration for it; (9) rewards the artists with ample feedback. As contrapuntal as this attitude is, it still functions conveniently in mundane events and settings.