The Moving Image as Public Art: Sidewalk Spectators and Modes of Enchantment 3030659038, 9783030659035

This book maps the presence of moving images within the field of public art through encounters with passersby. It argues

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The Moving Image as Public Art: Sidewalk Spectators and Modes of Enchantment
 3030659038, 9783030659035

Table of contents :
Praise for The Moving Image as Public Art
About the Author
List of Figures
Chapter 1: Introduction
The Moving Image as Public Art
Moving Image Spectators and Audiences
Art in Public Space
The City and Its Ways of Seeing
Situating Moving Image Artworks in Space and Place
Chapter 2: Enchantment: Encountering Moving Images on Urban Surfaces
Encountering Art on Mass Transit
Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope (1980) and the Enchanted Subway Ride
The Fleeting Animation
The Resilient Installation
Dreamy Encounters and Nocturnal Illuminations
Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012): Cinema-in-the-Round
Cinematic Museum
Amorous Entrancement
Cinema Sculpture
Chapter 3: Commercial Breaks: Intra-spectacular Public Art
Times Square Programming from Spectacolor Messages to Midnight Moments
Messages to the Public, 1982–1990
Video Art Initiatives from 2000 to 2010
Midnight Moment (2012–)
Other Platforms
The Turn Toward the Street
Chapter 4: Screen Spaces: Zones of Interaction and Recognition
Millennium Park as Public Art Playground
Fountain Portraits
The Magic Circle
Big Screen Selfies
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Spontaneous Moving Image Communities
Shadow Play
Under Scan
Paracinematic Parallels
Chapter 5: The Light Festival Phenomenon
Interfaces Between the City and the Urban
Projecting the Future City
Turning the City into a Canvas
Monumental Moving Murals
Multisensory Spectatorial Paths
On the Future of the Future City
Chapter 6: Precarious Platforms: The Paradox of Permanent Moving Images
Videowalls and Shopping Malls
Outdoor Screen Networks and Precarious Partnerships
An Unrealized Digital Canvas
Chapter 7: Superimposition: Forms of Moving Image Site-Specificity
The Other Side of the Window
Moving Image Fenestration
Montage Monuments
From Figures of Great Men to a Demand for the Right to Appear
Chapter 8: Postscript: Reflections from a Summer Without Public Space

Citation preview


The Moving Image as Public Art Sidewalk Spectators and Modes of Enchantment Annie Dell’Aria

Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image Series Editors Kim Knowles Aberystwyth University Aberystwyth, UK Jonathan Walley Department of Cinema Denison University Granville, OH, USA

Existing outside the boundaries of mainstream cinema, the field of experimental film and artists’ moving image presents a radical challenge not only to the conventions of that cinema but also to the social and cultural norms it represents. In offering alternative ways of seeing and experiencing the world, it brings to the fore different visions and dissenting voices. In recent years, scholarship in this area has moved from a marginal to a more central position as it comes to bear upon critical topics such as medium-specificity, ontology, the future of cinema, changes in cinematic exhibition and the complex interrelationships between moving image technology, aesthetics, discourses, and institutions. This book series stakes out exciting new directions for the study of alternative film practice–from the black box to the white cube, from film to digital, crossing continents and disciplines, and developing fresh theoretical insights and revised histories. Although employing the terms ‘experimental film’ and ‘artists’ moving image’, we see these as interconnected practices and seek to interrogate the crossovers and spaces between different kinds of oppositional filmmaking. We invite proposals on any aspect of non-mainstream moving image practice, which may take the form of monographs, edited collections, and artists’ writings both historical and contemporary. We are interested in expanding the scope of scholarship in this area, and therefore welcome proposals with an interdisciplinary and intermedial focus, as well as studies of female and minority voices. We also particularly welcome proposals that move beyond the West, opening up space for the discussion of Latin American, African and Asian perspectives. More information about this series at

Annie Dell’Aria

The Moving Image as Public Art Sidewalk Spectators and Modes of Enchantment

Annie Dell’Aria Department of Art Miami University Oxford, OH, USA

ISSN 2523-7527     ISSN 2523-7535 (electronic) Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image ISBN 978-3-030-65903-5    ISBN 978-3-030-65904-2 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover Illustration: Projection by Brave Berlin at BLINK Cincinnati festival, 2017, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA Photo credit: Scott Meyer / Alamy Stock Photo Cover design: eStudioCalamar This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


This book is indebted to a wealth of formal and informal support over the past ten years. From Miami University, I have been very fortunate to receive time to write thanks to an Assigned Research Appointment and a Summer Research Appointment as well as the PREP Grant to help secure image rights, the moral support and camaraderie of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence, and the helpful faculty and staff of the Miami University Libraries. This project also developed through the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, particularly through enriching participation at the Summer Institute on Space, Place, and the Humanities in 2017 at Northeastern University, as well as from a research residency at Signal Culture (then in Owego, New York) in 2018. In the early days of this project, when it was a doctoral dissertation at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, I was very fortunate to have the steadfast guidance and support of my advisor, Harriet F. Senie, as well as generative feedback from my committee members, Amy Herzog, Mona Hadler, and Margot Bouman, and the resources of the Mina Rees Library. I am very grateful for the time and generosity of many of the artists included in this book, including Judith Barry, Dara Birnbaum, Bill Brand, Anne Bray, Tiffany Carbonneau, Alex Criqui, Jane Dickson, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Mary Clare Reitz, Dan Reynolds, and Paul St George. Conversations and correspondence with Desma Belsaas, Anita Bhalla, Kerry Brougher, Jean Cooney, Steve Dietz, George Fifield, Kevin Heathhorn, Julia Muney Moore, Maria Niro, Chris Nriapia, Daniel Palmer, Erin Taylor, and C.  Jacqueline Wood have also enriched this v



book’s development of ideas and perspectives. Research was also aided by the Creative Time and Public Art Fund archives at the Fales Library and Special Collections at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at New  York University and the Special Collections at Stanford Libraries. Conversations in the classroom with my students continue to fuel my ideas, and I am grateful for their enthusiasm and intellect. Feedback and informal conversations with colleagues at Miami, including Ann Elizabeth Armstrong, Ron Becker, Andrew Casper, Joomi Chung, Jordan Fenton, Katie Day Good, Mack Hagood, Michael Hatch, Kerry Hegarty, Elisabeth Hodges, Katie Johnson, Ben Nicholson, Rob Robbins, Pepper Stetler, and others have also contributed to my thinking as well as my approach to the book-writing process. Informal conversations with Leticia Bajuyo, Dave Colangelo, Tim Cresswell, Nicole Fennimore, Nicholas Gamso, Margaret Herman, Cara Jordan, Sarah Kanouse, Zach Melzer, Sarah Mills, Andrew Neumann, Morgan Ridler, Rachel Stevens, Andrew Uroskie, Hyewon Yi, Greg Zinman, and so many more have helped me work through ideas and develop new ones in countless ways. Feedback from audience members and fellow panelists at the College Art Association and Society for Cinema and Media Studies conferences has also been invaluable. Sections of Chap. 2 appeared previously as articles in Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ) and Public Art Dialogue, and I am grateful to those editors and publishers for granting permission for me to reprint revised versions of them here. Nike Dreyer, Grace Hong, Renee Santos, T.J. Wiltham, Schmidt Associates, and many others were instrumental in helping me secure images and check facts about artworks and exhibitions. I am grateful to Kim Knowles and Jonathan Walley for their editorial feedback, as well as that of anonymous peer reviewers. Thanks also to Lina Aboujieb, Emily Wood, Raghu Kalynaraman, and the rest of the team at Palgrave Macmillan for their support in helping a first-time book author through the publishing process. The personal support and patience of Scott Dimmich and many friends, as well as the boost to the spirit provided by the 2019 Washington Nationals, helped me see this project through to the end. Finally, completing this book would not be possible without my family: my sister Madeline Dell’Aria, and my parents Mary Logan and Stephen Dell’Aria. I thank them for years of constant and unconditional support.

Praise for The Moving Image as Public Art “Annie Dell’Aria offers a timely and illuminating taxonomy of the proliferating sites, aims, and functions of the moving image in public spaces. Moving beyond familiar critiques of spectacle and capital, Dell’Aria pays careful attention to the ways artists, institutions, and communities negotiate the complex goals and utility of art in the public sphere. In doing so, she prompts us to rethink our continually evolving relationship to the moving image.” —Gregory Zinman, author of Making Images Move: Handmade Film and the Other Arts “Being outdoors in shared public spaces with strangers has taken on nuanced meanings of late. It is both a liberating respite from different levels of lockdown, but also fraught with an invisible risk to our health. It is therefore prescient when so much of our lives has been increasingly confined to the digital sphere, that The Moving Image as Public Art considers how outdoor moving image artworks may reconfigure experiential encounters between strangers, spatial interaction with public space, and the fabric of cities.” —Pat Naldi, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London


1 Introduction  1 2 Enchantment: Encountering Moving Images on Urban Surfaces 31 3 Commercial Breaks: Intra-spectacular Public Art 63 4 Screen Spaces: Zones of Interaction and Recognition101 5 The Light Festival Phenomenon145 6 Precarious Platforms: The Paradox of Permanent Moving Images187 7 Superimposition: Forms of Moving Image Site-Specificity211




8 Postscript: Reflections from a Summer Without Public Space255 Bibliography265 Index287

About the Author

Annie Dell’Aria  is Assistant Professor of Art History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, USA.  Her writings have appeared in Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ), Public Art Dialogue, Millennium Film Journal, and other venues.


List of Figures

Fig. 1.1 Fig. 1.2 Fig. 2.1 Fig. 2.2 Fig. 2.3

Fig. 2.4

Tony Oursler, Tear of the Cloud, 2018. Multi-channel installation. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY 2 John Slepian, *sigh*, 2012. Installed at Art on the Marquee, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Image courtesy Boston CyberArts 4 Bill Brand, Masstransiscope. 1980. Conceptual drawing. © Bill Brand. Courtesy the artist 38 Bill Brand, Masstransiscope. 1980. Excerpt of paintings. © Bill Brand. Courtesy the artist 38 Doug Aitken, SONG I, 2012. Video projection; color; sound. Running time: 00:34:42; dimensions variable. Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest Fund and Anonymous Gift, 2012, dedicated in honor of Kerry Brougher’s service to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2000–2014), 2014. (Image: Frederick Charles, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)50 Doug Aitken, SONG I, 2012. Video projection; color; sound. Running time: 00:34:42; dimensions variable. Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest Fund and Anonymous Gift, 2012, dedicated in honor of Kerry Brougher’s service to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2000–2014), 2014. (Image: Frederick Charles, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)60



List of Figures

Fig. 3.1

Fig. 3.2 Fig. 3.3 Fig. 3.4

Fig. 3.5

Fig. 3.6 Fig. 4.1

Fig. 4.2

Fig. 4.3

Fig. 4.4

Fig. 4.5

David Klein, New York Fly TWA, 1956. Photolithograph, 40 × 25″ (101.2 × 63.6 cm). Gift of TWA. (Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY) 69 Keith Haring, Times Square Story Board, for Messages to the Public animation, 1982. © Keith Haring Foundation. Used by permission74 Jane Dickson, Let Them Eat Cake, 1982. For Messages to the Public, Times Square, New York. (Photo by Jane Dickson. Courtesy the artist) 77 Pipilotti Rist, Open My Glade, 2000. 4/6/2000—5/20/2000. © Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine. (Photo by Dennis Cowley. Courtesy Public Art Fund) 82 Pipilotti Rist, Open My Glade (Flatten), 2000–2017. © Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine. Screened as part of Midnight Moment, January 2017. (Photo by Ka-Man Tse for @TSqArts. Courtesy Times Square Alliance) 91 Chris Doyle, Bright Canyon, 2014. Screened as part of Midnight Moment, July 2014. (Photo by Louis Dengler Ostenrik for @TSqArts. Courtesy Times Square Alliance) 93 Jaume Plensa, Crown Fountain, 2004, glass, stainless steel, LED screens, light, wood, black granite, and water. Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois. © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid. (Photo by Annie Dell’Aria) 109 Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Level of Confidence, 2015. Shown here: Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2018. (Photo by Guy L’Heureux. Image courtesy the artist) 123 Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Re:positioning Fear, Relational Architecture 3, 1997. Shown here: Landeszeughaus, Architecture and Media Biennale, Graz, Austria. (Photo by Joerg Mohr. Image courtesy the artist) 126 Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Under Scan, Relational Architecture 11, 2005. Shown here: Brayford University Campus, Lincoln, United Kingdom. (Photo by Antimodular Research. Image courtesy the artist) 129 Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Under Scan, Relational Architecture 11, 2005. Shown here: Castle Wharf, Nottingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Antimodular Research. Image courtesy the artist) 133

  List of Figures 

Fig. 4.6 Fig. 4.7 Fig. 5.1 Fig. 5.2 Fig. 5.3 Fig. 5.4 Fig. 5.5 Fig. 6.1

Fig. 6.2 Fig. 6.3 Fig. 6.4 Fig. 7.1 Fig. 7.2

Fig. 7.3 Fig. 7.4


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Sandbox, Relational Architecture 17, 2010. Shown here: Santa Monica, California, USA. (Photo by Antimodular Research. Image courtesy the artist) 136 Canopy at Summit Park, designed my MKSK, 2014. (Photo by Scott Dimmich) 141 Foster and Flux, Blink Factory, 2017. BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Image courtesy Foster and Flux) 168 Tiffany Carbonneau, Something Worth Remembering, 2018. Northern Spark Festival, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tiffany Carbonneau. Courtesy the artist) 170 Lightborne, The Portal, 2019. BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Image courtesy Lightborne) 172 Saya Woolfalk, Visionary Reality Threshold, 2019. Mural and projection for BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Annie Dell’Aria) 178 Inka Kendzia and Faith XLVII, Ad Pacem, 2019. BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Chop em Down Films) 179 Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Flow City, 1983–1990. Drawing. Public art/video at 59th St Marine Transfer Station, NYC Dept. of Sanitation © Mierle Laderman Ukeles. (Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York) 192 Dara Birnbaum, Rio Videowall, 1989. Atlanta, Georgia. National Endowment for the Arts Artists Archive, Smithsonian American Art Museum 194 Dara Birnbaum, Rio Videowall, 1989. Detail. Atlanta, Georgia. National Endowment for the Arts Artists Archive, Smithsonian American Art Museum 195 Schmidt Associates. Rendering of projected digital canvas for Montage on Mass (now Penrose on Mass) development. 2015. (Image courtesy Schmidt Associates) 205 Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Facsimile, 2004. Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, California. (Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)217 John Gerrard, Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), 2014. Simulation. Installation view, Lincoln Center, New York. October 3–December 1, 2014. (Presented by Lincoln Center in association with Public Art Fund. Courtesy of the artist, Simon Preston, New York, and Thomas Dane, London) 224 Paul St George, Telectroscope, 2008. New York installation. (Image courtesy the artist) 227 Judith Barry, Adam’s Wish, 1988. Installed in World Financial Center, New York, New York. (Courtesy the artist and Mary Boone Gallery, New York City) 231


List of Figures

Fig. 7.5 Fig. 7.6 Fig. 7.7 Fig. 7.8 Fig. 8.1

Fig. 8.2

Tony Oursler, Tear of the Cloud, 2018. Multi-channel installation. Courtesy of the artist. (Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY) Krzysztof Wodiczko, Bunker Hill Monument Projection, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998. © Krzysztof Wodiczko Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York Krzysztof Wodiczko, Abraham Lincoln: War Veterans Projection, Union Square, New York, New York, 2012. © Krzysztof Wodiczko Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York Krzysztof Wodiczko, Monument, Madison Square Park, New York, New York, 2020. © Krzysztof Wodiczko Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York Carrie Mae Weems, Resist COVID Take 6, 2020. For Messages for the Public, Times Square Arts, Times Square, New York, New York. Photo by Maria Baranova for @TSqArts. (Image courtesy Times Square Alliance) Dustin Klein and Alex Criqui, projection onto statue of Robert E. Lee, 2020. Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia, USA. Photo by Zach Fichter. (Image courtesy Alex Criqui and Zach Fichter)

234 242 244 245





Ghosts haunted the 69th Street Transfer Bridge on Manhattan’s west side in October 2018. Each night, projected words acknowledging the land’s longer history and its Indigenous peoples scrolled up the half-sunken, rusting forms of the industrial ruin jutting out from the Hudson River. Crawling figures and strange, contorted faces appeared along the horizontal tracks barely peeping out from the water, which glimmered with the images’ reflection. Moving north on the footpath, a floating, disembodied head sang out from a willow tree on the river’s banks, beckoning viewers to continue on to more cinematic projections. Walking up the path, the image in the tree dematerialized into a three-dimensional abstraction, and the projection onto the monumental form of the transfer bridge came more completely into view (Fig. 1.1). Music and dialogue accompanied an eclectic mix of cinematic vignettes projected onto the rectangular arch of the transfer bridge. The bearded king prophesized by the Millerites, a nineteenth-century doomsday movement from upstate New York, made cryptic proclamations against a background of numbers; the rapid-fire raps of Bronx hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash told stories of artist and Nyack, New  York, native Joseph Cornell; the subject of Susan Walker Morse (The Muse) (c.1836–1837), a painting completed by Samuel F.B. Morse at the same time he invented the telegraph, appeared to come alive; and a damsel in distress from The Perils of Pauline (1914), an early film produced by © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




Fig. 1.1  Tony Oursler, Tear of the Cloud, 2018. Multi-channel installation. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Thomas Edison just across the river, cried out—to name but a few. People gathered in the readymade theatrical space between the path and the park’s waterfront railing to take in these shorts, but other distant sounds and projections prompted them to keep moving on their cinematic journey. Continuing down the park promenade onto the pedestrian pier, tall figures occupied the vertical edge of the transfer bridge, continuing the themes seen from land. Looking down, more ghosts appeared on the surface of the water itself. The image of Mary Waters, the murder victim found in the Hudson who inspired an Edgar Allen Poe story, for example, seemed to reach out from the river’s depths. Looking back toward the city still more projections appeared on the underside of the West Side Highway, the barrier between park and city, and in the background rose the glittering lights of the luxury skyscrapers of Manhattan’s elite—the visual spectacle of the city itself. This cinematic and peripatetic public art experience was Tony Oursler’s Tear of the Cloud (2018), a site-specific project located in Riverside Park



South. Initially a site for the transfer of railroad cars between the city’s rail line and cross-river floats, the transfer bridge is now an urban ruin and protected landmark. Today the park hosts the more leisurely movements of pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists, and the pier has been narrowed significantly from its industrial origins and includes railings and benches for taking in the sights of the river and the city. Oursler, perhaps one of the most celebrated American video artists, is known for his transformation of gallery video projection into a sculptural practice that explores the world of ghosts and “the Impossible” through the lesser-known spiritualist histories of telecommunication technologies.1 The labyrinthine narrative and iconographic complexity of Tear of the Cloud and Oursler’s earlier project The Influence Machine (2000), both realized with the help of the New York-based non-profit Public Art Fund, brought video installation art into public space, expanding his work’s audience and participating within a broader landscape of urban moving images. A very different type of moving image spectacle dances across another vertical architectural form in redeveloped South Boston (Fig.  1.2). Throughout the day, moving image art periodically appears on the monumental 80-foot digital marquee in front of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). Amidst a rotation of sponsored advertisements, public service announcements, and convention publicity, artworks by Boston and regional artists overtake the structure’s trapezoidal highresolution LED screen structure as well as the supporting column of lower-resolution “video sticks.” Abstract digital animations, short silent films, explorations of landscapes and seascapes of New England, and other works—each approximately thirty seconds long—cycle through the screen’s programming every 15–16  minutes and disrupt the marquee’s regular delivery of ambient advertising and information. This on-going series is Art on the Marquee, an initiative started in 2012 by the non-profit Boston Cyberarts in collaboration with the BCEC, itself part of the waterfront transformation of South Boston’s “Innovation District.” Completely underwater before the city’s landfill projects in colonial times, this area was further transformed in the turn of the millennium by the Central Artery/Tunnel Project known as the “Big 1  Tony Conrad, “Who Will Give Answer to the Call of My Voice? Sound in the Work of Tony Oursler,” Grey Room 11 (Spring 2003): 44–57; Kenneth White, “Until You Get to Know Me: Tony Oursler’s Aetiology of Television,” Millennium Film Journal, no. 57 (Spring 2013): 74–83.



Fig. 1.2  John Slepian, *sigh*, 2012. Installed at Art on the Marquee, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Image courtesy Boston CyberArts

Dig” that moved interstate highways underground and supplanted South Boston’s industrial docklands with the tech industry’s towers of glass. The form of the marquee fits into this high-tech aesthetic while simultaneously alluding to earlier transformations in urban moving image culture. The trapezoidal shape of the marquee was itself an effort by twentieth-century movie palaces to reach eyes traveling at the increased speed of the automobile.2 Today’s digital marquee simultaneously reaches conference attendees and passersby on the sidewalk as well as motorists driving down city streets and speeding on and off subterranean interstate ramps. Receiving the same intermittent glances as the marquee’s many other animations, the artworks often engage the logic of the display, offering glimpses to a passerby in motion rather than transporting a spectator in rapt attention. At first glance, Oursler’s nocturnal, immersive audio-visual experience and the marquee’s all-day, rotating series of half-minute silent animations and videos seem to have little to do with each other, especially in terms of 2  Maggie Valentine, The Show Starts on the Sidewalk: An Architectural History of the Movie Theatre, Starring S. Charles Lee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).



each work’s technological apparatus, duration, or art world prestige. What can be gained by looking at these two seemingly distinct phenomena together? How do they prompt particular modes of experiencing moving images in public? What do they say about their particular cities and sites, about contemporary public art, or about the agencies that commissioned them? Exploring these questions points to a broader intersection of moving images and public art in urban spaces, one that has occurred with greater frequency in the last four decades but has received little historical or critical attention that tries to connect its many different modes. This book analyzes and theorizes this genre of public art through the types of encounters artworks engender on the street, arguing that moving images in public space can be more than mere spectacle, at times prompting moments of enchantment shared between members of the public in ways that elude other types of public art. Utilizing different technologies and evoking distinct traditions and modes of spectatorship (that of the projected image and that of the digital display), Tear of the Cloud and Art on the Marquee nevertheless share the fundamentally attention-grabbing nature of the moving image and employ it to alter the experience of urban spaces and architectural forms. These two waterfront spectacles—one that haunted the landmarked relics of a city’s industrial past, another that continues to dance across the high-tech surfaces of a city’s present imaginings of a technocratic future—engage audiences often uninitiated in contemporary video installation or digital art. Both projects are interwoven within the urban fabric, engaging the particular rhythms and movements of their sites while simultaneously evoking illusory images and spaces. This creates a spectatorial position between the moving image and the city street—a site of rich engagement in public art of the last four decades.

