[-empyre-] July on empyre: Sceens (week 3)

Scott Mcquire mcquire at unimelb.edu.au
Wed Jul 18 15:25:41 EST 2012

Hi Salvatore, Sean, other Empyreans

Thanks for this link Salvatore.  It brings us back to the implications of the shift as screens migrate from specific interior spaces (cinemas, galleries, living rooms, office desks ) as their primary locale into a heterogeneous range of public spaces.

A number of posts last week (Simone Arcagni) raised this issue.  One of the key issues for me concerning large screens situated in public space is that they mostly don’t support the kind of partly self-organised experiences that Salvatore describes, but tend to be inaccessible to people. As Brian Holmes put it on this list: “In Shanghai and other large Chinese cities, entire buildings turn into screens at night. It's mainly advertising, sometimes state propaganda. Self-consciousness is dwarfed as the sensorium is overcome by the power to program the visual experience of the city. An impressive and sobering experience of the screen.”

The building as screen was arguably already a function of the electrified city — something Warhol understood in his
film Empire: ‘If you build buildings with lights outside, you can make them indefinite, and then when you’re through with using them you shut the lights off and they disappear.’  And of course, the difference between lights and screens is now minimal — both can be programmed to the pixel.

But the question remains: what kind of might be made of public screens that is not corporate or state propaganda?  A research project in which both Sean and I were involved took some tentative steps towards addressing this question — linking large public screens in Melbourne and Seoul for an interactive event.

Some description including a video is available at

For us, this project was about exploring how one might get hold of expensive infrastructure such as large publically situated video screens and utilise them not as display surfaces but as platforms for more open modes of public engagement — in a context where ‘the public’ and ‘public space’ are unstable categories.


On 18/07/12 2:06 AM, "xDxD.vs.xDxD" <xdxd.vs.xdxd at gmail.com> wrote:

hello everyone,

On Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 3:15 AM, Scott Mcquire <mcquire at unimelb.edu.au> wrote:
What was really interesting was the way the audience shifted around the space to watch.  It wasn’t the platform that moved (like the old diorama with rotating floor) but the people who would stand, sit, lie in one place then turn around or get up and move elsewhere as another came on. The afternoon I saw it there were about 60 people doing this together for over 30 minutes. This creates a really fascinating spatial ambiance, where screens are simultaneoulsy material objects (blocking passage, blocking view) and surfaces that open into heterogeneous spaces.

At one stage, all the screens are just red, then pale with no image, while the sound is dispersed throughout the entire gallery.  Everyone kind of wandered around, not really looking for or at anything, but enjoying a promenade among the screens in each other’s company.

in this market, in China, under a highway,


dozens of screens are lined up on one side of the space, each tuned in to a different channel or dvd

instead of using a remote to change channel, people move to a different table.

screens, in this case, are a platform built into public space and into people's perceptions. in-between the two, actually.

both for people who watch them, and for people who use them to propose services of various types: as soon as enough people gather around a single table, watching something on that channel or dvd, other people immediately arrive, offering services of various kinds, videogame consoles (to be attached to screens, as well!), board games, food or even internet connections.

i particularly enjoy this example, as it is a peculiar way in which screens modify our perception of space (they are un-movable, yet they suggest how people move and reassemble and relate in public space), and their configuration suggests the affordances of public space and, thus, also the economic (business) models which can be built into them.

In more than one way it is not different from many geo-referenced mobile applications :)

all the best!

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