The words OPEN YOUR CITY have provided the thematic template for this year’s Share Prize exhibition. The objective of the prize is to promote and support the arts in the digital age. The selection of finalist works aims to showcase those artists who use innovation as a language for artistic expression, in all shapes and forms. This year the Share Prize attracted 290 entries from 22 different countries. Artists have been short-listed by an international jury, consisting of Simona Lodi, Carlo Ratti, Bruce Sterling and Mirjam Struppek, on the basis of the artistic value of their work and its relevance to the Share Prize theme.
What is the role of art today, in this moment of social transition towards the city of the future? It was from this perspective that the artists interpreted the theme Open Your City, exploring the key concepts word by word. The short-list of the Jury reflects the reappearing artistic interpretation of the modern urban landscape as system, where the solid element is replaced by the message, the information and the database, a real, but dematerialized city.
Capacities: Real Time Complex – Connected Cities by British artist Stanza is an installation dedicated to the complexity of life in an environment. Changes in each of the spaces are monitored in real time, as they give rise to constant tensions, highlighting the behaviour of complex systems and the emergent properties that appear. In this case the organism is the city and not the single individual; it is the entire urban habitat as a whole, revealing its nature as a multifaceted system. The installation is the real-time mirror image of everything that changes, gathering huge amounts of data that are transformed aesthetically into a physical copy of the city, made up of cables, lights and sensors that represent shifts in environmental parameters measured numerically. The obsessive focus is on the observation of environmental data by gathering measurement on temperature, light, atmospheric pressure, noise and the sounds of the city outside the museum. Gathering digital data on the environment has become an art, and art has become a data set rather than a collection of molecules. The short-list of the Jury reflects the reappearing artistic interpretation of the modern urban landscape as system, where the solid element is replaced by the message, theinformation and the database, a real, but dematerialized city.
For Mark Shepard, the future for city dwellers is so dystopian that we will need a Survival Kit to defend ourselves against what will have become the Sentient City—a city capable of perception by the senses of sight, hearing and touch, that creates a world under control. He chooses the totalitarian political fiction of a world governed by corporations to present the Smart City as a data-sensitive agglomerate. As protection we will wear sensor-laden underwear, our networks will be hidden in travel mugs, and we will shield ourselves from surveillance cameras by using infrared umbrellas. In short, life in the panoptic city will be one of counter-espionage.
In contrast, Jonathan Baldwin sees the city as one big collective game. Using wireless mesh networks, he transforms neighbourhoods into Kenyan-style Ushahidi networks, featuring the pop graphics of “The Sims” video game. TidePools blends crowdsourcing and social activism, drawing the participation of people faced with the same problems and boosting the benefits of living in a neighbourhood. Through what might be called “activist mapping,” he creates a participation tool for the people. Nobody will ever be alone again in dealing with a problem, and solutions will be found by sharing them with the local community and managing them autonomously.
On Journalism #2 Typewriter is an analogue machine that is activated by a computercontrolled mechanism. Created by Julian Koschwitz, the work combines both a collaborative and a combinational aspect. Written endlessly on an endless piece of paper, the work brings together the stories of all the journalists killed around the world since 1992. The generation, recombination and artistic visualization of the tragic data is guided by web search concerning the person and data provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists, creating an infinite news ream—tomorrow’s newspaper. Can an interactive sculpture represent a map that interacts with web- sms- and social network-sourced data?
SYN is a map of human relations filtered by new media. Mariano Leotta questions the representativeness of these filters, with respect to the real world beyond the web. Are we essentially synapses enabling nerve impulses synced to data packets to be transmitted from one cell to another of a media body?
Completing the Share Prize short-list an activist work from the Berlin-based collective VR/Urban Reclaim the Screens gives us an interaction tool to create our own data and information—an SMSlingshot to reappropriate urban spaces. The work consists of a mobile device inserted into a wooden slingshot. People can fling short text messages onto walls and facades to militantly reclaim the city, empowered by the interactive gestures of keying a message, taking aim with a laser and shooting a colourful splash of light.
THE WINNER IS…
The jury, represented by Mirjam Struppek, gave the following motivations for its decision:
“The short-list selected by the Jury reflects current artistic practice, revealing an image of our city that seems to be more and more a system ruled by data, information exchange or messages produced by us or our behaviour. Considering criteria such as the formal completeness of the art work, the ability to communicate its message, the bridging of physical and digital realities, the involvement of citizens as creators and the theme Open Your City, the Jury decided to award the Share Prize to the British artist Stanza. His work Capacities: Life In The Emergent City was found to have effectively represented, both aesthetically and, above all, technically, city life in real time, monitoring boroughs of London to show the complexity of an urban location in real time as a system in perpetual mutation.”
Sentient City by Mark Shepard received an Honorary Mention as it poignantly questions such fashionable concepts as a “Smart City” based on the internet of things and ubiquitous computing. Offering us an artistic survival kit against an over-coded environment, he prepares us for life in a dystopian sentient city.
Screen Program Dancing Hands
For the video screening Dancing Hands, a special mention went to Antoine Schmitt for his City Lights Orchestra, considered the most participatory, bottom-up project at Share Festival 2012. The Share Festival is calling on everyone in Turin to take part in the collaborative crowd- sourcing initiative City Light Orchestra to Open Your City on 10th November at 9 pm.
The artist Antoine Schmitt needs your helping hands to turn your own window into a blinking pixel of a huge collaborative urban screen. Set up your computer for the pulsing light at the website below, extend the time when its display goes to sleep, turn your screensaver off and put the browser to full screen, then, connect to www.citylightsorchestra.net, put the computer near a window, switch off the lights and go out and enjoy! Out on the street, visit the same web page on your smartphone and pulse in rhythm with the symphony.