The Moving Image as Public Art Since its emergence in the 1980s, moving image-based public art appears with greater frequency in cities around the world. Whether as part of a light art festival, a major commission by a museum or public art agency, an on-going platform realized in collaboration with the advertising industry, or a spontaneous and illicit means of protest, artists working with moving images respond to and shape the increasingly mediated public spaces that define our cities. These projects illuminate, in complex ways, the blending of public and private space, debates around public art, and the



transformation of moving image media and spectatorship. Tracing the presence of moving images as public art within cities not only gives long-­ overdue critical and historical attention to this significant form of public art but also illuminates important sites where the otherwise separate discourses on moving image spectatorship, public art, site-specificity, and the transformation of urban space meet. In this book, I chart the moving image’s entrance into and continued presence within the field of public art through its encounters with passersby. I argue that moving image artworks in public spaces do more than merely distract or decorate; they produce moments of enchantment that can renew, intensify, or even challenge our experience of public space. These artworks also offer frameworks for understanding how moving images operate in public space—how they move viewers and reconfigure the site of the screen—outside of the critique of spectacle. While attentive to precedents and genealogies, the structure of this book is not chronological, but rather based on the types of spectatorial encounters public moving image artworks engender and how these intersect with the material fabric of urban space. Each chapter articulates a mode of address: visually enticing works that produce a liminal sense of enchantment; intra-spectacular initiatives in advertising landscapes; screens that spawn pop-up zones of interaction; projection festivals that re-enchant urban space in the service of Creative City placemaking; precarious installations and projects that were planned with permanence in mind; and superimpositions that connect, complicate, or critique dominant narratives of place. Each mode uncovers related practices that may use different technological supports, but all exploit the moving image’s own experiential power. The moving image hinges on paradoxical tensions. What we see within them appears to be present, yet we know it is absent. We can even come to feel as though we are present inside of the world of the image, a state almost simultaneously accompanied by the sadness or relief that we are not. Moving images also hinge on a tension between materiality and immateriality—what may appear to be a tactile surface is actually produced through immaterial flickers of light. These flickers rely on material supports—celluloid film, magnetic tape, light emitting diodes, and extracted resources needed to power the devices that move them. Moving images also share a space with the viewer while simultaneously presenting them with or even transporting them into distant or fantastic elsewheres. These tensions, which I argue are central to the moving image’s very ontology, inform all of our encounters with it, from the proto-cinematic to the



digital. When brought into the discussion of public art, such tensions open up a number of fascinating possibilities as well as predicaments. As Catherine Elwes contends, encountering moving images requires a type of “perceptual doubleness” on the part of the viewer, something moving image installation art explores and exploits in the gallery.3 What Margaret Morse calls the “space-in-between”4 evoked in gallery practice becomes both more complex and more social in public space, opening up to the unpredictability and contingency of the urban context and incidental audiences. As this book will illuminate, moving image-based public art can foster particularly rich spaces-in-between on the street, generating meaningful shared experiences in public spaces. As Richard Sennett and others have argued, regular spatial and social contact among people of diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and economic groups within public spaces is essential to the constitution of a city, cosmopolitanism, and the production of democracy and civil order. “A city’s public realm is strong when these strangers can gather and interact; it is weak when they have no place to gather, or if on the street or in a town square they are mixed together but do not interact.”5 In some respects, screen media seem to create situations where bodily proximity does not lead to interaction—watching a video on one’s phone creates a zone of privacy in public space, advertising screens dazzle and distract passersby, and informational screens discipline gazes. Overwhelmingly associated with publicity and advertising, many scholars view screen technology as the enemy to public space. According to these thinkers, mobile screens tether users to the home in a way that prevents them from interacting with others around them6; large advertising screens doubly privatize public space by both transforming it into a family TV room and monetizing it7; 3  Catherine Elwes, Installation and the Moving Image (New York: Wallflower Press, 2015), 2. 4  Margaret Morse, “Video Installation Art: The Body, the Image, and the Space-inBetween,” in Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, ed. Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (San Francisco: Aperture, 1990), 154. 5  Richard Sennett, “Epilogue: What Happened to the Public Realm,” in The Fall of Public Man, 40th Anniversary edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017), 422. 6  Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2012). 7   Justin Clemens, Christopher Dodds, and Adam Nash, “Big Screens, Little Acts: Transformations in the Structures and Operations of Public Address,” in Ambient Screens and Transnational Public Spaces, ed. Nikos Papastergiadis (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 49–58.



and programing imperatives for public screen operators anaesthetize content and transform public space into a theater of commerce between vast corporations.8 Far from creating a site where strangers can gather and interact, such critics charge moving images with rendering public space into a mere image of capital and power. In many instances, this is the case, but as the moving image’s own ontology attests, this is never without an internal tension. My reading of the most inspiring examples of public artworks challenges these broad cultural critiques of moving images’ impact on the public sphere, which largely echo the predictions of dystopian science fiction. Instead, these works advance the ideas of more optimistic mid-­ twentieth-­century prophets of technology—practitioners and theorists of expanded cinema. Stan VanDerBeek’s often-cited Movie-Drome (1965), a hemispherical, immersive, multiscreen projection environment, was meant to be a prototype for a kind of communication infrastructure that would be participatory and liberating.9 Gene Youngblood, author of the influential book Expanded Cinema (1970), underscored the social in the future of expanded cinema and intermedia, citing the increased role of “communal mythic experiences in elaborate intermedia environments” as technology advanced.10 The practices discussed in this book bring some of the aspirations of expanded cinema—intercultural communication, immersive spectacle, and communal experience—into contact with the role of public sculpture, complete with its symbolic, spatial, and material presence in specific urban places. Public art can facilitate the encounters Sennett views as vital to the public realm of the city, paralleling how scholars have analyzed the constitution of a public through the shared spectatorial experience of the theater, even the production of the commons.11 Moving images in public 8   Sean Cubitt, “Defining the Public in Piccadilly Circus,” in Ambient Screens and Transnational Public Spaces, ed. Nikos Papastergiadis (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 81–94. 9  Stan Vanderbeek, “Culture: Intercom,” Film Culture 40 (1966): 15–18. See also Gloria Sutton, The Experience Machine: Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2015). 10  Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (Boston: E P Dutton, 1970), 352. 11  The theater parallel is key to Sennett’s argument in The Fall of Public Man. Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, in her study of theater in the Atlantic World, looks at how the simultaneous erasure of the commons as public land through enclosure coincides with the rise of the commons as an abstract political force. The space of the theater in the eighteenth century—what she dubs “the performative commons”—reveals where the material and abstract commons



space prompt passersby to look up, notice, and have a shared experience with strangers in public, even potentially engaging in exchange, empathy, or critical awareness. Of course, public art can also be implicated in the very forces that restrict access to public space or atomize subjects within it. The moving image in public space, inherently attention-grabbing and often implicated in spectacle, can serve either of these forces of collective experience or individual alienation. To distinguish between the two, I call upon the notion of enchantment. Enchantment entails a type of encounter that is both unexpected and wondrous, that disturbs our usual disposition while returning us more completely to the world. I develop this term further in Chap. 2, drawing upon the work of Jane Bennett,12 and deploy it throughout this book as a connecting thread between different modalities of spectatorship in public space. Understanding our encounters with moving images through the concept of enchantment stitches together a long history of spectatorship, from audiences of the cinema of attractions to our contemporary screen addictions. Enchantment acknowledges the tremendous affective and attentional power of moving images while also creating space for a spectatorship that is emplaced, embodied, and aware. While I attempt to describe a broad phenomenon, this book contains two deliberate limitations in scope: a geographic focus on projects realized in the United States and an omission of public artworks that deploy mobile media. My limited geographic scope is not to argue for any particularly national trend or style—this trend in public art occurs in cities all over the world and the artists I discuss are not exclusively from the United States— rather, this selection allows me to compare works in cities that have related audiences, screen infrastructures, spaces, and public art funding systems. Public funding for the arts in the United States is often quite meager compared to cities in continental Europe, and projects often rely on non-­profits, corporate sponsorship, or advertising synergy from the private sector. I examine how public art can negotiate, challenge, or become implicated within this media landscape while including some discussion of projects outside of the United States (particularly the United Kingdom, which has similar funding structures)13 to point to both a broader phenomenon and are inextricably linked. Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649–1849 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 3. 12  Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). 13  Cameron Cartiere, Rosemary Shirley, and Shelly Willis, “A Timeline for the History of Public Art: The United Kingdom and the United States of America, 1900–2005,” in The



contrasting contexts. My second limitation in scope is not to ignore the many significant projects in augmented reality, location-­based apps, QR codes, and other forms of mobile media, which I believe warrant another study. Instead, this omission serves to focus my attention on how the presence of moving images situated in public and viewable by many people at once produces particular types of encounters with space, place, and each other. The shared experience of seeing something at the same time as others—or at least a moving image that is beyond one’s personal property and potentially seen simultaneously with others—is a distinct kind of embodied social experience. Scott McQuire uses the term “urban media event,” a play on Dayan and Katz’s analysis of the dispersed, televisual “media event” of domestic media consumption mid-century.14 McQuire’s concept looks to how contemporary urban screens reconfigure public events by “media on the street…characterized by public viewing and distributed feedback.”15 Such events often garner attention through the strategies of spectacle but prompt viewers to look up from individual media and partake in an experience shared with an incidental audience of strangers. At the heart of this study are fundamental questions about moving image spectatorship, public art, and the city. These fields of inquiry often exist within their own disciplinary and methodological tracks, to the detriment of moments where they intersect. This book is interdisciplinary by virtue of its subject and seeks to intervene into each of these intellectual discourses by building upon recent scholarly connections between them and advancing new ones through public art. This book oscillates between deep readings of individual artworks and broader analyses of trends and curatorial strategies that account for a wider variety of public art practice. In the close readings, like Alison Butler, I turn often to what can be called “preferred readings,” meaning I attempt to recreate the sensuous experience of a work derived from long and repeat visits, close analysis, and supplementary viewing and reading.16 When possible, in an attempt to account for the varied audience response of public art, I layer this preferred Practice of Public Art, ed. Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis (New York: Routledge, 2008), 231–46. 14  Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009). 15  Scott McQuire, Geomedia: Networked Cities and the Future of Public Space (Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2016), 45. Italics in original. 16  Alison Butler, Displacements: Reading Space and Time in Moving Image Installations, Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 22.



reading with on-site observations and conversations with viewers for works I was fortunate enough to view in situ. Elsewhere I look to video and photographic documentation, artist and viewer accounts, spatial and architectural context, reviews, and archival materials. Returning always to the structure of particular artworks—especially the forms of enchantment they prompt with spectators—I employ deep analysis of selected works and discussion of broader trends to illuminate each chapter’s mode of address and its implications for the discourses of moving image art and spectatorship, public art, and urban spaces.

Moving Image Spectators and Audiences My employment of the term “moving image” in the book is deliberate. First, referring to the moving image reframes distinctions of medium, as the term itself refers to an effect rather than a physical apparatus or process. Art historical questions of medium and medium-specificity begin to break down the deeper one delves into the history of artists’ use of the moving image.17 Though historically the field of experimental film privileged the theater over the gallery context of video art or artists’ film, the term “moving image” points to how these two discourses are increasingly conjoined in our present moment.18 In the context of moving image interventions in public spaces, the impetus to make distinctions based on particular moving image technologies often needlessly separates related experiences or too narrowly defines the field of inquiry.19 As the examples in this book will demonstrate, artists’ use of moving images in public spaces intersects with cinema, high-tech urban screens, proto-cinematic 17  This is a site of much critical debate, especially stemming from the work of Rosalind Krauss. Rosalind Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” October 1 (1976): 51–64; Rosalind E. Krauss, “A Voyage on the North Sea”: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999). See also the introduction to Andrew V. Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). 18  Erika Balsom, After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 17. 19  Broadly speaking, I mean here to suggest that technological determinism, where technology overdetermines the interaction, would not be productive. More narrowly, using more specific technological terms has impeded what little work has been done in this area previously. For example, one of the few precedents in this field by Catrien Schreuder hinges largely on one very specific definition of “video art” by Allan Kaprow. Catrien Schreuder, Pixels and Places: Video Art in Public Space (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2010).



forms of animation, shadow play, and many things in between, but still constitutes a related field of artistic practice and viewer experience in the public sphere. I will at times mobilize terms such as cinema, film, video, television, message board, and zoetrope, each with its own aesthetic, cultural, and social system of meaning, series of effects, and dispositif. Nevertheless, I do believe that discussing these processes together—especially in the context of understanding how they function to engage audiences in public space—is essential to the task at hand. Second, the term “moving image” is fundamentally experiential, describing the visual effect of a particular situation or apparatus, emphasizing “the dynamic element of apparent motion,” as Catherine Elwes claimed.20 As Arthur C.  Danto contended, moving pictures contain an anticipation of movement embedded within their durational experience.21 Following Noël Carroll, I prefer the term “moving image” to “moving picture” because the latter unnecessarily references recognizable imagery, excluding non-representational moving images.22 So what we have with the moving image is, fundamentally, a condition of anticipation produced by the element of apparent movement that can occur anywhere. Responding to claims of the “death of cinema” following the decline of theatrical exhibition, Francesco Casetti redefines cinema in its many distributed contexts as primarily experiential. “[W]hat identifies a medium is first and foremost a mode of seeing, feeling, reflecting, and reacting, no longer necessarily tied to a single ‘machine,’…born as a technical invention, [cinema] soon came to be identified as a particular way of relating to the world through moving images, as well as of relating with these images.”23 This experiential definition privileges the viewer’s encounter. How we interact with moving images is spatial, phenomenological, and social. As Julian Hanich’s phenomenological study of “the audience effect” articulates, the film experience itself is “triadic,” interlacing viewer,

 Elwes, Installation and the Moving Image, 5.  He uses the case of a projection of a slide versus a film of a static image. Though one might think they are functionally the same in terms of what is projected onto the wall, the experience is fundamentally different. This film also, unlike the slide, has a set duration. Arthur C. Danto, “Moving Pictures,” Quarterly Review of Film Studies 4, no. 1 (1979). 22  Noël Carroll, “Towards an Ontology of the Moving Image,” in Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts, ed. David Goldblatt, Fourth edition (New York: Routledge, 2018), 106. 23  Francesco Casetti, The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 5. 20 21



film, and the rest of the audience.24 Looking at moving images in shared social spaces beyond the theater, such as through public artworks, continues this important turn toward the audience as co-creator of the cinematic situation and follows often ignored routes in cinema’s emigration from the theater. Theorists have long attempted to understand the force of our encounter with moving images, for years relying on film history’s “founding myth:”25 the apocryphal tale of audiences screaming (supposedly) in terror at the on-coming train featured in the Lumiére Brothers’ Arrival of a Train at the Station (1895)—a moment that relies on the tensions inherent in the moving image. As historical corrections to this myth have asserted, spectators’ enthrallment by the moving image should not be mistaken for their deception. Early film audiences underwent a sense of enchantment not unlike the one I describe today; they were aware of the film’s illusion and reveled in this technological marvel without being duped by its effects.26 The term “spectator” in film theory often refers to the subject position generated or assumed by the film itself, whereas “audience” and “reception” look to how specific people actually encountered moving image media historically and socially. I use these terms and approaches somewhat interchangeably, though I expand the construction of the spectator beyond the film’s images and narrative cues to include a more dynamic spatial situation in which a moving image is encountered.27 Though spectatorship has perhaps always involved forms of movement and contingency, film theory long assumed spectators to be both immobile and universal in relationship to the image. The three metaphors used to describe film—picture frame, window, and (later) mirror—assume a fixed point of view. At the turn of the millennium, scholars like Anne Friedberg and Giuliana Bruno removed the spectator from their presumed immobility, reading postmodern visuality through “the mobilized virtual 24  Julian Hanich, The Audience Effect: On the Collective Cinema Experience (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 7. 25  Martin Loiperdinger and Bernd Elzer, “Lumiere’s Arrival of the Train: Cinema’s Founding Myth,” The Moving Image 4, no. 1 (2004): 89–118. 26  Tom Gunning, “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator (1989),” in Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, Seventh Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 736–50. 27  Kate Mondloch calls this the “viewer-screen interface” in media installation art in the gallery. Kate Mondloch, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 3.



gaze” rooted in nineteenth-century flânerie and consumer culture and mapping pre-cinema, architecture, and installation art onto a haptic, emotional cartography, respectively.28 Franceso Casetti offered three new metaphors—the monitor, bulletin board, and scrapbook—to articulate how our encounters with screens now layer over the world instead of producing fictional ones that we enter into.29 My study is indebted to these theoretical turns toward the spectator in space as well as artists’ concurrent spatialization of the cinematic situation itself. Phenomenological investigations of the 1970s by artists like Anthony McCall and Dan Graham— largely invested in a certain disdain for the mass cultural experience of cinema and television—gave way to the rise of video art in the 1980s that explored sculptural or performative concepts.30 The following decade’s paradigm shift saw the emergence of “moving image art very much under the sign of cinema” in the gallery by artists like Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Douglas Gordon, and Isaac Julien.31 This gallery paradigm—which extends well into the current century and today—is intermedial and includes multiscreen and single-channel works made and exhibited interchangeably with film, video, or digital technologies.32 While seeming to radically liberate the spectator, the mobility and viewer-determined duration of moving image installation was neither new nor entirely liberating. Michael Cowan points to how trade fairs managed the flow of an ambulatory audience through competing attractions and stages of “astonishment” in the early twentieth century,33 and as artist 28  Anne Friedberg, Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (New York: Verso, 2002). 29  Francesco Casetti, “What Is a Screen Nowadays?,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O.  Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 16–40. 30  Chrissie Iles, “Video and Film Space,” in Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art, ed. Erika Suderburg (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 252–62. 31  Erika Balsom, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013), 12. 32  For an exploration of how distinctions between film and video persist in this intermedial contemporary art landscape, see Janna Houwen, Film and Video Intermediality: The Question of Medium Specificity in Contemporary Moving Images (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). 33  Michael Cowan, “From the Astonished Spectator to the Spectator in Movement: Exhibition Advertisements in 1920s Germany and Austria,” Revue Canadienne d’Études Cinématographiques / Canadian Journal of Film Studies 23, no. 1 (2014): 2–29.



Kota Ezawa remarked, viewers encountering a looped presentation in the gallery experience a “return to vaudeville,” engaging the spectatorial codes of early cinema where viewers would enter and exit the theater without regard or knowledge of the start or end time.34 Dominique Païni drew a direct connection to consumer culture and flânerie, arguing that post-­1990s moving image installation “is the result of disappointment at images that are spectacularly offered yet semantically withheld, like those consumer items in shop windows that attract us ‘aesthetically’ while denying us economically.”35 Kate Mondloch also asks whether or not the mobile viewer of indeterminate duration is not simply a reproduction of the dominate mode of mass media spectatorship in the age of VCR and on-demand.36 The turn toward mobile spectatorship in the gallery parallels the expansion of screens more broadly. The proliferation of television screens outside of the home, for example, complicates the relationship between spheres of public and private and concepts of space and place, as Anna McCarthy argued in her groundbreaking study of ambient television.37 Since the dawn of flat-screen monitors, ambient screens have proliferated even more, peppering the walls of bars, restaurants, college campuses, shopping malls, airports, and a host of other public, semi-public, and privately owned spaces. When expanded to the size of buildings, ambient public screens in urban centers transform the social and architectural character of a city. As Francesco Casetti contends, cinema is no longer a heterotopic space, “the opening of a ‘here’ toward an ‘elsewhere,’” but rather a hypertopia, that is “an ‘elsewhere’ that arrives ‘here’ and dissolves itself in it.”38 Spectators no longer go to the cinema; the cinema comes to them, at which point, Casetti contends, they encounter a choice: they can stop to look at the screen and become immersed in it or continue on their way, only offering a glance.39 The artworks explored in this book, often encountered in similarly serendipitous ways, offer more than just a dual choice. They demonstrate how situated moving images can produce new spaces, 34  Kota Ezawa, “Screening Rooms—or Return to Vaudeville,” American Art 22, no. 2 (2008): 11–14. 35  Dominique Païni, “The Return of the Flâneur,” Art Press, no. 255 (March 2000): 33–41. 36  Mondloch, Screens, 58. 37  Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 10–11. 38  Casetti, The Lumière Galaxy, 144. 39  Casetti, 57–58.



construct new modes of attention, and generate varied responses to place. Moving images leveraged as public art offer us elsewheres to enter into, but can also create presences in current space, three-dimensional fields of interaction and movement, and visual flutters and animations facilitated by remaining in motion.

