A Possible Critical Vehicle for OWS?

This past fall we saw some interesting urban screens at Occupy Wall Street in NYC. Perhaps the most memorable has been coined ‘the bat signal‘. On N17, while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, thousands were inspired and energized by flashing text on Manhattan’s Verizon Building. Crowds cheered and chanted as cars honked in solidarity. It’s one example of projection use in the first wave of OWS. In my humble memory, which is often spotty and uninformed, I don’t recall any other noteworthy example of projections throughout that Autumn, aside from the occasional projected tweets at Zuccotti. As early as the 2nd week of the occupation a good friend and I randomly met up at Liberty Plaza and discussed how occupiers should use projections to interact with other occupiers and intervene with the public. Sadly, nothing emerged from our discussions at the time.

Kyzrsztof Wodiczko’s Cecut Project at Tiajuana’s Cultural Centre provides us with a compelling context through which to conceive of future projections at OWS (and beyond). In line with his reflective writings in “Critical Vehicles”, Wodiczko chose a particular site emblematic of the city’s ties to US capital. His screen, a round structure housing Tiajuana’s local imax theatre. It’s worth highlighting that Tijuana is the gateway for migrant workers in route to the US for employment. The city itself is a site of US hegemony.

The purpose of the project was to give voice and visibility to the maquiladora women of Tiajuana. By attaching a camera headpiece to participant speakers (projected onto the iconic structure), women spoke of issues relating to domestic violence, sexual abuse, alcoholism and work-related abuse. More theoretically, Wodiczko strives to interrupt the somnambulant acts of everyday public life with projections on architectural bodies that symbolically represent power and truth.  During this particular piece, around 1,500 pedestrians witnessed the event, presumably engaged in critical dialogue with one another surrounding the issues covered by women participants.

This project could inspire similar work at OWS today. I certainly see the need for such a project that could engage the public at OWS demonstrations where the lines between those in solidarity and those who are skeptical of the movement are so starkly obvious. Or for instance, could include those that are comfortable engaging the issues in a non-protest site. New forms of protest that invite and welcome dialogue and participation from every pedestrian should be emphasized.

For those of you still reading, I’d like to briefly introduce an idea that I’ve been tinkering with. It’s something that I’d like to cover in our course, and since I won’t be present on Sunday’s meeting about project collaboration, I’ll lay it out here in hopes you’ll consider speaking with me Tuesday before making your mind up Sunday. Sort of taking cues from Wodiczko (and still looking for other site specific and performance art work) I’m interested in a project that integrates livestreaming and projection while inviting an audience in a real space to participate in ‘documentary’ making. I’ve called it ‘live documentary’, and the simplest way to think about it is: a livestreamed ‘documentary’ projected to an audience in a (contested) space where the audience can interact with the direct filmmakers of the events unfolding (camera operators, livestream curators, etc.). Using platforms like bambuser, viewers are able to speak directly to camera operators, dictating their decisions. So audiences could group together in a space where a livestreamed event is projected on the wall (for instance a demonstration about housing rights or foreclosures) and develop interview questions on the spot for interviewees about to be interviewed, they can direct angles and make suggestions. Essentially, viewers become makers or the lines become blurred.

Another way to think about it is ‘pathways’ for audiences in this space where a documentary event occurs. I’m interested in the user experience: how the viewer-maker interacts with the material unfolding, what they take away from it, what they contribute, what their participation looks like, how they insert their own personal narratives into the documentary issue and how they enter into a dialogue with other participants. For instance, I envision one pathway or room that uses something like google hangout to create a virtual expert panel that participants engage and interact with on the issue. A booth with a web cam and mic could capture participant’s personal stories about housing if the urgent issue is housing rights and foreclosures, for instance. The material recorded in this booth would be added to an archive, already populated with archival footage and the the livefeed from the event, which could then be remixed at another station.

Please email me or approach me before class next Tuesday if this idea interests you or if you have skills or ideas or know someone with skills or ideas that might contribute.  Thanks! christopher.rogy@gmail.com


Categories: Reflective Posts


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