Art in Public Space Central to my argument is the notion of public space—that it exists, that it is an essential component of democratic society and public life, and that the encounter with art within it is valuable yet fundamentally different from one inside a museum or gallery. Writers and theorists on public space primarily organize it along three perspectives: that it facilitates civil order, that it is a site for power and resistance, and that it stages art and performance, both formally and informally.40 The civic, political, and artistic components of public space are all implicated in how contemporary artists create public art projects and how audiences engage with them. While in many ways we can think of movie theaters and museums as types of public spaces (and museums very much consider themselves as part of the public sphere),41 I employ the term “public space” in reference to locations beyond the doors of art and film institutions. These are most often outside and (most importantly) freely accessible to all members of the public, especially to passersby not intending to encounter a work of art. Even this definition becomes blurred, as I consider projects that occur on public monuments, across privately owned advertising screens, in corporate-­ funded public parks, and on the façades of museums—the literal interface between museum space and the world beyond. The fluctuations along the unstable boundaries of public space run throughout my analyses, and I argue that the moving image, with its own internal tensions between here and there, becomes an important site for exploring these questions. While some of the practices in this book have been discussed as “media architecture,” I prefer the term “public art” and contend that moving images constitute their own genre within this field of practice. While public art historically has been related to architecture in a number of ways, 40   Zachary P.  Neal, “Locating Public Space,” in Common Ground?: Readings and Reflections on Public Space, ed. Anthony M.  Orum and Zachary P.  Neal (New York: Routledge, 2010), 4–5. 41  Jennifer Barrett, Museums and the Public Sphere (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).



from sculptural adornments to Percent for Art programs, public art can also be discursive, dematerialized, and unattached to buildings. The field of public art is itself fluid and contested with a constantly evolving relationship to site. Traditionally, art placed in public outdoor spaces fulfilled either the celebratory function of the monument or the commemorative purpose of the memorial. These official constructions of public memory largely aligned with the interests of established regimes of power. Obelisks, triumphal arches, equestrian monuments, and other iconic forms pepper cities across the globe, making declarations of power, identity, and exclusion in public places, and becoming subject to later controversy, revision, removal, or iconoclasm. By the twentieth century, the notion of the monument as a permanent, monolithic cultural statement began to wane as moving image media assumed dominance. As early as 1938, for example, Lewis Mumford proclaimed the “death of the monument,” believing its calcified forms were eclipsed by the speed of photographs, moving images, and recorded sound.42 Though monuments certainly did not cease to appear in twentieth-century American cities (and permanent memorials have even increased in the twenty-first),43 there was a large rethinking of them and of the broader function of art in public spaces since the middle of the twentieth century.44 The public sculpture revival of the 1960s, stimulated by the creation of empty urban plazas in the wake of International Style skyscrapers and the rise of municipal and federal funding for art in public spaces, removed 42  Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1938), 434, 446. 43  Erika Doss, Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). Even these traditional-looking objects of “memorial mania” have ties to screen culture. The World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for example, raised funds with the help of a campaign led by movie star Tom Hanks during the run of the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan (1998). 44  New Deal work-relief for artists in the United States frequently involved the production of art for public spaces, such as murals in airports, post offices, and other civic buildings. In the wake of World War II, the scale of devastation seemed unrepresentable in traditional sculpture, leading to a lack of traditional war monuments and memorials in the United States and elsewhere and the creation of “living memorials” or civic centers dedicated in remembrance to those lost. Andrew M.  Shanken, “Planning Memory: Living Memorials in the United States during World War II,” The Art Bulletin 84, no. 1 (March 1, 2002): 130–47; Joan Marter, “The Ascendancy of Abstraction for Public Art: The Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner Competition,” Art Journal 53, no. 4 (December 1, 1994): 28–36.



much of the didactic qualities of the traditional monument in favor of modernist aesthetics.45 These sculptures, though sought after by patrons and cities, were decried by some critics as “plop” or “plunk,” having little to do with their material, social, or historical surroundings. Public sculpture later moved toward site-specificity, part of a broader migration from the pedestal and into the matrix bracketed by the fields of landscape and architecture.46 Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc (1981–1989), part of this anti-­ monumental, site-specific trend and located in a downtown Manhattan plaza, butted heads with public response, spawning a legendary controversy over audience, commissioning processes, and permanence, eventually being removed/destroyed after a controversy fueled by publicity.47 Site-specific art gradually became “unhinged” from the phenomenological site, and public art often turned to the ephemeral, a phenomenon Eleanor Heartney referred to as the “dematerialization of public art.”48 Following the rise of relational aesthetics and socially engaged art in the 1990s, public art frequently encompassed projects designed with discussion, collaboration, and even social benefits in mind.49 Today public art is a vast field that includes large-scale sculpture, memorials, murals, gardens, interactive installations, soundscapes, parties, performances, pamphlets, food trucks, digital applications, and, as this book explores, a wide range of moving image practices. Given the breadth of projects now considered public art, defining it as a term seems cumbersome or even pointless. Cameron Cartiere argues 45  Zoning regulations mandated that the taller a building was, the further its apex must be from the streetwall in order to prevent wind tunnels and all-day shadow on the street. Initially this prompted the tiered forms of Art Deco skyscrapers, but by the middle of the twentieth century, Bauhaus-inspired International Style architects rejected these sculptural forms and preferred sleek, monolithic towers of glass and steel. This then led to vast, largely empty urban plazas. Municipal and later federal Percent for Art programs also started in the late 1960s, providing institutional funding for public sculpture to populate those empty plazas. Harriet F.  Senie, Contemporary Public Sculpture: Tradition, Transformation, and Controversy, 1st ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1992). 46  Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” October 8 (April 1, 1979): 31–44. 47  Harriet F. Senie, Tilted Arc Controversy: Dangerous Precedent? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). 48  Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004); Eleanor Heartney, “The Dematerialization of Public Art,” Sculpture 12 (1993): 44–49. 49  Grant H. Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, Revised edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (London: Verso Books, 2012).



that this task is, nevertheless, vital for bringing public art in from the art historical and art critical margins and “to embrace the term public art as the signifier of a legitimate discipline, a layered practice, an area of study, and a significant contribution to fine art.”50 Together with Shelly Willis, she devised a working definition of public art to help define the field: Public art is art outside of museums and galleries and must fit within at least one of the following categories:

1. in a place accessible or visible to the public: in public 2. concerned with or affecting the community or individuals: public interest 3. maintained for or used by the community or individuals: public place 4. paid for by the public: publicly funded51

This working definition is useful in its expansiveness and pliability and in how it recognizes public art as a distinct category that concerns itself with physical, thematic, and financial accessibility. The works studied in this book all fit within the first category and varyingly within the others. Public accessibility does two primary things that make public art distinct: it opens the work up to the reception of an unpredictable, ever-changing, and situated audience; and it necessitates (or at least strongly recommends) the consideration of this audience in its conceptual and curatorial mode of address. Both of these factors impact how we evaluate and historicize public art. For some, public art’s address to a broad audience lessens quality, potentially flattening all radical content or challenging forms in order to speak to the lowest common denominator. The question of public access has, at first glance, an inverse relationship to notions of quality and rigor. Cher Krause Knight combats this frequent critique by developing a theory of public art that considers its physical, aesthetic, and conceptual accessibility as intrinsic to its mission rather than a burden. “First, accessibility is not the parent of mediocrity; one does not have to ‘dumb down’ art or avoid challenging content to be accessible. Second, speaking concurrently with many potential publics, some specialized and others nonspecific, is quite

50  Cameron Cartiere, “Coming in from the Cold: A Public Art History,” in The Practice of Public Art, ed. Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis (New York: Routledge, 2008), 15. 51  Cartiere, 15.



different than talking at a single, monolithic audience.”52 For Knight, the measure of art’s public accessibility is not that everyone gets the same message or even likes the work, but rather “the quality and impact of its exchanges with audiences…on the art’s ability to extend reasonable and fair opportunities for members of the public to understand and negotiate their own relationships with it.”53 In keeping with Knight’s consideration of the exchanges between viewer and artwork, I structure my study around the kinds of encounters artworks prompt. Similarly drawing from Knight, I defend the possibilities of the popular, calling upon the concept of enchantment as a way to mine the moving image’s more pleasurable components for progressive potential. Together with the explosion of biennials as engines of economic growth, contemporary public art often becomes an instrument of development, leading many critics to imply that public art should take up a deliberately critical stance.54 While being careful to situate public art in relationship to various stakeholders, I argue against this kind of proscriptive approach to political messaging in public art. Political theorist Diana Boros describes three main ways public art can “create, support, and enliven both communal spaces and feelings of community”: beautification, protest, and a “politically indirect” way that creates a new ways of seeing the world by “restructuring the everyday.”55 This third form can also be understood through enchantment—encounters where we are jolted out of our everyday rhythms not with a counter-discourse that dissects the world around us but with a renewed intensity of experience. Philosopher Fred Evans similarly finds greater nuance than the somewhat reductive dyad of complicit/critical in public art through his reading of public art’s capacity as an act of citizenship. In Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy, he maintains that art is democratic insofar as it invites and maintains the co-presence of multiple voices. He considers forces like capital or spectacle to be “oracles,” forces which threaten to overtake the

52  Cher Krause Knight, Public Art: Theory, Practice and Populism, 1st ed. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), 23. 53  Knight, ix. 54  Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998); Malcolm Miles, Art, Space and the City (New York: Routledge, 1997). 55  Diana Boros, Creative Rebellion for the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Public and Interactive Art to Political Life in America (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 15.



multitude and proclaim to be “non-revisable and universal truths.”56 Public art can be democratic by not allowing an oracle to overcome the multitude of voices that make up Evans’s three interdependent political virtues of democracy: solidarity, heterogeneity, and fecundity.57 Through Evans’s reading, we must be mindful (even wary) of oracles, but their mere presence does not discredit a work of art, nor does it necessitate an overt political message on the part of art voices to counter it.

The City and Its Ways of Seeing The works of art explored in this book also occur within cities. Though an urban context is often assumed in discussions of public art, public artworks do appear in small towns, rural settings, and natural landmarks (even ones that incorporate the projected light and moving images). While the cities and types of sites engaged and imagined by artworks vary, as evidenced by the contrast between the industrial ruins illuminated by Tony Oursler’s projections and the high-tech LED marquee in redeveloped South Boston, the broad concept of the urban stitches these works together. This book describes an urban phenomenon where the shifting role of public art within the city (as ornamentation, civic good, tourist branding, or laboratory for experimentation), modes of seeing and moving unique to cities, and moving image media intersect. Moving images have at various historical moments been linked to centripetal and centrifugal flows in relationship to the city. Many early exhibition venues, such as vaudeville theaters and nickelodeons, were urban phenomena, and early film contained many distinctly urban visual forms, such as the Lumiere “actualities” of the late nineteenth century and the city symphony films of the 1920s.58 Outside the theater, flashing signs and lit façades signaled that a city was modern and dynamic, a phenomenon 56  Fred Evans, Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy: An Essay in Political Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 170. 57  Evans, 179. Evans even suggests that the presence of an oracle-like capital is almost unavoidable in the public art landscape of the United States, where public funding is far more scarce than in many countries in Europe, necessitating various constellations of public-private partnership. Evans, 180. 58  Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895), a single shot of the titular action, complements Arrival of a Train at the Station in its factual look at urban movement. The most oft-cited city symphony films are Manhatta (Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler, 1921) and Berlin Symphony of a Metropolis (Walter Ruttman, 1927).



alluded to in our current, allegedly “post-cinema” era by the seemingly haunted marquee light sculptures of Philippe Parreno. In the second half of the twentieth century, television’s temporal and spatial distortions were in many ways linked to the decline of both theatrical cinema and the city and its public spaces. Scott McQuire cites proclamations by architects Robert Venturi and Rem Koolhaas that argued television transformed public and private space to the point that piazzas were “un-American” and the public domain “lost.”59 Much of the narrative of suburban sprawl in the postwar decades, along with the corresponding decline of inner cities, incorporates the collapse of spatial distance and the dissolution of distinctions between public and private spheres brought on by television and the automobile. The rise of mobile media, smart cities, and CCTV in redeveloped urban centers redirects flows back into cities and blurs distinctions between public and private spheres, reconfiguring cities through the surveillant gaze. Sennett sees the collapse of public and private heralded by the age of smart phones and social media less as an end to privacy than a continuation of the “tyranny of intimacy” brought on by transformations in the nineteenth century that reduced social reality to the terms of the personal and resulted in the fall of the public realm.60 In many ways we can see how the proliferation of media in urban spaces can fracture, discipline, and distract people within them, but as McQuire and Nikos Papastergiadis remind us, the increasingly public consumption of media can create moments of shared experience and even intercultural exchange and contestation, potentially reversing screen media’s supposed effects on the public sphere and engendering genuine, public encounters among strangers.61 These moments can happen through a variety of media that share the moving image’s capacity to enchant, from simple animation to responsive interfaces.

59  Scott McQuire, The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (Los Angeles: Sage, 2008), 130. Venturi argued, “Americans feel uncomfortable sitting in a square: they should be working at the office or home with the family looking at the television.” Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 2nd edition (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1977), 131. 60  Sennett, “Epilogue: What Happened to the Public Realm.” 61  McQuire, The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space, 154; Nikos Papastergiadis et al., “Mega Screens for Mega Cities,” Theory, Culture & Society 30, no. 7–8 (December 1, 2013): 325–41.



On an experiential level, public art and moving images in the city are often encountered serendipitously, by sidewalk spectators moving through urban space on daily business, leisurely walks, or tourist promenades. The visual and sensory experience of moving through the city has been one of the primary sites of historical reflection and theorization of urban experience since modernity. The well-established figure of the flâneur points to a mobile visual experience marked by nearly unlimited yet disengaged access to spaces of capital and spectacle. According to Charles Baudelaire, “the perfect flâneur” or “passionate spectator…set[s] up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.”62 Though reveling in anonymity and comfortable in the ebb and flow of the city, the flâneur was a class position, most often understood to be a white, middle-class male that “demanded elbow room” amidst the crowd.63 Considering the female flâneuse points to the ways in which public spaces are not always open and accessible to all members of the public, destabilizing the flâneur as a neutral ideal. In this book, I prefer the term “passerby” over flâneur or flâneuse for discussing serendipitous encounters with public art. Though sometimes used synonymously with flâneur, passerby does not signal a class or gender position, nor does it necessarily suggest that the subject is detached or wandering without direction. What it signals instead is some form of motion, most often walking. A passerby could be on their way somewhere, out for a stroll, experiencing a place for the first time, on daily business, or moving through the city in any other number of ways. The passerby is more of a stranger (at least initially) than an ideal, anonymous subject position, defined more by their circumstantial presence in a particular place than in their freedom to move throughout the city. What the passerby shares with the flâneur is a lack of attachment to the particular artwork at hand—the thing that is literally being “passed by.” Reading public art through the passerby implies considering how effectively an artwork attracts attention and what it does with that engagement, as well as how it operates within the complex movements of people through space. At what point does a passerby become a spectator or join an audience? What other 62  Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, trans. Jonathan Mayne, 2nd Revised ed. (London: Phaidon Press, 1995), 9. 63  Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn, first Schocken paperback edition (New York: Schocken, 1969), 174.



transformations can occur at this point of contact? What are the social possibilities inherent in constructing an audience in such a fashion? Movements through urban spaces, be they serendipitous or not, are also shaped by varying speeds and scales. The works in this book are predominantly encountered at the speed of walking, which Rebecca Solnit refers to as the pace of thought and a state where “the mind, the body, and the world are aligned.”64 Though walking is often the idealized or desirable form of mobility within the city, it is predicated on various types of access and contrasted with the mechanized movements of cars and transit. The relationship between speeds of urban movement, open spaces, and the scales of signs and symbols was central to the landmark study of an urban space deeply engaged with flashing and moving images, Learning from Las Vegas by architects Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi in the 1970s.65 The shifting and simultaneous scales that Las Vegas unpacks also informed Michel de Certeau’s famous reflections upon viewing New  York from the World Trade Center. De Certeau distinguished between the experience of walking in the street and the voyeuristic gaze from the top of the skyscraper. Compared to the lived and embodied movements on the street, the top-down vantage point “transforms the bewitching world by which one was ‘possessed’ into a text that lies before one’s eyes.”66 This is the city of the planner, not of the passerby. At its thorniest moments, public art can also become implicated in this transformation of the city into a text or (as I describe in Chap. 5) into an image, something legible from a distance and digestible as a commodity. My study is mindful of the speeds and scales learned from Las Vegas and shifts between the vantage points in de Certeau’s essay, looking at both the ground-level experience of public art projects that have the capacity to “possess” us on the street and their top-down planning and broader implications for the image of the city. To this end, I fold analyses of the institutional and curatorial processes that enabled, prohibited, impeded, or  Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (New York: Penguin Books, 2001), 5.  Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour, and Denise Scott Brown, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, Revised Edition (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1977). They also argued that the monumental sign systems on the surfaces of structures changed more rapidly than the buildings behind them, a point also applicable to the ephemerality of monumental moving images and the rapid obsolescence of many media technologies. 66  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 92. 64 65



resuscitated various projects into my discussions of particular spectatorial situations on the street. The presumption that urban space is a fixed entity, often a foundation of critiques of urban screens, is challenged by human geographers’ understanding of place as an assemblage. Doreen Massey’s “global sense of place” argues that time-space compression produced through accelerations of informational and media flows does not abolish place but rather transforms it from introverted to extroverted. She instead looks to “meeting places,” nodes or assemblages that defy fixed boundaries and are perpetually in a state of flux.67 Nigel Thrift’s non-representational theory turns to affect and the shifting ways bodies move in cities. He contends that affect has become part of urban design as “a form of landscape engineering…producing new forms of power as it goes.”68 Moving images would seem to contribute to the manipulative “infrastructures of feeling” described in Thrift’s ontology of affect,69 but they can also produce moments of enchantment that disturb or rewire dominant messages. These affective lines of force in public space can even, as I discuss in my postscript, be deployed in moments of political protest. Much of the existing scholarship on urban screen media focuses on what sociologist Saskia Sassen calls “global cities,” major metropolises where the processes and headquarters of a globalized economy coalesce and redefine urban space.70 Work in this arena, such as Nikos Papastergiadis’s look at the proliferation of high-definition LED screens in transnational urban spaces, has made significant strides in understanding how urban screens can create moments of cosmopolitan encounter, but largely omits how moving images operate in quieter neighborhoods or smaller cities.71 Though I consider artworks within one of the most iconic global city centers—Times Square—in this book, I also look closely at moving images 67  Doreen Massey, “A Global Sense of Place,” in Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 146–56. 68  Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (New York: Routledge, 2007), 187. 69  Clive Barnett, “Political Affects in Public Space: Normative Blind-Spots in NonRepresentational Ontologies.,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 33, no. 2 (April 2008): 190. 70  Saskia Sassen, “The Global City: Introducing a Concept,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs XI, no. 2 (Winter/Spring 2005): 27–43. 71  Nikos Papastergiadis, ed., Ambient Screens and Transnational Public Spaces (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016).



projected onto abandoned buildings in Cincinnati, Ohio, screened on buses in the sprawling Los Angeles transit system, beamed onto a figurative sculpture in the quiet end of Union Square in New York, or projected onto the sands of a Santa Monica beach. Just as the concept of the urban is expansive and elastic, so too are the types of places engaged by artworks examined in this book.

Situating Moving Image Artworks in Space and Place Building out from the moving image’s central tensions, the chapters in this book are structured around the notions of space and place. According to Yi-Fu Tuan, space connotes a sense of movement and freedom, whereas place connotes stasis and specificity,72 though this concept becomes troubled by later theories and critiques such as those by Massey and Thrift. This conceptual dyad between movement and pause mirrors the moving image’s own internal tensions between movement and stasis, presence and absence, here and there that undergird the “perceptual doubleness” that defines our encounters with it. My study builds upon this tension to consider how moving images produce space and make place in public art. Close readings along the way illuminate each mode of address and explore the intertwining of artwork with urban space, public art policies and programs, and audiences. Most of the projects I discuss at length are what I consider to be valuable additions to the public art landscape, though I also critique some works that got stuck in the middle ground between art and commerce, either failing to produce moments of enchantment or facing insurmountable practical challenges. Chapter 2 opens my discussion through close analyses of two public artworks that develop my concept of enchantment in moving image spectatorship. This term builds upon Jane Bennett’s work and describes the ability of moving images to jolt viewers out of their everyday routines through sensory experience that both carries them away and returns them to a deeper engagement with the world. This reading counters dominant claims of spectacle and distraction and provides a theory for understanding meaningful encounters with moving image artworks. I turn to Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope (1980), an early example of this kind of 72  Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Fifth Edition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). These terms are also somewhat inverted in Michel de Certeau’s delineation.



enchanting public art whose story points to the origins of this mode of spectatorship in early and proto-cinematic technologies and raises questions about audience, preservation, and the city that run throughout the book. The chapter concludes with a close analysis of Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012), an emblematic example of monumental outdoor cinematic projection. I read this work through the notion of enchantment and Roland Barthes’s essay “Leaving the Movie Theater,” which revels in the pleasures of the spectator’s liminal position between the illusory space of the moving image and the physical cinematic situation.73 Chapter 3 turns to curatorial initiatives to bring art into mediated advertising spaces. My discussion centers on a historical narrative of interventions in New York’s Times Square from the 1980s to the present to consider how and if art can produce meaningful moments of encounter within an overwhelmingly commercial space. Beginning with Messages to the Public in the 1980s and concluding with Midnight Moment in the 2010s, I argue that these initiatives develop a kind of intra-spectacular practice that works within a shifting screen landscape that may be within the domain of advertising and development but finds ways to productively point to its edges. I then briefly discuss an array of practices that appropriate the curatorial models of Times Square and conclude by backtracking to Jenny Holzer’s Sign on a Truck (1984), a mobilization of advertising technology that developed out of the artist’s iconic Times Square intervention and began to explore the space in front of the screen as a social site. Chapter 4 considers how moving images generate new social spaces and encounters in front of the screen—horizontal zones of interaction and recognition created through a variety of high- and low-tech means. I first look at Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain (2004) in Chicago’s Millennium Park as a ludic space or “magic circle” between two monumental, spitting video portraits of unnamed Chicagoans. I then turn to artworks that explicitly engage interactive technologies to allow viewers to see themselves on screen. A close reading of selected moving image public works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer that employ mirroring and responsive interfaces examines how viewers enter into webs of recognition. This chapter 73  Earlier versions of my readings of Masstransiscope and SONG 1 appear in two journal articles: Annie Dell’Aria, “The Enchanting Subway Ride: Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope,” Public Art Dialogue 5, no. 2 (2015): 141–61; Annie Dell’Aria, “Cinema–in–the–Round: Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012), the Hirshhorn Museum and the Pleasures of Cinematic Projection,” Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) 3, no. 2 (December 1, 2014): 208–21. They appear here with the permission of both journals and publishers.



concludes with a brief discussion of a parallel phenomenon: architectural interventions that act as paracinematic projectors onto the ground, expanding playable city principles beyond interactive technology. The horizontal planes produced by artworks in this chapter evoke a longer history of places of public mixing and contestation from public fountains and pools to disco dance floors. Chapter 5 looks at how moving image-based public art is implicated in the social and economic marketing of Creative Cities and the neoliberal remaking of urban public spaces through urban light festivals. With a close reading of BLINK in Cincinnati and other similar projects, I examine how the light festival phenomenon that exploded in the 2010s walks a thin line between producing meaningful encounters with art and merely rendering the city into a playground and an image for consumption. This chapter examines the role of marketing, technology, and design in the production of these events as well as individual artistic practices within them. I argue that light festivals become interfaces within which the relationship between the material and projected city is continually negotiated. Chapter 6 continues this discussion of placemaking to explore frequent failures of projects aspiring to permanence. I open with a comparison of Dara Birnbaum’s Rio Videowall (1989) in Atlanta and the shifting screen landscapes in a suburban development in northern Virginia to examine how demographic changes and screen histories impact the lives of public screens. I then narrate the brief life of the BBC Big Screens, a ten-year project in the UK that created an innovative platform for public art, but whose precarious balance between national and local control led to its collapse. I close with a discussion of a promising yet failed initiative to create a permanent public screen for media art in Indianapolis. These narratives of public art failures expose both the vulnerability of moving image screens in public spaces and the moving image’s own precarious position between the realms of advertising and art. Chapter 7 looks to the notion of superimposition in site-specific artworks that take an approach to place that challenges the assumptions of placemaking initiatives. This chapter begins with projects that puncture their sites with windows or wormholes into other places, including those by the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Dan Graham, John Gerrard, and Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz. This chapter then turns to the intertwining of place and memory to explore forms of haunting, discussing the work of Judith Barry and returning to the introductory project by Tony Oursler. Recent figural projections by Krzysztof Wodiczko



expand the artist’s heralded architectural practice to produce human-­ scaled apparitions that demand a right to appear for marginalized people. I conclude by examining works produced against the grain of public art organizations in the spirit of Situationist détournements and street art. Superimpositions employ the moving image’s enchanting properties not to escape the screen’s surroundings, but to produce transformations of our understanding of place and intensifications in the experience of the here and now. Chapter 8 concludes with a brief postscript written from the perspective of the spring and summer of 2020, a year where the very concept of public space underwent major upheaval and contestation. Exploring how moving images continued to appear as public art during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, this postscript attests to the resilience of moving images as public art and considers their future. The artworks discussed in my chapters do not constitute an exhaustive catalog of this wide-ranging public art practice, and indeed that is not the project of this book. Instead, I map out how and why moving images continue to pop up in cities under the guise of public art and examine what occurs between the screen, spectators, and urban space. These artworks lay out types of spatial encounters that draw upon the moving image’s inherent power of attraction to prompt increasingly specific relationships to place. This book also seeks to rethink our relationship to moving images through enchantment. Moving image-based public art can do more than merely distract passersby. In fact, these artworks can engender complex and meaningful engagements within their sites of exhibition, not despite the moving image’s inherent ephemerality, but perhaps because of it. Though my examples weave a rather optimistic tale of public art, throughout the book I consider how these practices can be implicated in structures of power and capital through issues of funding, realization, and preservation. This does not necessarily discount from the progressive potential of artworks made within the mainstream, but nevertheless calls our attention to the sites of contestation that these projects frequently become. The tension between our physical encounter with the screen and the mimetic forms within it is itself a continuing site of renegotiation within the public realm—one that is almost always haunted by the specter of publicity and spectacle, but is also never without the capacity to enchant and move us in profound ways.


Enchantment: Encountering Moving Images on Urban Surfaces

Navigating public spaces that are filled with moving images involves a constant negotiation between attention and distraction and between represented and actual space. On the most immediate level, moving images and illumination prompt at least momentary attention, activating our instinctual peripheral vision. One way of conceptualizing the experience of navigating heavily mediated public spaces would be through the critique of the “society of the spectacle” and the sublimation of the real in favor of the illusion of the screen.1 In these critical frameworks, spectators and occupiers of urban space are rendered passive and powerless to the screen, barring the occasional transgressive act of culture-jamming. The presence of screen technologies seems to invert established spheres of public and private and threaten the social and material fabric of public space. While this critique offers important insight into the spatial politics of capitalism, 1  This critique stems from Guy Debord’s theses on the society of the spectacle and runs through the later writings of theorists like Jean Baudrillaud and Paul Virilio. Virilio more explicitly maps this critique onto the spaces of the city in referencing how gateways and traditional architectural monuments have been replaced by “an electronic audience system.” Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994); Jean Baudrillard, “The Ecstasy of Communication,” in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (New York: New Press, The, 1998), 145–54; Paul Virilio, “The Overexposed City,” in The Paul Virilio Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 84–99.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




such overarching condemnation of mediated urban spaces risks both preemptively dismissing engaging public artworks that operate within their systems and disavowing any sense of spectatorial pleasure or agency—in effect replicating the assumptions of apparatus film theory. Another way of conceptualizing how we encounter moving images in public spaces that potentially recuperates the spectator is through enchantment. Enchantment entails a sense of wondrous encounter as well as the seeds of affective involvement in the world and with each other. Philosopher Jane Bennett, in her book The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics, argues for an ethics guided by enchantment. For Bennett, enchantment involves “a surprising encounter, a meeting with something that you did not expect and are not fully prepared to engage.”2 Though Bennett’s concept relates to more general encounters in the world (often with nature), artworks in public spaces can provide just these kind of surprising and unexpected meetings, and the moving image’s own ontological tensions between materiality and immateriality and between here and there also allow us to, in Bennett’s words, “be simultaneously transfixed in wonder and transported by sense, to be both caught up and carried away.”3 Echoing Giuliana Bruno’s discussion of cinematic motion and emotion as a form of transport, of being “carried away,”4 Bennett’s tale of enchantment potentially rescues spectatorial pleasure from ideological submission. Contained within this surprise state are (1) a pleasurable feeling of being charmed by the novel and as yet unprocessed encounter and (2) a more unheimlich (uncanny) feeling of being disrupted or torn out of one’s default sensory-psychic-intellectual disposition. The overall effect of enchantment is a mood of fullness, plentitude, or liveness, a sense of having one’s nerves or circulation or concentration powers tuned up or recharged—a shot in the arm, a fleeting return to childlike excitement about life.5

Contrary to dominant readings of spectatorial pleasure as a kind of numbing or lulling, the pleasure of enchantment contains within it an 2  Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 5. 3  Bennett, 5. 4  Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (New York: Verso, 2002). 5  Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics, 5.



unheimlich sensation that breaks us out of our usual disposition and returns us to the sensory world around us. Bennett sees enchantment as a means to “resist the story of the disenchantment of modernity,” which she argues “has itself contributed to the condition it describes.”6 Likewise recent scholarship has sought to examine how enchantment actually runs through modernity. As Joshua Landy and Michael Saler note, the re-enchantment of the world rejects both the “binary” view of modernity’s emphasis on reason compared to the unenlightened superstition of earlier ages and the “dialectical” view that reads modernity itself as deceptive and bewitching. Instead, they argue for an “antinomial” position that “embraces seeming contraries, such as rationality and wonder, secularism and faith.”7 This particular mode can be clearly related to the experience of moving images in public spaces. Chris Berry argues that everyday screens in public spaces deploy “secular enchantment” in site-specific ways to capture attention and direct urban movement.8 The phenomenon Berry describes happens with full awareness of the technological means that make them possible, echoing Tom Gunning’s “cinema of attractions,” and through moving images that affirm Francesco Casetti’s notion of “display”—screens that attract glances and incidental attention rather than absorption.9 These encounters seem to verge on spectacle, or the “dialectical” view of enchantment, but this does not tell the whole story. Though not a book on moving image spectatorship, Bennett allows for enchantment through “the animation of objects by video technologies—an animation whose effects are not fully captured by the idea of ‘commodity fetishism,’”10 and it is possible to see how moments of encounter with moving images can offer us moments to reengage— rather than disconnect—from the world around us.  Bennett, 4.  Joshua Landy and Michael Saler, “Introduction: The Varieties of Modern Enchantment,” in The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age, ed. Joshua Landy and Michael Saler (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 3. 8  Chris Berry, “Shanghai’s Public Screen Culture: Local and Coeval,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O. Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 110–34. 9  Tom Gunning, “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator (1989),” in Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, Seventh Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 736–50; Francesco Casetti, “What Is a Screen Nowadays?,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O. Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 16–40. 10  Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics, 4. 6 7



Taking a cue from both Berry’s reading of “secular enchantment” in public screens and Bennett’s ethical potential, I position enchantment as a concept that reframes moving image spectatorship in public space as a site of potential. First, enchantment involves a somewhat serendipitous encounter, one that happens when one is unprepared, and that redirects their sensory attunement to the world. In public space, such an encounter is quite often shared with others. Second, this notion of spectatorship contains a certain ambivalence toward prevailing readings of criticality in relation to both the culture industry and public space, allowing for positive pleasures of sensory plenitude or even momentary, voluntary psychic dislocation and producing a sense of spectatorial agency outside of disenchanted counterideology. Third, enchantment points to the moving image’s primary ontological tensions, its seemingly magical position between materiality and immateriality, between here and there, and its ability to transform temporality through anticipation. The very components that make moving images in public spaces capable of reinvigorating our sensory, affective, and social relationship to place and to others simultaneously endanger their physical and institutional position with it. The story of this potential and precarity runs throughout the chapters of this book. This chapter explores the potential of enchantment through permanent and temporary moving image interventions along urban surfaces. Through animation or cinematic projection, these projects extend opportunities to engage with moving image art in ways that both enliven the mundane and expand the offerings of the museum. The artworks discussed in this chapter are of varying scales and durations, encountered through different forms of spectatorial movement, and make use of the languages of film, video, animation, and proto-filmic media, underscoring my intermedial definition of the moving image and paralleling the multiple ways screen cultures infiltrate and construct public spaces and daily patterns of movement. I dive particularly deeply into two moments where public artworks prompt an in-between form of enchantment at different scales and paces: Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope (1980), a momentary animation, encountered along the New York City Subway, and Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012), a cinematic nocturnal projection onto the surface of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. I argue that these works produce a liminal state of enchantment that invites the viewer to revel in the moving image’s sensory pleasures in an in-between state. While Masstransiscope employs spectators’ movement on the train to produce its moving image, SONG 1 attempts to arrest them.



Encountering Art on Mass Transit Perhaps some of the dreariest spaces of everyday urban movement are those of mass transit. As commuters navigate bus stations, subway cars, tunnels, and platforms to get to and from places within the city, they experience the intense density and co-presence of an urban population. Instead of interacting, they most often carve out micro-zones of privacy as a means of coping. Commuters move past many moving and still images designed for purposes of publicity and information, such as advertisements, electronic boards announcing arrivals and departures, automated ticket kiosks, and a plethora of mobile media devices. Zlatan Krajina discusses this everyday negotiation of screens as means of “domesticating” an ever-­ changing media landscape.11 The London commuters Krajina interviewed spoke about their use of advertising and screens in a variety of ways: to access information, to keep up to date on events and culture, to avoid eye contact with other travelers, to momentarily daydream or escape to another place, or to consciously avoid other screens and advertising.12 This parallels the use of mobile media such as tablets, smartphones, and mobile audio technologies as a means of “sensory refiltering” in order to cope with constant distractions and reassert a unique sense of self.13 In this way, mobile media and the domestication of public media could be read as what Michel de Certeau called “tactics”: bottom-up means of reclaiming agency in the face of top-down “strategies.”14 Public art’s intervention into this intensely public, yet strangely private, experience of commuting on public transit can prompt moments of enchantment that offer both a reprieve from and a shared experience within public space.

11  Zlatan Krajina, “Domesticating the Screen-Scenography: Situational Uses of Screen Images and Technologies in the London Underground,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O.  Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 223. 12  For his sources, Krajina used interviews and audio diaries of nine participants. Krajina, “Domesticating the Screen-Scenography: Situational Uses of Screen Images and Technologies in the London Underground.” 13  Michael Bull, “Privatizing Urban Space in the Mediated World of iPod Users,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O.  Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 249. Mack Hagood, Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control (Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2019). 14  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 38.



Historically, spaces of mass transit employ public art as a means of beautification. Architectural ornamentation, bronze sculptures, and mosaics have adorned subway stations for over a century. Some even become part of the art historical canon, such as Hector Guimard’s cast iron Art Nouveau designs for the Paris Metro or the Stockholm Metro’s system-wide subterranean art gallery. In the 1980s, cities like New York and Boston wished to sanitize the image (and surfaces) of trains that had, after years of neglect and underfunding, become associated with danger, crime, and graffiti. This also led to the creation of commissioning agencies for permanent public art projects in the 1980s and 1990s. Often based on a percent-for-­ art model, these agencies involve panels of arts professionals and local stakeholders that commission mostly decorative, planar works that engage local communities or landmarks or attempt to humanize the experience of mass transit.15 More recently, transit stations, subway cars, and city buses have hosted moving image artworks, both as dedicated exhibitions and as interventions onto advertising screens. One of the first projects in a transit system to engage the moving image, however, dates back to the 1980s and appears not in a station or car, but in the in-between site of the subway tunnel: Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope (1980). This work is in many ways a transitional one in the history of moving image public art and of public art on the New  York City subway, making it a fitting introduction to this study. For a few brief moments, the work turns a mundane subway tunnel into a site of enchantment through playful animation and the transformation of the train’s movement into a moving image device. Furthermore, it is as a subway rider and viewer of this work that I first began to explore this book’s topic.

15  Cynthia Abramson, Myrna Margulies Breitbart, and Pamela Worden, “Art and the Transit Experience/Creating a Sense of Purpose: Public Art and Boston’s Orange Line,” in Common Ground?: Readings and Reflections on Public Space, ed. Anthony M.  Orum and Zachary P.  Neal (New York: Routledge, 2010), 1–10. Michelle H.  Bogart, Sculpture in Gotham (London: Reaktion, 2018), 142–55.



Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope (1980) and the Enchanted Subway Ride16 Masstransiscope illuminates the tunnel on the B and Q subway lines between the DeKalb Avenue stop in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Bridge. Seen only briefly, the animations last under a minute. Outlined colorful shapes and images merge and disintegrate against a varying, but most often white, background, creating a high-contrast image formally analogous to many of the works of Keith Haring (Fig. 2.1). The film starts with a bouncing red ball, which quickly attracts a set of noodle-like strands that twist and squeeze the ball until it morphs into an amoeba-like burst of color. This image undulates until eventually mutating into geometrical shapes of orange and blue that transform into an abstraction of the human form. During this transition, the train very often slows or stops along the track changes before the bridge. Even if the train runs straight through, there is still a break in the image due to a stairwell from the abandoned station that houses the film’s panels. Once the figure forms, the pieces swiftly break apart once more and the initial string and ball return, only this time to morph into a blue rocket ship (Fig. 2.2). After the ship takes off, the ball bounces on various colored backgrounds until forming the head of the human figure once more in the final frames. The animation ends abruptly, followed by further darkness in the tunnel before the train emerges onto the bridge, complete with its own cinematic view of the river and lower Manhattan. The apparatus of the work’s illusion reveals itself to the viewer in motion, who, though perhaps unfamiliar with zoetropes, certainly understands how the illusion operates as the train stops and starts along the track. The work arouses wonder at both the pleasure of the moving image and the material mechanics of its illusion. The images appear to move, though they are actually static, lying beyond the train car in the tunnel. The kinetic motion necessary for the zoetrope to work is therefore not necessarily bound within the device itself, but rather operates as a register of difference between viewer and image. Either one can move, as long as the other does not. As Giuliana Bruno discusses, the word “cinema” comes from a Greek word that connotes both motion and emotion; thus, 16  The ideas in this section were first published by Taylor & Francis as Annie Dell’Aria, “The Enchanting Subway Ride: Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope,” Public Art Dialogue 5, no. 2 (2015): 141–61. They appear here with the permission of the journal and publisher.



Fig. 2.1  Bill Brand, Masstransiscope. 1980. Conceptual drawing. © Bill Brand. Courtesy the artist

Fig. 2.2  Bill Brand, Masstransiscope. 1980. Excerpt of paintings. © Bill Brand. Courtesy the artist

cinema can be understood as a form of transport—both physical and emotional.17 Cinematic enchantment—the momentary transport of the viewer through the immaterial moving image—is folded into the material structures of mass transportation through Masstransiscope’s apparatus. Its momentary presence within daily commutes and its physical endurance in an abandoned subway station speak to the resilience of this liminal space of enchantment as well as the physical and institutional precarity of its structure.

 Bruno, Atlas of Emotion, 7.




The Fleeting Animation Experimental filmmaker Bill Brand came up with the concept in the 1970s while riding the subway and noticing that when the train cars pass each other, the regular intervals of windows passing by resemble watching film. Historians often cite a similar “accidental observation” in the early nineteenth century, when English mathematician Peter Mark Roget noticed how train wheels appeared when looking through the slots of a fence, prompting further exploration into the illusions produced by the persistence of vision that would lead to the development of proto-cinematic devices like the zoetrope.18 Indeed, the historical connections between the visual and experiential changes brought on by early film and rail travel are rich;19 in Brand’s piece, however, the train’s own system of vision also acts as the projector, moving the spectator physically while also producing an illusion. This operation also happens in certain sculptural installations that simulate moving image effects through viewer movement. The work of Teresita Fernández in particular comes to mind, and her practice appears frequently as public artworks, such as Bamboo Cinema (2001), a series of concentric circles of plexiglass poles temporarily installed in Madison Square Park  in New  York City. The poles obstruct the viewer’s field of vision in a manner that mimics a slow-moving film strip, gradually obscuring or revealing the urban landscape as viewers enter or exit the maze.20 While the material support of Brand’s illusion is locked within the subway tunnel, the animation’s visual place within the commuter’s daily life is contingent, sandwiched between the built environment’s strategies and individual commuters’ situational tactics. Can a public artwork enchant viewers to look up and engage their surroundings while still respecting the peculiar, publicly private experience of riding on the subway? In 2010, two years after Masstransiscope’s renovation, I conducted a series of interviews with riders I approached on the train and a small set of email surveys of regular riders to better understand how the work operates within its

18  Peter Mark Roget, “V. Explanation of an Optical Deception in the Appearance of the Spokes of a Wheel Seen through Vertical Apertures,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 115 (January 1, 1825): 131–40. 19  Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014). 20  This work was realized through Public Art Fund and part of the three-year series Target Art in the Park to celebrate the revitalization of Madison Square Park.



particular environment.21 Though not a statistically significant sample, this process offered insight into audience response, evidence beyond personal anecdote, and opened up an important tension between the work’s ephemeral image and its permanent physical form—a tension that not only prompts a moment of enchantment and generates the necessary register of difference for the work’s illusion, but also threatened its longevity. Riders’ responses to the work were mostly positive, and all regular riders reported noticing the work many times—a big difference from the frequently cited invisibility of many static works of public art. Many actually used the phrase “love it,” with others citing words like “exciting,” “fun,” and “colorful.” Riders also remarked how the work “brightens up” their commute, is refreshing and unexpected, or simply just far better than an abandoned subway station to look at. The only criticism about the work was the way the train frequently stops in the middle, disrupting the illusion. No one knew the artist was Brand, which is not surprising as his signature is only on one of the panels and illegible from the moving train. Two riders guessed that a graffiti artist created the work—an ironic notion given both the cost of realizing such a project and graffiti’s recurring threat to Masstransiscope’s illusion. Although the responses to the work’s whimsical forms and kinetic qualities were overwhelmingly positive, I was struck by how many were indifferent when asked “would you miss this work if it were gone?” This difference is especially pronounced compared to earlier conversations and observations I conducted informally at more traditional monuments where respondents almost universally claimed they would miss sculptures they often did not usually notice or think about  at all. Although most respondents for Brand’s piece did say they would miss the Masstransiscope (some even emphatically so), around a third responded either with “no” or suggested they would be open to having another piece there. Unlike an urban landmark or park meeting place, the temporal nature of the moving image makes some viewers feel it is far less fixed in its place. Importantly, though, many of the indifferent responders did say they would like the animation to rotate, alluding to both viewers’ unawareness of the cost of an installation of this scale and their preconditioned expectations for moving image media to be constantly in flux.

21  The email surveys allowed for longer responses than the brief time commuters rode the train to the next stop. There were twenty-six responses total.



This tension between a moving image artwork’s material conditions and infrastructure and the viewer’s experience and expectations of its ephemeral form produces a number of controversies and challenges that I locate in the histories of many works throughout this book. The story of Masstransiscope’s realization, decline, and resurgence raises particularly salient issues of publicity, permanence, and conservation in public art and illuminates curatorial challenges with moving image-based work. The work’s resilience—in both its miraculous recovery from disrepair and its enduring ability to succeed as public art—demonstrates the potential of moving images to engage viewers through visual enchantment and the difficulty in maintaining these projects in an underfunded public art system. The Resilient Installation Once Brand came up with the concept for the work in the late 1970s, he approached Creative Time, a relatively new public art agency headquartered in founder Anita Contini’s home.22 Creative Time brings artist-­ initiated work to a larger public, in the early days most notably by taking over underutilized urban space, such as the program Art on the Beach (1978–1985) on a landfill in Lower Manhattan. It was years later that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) would form its own body for commissioning and maintaining public art, though Masstransiscope eventually became a part of its collection. MTA Arts for Transit (now called MTA Arts & Design) started in 1985 and operates on a percent-for-art model commissioning permanent work related to renovation and construction projects.23 The permanence of the commissions and the restrictions of the location dictate the kinds of projects the MTA funds, whereas Creative Time has no such limitations. Masstransiscope would not have been possible without Creative Time’s relatively ambiguous relationship to permanence, though this also placed the work in a precarious position soon after its realization. Many of Creative Time’s early projects were directly linked to Lower Manhattan as part of an effort to reclaim neglected spaces for art. Brand’s  Bill Brand, interview by author, May 3, 2010.  This organization also produces some rotating projects, such as a poster series where artists design illustrations that live in the advertising space within train cars or performing artists who play in stations, but in the realm of visual arts, their projects are largely designed to be permanent. 22 23



piece occupies a similarly abandoned space: the former Myrtle Avenue station in Brooklyn that fell victim to urban renewal after the creation of a flying junction on other lines in 1956. While the artist did not conceive of the project as a reclamation of derelict urban space, this likely provided one more nudge for Creative Time to take up the project.24 As early as 1978, the proposed Masstransiscope was cited in Creative Time’s press releases as exemplary of what the new organization was trying to do in the city.25 In 1980, realization became possible when Masstransiscope became the first work funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in a public transportation system and also received funds from the New York State Council for the Arts, as well as in-kind donations from 3M, Con Edison, and many others for various materials.26 Non-profit, for-profit, local, and federal organizations made the project possible, echoing how public art projects in the United States increasingly rely on an amalgamation of sponsors, something that troubles public moving images’ already entrenched associations with publicity. Masstransiscope debuted in September 1980 with significant press coverage, both in print and on television, though it was not overly designated as an art world event. In 1980, one enthusiast remarked in a letter to Creative Time how “elated” he was to even see “the work of the avant-­ garde in Brooklyn.”27 Despite Brooklyn’s then-marginal status in the art world, the unveiling was heavily promoted and included a special opening day viewing on a vintage train following a private breakfast for the artist, Creative Time staff, Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden, and other dignitaries.28 The New York Times ran two announcements about the piece in September 1980 and another longer article in January 1981;  Brand, interview by author.  CCFlash, the Cultural Council Foundation Newsletter, August 2, 1978. 26  The full list of supporters from Creative Time’s 1984 brochure for Masstransiscope follows. Contributors: National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, American Stock Exchange, Chase Manhattan Bank, Con Edison, Exxon Corporation, Merrill Lynch Pierce Fener & Smith, Inc. In-kind supporters: Exxon Corporation (promotion), 3M Company (special paper and inks), Westinghouse Electric (lights), E E Tech (fixtures), Lighting Unlimited, Inc. (consultation), Paul Marants of Jules Fischer & Paul Marantz, Inc. (consultation). 27  John Halsey, “Letter to Creative Time,” November 11, 1980, Series 1, Box 1, Folder 28, Creative Time Archive, Fales Collection, New York University Libraries, New York, NY. 28  These included artists Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Jenny Dixon (director of Public Art Fund), among others, according to documents in the Creative Time archive. “Creative Time Archive, 1973–2006,” 1973, Series 1, Box 1, Folders 26 and 28. 24 25



neighborhood papers and arts newsletters followed suit.29 All of the articles stressed the novelty of the work’s animation; John Russell called it “an arresting experience, in which colored forms (some abstract, some not) are seen to change, transform themselves, collapse, explode, or blast off before our eyes in a matter of seconds.”30 Television coverage of the work featured interviews with Brand in his studio or in the Masstransiscope’s lightbox in addition to reactions from riders shot on graffiti-covered trains.31 The subway had a notorious reputation in the early 1980s. One handwritten letter to Creative Time from musician Brian Gari mentions, “I take this train often and needless to say it’s not the safest (or shortest ride) but I do believe even potential muggers get distracted by its unique beauty and fun. Keep it going and do more!32” In this comment, the enchanting qualities of the artwork (its “beauty and fun”) not only improve the dreary commute but also have potential effects on the safety and social life of the subway itself. A short story from the initial installation in Soho News introduced the piece on the front page with “Up from Graffiti: New subway visions,”33 and Brand has mentioned how he included the possibility of commuters seeing his work through graffiti-scratched windows when he envisioned the bright color scheme.34 Graffiti, though certainly part of the milieu of New York City transit in the early 1980s, has a rather fraught relationship with Masstransiscope. Despite his interest in the visual and material context of the subway (including interviewing some young graffiti artists about their work), Brand was understandably perturbed when others decided to paint over his work shortly after its installation. Initially, Brand would clean the panels himself, which were finished with a graffiti-resistant sealant, but taggers kept finding a way to break into the lightbox enclosure and destroyed the work’s ability to create a moving image. After four or five years of 29  Glen Fowler, “Subways Are for Seeing Brooklyn ‘Movie,’” New York Times, September 17, 1980; Grace Glueck, “Art People,” New York Times, September 26, 1980, sec. The Weekend; John Russell, “Art People,” New York Times, January 16, 1981, sec. The Weekend. 30  Russell, “Art People,” C20. 31  “WPIX with Frank Casey,” television broadcast (WPIX-11, September 17, 1980); “Brooklyn Magazine,” television broadcast (WNYC, April 9, 1982). 32  Brian Gari, “Letter to Anita O’Neill,” February 13, 1981, Series 1, Box 1, Folder 35, Creative Time Archive, Fales Collection, New York University Libraries, New York, NY. 33  Amy Taubin, “Captive Audience,” The Soho News, November 19, 1980. 34  Brand, Interview by author.



self-maintenance, Brand needed more time to concentrate on his artistic production; with no structures for preservation intact, the lights were eventually turned off. A Creative Time brochure from 1994 dated the Masstransiscope as 1980–1986, with no indication that the end date was due to disrepair. But why did this happen? Clearly the piece prompted a positive response from the community of riders, was favorably reviewed, and had a strong backing from its sponsor agency. A 1980 Creative Time proposal for additional funding stated that the organization had hoped that the work would become permanent, though its initial budget allocated only meager funds for maintenance.35 Whether or not this money came through in the end is unclear, but what is certain is that too much of the burden of maintenance fell on the shoulders of the artist. Briefly in 1990 the MTA managed to clean the piece partially and get the lights back up, but this was short-­ lived. In 1996, one commuter wrote in the New York Times wondering why the lights were still on when the piece was completely illegible. The response from the MTA was a lack of funds and restoration budget of $25,00036—a number quite larger than the initial projection of $2000. In 2004, Bill Brand spoke at a panel at the Association of Moving Image Archivists conference and concluded with a discussion of Masstransiscope: “there is no agency, organization or community to take responsibility for preservation…At this point, when I should be at the peak of my creative life, I am instead given the devil’s choice between being an artist or an archivist.”37 This talk generated interest from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, who gave the artist a grant to restore the work. MTA Arts for Transit agreed to acquire Masstransiscope in 2008 and assume maintenance after this initial cleaning.38 After months 35  Creative Time, “Proposal: Masstransiscope” (February 1, 1980), Series 1, Box 1, Folder 26, Creative Time Archive, NYU Fales Collection. In the $60,000 estimated budget for the work, only $2000 was projected for maintenance. 36  Daniel B. Schneider, “That Heavenly Jingle,” New York Times, November 17, 1996, sec. The City, CY2. 37  Bill Brand, “The Artist as Archivist (2004),” in Results You Can’t Refuse: Celebrating 30 Years of BB Optics, ed. Andrew Lampert (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 2006), 77–78. Brand, Interview by author. The talk focused mostly on the preservation of expanded cinema, specifically Brand’s work with Paul Sharits’s Sound Strip/Film Strip (1972). Brand intended this more as a provocation than anything else, assuming the crowd would think the work was outside their purview—a painting or work of public art, but not a film. 38  After a few stalled months trying to secure a meeting with the MTA, Amy Zimmer contacted Brand to write about the lost work of public art for an article in Metro NY in 2007.



experimenting with different cleaning methods and collaboration with the graffiti removal service that cleaned bus stations in the city, the piece was restored. Brand commented how “graffiti cleaners became art restorers,” and vice versa.39 Since transit services were affected by the financial crisis of 2008, the MTA did not want to convey to the public that they were spending money on art while cutting service (even though they did not foot the bill for restoration). They did not put out a press release or even turn the lights on until over a month after renovation was complete. Despite this lack of fanfare, Brand remarked, “it got picked up without any publicity or effort to contact the press because [now] the people who work in the institutions [that report on art] take that train,”40 indicating how demographic change, public art, and urban moving images are tightly intertwined. Furthermore, now that commuters could easily Google the work and even view Brand’s video documentation on YouTube, some of the initial anonymity of the artist subsided as all online content has Brand’s name attached. The work was even included in the Museum of the City of New York’s exhibition Art in the Open in 2017 with documentation and Brand’s original model. Unlike a flash in the dark that zips before your eyes, now the piece can be viewed again on computer and mobile screens. The interest generated and sustained for the piece online suggests the work garners a genuine sense of ownership among the community, underscored by the outcry on local blogs following graffiti tagging on the work’s panels during subway closings from the floods of Super Storm Sandy in 2012 (the work was quickly restored by the MTA in 2013). What Brand calls the “resilience” of the piece is what keeps it relevant today: it sits in an in-between or interstitial space; it is subway art, but not in a station; it is underground, but legal. The work appeals to “that aspect of public art which is neither monument nor an artwork in a museum.”41

Zimmer also contacted MTA Arts & Design Director Sandra Bloodworth, who was quoted in the article suggesting that if Brand came up with a certain amount of money, MTA Arts for Transit would take care of the rest. Brand, Interview by author. 39  Brand. The graffiti removal service was MetroClean/ShelterExpress. 40  Brand. One of the first articles was on the blog of Lincoln Center Film Society, which was soon followed by an article by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times. Randy Kennedy, “Attention Passengers! To Your Right, This Trip Is About to Become Trippy,” The New York Times, January 1, 2009, sec. Arts / Art & Design. 41  Brand, interview by author.



Masstransiscope is both a brief, enchanting moment in a commuter’s daily routine and a permanent installation in a transit system. Caught between the fleeting immateriality of its ephemeral illusion and the practical concerns of its material apparatus, the work’s position within public art was precarious, even with no home.42 While institutional homelessness threatened the work’s longevity, its novelty and prompting of an unheimlich encounter not only jolts the commuter’s usual “default sensory-­ psychic-­intellectual disposition” while riding the subway but also returns them to the sensory and spatial world.43 In particular, the work’s moving image illusion makes us acknowledge our very real movement through the train tunnel. Masstransiscope introduces key aspects of moving image-­ based public art—the possibility for enchantment, the variety of public response, and institutional precarity—that run through myriad types of moving images, even more cinematic projections onto architectural screens.

Dreamy Encounters and Nocturnal Illuminations As Erika Balsom contends, the projected image is a fundamentally public image that escapes possession and can assume a massive scale.44 Projection, unlike a light-emitting display, also requires darkness. In public art, this means that moving image artworks that employ projection most often occur at night, when the demographics and paces of passersby shift, working hours end, and businesses close. The illumination of architecture during the hours of the night dematerializes their forms and generates new ones. Scott McQuire calls this nocturnal transformation the “oneiric city” that “exists only at night and whose dream forms have only tenuous connections to the prosaic spaces of the waking day.”45 Nocturnal projections—and their dreamy transformations of public space—have deep histories from fireworks spectaculars to illuminated transparency paintings in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century pleasure gardens. In the early 42  The “homelessness” of the moving image becomes a key concern in Andrew V. Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). I pick this up further in Chap. 6. 43  Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics, 4. 44  Erika Balsom, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013), 43. 45  Scott McQuire, The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (Los Angeles: Sage, 2008), 122.



twentieth century, stereopticons made by magic lantern manufacturers projected advertising and other messages in major urban centers.46 One such projection appears in the background of John Sloan’s painting Election Night (1907), which documents the common practice of projecting political cartoons and live updates for crowds gathered to watch the returns together in public space—a precursor to the massive, high-­ resolution projection of live data from the 2016 election onto the Empire State Building. In Sloan’s painting, figures are partying, carrying on, and only casually regarding the screen behind them—yet the screen is what brings people together in this particular space and connects the gathering to a live event happening elsewhere. Projecting movies in parks, a popular practice in many cities, generates a similar energy: a shared social space with varying degrees of spectator engagement. Projection is a particularly attractive means for arts institutions to turn inside out, transforming their external walls into viewing surfaces that expand the black box spaces within. The Urban Video Project in Syracuse, New York, projects onto the almost perfectly 16:9 proportioned façade of I.M. Pei’s 1965 building for the Everson Museum of Art. The inaugural projection at the museum was The Quintet of the Astonished (2000) by Bill Viola in 2010.47 The slowness and high definition of Viola’s work make it both arresting on a cinematic scale and legible to a passerby. Prior to its appearance as public art, Nigel Thrift claimed Viola’s work was instrumental to unpacking the affective geographies of urban space from quattrocento frescoes to the looming faces of twenty-first-century moving image billboards. He argues that Viola’s “visual ‘vocabulary’ cracks open familiar horizons of space and time and shows the way that wheres can also be elsewheres, and how these new alignments might offer new affective resonances and resources.”48 The Quintet of the Astonished, though not originally created for outdoor exhibition, takes on new meaning and scale through architectural projection quite distinct from its original dedicated gallery setting. The work in this context comes closer to the history of drive-ins and outdoor films and perhaps even more completely 46  Erkki Huhtamo, “Messages on the Wall: An Archaeology of Public Media Displays,” in Urban Screens Reader, ed. Scott McGuire, Meredith Martin, and Sabine Niederer, INC Readers 5 (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2009), 20. 47  Viola is one of the foremost names in American video art as well as an alumnus of Syracuse and former video technician at Everson. 48  Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (New York: Routledge, 2007), 196.



interrogates the affective geographies of urban space. Street Views at the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum similarly features a rotating selection of video art, begun in 2013, that screens from dusk to midnight on the building’s conveniently shaped, flat, widescreen façade. A host of other institutions have similarly turned their exterior surfaces into sites for projection as moving image artworks increasingly populate their collections and high-lumen projectors become more affordable. While a number of artists employ monumental projection and their work appears throughout the remaining chapters, Doug Aitken is one of the most well-known in the field, using projection to produce what he calls “liquid architecture,”49 a concept that expands into his gallery work and exploration of reflective materials and sound. His moving images contain the close-ups, camera movements, and production value of the cinema, making their amplified scale through public projection conducive to a kind of spectatorship that approaches the threshold of cinematic immersion. Sleepwalkers (2007), his multi-channel projection onto the exterior of the Museum of Modern Art co-commissioned by the museum and Creative Time, is perhaps one of the most often-cited works of moving image-based public art and deals explicitly with the theme of dreams. Through a mixture of individual vignettes and non-narrative abstract and urban imagery, Sleepwalkers drew a large audience despite its run during winter months and projected a vision of urban life that could be critiqued as cool, placeless, and over-stylized.50 Balsom goes even further to contend that Sleepwalkers’s disruption of linear narrative and multi-channel form does little to liberate the spectator. Instead, she argues, the work operates as a jubilant celebration of the false freedoms of neoliberalism and a video billboard for the institution on par with the LED screens in nearby Times Square.51 The bird’s eye view of most photographic reproductions of the work reinforces this institutional aspect at the expense of the viewpoint of the spectator and the somewhat melancholy tone of its narratives. Though this critique is not without cause—The 59th Minute, a public art initiative in Times Square that I explore in the next chapter, hosted a related video by Doug Aitken on an advertising screen as a tie-in—a darkened sculpture garden still affords an entirely different form of 49  Doug Aitken, “Liquid Architecture: In Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist,” in Doug Aitken: 100YRS (New York: Rizzoli, 2013), 158–59. 50  Elizabeth Schambelan, “Nightwatch,” Film Comment 43, no. 2 (April 3, 2007): 17. 51  Balsom, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art, 56–58.



spectatorship than the spaces of Times Square. Cinematic situations like those of Doug Aitken (even when they verge on narrative forms) can produce a mode of spectatorial absorption that creates moments of pause and co-presence with others. The oneiric quality and shared spatiality of a large-scale projection, coupled with longer loops and narrative imagery, prompt spectators to linger in the liminal experience of being both in public space and absorbed in the image. In 2012 Aitken developed outdoor museum projection further with a work that incorporated his long-­ standing interest in music to imagine public projection not merely as a means of turning the institution inside out but of producing a public sculpture out of the shared cultural and spatial experiences of popular music and the cinema.

Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012): Cinema-in-the-Round52 The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., a large concrete cylinder designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and completed in 1974, stands out among its surroundings on the National Mall. Its modernist form contrasts sharply with the neoclassicism of much of the Mall; its bare concrete façade lacks the ornament and color of the neighboring Smithsonian Institution Building (designed by James Renwick, Jr. in 1849 and known affectionately as “the castle”); and its opaque curvilinear form departs from the cube-like glass and steel massing of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum across 7th Street. In the spring of 2012, eleven projectors transformed this modernist cylinder into a nocturnal cinematic spectacle: Doug Aitken’s SONG 1, a 360-degree cinematic homage to the pop standard “I Only Have Eyes for You” (Fig. 2.3). As spectators looked up, the iconic song played alternately in doowop, country, acapella, ragtime, new age, and other musical styles. A series of moving images shifted between abstractions akin to early modernist experiments in visual music, images of singers performing in spectral recording 52  The ideas in this chapter were first published by Intellect as Annie Dell’Aria, “Cinema– in–the–Round: Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012), the Hirshhorn Museum and the Pleasures of  Cinematic Projection,” Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) 3, no. 2 (December  1, 2014): 208–21. They appear here with  the  permission of  the  journal and publisher.



Fig. 2.3  Doug Aitken, SONG I, 2012. Video projection; color; sound. Running time: 00:34:42; dimensions variable. Joseph H.  Hirshhorn Bequest Fund and Anonymous Gift, 2012, dedicated in honor of Kerry Brougher’s service to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2000–2014), 2014. (Image: Frederick Charles, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

studios, classic reel-to-reel tape decks, and occasionally a famous face, such as Tilda Swinton or Devendra Banhart. Other vignettes evoked the isolation of subjects yearning for contact in the spaces of contemporary American cities: characters sang along to the soundtrack in a factory, in a sleepy late-night diner, and alone in cars or parking lots. In terms of content, the work was non-narrative, circular, lacking a clear beginning or end, and aesthetically similar to a well-produced music video, making it not too far of a departure from the cinematic gallery installation work of Aitken and many others since the 1990s. SONG 1’s scale engulfed the modern and contemporary art building, a feat made possible through projection-mapping technology and by deliberately placing the eleven projectors around the surrounding walls to avoid obstruction by existing public sculptures, such as Kenneth Snelson’s Needle Tower (1968) and Roy Lichtenstein’s monumental Brushstroke (1996). In many ways, the



physical installation was as much a part of the work’s meaning as the images and sounds projected. To experience SONG 1 was to be entranced and seduced by its scale, soundscape, high production value, and exhibition. SONG 1 operates between film, public art, and major museum event. Its sense of cinematic enchantment prompted viewers to simultaneously enter into the dreamy, visually seductive world of the cinematic image and have a shared, social experience outside in public space. Cinematic Museum Aitken’s interest in museums is long-standing: his projections onto them go back to untitled (secession eyes) in 2000, a two-channel video installation onto the flat surfaces of the Secession Building in Vienna. Aitken cites an early trip to this museum with his parents as it was under renovation as formative in his development: “It was a construction site, the interior was destroyed…It was a liberating experience, seeing the construction and feeling that there was a sense of danger and action around us.”53 Aitken’s desire to realize a dynamic and “liquid” museum architecture through the moving image also intersected with the Hirshhorn’s architectural form and institutional interest in the cinematic. Aesthetically, Bunshaft’s design for the museum suggests a number of connections to the cinema. First, the Hirshhorn’s interior progression of spaces follow Bundshaft’s cylindrical form, one opening to the next in a type of cinematic narrative similar to what Giuliana Bruno discussed as the museological architectural promenade that prefigured the cinema but without its sense of choice.54 When a visitor enters a gallery, rather than having an option of which way to go next, the Hirshhorn’s architecture guides them to the next place, creating a cinematic unfolding in space and organizing the art-viewing experience along a narrative path. Second, the façade offers a smooth surface for projecting images and films, having no historicist detailing and only one break in the concrete surface—the panoramic window and balcony of the Abram Lerner Room. The Hirshhorn’s curatorial team had long envisioned the potential of Bunshaft’s façade for cinematic projection, and Aitken was an obvious choice for the short list  Aitken, “Liquid Architecture: In Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist,” 158.  Giuliana Bruno, Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), 19–20. Curator Kerry Brougher also mentioned how this is particularly filmic in the linear progression of the Hirshhorn’s rooms. 53 54



of potential artists to be involved after the success of Sleepwalkers in 2007.55 In 2010, Aitken was invited to visit the Hirshhorn to participate in the redesign of the bookshop, and upon arriving at the site, he remarked on the potential for the façade to be used as a screen for a large-scale projection (as curator Kerry Brougher hoped would happen).56 Aitken’s design for the bookshop was dropped in favor of Barbara Kruger’s striking red, black, and white texts, but SONG 1 continued to develop. Beyond the Hirshhorn’s cinematic architecture, the institution has also embraced moving image artwork through a long-standing rotating black box exhibition space and significant historical exhibitions, such as The Cinema Effect (2008).57 The museum’s site-specific programming also involved important precedents to SONG 1. Works (1987–1993) invited artists to the museum to create fourteen temporary site-specific works within the museum and garden grounds.58 Krzysztof Wodiczko’s slide projection featured two hands holding a gun and a candle flanking a row of microphones under the museum’s balcony, a critique of the hyperbolic language of the 1988 election, and the only precursor to activate the façade as a screen. A conceptual drawing of David Ireland’s initial concept illuminated the building at night with either a ring of fire circling the roof or flames jutting out from the Lerner Room balcony. Ireland’s realized project was more subtle, but similarly cinematic, masking the Lerner Room’s panoramic views to “bring to a viewer’s attention a variety of

 Kerry Brougher, interview by author, November 26, 2013.  Brougher. 57  Black Box, a dedicated space for moving image artwork, began at the Hirshhorn in 2005 and ran until 2016, though the museum still frequently shows video in black box spaces in its basement level. Defined as a “quick-response venue” by associate curator Kelly Gordon, this space establishes a continuing presence for video art, film, and moving image installation. In a major two-part exhibition, The Cinema Effect (2008), the museum investigated the prevalence of moving images in both contemporary art and visual culture. Divided into two parts, “Dreams” and “Realities,” The Cinema Effect exhibited pivotal works by artists such as Steve McQueen, Tacita Dean, Andy Warhol, Jeremy Deller, Stan Douglas, Kerry Tribe, and Pierre Huyghe. 58  Each project lasted around three months and had its own brochure with a curatorial introduction and artist interview. The full list of artists or artist combinations (in chronological order) is as follows: Sol LeWitt, Kate Ericson/Mel Ziegler, Vernon Fisher, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Daniel Buren, Buster Simpson, Houston Conwill, Matt Mullican, Dennis Adams, David Ireland, Lawrence Weiner, Ann Hamilton/Kathryn Clark, Alfredo Jaar, and Joseph Kosuth. 55 56



specific and interesting sites.”59 Alfredo Jaar called the Lerner Room’s panoramic windows “the only break in the exterior surface of this imposing bunker structure, the only crack in the skin of this defiant, self-­ contained, monolithic monument.”60 For SONG 1, this room’s balcony was merely an inconsistency in the illusion rather than an exploited rupture, as cinematic projection already transformed the formerly impenetrable bunker into a permeable membrane. SONG 1 can also be seen as an extension of the institutional push to engage broader audiences. In the museum director’s statement to the catalog for SONG 1, Richard Koshalek discussed the work as “challenging museums to move beyond their walls and into their public areas, to invert their galleries into exterior spaces, to become vital well beyond traditional hours of operation and to expand their audiences to include even the most incidental of passersby.”61 This “new museology” has in recent years prompted many museums to rethink their relationship to audiences and the public sphere and to include new voices and communities.62 The rise in major blockbuster shows, large-scale public initiatives, and public art events can all be seen as an extension of the shifting relationship between arts agencies and museums and their publics, as well as increased concern over attendance. This is not, of course, without critique, as Erika Balsom warned regarding Sleepwalkers’ means of marketing the museum experience. SONG 1’s position outside the bounds of the museum and its massive scale demand attention from a broader audience and envelop the museum in cinematic spectacle. In this regard, SONG 1 can be connected to the immersive cinema boom of the 1950s in its effort to attract an uninterested audience leaving the communal spaces of the cinema for more individualized, domestic, and mobile media consumption.63 When considering the notion that the scale of the projection is attempting to get more 59  David Ireland and Ned Rifkin, David Ireland: WORKS, July 25-November 4, 1990 (Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 1990). 60  Alfredo Jaar and Amanda Cruz, Alfredo Jaar: WORKS, November 7, 1991–March 29, 1992 (Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 1990). 61  Richard Koshalek, “Director’s Statement,” in Doug Aitken: Song 1, ed. Kerry Brougher et al. (Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2012), 117. 62  Jennifer Barrett, Museums and the Public Sphere (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). 63  Kerry Brougher discusses the formal connection between widescreen initiatives in film history to SONG 1’s wrap-around images, but the institutional connection is my own. Kerry Brougher, “Decrystallized Music,” in Doug Aitken: Song 1, ed. Kerry Brougher et  al. (Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2012), 26.



people into the museum’s doors, it is important to note that the Hirshhorn, unlike the MoMA, is entirely free admission. The work’s actual cinematic effects were also quite distinct from the spectatorial immersion of widescreen, pointing to both the image’s visual pleasures and the shared spatial and social encounter among many publics who encountered the work. Amorous Entrancement In his 1975 essay “Leaving the Movie Theater,” Roland Barthes imagined an alternative mode of film spectatorship by pondering how the dreamy haze of leaving the darkened theater is like coming out of hypnosis. He argued that within the cinema’s seductive potential lies a positive means of viewing, one that can both escape the trap of the Lacanian mirror of apparatus film theory and revel in the image’s enchanting properties. This liminal state between the dream of the image and physical presence in material space is analogous to the fog one experiences emerging from the darkened theater. He writes: How to come unglued from the mirror? I’ll risk a pun to answer: by taking off (in the aeronautical and narcotic sense of the term)….Many things can help us “come out of” (imaginary and/or ideological) hypnosis: the very methods of an epic art, the spectator’s culture or his ideological vigilance; contrary to classical hysteria, the image-repertoire vanishes once one observes that it exists. But there is another way of going to the movies (besides being armed by the discourse of counter-ideology); by letting oneself be fascinated twice over, by the image and by its surroundings—as if I had two bodies at the same time: a narcissistic body which gazes, lost, into the engulfing mirror, and a perverse body, ready to fetishize not the image but precisely what exceeds it: the texture of the sound, the hall, the darkness, the obscure mass of the other bodies, the rays of light, entering the theater, leaving the hall; in short, in order to distance, in order to “take off,” I complicate a “relation” by a “situation.”64

There are a number of things rather striking about this quote, most notably its (at the time) rather polemic dismissal of counter-ideology. As Andrew Uroskie notes, “such a hybrid form of attention would refuse the absorptive singularity of the dream, but no longer in the name of a simple 64  Roland Barthes, “Leaving the Movie Theater (1975),” in The Rustle of Language, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 349.



material or ideological ‘reality’ beyond all dreaming. Rather it would work to replace the strict opposition between reality and dream with the structural ambivalence of fantasy.”65 For Barthes, the cinematic situation is one that is fundamentally spatial and embodied while simultaneously prompted and sustained by an amorous visual encounter. The distance from the filmic text required to “take off” (to be “moved” in Bruno’s terms) does not require a denial of the seductive spaces of the cinema’s image-­ repertoire, but rather an enjoyment of the in-between, perceptual doubleness of both the image and the embodied, physical, and social space of the projection event. I can attest to the “amorous” and dreamy atmosphere of the work in my own experience of the piece. Surrounded by museums, government office buildings, and the memorial landscape of the National Mall, the location is usually fairly inactive at night, not being near any nightlife or residential areas. Aitken’s work changed this, and the site was surprisingly busy during the evenings of the projection. Many of the spectators I observed appropriated established codes for viewing narrative cinema in public spaces: they brought chairs, blankets, and (in general) kept their voices low or did not speak. These types of viewers were mostly located inside the northwest corner of the block, sealed off from the street and enclosed within a wall in the sculpture plaza like a theatrical audience. A larger, slightly chattier group of viewers were just across the narrow, quiet Jefferson Drive, a bit closer to the National Mall, a place where one can better apprehend the sculptural span of the cylindrical work as well as take in the widescreen experience (although with the balcony disrupting the smoothness of the screen). Another handful of viewers gathered across the busier 7th Street, where the sound could still be heard, and more were peppered around the entire building, though primarily avoiding obstructing trees in the park and bright lights of Independence Avenue. Of the dozen or so spectators I spoke with, all seemed to react positively to the project and especially the song, calling it “a marvelous distraction,” “a little gem,” and “an awesome video installation.” One person referred to the ballad as the perfect American song, and many viewers remarked they also enjoyed glimpses caught as they drove by in a car. Though some claimed they “didn’t get it,” most found that the project was worthwhile and that the museum should offer more projections. 65  Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art, 37.



Nearly all of the people I spoke with had heard about the project through major news outlets, such as The Washington Post and local news, and did not describe themselves as regular visitors to the Hirshhorn. This seems to suggest that the museum’s goals for a broader audience were met, and that the primary spatial function of Aitken’s work was to visually attract spectators to stop in their tracks, find a preferred viewing spot, and become (at least partially) transported via the screen. Spectatorship is neither completely captive and immersive as in readings of narrative cinema by apparatus theory nor entirely fleeting and momentary like the logic of the display, but rather a situation of dreamy enchantment within a polyvalent public space. As Kerry Brougher writes, “despite being in one sense the ultimate widescreen film, SONG 1 does not take the viewer out of this world…the visitor remains ‘outside’—external to both the theater and the film, remaining firmly within the actual landscape.”66 The work is “cinematic” inasmuch as it evokes a state of emotional and psychic transport through projection, scale, and soundscape, but it retains the perceptual doubleness and ambivalence of much of post-1990s moving image installation art. Maria Walsh calls this state “entrancement,” which is “neither self-­ reflexive (the mode conventionally attributed to viewing avant-garde film), nor bound by narrative identifications (as when viewing mainstream cinema), but is instead immersive and affective.”67 Walsh articulates this concept through a discussion of Lasso (2000), a single-channel video work by Finnish artist Salla Tykkä. Lasso features a moment of female desire as an adolescent girl voyeuristically views a young man lassoing in an empty room, then is moved to tears. The final shot fades from the surrounding wintry landscape to video “snow,” disrupting diegetic space with an abstraction made by the apparatus itself. This is not, as Walsh notes, an “occasion for taking up a critical position towards the seductive illusions of the image,” but rather a means to pull us further into its affective world.68 Similar to the abstract space of the video snow in Tykkä’s piece, SONG 1 is interspersed with abstract or kaleidoscopic patterns between the vignettes, breaking any continuous narrative space but in a way that 66  Kerry Brougher, “Decrystallized Music,” in Doug Aitken: Song 1, ed. Kerry Brougher et al. (Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2012), 29. 67  Maria Walsh, “‘You’ve Got Me under Your Spell’: The Entranced Spectator,” in Screen/ Space: The Projected Image in Contemporary Art, ed. Tamara Trodd, Rethinking Art’s Histories (New York: Manchester University Press, 2011), 113. 68  Walsh, 113.



further pulls the viewer into the work’s enchanting encounter rather than distancing them from it. What ties the two visual realms (the abstract and the narrative) together in both works, and what Walsh mentions as “hypnotic,” is sound. The Ennio Morricone soundtrack to Lasso is not only instantly recognizable as part of a certain genre of film, but is also complete with its own affective highs and lows, which is precisely how “I Only Have Eyes for You” functions in SONG 1. For Aitken, the aural soundscape is just as important as the image.69 The many interpretations of the pop standard in SONG 1 reinforce the lyrics, which call attention to the ocular senses and their capacity for Walsh’s entrancement or Barthes’s amorous infatuation. Lines such as “I can’t see anyone but you” or “ I don’t know if we’re in a garden, or a crowded avenue” suggest a peripheral awareness of an exterior world from the site of interest and a deliberate shutting out of that world—a form of selective vision and active transportation into the site of one’s obsession. The sculpture garden, surrounding streets, and even other people are there, but they momentarily disappear as the spectator is willingly entranced by the cinematic image, much like Barthes’s amorous situation. The song, made most famous in its Motown iteration in 1959 by The Flamingos, was actually written for the screen and performed by Dick Powell in the 1934 Warner Brothers’ film Dames, directed by Ray Enright and Busby Berkeley. The first time the number appears is a fairly naturalistic scene aboard the Staten Island Ferry where Powell serenades his love, played by Ruby Keeler. The next time we hear the song, Powell’s sweet nothings on the subway morph into a romantic, hallucinatory rereading of the surrounding advertising space—Keeler’s face starts to pop up in multiple advertisements, collapsing romantic love and commodity. The scene then cuts to pure fantasy and the frenetic spaces of Busby Berkeley. The imaginary location brought on by Powell sitting next to his real true love—a means of domesticating advertising images in public space—forms a fictional parallel to what happens to the spectator gazing up at the Hirshhorn. The faces and voices projected in SONG 1 seemed to sing to the work of art itself, or at least to the magical, visually immersive experience of cinematic projection and the momentary reveries we elect to enter into 69  Aitken held a happening with live music at the Hirshhorn one night during the run, and many of his other works include live performance and music, such as Black Mirror (2011) and Station–to–Station (2013).



when we encounter its image. In SONG 1’s film, nearly all of the actors and singers are alone (and if not, they are at least not connecting in the same amorous way as Powell and Keeler). For this reason, the work can in one sense be understood as rather dark—engaging with themes of loneliness, isolation, and alienation in a generic and dispersed city, echoing Sleepwalkers.70 The only connection between the characters is the shared text of the song, itself a commercial product. The amorous encounter understood this way, then, can refer to an unrequited love, or even a melancholic love dwarfed by the image’s immensity and overcome in the song’s affective and mnemonic resonance, which is then shared in the social space of the sculpture garden. Cinema Sculpture Mary Ann Doane has discussed the proliferation of large, horizontally expansive screens in relationship to the notion of Immanuel Kant’s boundless sublime. She writes, “widescreen processes allowed the accentuation of the fullness and presence of the image and the denial of its ‘outside,’ of the alterity of off-screen space. They invoked the idea of an infinity of horizontal space, reinforcing the promise of infinite depth of the vanishing point.”71 The image’s expansive immersion serves to reassert the Cartesian subject posited by Renaissance perspective (rather than sublimating it as a finite form). Cinemascope, projected on a curved concave screen, became popular around the same moment in cinematic exhibition as the proliferation of widescreen, widespread use of 3D, and explosion in popularity of color. These immersive spectacles of scale attempted to seduce audiences back into the theater’s seats by differentiating their product from television. The rhetoric behind CinemaScope and Cinerama are paralleled in today’s IMAX—one of immersion where the boundary between screen space and exhibition space dissolves. In one advertisement, the tagline “IMAX Is Believing” is superseded by the words “See a UFO or get sucked into one.” Immersion within the physical space of the screen is therefore made analogous to immersion within the narrative diegesis. 70  In my discussion with Kerry Brougher, he suggests that in many ways the piece perhaps has not been entirely understood. This dark, emotive quality is often left out for discussions of scale and technology. Brougher, Interview by author. 71  Mary Ann Doane, “Scale and the Negotiation of ‘Real’ and ‘Unreal’ Space in the Cinema,” NTU Studies in Language and Literature 20 (December 2008): 16.



IMAX found some of its earliest adopters in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Air and Space Museum, neighbors of the Hirshhorn and part of the same Smithsonian group of museums.72 As I have alluded to, SONG 1 perhaps has an institutional aim parallel to commercial IMAX and Cinerama—using large-scale spectacle to reintegrate the museum into the life of the city and make the institution more attractive in the wake of the proliferation of other forms of media. This is where the IMAX comparison ends, even though scale is a significant way SONG 1 addresses its spectators and surroundings. The moving image physically dominated the museum’s sculptural neighbors, as indicated in the view from Independence Avenue where Alexander Calder’s Two Discs (1965), a symbol of the public sculpture revival, is rendered inert, inconsequential, and merely decorative underneath Aitken’s massive projection. On the other side, Aitken’s widescreen pop song homage shrank pop art master Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke (1996) (Fig. 2.4). In these photographs of SONG 1, and in the increasingly cinematic programming across the Smithsonian, the projection screen seems to have conquered the museum—both inside and out. However, the mode of address in SONG 1 is fundamentally different than those offered by the large screens at the NMNH or Air and Space—one more of public invitation than immersive voyage. The alterity denied in Doane’s reading of widescreen is reinforced and made instantly apparent by SONG 1’s wrap-around image, forcing the viewer to notice the limitations between their eye’s point of vision and the tangents on the screen’s surface. In this way, one can never “see” the entire film.73 Though the complete image cannot be fully apprehended from any one vantage point, viewers, rather than relentlessly circling the screen’s surface and remaining mobile, were content to let duration, not movement, serve as access to the “whole.” Indeed, the film’s image constructs this type of viewing. Editing a work that wrapped around a surface proved quite a challenge for Aitken and his team. First, they needed to digitally manipulate and warp the image using projection-mapping technology so that, when projected from eleven irregularly placed projectors, it would appear seamless. Second, the artist and editors were left wondering how to make the film 72  Alison Griffiths, Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). 73  Based on my personal experience, observations, and conversations with viewers, this was not a deterrent for engagement.



Fig. 2.4  Doug Aitken, SONG I, 2012. Video projection; color; sound. Running time: 00:34:42; dimensions variable. Joseph H.  Hirshhorn Bequest Fund and Anonymous Gift, 2012, dedicated in honor of Kerry Brougher’s service to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2000–2014), 2014. (Image: Frederick Charles, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

work for the viewer and in the round. At some moments, a continuous image wrapped around the entire building, such as the ring of matches lit at the opening of the doowop rendition of the song (a formal parallel to David Ireland’s proposal), spinning tape deck reels, a round of female singers against a black background, or various abstractions that enveloped the surface (moments analogous to Walsh’s “entranced” encounter with video snow). These moments’ rarity within the piece provided punctuation that reinforced the architectural surface and scale. For most of the piece, though, the continuous image fragmented into seven separate “screens.” The “screens” did not always repeat the same shot, but the content was similar: different angles on a singer or two characters singing in cars facing the same direction. These virtual screens were also unstable and shifted in scale and moved along the surface of the architectural façade. Being totally digitally simulated, these simulated, moving screens broke with the traditional cinematic relationship between static projector,



rectangular image, and spectator. The screens danced across the horizontal expanse of the Hirshhorn in a manner that paralleled a moving car window and the moving perspective of viewers of Masstransiscope, alluding to urban forms of movement and pointing back to the shared physical and social space surrounding the screen.74 The fractured images of SONG 1 would seem to engender a mobile spectatorship much like Aitken’s multiscreen gallery installation electric earth (1999), which charts one man’s movements through a ghost-town version of Los Angeles across eight projection screens in multiple rooms. In this earlier work, the viewer must physically move in order to experience the piece in an intentionally fragmented way. “Film and video structure our experience in a linear way,” Aitken said, “…how can I break through this idea…how can I make time somehow collapse or expand so it no longer unfolds in this narrow form?”75 Alison Butler argues that a similar fragmentation occurred in Sleepwalkers: “it is an experience in shared public space but individualized by the specific body framing of each spectator.”76 SONG 1’s massive scale and editing, which certainly expanded traditional cinema’s forms, did not prompt this manner of postmodern, museological flânerie. Rather than a cinema-path, SONG 1 is a cinema sculpture, and with its considerable scale in public space, even a cinema-monument. In this way, the work’s mode of address performs an inversion of cinema’s normative form by denying Renaissance perspective’s affirmation of the singular subject. It advances this, however, not by the postmodern fragmentation of the subject, but rather by minimalism’s phenomenological affirmation of the object and corresponding activation of the space around it. The scale of the screen in relationship to the body is a key element of the work’s power, but the image does not expand laterally into one’s peripheral vision, but rather folds in on itself, suggesting a complete image grasped by the viewer but unknowable to the eye at any one instant. 74  Daniel Birnbaum has noted how central “the sensation of driving a car” is to much of Aitken’s work. Daniel Birnbaum, “That’s the Only Now I Get: Time, Space, and Environment in the Work of Doug Aitken,” in Doug Aitken (Contemporary Artists), ed. Daniel Birnbaum (New York: Phaidon Press, 2001), 45. 75  Aitken, quoted in Kate Mondloch, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 49. 76   Alison Butler, “Sleepwalking from New  York to Miami,” in Urban Cinematics: Understanding Urban Phenomena through the Moving Image, ed. François Penz and Andong Lu (Bristol: Intellect, 2011), 188.



The later gallery presentation of SONG 1, which features a hanging ring-­ shaped screen with projections visible on either side and enterable through an aperture, complicates this. The two iterations draw a line between public art and gallery installation in terms of address: one exploratory and enterable, the other monumental and seen from many vantage points at once. Embedded within the 360-degree projection onto the walls of the Hirshhorn was the shared experience of the projection event itself. While the image may be unknowable to any one viewer, the work’s visibility from multiple points in a public space suggests access, a collective vision, and a shared sense of momentary enchantment through image and sound, alluding to the social condition of cinematic projection and its potential to activate public space. Masstransiscope and SONG 1, artworks that span proto-cinematic and digital projection-mapping technologies, come from decades that bookend my study. They demonstrate how the moving image’s ontological tensions both produce moments of spectatorial enchantment in public space and point to the moving image’s liminal and at times precarious position within infrastructures and institutions. These two moments of encounter—one a brief blip in the everyday movements of a commuter, the other an oneiric special event—enliven otherwise darkened or drab surfaces of urban space in ways that engage urban movement. While Masstransiscope relies on a spectator in motion and SONG 1 prompts spectators to stop and take in the work, both create a sense of shifting perspectives along a horizontal urban surface—one through the viewer’s movement and the other through the movement of virtual screens along a projection surface. With their ability to attract attention nearly a given, the question they pose is what this attention means, and what kinds of opportunities they extend to members of the public to engage with art. I contend that these works are examples of the progressive possibilities of enchantment through moving image-based public art, moments that catch people unaware, provide a sensory pleasure and fullness, and return us more fully to the physical and social world around us. The success of these works opens up the question of how works can compete for attention in more highly mediated public spaces. Can art produce moments of enchantment within the more spectacular environment of a mediated commercial center, or does it merely contribute to visual noise? In the next chapter, I turn to curatorial initiatives to bring public moving image artworks onto advertising screens, looking particularly at mutations and tactics within moving image artworks in Times Square.


Commercial Breaks: Intra-spectacular Public Art

Hypermediated commercial districts like New York’s Times Square are often derided as crass, busy, and only for tourists. These spaces—and particularly the advertising-dominated screens within them—are seen by cultural theorists and locals alike as anathema to the “real” city and even psychically damaging to passersby. Indeed, despite no explicit mention of urban screens in Guy Debord’s famous text, spaces like Times Square have become shorthand for the “society of the spectacle.”1 The industry that places screens in public spaces even appropriates this language and calls its particularly large, eye-catching, and primely located moving signs “spectaculars.”2 The possibilities for public art within these spaces initially appear slim, threatened to become co-opted by advertising and development or lost amidst an overload of visual stimuli. Nevertheless, public art has been included on advertising screens in Times Square for decades, interrupting or harnessing their affective power over passersby.

1  Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994). 2  Specifically, “spectaculars” are defined as “large and elaborate, non-standard structures custom-designed to gain maximum attention through such eye-catching special effects” located in high-visibility areas. “Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Inc. > About OOH > OOH Basics > OOH Media Formats > Spectaculars,” accessed August 21, 2018,

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




In science fiction films, advertising-saturated public spaces define many dystopian futures. These spaces are read as a series of ocular assaults on unwitting subjects. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) is certainly the most often cited, yet two later films, They Live (John Carpenter, 1988) and Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002), specifically cast out-of-home advertising in the near future as invasive to unwitting passersby and requiring tactics of ocular avoidance. In They Live, John Nada stumbles across a box of sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it really is: controlled by reptilian-looking aliens and full of directives to sleep, obey, and conform. When Nada first looks through the glasses, his point of view appears in black and white, subduing the bright and colorful Los Angeles setting. Signage, media, and billboards transform into clear imperative statements in a visual style reminiscent of Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer—“Obey,” “Marry and Reproduce,” “Consume,” “Conform,” “Stay Asleep.” In Minority Report, John Anderton navigates a shopping mall equipped with retinal scanners, triggering individualized holographic advertisements to pop up along his path, like web cookies in physical space. Later in the film, when trying to evade surveillance systems, Anderton receives a back-alley eye transplant in order to move through public space as someone else. In both films, the protagonist must somehow alter the input of publicity to his eyes in order to combat the hypnotic or panoptic effects of advertising in public spaces. Far from enchanting, these films imagined spectacular images in public spaces to be placing dangerous hexes on unwitting passersby, prompting subjects to divert their gaze by any means necessary. In colloquial terms, we call this strategy of visual avoidance “urban blinders.” Implied in both the science fiction critique and the everyday tactic of urban blinders are the interrelated concepts of distraction and attention. Often maligned as the enemy of concentration, distraction has been historically used to define much of the spatial experience of modernity, specifically with regard to the cinema. Sigfried Kracauer’s critique of the “cult of distraction” disparaged Berlin movie palaces of the 1920s in terms of their “surface splendor”—those decorative elements of movie palaces which exceeded the film so as “to rivet the audience’s attention to the peripheral so that they will not sink into the abyss.”3 More ambivalently and even with potential positive effects, Walter Benjamin saw distraction as a fundamentally collective form of apprehension: “a man who 3  Siegfried Kracauer and Thomas Y.  Levin, “Cult of Distraction: On Berlin’s Picture Palaces,” New German Critique, no. 40 (1987): 94.



concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it…In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art.”4 Benjamin makes this notion of distraction notably spatial and temporal by using architecture as an example of an artwork apprehended through distraction in addition to film.5 Screensaturated public spaces can be read in relationship to distraction in multiple ways: in terms of the superficiality of the screens’ many images; through their spatial, collective apprehension conditioned more by habit than by deliberate concentration; and as something for each individual screen to overcome in order to singularly engage a viewer. On the other hand, attention entails, according to William James, “a degree of reactive spontaneity,” honing in on one among several simultaneous things or ideas.6 It comes from both within and without; it can be garnered as much as it can be mustered. The “attention economy”—the notion that attention is a limited resource to be bought, sold, and leveraged like money—is premised on a concept of attention that believes it is valuable, attractable, and always under threat.7 It implies that attention is free-floating and up for grabs, and that captivating a viewer is momentary, fleeting, instantaneous, and monetizable. Strategies for attracting, maintaining, and monetizing the attention of an easily distracted viewer are not unique to screens placed in public spaces. In one of the most influential readings of broadcast television, Raymond Williams described how programming for the small screen involved “flow,” which stitches together a variety of programming and advertising so as to keep viewers’ attention. Williams wrote that we find ourselves getting “‘into’ something else before we have summoned the energy to get out of the chair.”8 While the sense of being lulled into the chair is clearly not the aim of public screens, the main goal of flow—viewer 4  Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn, first Schocken paperback edition (New York: Schocken, 1969), 239. 5  For a nuanced reading of Benjamin’s reading of the counterpoints of contemplation and distraction, and the role of attention in disrupting their related states, see Carolin Duttlinger, “Between Contemplation and Distraction: Configurations of Attention in Walter Benjamin,” German Studies Review 30, no. 1 (2007): 33–54. 6  William James, The Principles of Psychology (New York: Henry Holt, 1890), 402. 7  Thomas H.  Davenport and John C.  Beck, The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business, Revised edition (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2002). 8  Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form, 3rd edition (New York: Routledge, 2003), 94–95.



attention amidst competing stimuli—is similar in that public screens attempt to garner the attention of mobile passersby in public space. The question here may be less of flow than of flux; urban screen content is made to be both constantly on and ever-changing, pulling tiny snippets of attention in multiple (even simultaneous) directions rather than riveting the viewer to a chair. The advertising world uses terms like awareness, impressions, dwell time, message duration, and likelihood-to-see to measure how many people view a selected advertisement, how frequently, and for how long.9 Considering these concepts in relationship to how we look at art can be challenging given both the long-established art world preference for slow contemplation and prolonged viewing and public screens’ association with advertising and commodity fetishism, though the rift between the realms of art and advertising is of course not entirely cut and dry. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), a non-profit trade organization for the out-of-home advertising industry founded in 1891, advocated for the presence of outdoor advertising as a means of promoting access to “free art” precisely because of the masses’ increased access and quick apprehension.10 I am not arguing, as the OAAA once did, that advertising is public art, but it is possible to imagine how public art agencies and artists can effectively use the language and accessibility of media defined most often by commercialism to produce meaningful encounters with art in public space, as evident by a host of initiatives using billboards.11 Boston 9  The definitions provided by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America are as follows (sampled): “awareness: the recalled recognition of an OOH [out of home] advertising message by an individual or audience”; “impressions: the total number of times people are likely to notice an ad on an OOH display” (these are divided into gross and in-market); “dwell time: the interval of time when a consumer is in close proximity to an OOH ad”; “message duration: the interval of time when a digital OOH advertising message is viewed”; “likelihood to see: the portion of the OTS (opportunity to see) audience who are likely to see an ad…can also be referred to as commercial audiences.” “OOH Glossary of Terms,” Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), accessed August 11, 2020, 10  The OAAA responded to industry worries over increased zoning and regulatory restrictions by anti-billboard activists by establishing a self-regulatory body, similar to the development of the Production Code in the film industry decades later. For a full history of the controversies and battles over outdoor advertising and its relationship to the arts, with a particular eye to the context of New  York City, see Michele Helene Bogart, Artists, Advertising, and the Borders of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 79–124. 11  Billboards have been the site of significant critical public art, as illustrated in MassMoCA’s 1999 exhibition “Billboard: Art on the Road” and the billboard wing of the For Freedoms



Cyberarts’ Art on the Marquee, a project begun in 2012 and mentioned in Chap. 1, is but one recent example of this on-going phenomenon that brings moving image art to public screens normally used for advertising or signage. It might seem that these initiatives are but a drop in a pan in urban spaces saturated with advertising media or what Catrien Schreuder calls the “museum variant” of public video art, where public space is just a new platform for autonomous video artworks.12 The actual spectatorial situations are much more complex. As Dave Colangelo notes, curating artworks on media infrastructures involves “negotiations with corporate and civic entities, each with their own goals that impact what can be presented,” but through a strong curatorial voice and consideration of the complexities of screen situations, projects can realize “aesthetic critique and empathetic social connection.”13 There are multiple tactics for harnessing urban screens to curate content in public spaces, each responding to particular media environments and display technologies. Projects attract viewer attention in ways that parallel but differ slightly from advertising, at times offering up moments of enchantment that works within spectacle to point to its edges—what could be called an intra-spectacular mode of address. To examine how intra-spectacular initiatives evolve in a shifting urban mediascape, I examine a number of curatorial approaches from the 1980s to the present that brought moving image artworks into one of the most heavily trafficked and screen-saturated sites in the world—the electronic billboards that line the intersecting streets of New York’s Times Square. I locate moments of enchantment through encounters with artworks that draw upon the affective power of advertising while producing very different effects. As Jane Bennett points out, some form of enchantment is the goal of much of advertising, particularly through the animation of human and non-human objects in seemingly magical ways. By rereading the popular “Khakis Swing” Gap advertisement from 1998, Bennett seeks to initiative organized by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman to increase civic participation through public art. They have also been a site of collaboration between major museums and outdoor advertising groups, as in “Art Everywhere,” which ran in the UK in 2013 and 2014 and in the United States in 2014. 12  Catrien Schreuder, Pixels and Places: Video Art in Public Space (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2010), 9. 13  Dave Colangelo, The Building as Screen: A History, Theory, and Practice of Massive Media, MediaMatters (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 168.



“deny capitalism quite the degree of efficacy and totalizing power that its critics (and defenders) sometimes attribute to it and to exploit the positive ethical potential secreted within some of its elements.”14 She distinguishes enchantment—a mode of sensory delight that also contains within it a sense of the unheimlich—from what Adorno and Horkheimer call “amusement,” which is “too smooth a feeling to admit wonder and surprise, too contented for critical thinking to emerge as an aftereffect.”15 Within an urban mediascape full of slick amusements, moving image artworks have the capacity to generate enchanting encounters, not only by completely disrupting or exposing the infrastructure of commodity fetishism and capitalism, but by working within it to point to its edges and its secretions of other potential. Examining these modes of enchantment—and how they are intertwined with private interests in public space—begins to uncover how they imagine possibilities within spectacle.

Times Square Programming from Spectacolor Messages to Midnight Moments Times Square is, in many ways, defined by moving image culture. From the flashing bulbs and animations of the earliest electric signs at the dawn of the twentieth century to the white lights of Broadway to the seedy pornographic peep show arcades of the 1970s to the large redevelopment projects of Disney in the 1990s to the dominance of massive high-­ definition LED screens today, Times Square can be understood through its public screens. The blocks surrounding the diagonal intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, known as the “Bow Tie,” form a unique site of urban movement, spectacular moving images, and collective spectatorship. At historical moments and special events (such as the ball drop on New Year’s Eve), the intersection literally transforms into an outdoor audience hall, but this transformation of the street into a site of spectatorship happens in more everyday ways through urban planning projects and the historical development of the site’s many screens. David Klein’s 1956 poster for TWA presents an abstracted vision of Times Square filled with bright, floating screens lining the famous intersection (Fig. 3.1). A lively mosaic of parallel rectangular planes of syncopated color and varying sizes lines the city’s architecture. Specific 14  Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 115. 15  Bennett, 127.



Fig. 3.1  David Klein, New York Fly TWA, 1956. Photolithograph, 40  ×  25” (101.2 × 63.6 cm). Gift of TWA. (Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/ Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY)



brands and advertisements are abstracted away, human presence is reduced to the blur of automobiles, and the destination being advertised is defined by an overwhelming and somewhat chaotic (yet still enticingly beautiful) spectacle. Klein’s aesthetically streamlined and harmonious advertisement contrasts the actual cacophony of multiple, composed commercial images that line Times Square and flattens the neon and halogen lights of the time. Instead, Klein renders this place of spectacular competition into one singular spectatorial experience—something late-twentieth-century redevelopment plans latched onto in their reconceiving of Times Square. Recent New York City zoning regulations actually stipulate that any new building in Times Square must have illuminated signage on its façade in order to “preserve and protect the special scale and character” of the area.16 As Zach Melzer points out, the high-resolution screens that now dominate Times Square were the result of power struggles between the forces of urban renewal and theater preservation as well as the displacement of the pornography industry in the area, leading to what he calls “a refined screen aesthetic,” alluding to the socioeconomic function of taste as well as increased image resolution.17 The luminance and flatness of the screen surfaces in Klein’s image predict the high-definition flat screens of today and even resemble photographs from some of the projects by the Times Square Alliance’s Midnight Moment (2012–present), the most recent in a series of public art initiatives on moving image screens in Times Square. Art’s presence on the screens of Times Square disrupts the stream of commercial messages that dominate their surfaces, but only for brief moments. These initiatives operate within a shifting screen landscape and move from intervention to collaboration. I examine the genealogy of moving image artworks on these screens from early experimentation in computerized signage to single-­channel video screenings to multi-screen immersion, paying particular attention to different temporal and spatial modes of enchantment and projects’ context within Times Square’s redevelopment. 16  These stipulations, including the minimum luminance requirements, required square footage of illuminated signage per linear foot of street frontage, and other details were first put into the zoning code in 1982. This code has since seen many amendments and revisions. City of New  York Zoning Resolution, Article VIII: Special Purpose Districts, Chapter 1: Special Midtown District, amended June 28, 2018. 17  Zach Melzer, “Screen Clusters: Urban Renewal, Architectural Preservation, and the Infrastructures of Urban Media” (Ph.D. in Film & Moving Image Studies, Montréal, Québec, Canada, Concordia University, 2019), 65.



Messages to the Public, 1982–1990 Some of the first time-based works completed by artists in Times Square were interventions on the Spectacolor signboard. Mounted in 1977 at the base of the Bow Tie at One Times Square, the Spectacolor board was a revolution in public space advertising in the United States, being computer programmable (unlike the electronic text scroll known as the “zipper” just below it) and bright enough to project color visible in daylight.18 Once installed, it had a physical presence undeniable from the street. Fred C. Shapiro detailed his first encounter with the screen in The New Yorker: We were waiting to cross Broadway at Forty-third street in the early twilight of a recent afternoon when we first noticed the Spectacolor—or, more precisely, noticed that we and scores of other rushing pedestrians, and the armed-forces recruiting booth on the island between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, had all been struck magenta by light beams emanating from a large panel.19

Shapiro describes the encounter with the board from the street, amidst the chaotic movements of distracted pedestrians and in terms of the light emitted onto passersby, rather than the images themselves. Shapiro then lists an incoherent sequence of advertisements and public service announcements that flashed across the screen that echo the disjointed nature of commercial broadcasting discussed by Raymond Williams. Recalling watching a film in an Atlanta hotel room, Williams wrote, “I believe I registered some incidents as happening in the wrong film, and some characters in the commercials as involved in the film episodes, in what came to seem—for all the occasional bizarre disparities—a single irresponsible flow of images and feelings.”20 In both instances, the seemingly random mix of messages and directives is at first bewildering to the viewer but contains an underlying logic apprehended once the viewer becomes acquainted with its forms. From its inception, Spectacolor reserved time for public service announcements, especially pertaining to arts and culture. Soon after, the 18  Philip H. Dougherty, “Advertising; An Addition to Times Square,” The New York Times, October 11, 1976. The “zipper” is a news ticker that was installed in 1928 and originally programmed using light bulbs and a conveyor belt. 19  Fred C.  Shapiro, “Talk of the Town: Spectacolor,” The New  Yorker, February 14, 1977, 27. 20  Williams, Television, 92.



board included programming of messages conceived as artworks themselves. In Spectacolor’s first year, Robert Rauschenberg was invited to produce a sixty-second animation that appeared every hour on the board, though he claimed it “didn’t yield any new experience…aesthetically,” citing the inflexibility of the system and inability to dim the bulbs.21 For a later generation of artists working within the language of advertising to make political art, however, the formal rigidity and inflexible aesthetic character of the sign would become an asset rather than a limitation. Artist Jane Dickson worked as a designer and computer programmer for Spectacolor in the late 1970s and believed that the board could be of use to artists working with social and political messages. She had been living in Times Square since 1978 and made numerous photographs, films, and other artworks of its culture, eventually producing the much-beloved mosaics of New Year’s Eve revelers in the Times Square subway station for MTA Arts for Transit in 2008. Dickson created Spectacolor animations promoting art world events and screenings of experimental and independent films on the screen, including Suzan Pitt’s animated film Asparagus (1979) (for which Dickson also did cel painting), the No Wave film The Offenders (1979) by Scott B and Beth B, and the famous 1980 Times Square Show, a group exhibition organized by Colab.22 In 1981 Dickson came up with the idea for Messages to the Public, a monthly rotating selection of artworks designed specifically for the board. Spectacolor President George Stonbely, who had been open to including more art on the screen, was keen on the idea provided that Dickson would lead the initiative and find funding. When Dickson approached Public Art Fund, the organization enthusiastically supported and funded Messages to the Public, and the project took off under her direction. Founded in 1977, Public Art Fund is a non-profit organization that supports temporary and permanent public projects in New  York City. Doris C. Freedman, the city’s first Director of Public Affairs and a major advocate for Percent for Art legislation, merged City Walls, Inc. and Public Arts Council to form the organization, which, along with Creative Time, has been one of the main public art commissioning organizations in New York City since the 1980s. Messages to the Public was one of its earliest  “Talk of the Town: Rauschenberg,” The New Yorker, May 23, 1977, 31.  Colab was a New York artist collective interested in social activism that included Dickson, John Ahearn, Jenny Holzer, Kiki Smith, and other artists, many of whom later had pieces in Message to the Public. 21 22



major on-going projects and offered the organization access to a broad audience and a place in the emerging history of computer-generated art. An advisory board would review submissions by artists, selecting a rotation of twelve per year. The artists would then construct storyboards and meet with Dickson and Spectacolor staff to program the sign for twenty-­ second messages that ran every 15 to 20 minutes. Public Art Fund sent artists a list of design limitations and clear instructions for producing usable storyboards, urging them to simplify detail, use only certain colors, avoid shading, and familiarize themselves with the current advertisements on the sign.23 Messages to the Public debuted in January 1982 with an animation of the signature cartoon-like stick figures of Keith Haring (Fig. 3.2). In surreal and morphing animations reminiscent of Brand’s Masstransiscope, Haring’s work featured a man chased by a dog who, following an image of a light bulb and a television Christian evangelist, runs in the opposite direction with a cross up a hill to stab another man who falls down the hill with a gaping hole in his abdomen, through which dogs jump. Surreal and perplexing as the work was, its visually clear, graphic animations and references to violence and the negative social effects of the religious right communicate instantly. The figures were rendered in thick lines of white against a black background that periodically pulsed red. The thick white lines of the figures were in keeping with Spectacolor guidelines for maximum image clarity and formally echoed Haring’s contemporaneous graffiti practice of subversive chalk drawings on unused advertising poster space in New York City subways. The following month’s Messages featured colorful animations of another street artist, Johnny “CRASH” Matos, who gained fame painting and tagging entire exteriors of subway cars. The third program in 1982 was arguably the most famous: a showcase of Jenny Holzer’s Truisms (1978–1987). These were part of an increasingly public address in Holzer’s work that has in recent decades expanded into monumental, nocturnal projections of original and appropriated texts that crawl up buildings all over the world. While studying painting as a graduate student at Rhode Island School of Design, Holzer began to explore art in public spaces. She would place abstract paintings on the beach and arrange bread on the ground in Providence in abstract patterns 23  “Design Limitations for the Spectacolor Sign,” 1989, Series V, Subseries B, Box 32, Folder 9, Public Art Fund Archive, Fales Collection, New  York University Libraries, New York, NY.



Fig. 3.2  Keith Haring, Times Square Story Board, for Messages to the Public animation, 1982. © Keith Haring Foundation. Used by permission

for pigeons to eat, engaging (but often also perplexing) people that happened to pass by. Holzer’s participation in the theory-rich Whitney Independent Study program and her move to New York City led to the development of an ongoing series of one-liners written with an authoritative voice and mimicking the crisp clarity of clichéd proverbs and advertising. Inspired by the unlicensed plastering of strange posters warning against leprosy in Times Square, Holzer decided to put up lists of these Truisms without official permission, allowing them to degrade in the ever-­changing landscape of ephemera on the street. “I was amazed at how the word ‘leprosy’ on a poster could stop you short, and at how effective these posters were,” Holzer recalled.24 It wasn’t until Messages to the Public that Holzer began  Jenny Holzer, “Wordsmith: An Interview with Jenny Holzer by Bruce Ferguson,” in Jenny Holzer: Signs, ed. Joan Simon (Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center, 1986), 67. 24



to animate her writings, incorporating light and the moving image in a way that would inform both her LED-scroll gallery installations and future monumental light projections. On the Spectacolor board, Holzer employed a thick, sans serif font in white letters on a black background for the nine succinct statements she chose for the piece. The words appeared one at a time with a regular beat, each statement centered and designed to take up the entire screen. Once the entire statement appeared, the screen flashed red and started a new one. Phrases like “ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE,” “MONEY CREATES TASTE,” “PRIVATE PROPERTY CREATED CRIME,” and “YOUR OLDEST FEARS ARE THE WORST ONES,” flashing one after another amidst the usual rotation of advertising and public service announcements, had a similar jolting effect on a spectator as “leprosy” in the posters Holzer saw in Times Square, but with the bewildering spatial and temporal effects of the Spectacolor board’s mode of address. Like Haring and Matos before her, she translated material that entered public space as illicit street art into the time-based moving image language of out-of-home advertising. Commenting on the work’s subversive nature, Holzer said, “Rather than getting the expected content—an ad for a Broadway show or spaghetti or whatever, you would have something about private property. I had some daffy ones too—‘Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid’— but then some serious ones, such as ‘Torture Is Barbaric,’ all mixed in with the ad copy.”25 In both the internal relationship of each statement to the next (“daffy” or “serious”) as well as her work’s placement within the sign’s rotation of content, Holzer imagined the chaotic, fluctuating, and confusing spectatorial experience of multiple messages in rapid succession. Holzer’s Truisms prompted a deliberate and subversive confusion—an unheimlich sense of enchantment—amidst the expected flow of information and amusements, even if only for a brief moment, and then the board swiftly moved to the next message, underscoring the absurdity of the remainder of the screen’s content. This temporal fluctuation within screen content and a passerby’s fleeting encounter as they move through space is, I argue, every bit as important as the spatial intervention Holzer’s linguistic statements create within Times Square.

25  Holzer in Nicholas Zurbrugg, Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews, First edition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 218.



Too often the Truisms’ appearance in Messages to the Public is understood through their photographic documentation—as complete, static linguistic statements in public space—rather than as moving images.26 Much of Holzer’s later work escapes this fate, but the centrality of digital animation and the moving image to her Messages to the Public contribution should not be lost in favor of postmodern linguistic analyses.27 Were Holzer to have used her allotted time for a static display of one statement, the work would be fundamentally different than the rapid-fire succession of words and red bursts of color she programmed for the sign. Curator Joan Simon positioned the Times Square project centrally in Holzer’s development: “She used the whole battery of techniques the machine offered—color, graphics, movement…[her]texts lost none of their sobriety as they danced across the screen. Rather, they seemed emboldened not only by the scale but by the very selectivity of the messages and the speed and flash of their execution.”28 The electronic delivery of language not only, in Marshall McLuhan’s terms, “heats” it up, overwhelming the reader with a high density of information and removing their temporal control over a text, but it also enters into the reader’s space through enchantment, “dancing” across the screen, and engaging a mobile, distracted viewer through movement and light. In addition to working with artists to translate their concepts into computer animation, Jane Dickson also produced her own animation for Messages to the Public. Let Them Eat Cake (1982) took its inspiration from a recent event where peace activist Norman Mayer was shot after threatening to blow up the Washington Monument (Fig. 3.3).29 The title phrase appears one letter at a time as each word is quickly obliterated by planes or ammunition styled after video games. An explosion appears through a sniper’s crosshairs, which transforms into a depleting pie graph and the phrase “the pie’s all gone.” The choppers of a helicopter produce a transition from text to the top of the Washington Monument, and the point of view tilts down to Mayer’s overturned van at the monument’s base. The 26  Of course, in their initial appearance as posters, the Truisms were static, just as they were in many other iterations, including on theater marquees as part of Creative Time’s 42nd Street Art Project in 1993. 27  Many of these approaches to her work are summarized in Gordon Hughes, “Power’s Script: Or, Jenny Holzer’s Art after ‘Art after Philosophy,’” Oxford Art Journal 29, no. 3 (October 1, 2006): 419–40. 28  Joan Simon, “After/Words,” in Jenny Holzer: Signs, ed. Joan Simon (Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center, 1986), 81. Emphasis added. 29  It turned out his threat was a bluff and he never had any explosives.



Fig. 3.3  Jane Dickson, Let Them Eat Cake, 1982. For Messages to the Public, Times Square, New York. (Photo by Jane Dickson. Courtesy the artist)

phrase “Game Over” flashes ominously in the animation’s final seconds. Appearing above the steady crawl of news on the zipper below, Dickson’s visual allusions to video games and font choice (from the Westminster or Data 70 family of fonts heavily associated with computers) contrast with the straightforward informational mediascape around it. Both in this piece and in her promotional animations for exhibitions and screenings, Dickson’s animated images produce textual transitions that depart from the linear syntax of the zipper or visual coherence texts on billboards, alluding instead to the emerging visual language of computers and video games. A number of other artists in the series employed flashing text with shocking or otherwise disturbing terms. Les Levine flashed disturbing commands as single verbs for his multicolor piece Media Mass (1985). Words like “KILL,” “STEAL,” “WIN,” “HATE,” “RACE,” “RAPE,” “SELL” appeared with staccato rhythms and multicolored backgrounds just above the steady and deliberate crawl of news on the ticker below. Antoni Muntadas’s This Is Not An Advertisement (1985) featured the title statement in different colors followed by the words



“subliminal…speed…fragmentation.” As the animation progressed, the speed increased and the words became fragmented and illegible. These two works played into popular culture discourses on subliminal advertising, predicting the dystopian posters in They Live and deliberately challenging the surrounding mediascape. In her influential 1989 essay “Temporality and Public Art,” Patricia C.  Phillips argued that the temporary projects of organizations like Creative Time and Public Art Fund were a more culturally valuable form of public art than permanent monuments and sculpture because they made public art into a laboratory of ideas, echoing the contested and constantly renegotiated sphere of the commons. On Messages to the Public, Phillips looked particularly to the series’ time-based format: Some of the Spectacolor works project a deliberate ambiguity between the art moment and the ad, between the aesthetic-political agenda and the pitch to the consumer…The presentation of new information must be relentless; the balance of change and repetition must be carefully considered. Also, the encounter and experience of the audience is unregulated…It is this unregulated encounter of the art and the ambiguity of its structure and content that make this series a rich, complex, and not adequately analyzed form.30

This reading links the project’s political power to its temporal form, co-­ existence with advertising, and how its visually enchanting properties impact a distracted audience through an ambiguous, “unregulated encounter.” Evidence from two artist-conducted surveys of the public suggests that the works in Messages to the Public both had an impact on viewers on the street and were easily distinguishable from the screen’s usual publicity-related content, though perhaps were often viewed as social commentary or public service announcements rather than “art.”31 Messages to the Public continued to showcase artists working with political and social issues throughout its run. In a variety of visual and textual animations, works dealt explicitly with Times Square’s commercialism as well as AIDS, homelessness, racism, sexism, colonial violence, and

 Patricia C. Phillips, “Temporality and Public Art,” Art Journal 48, no. 4 (1989): 334.  Based on an unpublished survey by Jerri Allyn and videotaped street interviews by Les Levine summarized in Anna Novakov, “The Artist as Social Commentator: A Critical Study of the Spectacolor Lightboard Series Messages to the Public” (Ph.D., New York, New York University, 1992), 74–75. 30 31



environmental decay.32 Some even contained small narratives, like Ida Applebroog’s Life Is Good, Isn’t It Mama? A 30-Second Opera (1983), where two of the artist’s signature cartoon-like figures juxtaposed with the titular phrase are overtaken by bombs. Messages to the Public gained public funding as the project progressed, including grants from the NEA, New York State Council on the Arts, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Despite its often political and activist content, Messages to the Public was not as freely subversive and critical as many artists would have liked. Censorship controversies, particularly around the work of feminist artists, plagued the project in its later years. Though approved by Public Art Fund and Spectacolor’s art director, Nancy Spero’s 1986 project was suddenly axed when Stonbely “blew up” over the artist’s pro-choice messages in her work.33 Barbara Kruger’s antiwar text piece was approved, removed, and then rescheduled, all due to the wavering of Stonbely, who asserted that, as owner, he was “the final arbiter of what goes up [on the board].”34 Dara Birnbaum and Barbara Carrasco similarly had their projects censored, and as the 1980s came to a close, the messages artists were interested in conveying to the public became more and more urgent amidst the AIDS crisis and rising culture wars. Writing in The Village Voice in 1987, Ellen Lubell saw this as a product of the works’ reliance on privately owned screen space: “None of PAF’s other programs are locked into sites owned by private individuals…Private jurisdiction over publicly funded artists’ work devaluates that work by subsuming the integrity and worth of an artist’s expression to the needs and values of a private party.”35 This tension between publicly available spaces, public funds, and privately owned venues or property recurs in this book and in the contemporary public art landscape. These issues reemerge in later chapters’ consideration of

32  David Wojnarowicz, Alfredo Jaar, Adrian Piper, Vito Acconci, Guerrilla Girls, Edgar Heap of Birds, Anne Bray, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and a host of other major players were part of the eight-year run. 33  The content in question was also the title of the two artworks: This Womb Does Not Belong to Doctors, Legislators, Judges, Priests, the State and Certainly Childbirth Is Our Mortality, We Who Are Women, works quoting Spero’s earlier text and image work drawing from her own writing and the Aztec Sahagun, respectively. Carol Jacobsen, “Redefining Censorship: A Feminist View,” Art Journal 50, no. 4 (1991): 52. 34  “Artist’s Antiwar Message Censored,” Art in America, January 1984, 176. 35  Ellen Lubell, “Spectacolor Short Circuits,” The Village Voice, February 10, 1987, 81.



placemaking and here perhaps point to some of the limitations of an intra-­ spectacular address. In the end, it was not the rising tide of censorship at the turn of the decade that Messages to the Public fell victim to, but the ebb and flow of the out-of-home advertising market and television networks’ territorial battles in redeveloping Times Square in the 1990s. The program ended abruptly in the summer of 1990 when Spectacolor sold the adspace to Sony, who installed new technology capable of screening video, a step in the march toward ever-higher resolution screens that accompanied urban renewal projects in Times Square.36 The Sony Jumbotron (a massive cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitor that debuted at the 1985 World’s Fair in Tsukuba, Japan) began a series of technological breakthroughs in large-scale, non-­ projection video display, appearing frequently at sporting events and concert venues. At One Times Square, Sony’s Jumbotron was installed initially to promote CBS and Columbia entertainment products (subsidiaries of Sony), but by 1993 the screen began attracting significant advertising revenue as well.37 In 1996, Sony sold this space, and Panasonic erected its Astrovision screen at the former site of Spectacolor, which was bigger, brighter, and sharper, replacing CRT with fluorescent discharge tube technology. Astrovision’s content was largely controlled by NBC and was soon vying for attention with other jumbotron-sized screens and the ABC SuperSign, an architectural media façade of undulating LED text crawls that was part of Disney’s massive Times Square studio development in 1999.38 By the end of the millennium, One Times Square was not only an increasingly technologically sophisticated tower of spectaculars, but also a nexus for the redevelopment of Times Square by rival networks and major media conglomerates.39 36   Melzer, “Screen Clusters: Urban Renewal, Architectural Preservation, and the Infrastructures of Urban Media.” 37  Stuart Elliott, “THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; Sony’s Times Square Jumbotron Has Begun to Attract Advertisers,” The New York Times, August 31, 1993, sec. Business. 38  Bill Carter, “Part ABC Studio, Part Disney Billboard,” The New York Times, September 18, 1999, sec. Business Day, 39  Nearly two decades later this connection between massive screen space and small screen products had not changed. During a visit to Times Square in 2018, I noticed a significant amount of screen time on spectaculars promoting Netflix programs and mobile media devices and services.



Video Art Initiatives from 2000 to 2010 As Times Square’s screens increasingly turned to video, they were also surrounded by more elaborate spectaculars and further enmeshed within film and television aesthetics and industry battles. NBC regularly screened The Today Show, their signature morning program, on the Astrovision screen, a move that not only reached a massive pedestrian audience during the busy morning rush hour, but also inserted NBC programming into the televisual space of rival network ABC—the screen was less than one block from ABC’s glass-walled Good Morning America studios.40 This televisual and corporate screen landscape in Times Square also impacted public art initiatives, which increasingly featured video artists. For example, when screening her one-minute videos on the Astrovision screen, Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist had to forego The Today Show hours.41 Rist’s piece, Open My Glade (2000), was Public Art Fund’s first return to the moving image screens of Times Square in ten years (Fig.  3.4). Although the project coincided with a major gallery exhibition, it eschewed aesthetics geared toward the absorbed gallery viewer and instead embraced Times Square’s spectacular environment of consumption and visual competition. Rist’s project featured fifteen one-minute videos screened once per hour. Each video had its own title, and ten also included the subtitle (Flatten) and featured shots of Rist directly engaging the camera from behind a pane of glass. One of the (Flatten) videos captured Rist staring out of a high-rise apartment window while the camera swoops up and down, but the other nine—the most well-known of the series—featured close-ups or medium shots of Rist in front of a black background pressing her hands, face, and body against a pane of glass in front of the camera, appearing to come up to (and even trying to escape) the screen itself. Like Michael Snow’s Two Sides to Every Story (1974), the work features a woman performing movements in relation to a transparent pane that acts as a surrogate for the screen. Unlike Snow’s work, however, which spatializes this relationship for both viewer and performer, Rist amplifies her body’s locked position behind the screen.

40  Daniel Makagon, Where the Ball Drops: Days and Nights in Times Square (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 147. 41  “Email Correspondence between Terry Shorrock and Pipilotti Rist,” December 6, 1999, Series VI, Subseries A, Box 49, Folder 12, Public Art Fund Archive, Fales Collection, New York University Libraries, New York, NY.



Fig. 3.4  Pipilotti Rist, Open My Glade, 2000. 4/6/2000—5/20/2000. © Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine. (Photo by Dennis Cowley. Courtesy Public Art Fund)



These videos were in keeping with the direct address and surreal intimacy of some of her single-channel gallery work, such as I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much (1986), but without the lush, immersive quality of her multiscreen installations. The image of Rist with her hair unkempt, bright makeup smeared, and face and body contorted and squished against the screen contrasted with the air-brushed images of women from the fashion industry that surrounded the screen in Times Square. In many of the (Flatten) videos, a thin film of residue accumulates on the pane of glass as Rist writhes against it—bits of spit, sweat, dirt, and makeup that seem to soil the high-tech surface of the urban screen with smudges and tactile traces of Rist’s body. Some videos were single, unedited shots, often in slow motion, and others sped up or reversed Rist’s movements or broke it up with jump cuts, further distancing the performance from air-brushed perfection and advertising smoothness. Ewa Lajer-Burcharth claims the work “offered a provocative vision of individuality as a mere residue—not a mask but a smear on the screen of urban spectacle.”42 The often-cited images of Rist’s smooshed face, however, were just one component of Open My Glade’s intervention on the Astrovision screen. The other five videos were radically different in terms of their mise-en-­ scene and camera movement. They included a woman bicycling while the camera flew above her head and swooped down to the street level, sun rays shining through an extreme close-up of an ear, a disembodied flying foot, a dizzying superimposition of moving shots along a high-rise apartment building and pink blossoms, and a paper image of a television screen being set on fire shown forward and backward. These lend the work a greater visual complexity than the dominant assumptions made through photographic reproductions that only feature Rist trapped within an advertising screen, though later iterations of the work in public space only featured the (Flatten) videos. Even the (Flatten) videos contain the moving shot of Rist gazing out of an apartment. These videos point to how, like Holzer’s Truisms, the work (at least initially) involved an internal sense of flux in addition to its deliberate contrast from commercial content on and surrounding the screen. The extreme camera movements or uncannily slow or fast movements of Rist’s body furthermore lent the videos a disturbing quality unlike the aesthetics of most moving image advertising. 42  Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, “Duchess of Nothing: Video Space and the ‘Woman Artist,’” in Women Artists at the Millennium, eds. Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher, October Books (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2006), 153.



The internal diversity of the videos parallels how Rist envisioned the work within a visual environment of multiple, competing forms of enchantment. The artist even went so far as to critique idealized cinematic spectatorship in an invite card she designed for the project.43 The card featured a punch-out admission ticket with a seat assignment and rules. PLR Conditions of Ticket Sale • Every member of the audience must have a ticket. If not, it’s also ok. • The Public Art Fund does not take responsibility for trucks that are passing by and obstructing the view of the 30 × 36 ft screen. • Pipilotti Rist reserves the right to refuse attendance to any patron who doesn’t like orange cars. • Smoking is not allowed except if you smoke Maria’s chocolate cigarettes • In the interest of safety, glasses and bottles are not allowed in the auditorium. • Mobile phones, pagers, and watches should only be used for friendly reasons. • Cameras, videos, and audio recording are not prohibited in the auditorium. • For late-comers, admission and re-admission are not guaranteed.44 Rist’s “conditions of ticket sale” echo Dike Blair’s 1988 animation for Messages to the Public, which featured a filmstrip overlayed with “WELCOME TO THE MOVIES” followed by common images and phrases that appear before a theatrical film, such as “No Smoking,” “Quiet Please,” and “Enjoy the Show.” Rist’s rules both invert those found on traditional theatrical tickets and humorously impose impossible-to-enforce parameters on public space viewing, rendering the assumptions of theatrical spectatorship ridiculous. Her rules even welcome the site’s competing visual enchantments and the copyright infringements of mobile media and cameras, predicting how images and video of such projects would soon circulate ever more widely through the Internet and social media. Just as 43  Due to design limitations stemming from a partnership with Max Racks, a company that makes postcards available for free at bars and restaurants, this design was not used in favor of a more generic image with a description of the project on the back. 44  Pipilotti Rist, “Draft Invitation Card,” n.d., Series VI, Subseries A, Box 49, Folder 12, Public Art Fund Archive, Fales Collection, New York University Libraries, New York, NY.



her body squirms and moves within the multiscreen environment of advertising in public space, the viewer similarly engages the work while pinging between an ever-changing assemblage of stimuli. In the same year Public Art Fund realized Open My Glade, Creative Time partnered with NBC and Panasonic to create The 59th Minute at the same site. This was a rotating series of one-minute video artworks that screened for the last minute of every hour (again, apart from the broadcast of The Today Show) and rotated approximately every month. Unlike Messages to the Public, which involved introducing artists to computer animation and translating their concepts into a new medium, The 59th Minute curated work by artists already working in video or digital art.45 The ensuing roster of artists featured a checklist of moving image artists shown in major galleries and museums at the turn of the millennium, including Mary Lucier, Doug Aitken, William Kentridge, Gary Hill, Michael Snow, William Wegman, and Kimsooja, among others, frequently programmed in conjunction with major exhibitions around the city. While the stated function was to “[offer] millions of passersby opportunities to pause and see their surroundings anew through the eyes of artists,”46 these short videos—often excerpted from works made for gallery exhibition—tended to blend in with competing electronic billboards and moving  image screens in proximity. Peter Fischli recalled that the simple, understated video Büsi (Kitty) (2001) of a cat drinking milk from a bowl (which he made in collaboration with David Weiss) was excerpted from their durational 96-hour video installation Untitled (Venice Work) (1995) precisely because it was not visually striking: “To do something that’s more spectacular than what’s going on in Times Square would be impossible. We wanted to do something very simple and quiet.”47 While conceptually this sets the work apart from its surroundings, its impact on a viewer was likely more subtle, opening up the potential for viewers to mistake video art for advertising—something harder to imagine with Rist’s smooshed face. 45  The impetus for the project came from the posthumously produced series of “unadvertising” campaign messages by designer Tibor Kalman that Creative Time showed on the Astrovision screen in March of 2000, just prior to Rist’s work. 46  “The 59th Minute,” accessed February 13, 2013, 47  Fischli made this comment on the occasion of the re-presentation of this work as a multiscreen intervention as part of Midnight Moments. “Times Square Arts: Büsi (Kitty) February 1, 2016–February 29, 2016,” accessed September 17, 2018, http://arts.timessquarenyc. org/times-square-arts/projects/midnight-moment/bsi-kitty/index.aspx.



To Creative Time Director Anne Pasternak, the inability of work to stand out in Times Square was beside the point: It’s impossible to know who actually sees it. And we cannot know if it affects them in any way… What I think matters most in the case of The 59th Minute is artists having an opportunity to make an intervention into this environment that’s all about commercialism, treating citizens as consumers, and providing an alternative experience in which artists can insert a little bit of a voice in that arena.48

While Pasternack is right to be sensitive to how each project and venue constructs a different type of public audience, we cannot simply disregard the experience of spectators on the street. Such a stance relegates these works to pure conceptual gesture or relies too much on the secondary audience that experiences the work through photographic documentation, over-privileging art world insiders and denying the playful spectatorial qualities outlined by Rist. Even a viewer deliberately seeking out an artwork in a hypermediated environment might find themselves flummoxed, as two reviews of Jeremy Blake’s colorful abstractions from Cowboy Waltz (2003) contend. Michael Kimmelman commented on the spectatorial confusion of both the deliberate and the incidental viewer: “Within sight of the screen are half a dozen digital clocks disagreeing about the time. My watch said 12:56 when one episode of Mr. Blake’s work suddenly appeared… Some people, accustomed to advertisements and the subtitled sight of Katie Couric, may have thought the screen’s computer had contracted a virus.”49 Chris Chang similarly remarked in Film Comment on the logistical difficulty of seeing Blake’s three-minute piece in one-minute chunks an hour apart, to which the artist responded that he was more interested in “passersby who hadn’t planned on watching it,” a notion Chang rejected in favor of his own preferred and self-inflicted sense of spectatorial absorption. “Perhaps the strangest perception…occurs to the viewer (at least this one) intentionally focused on the exact place and time of day in an environment of 48  Anne Pasternak, “Talking with Creative Time’s Directors: An Interview in Three Parts by Michael Brenson,” in Creative Time: The Book, ed. Anne Pasternak, Michael Brenson, and Ruth A. Peltason (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007), 256. 49  Michael Kimmelman, “ART REVIEW; A Seasonal Migration of Cultural Scope,” The New York Times, August 8, 2003, sec. Arts, art-review-a-seasonal-migration-of-cultural-scope.html.



total flux. I had the sensation that time had stopped and I was the only one standing there.”50 These two poles—frustration with the work’s inability to produce absorption or the forced attempt by a deliberate viewer to become absorbed into the work—reinforce dominant modes of spectatorship. They discuss the chaotic commercial milieu surrounding the artwork in terms of how the content succeeds or fails in transcending it to produce a kind of singular experience that overcomes an environment of total flux, but they do not account for a fundamentally different mode of spectatorship in which this could happen. Artists who designed projects specifically for the screen often had a different understanding of their spectator than the re-presentation of gallery work (as evident in Pipilotti Rist’s fake ticket and Blake’s ideally serendipitous spectator). As Margot Bouman discusses in relationship to Paul Pfeiffer’s video installation Orpheus Descending (2000) on three screens spread out in the transit station at the World Trade Center, the failure to consider the unique “public temporality” of spaces where people are in motion hinders critical consideration of public art and site-specificity.51 Unlike Pfeiffer’s piece, however, which featured seventy-five days of round-the-clock footage of a flock of chickens, from hatching to adulthood (and sale to a supplier), The 59th Minute had no continuous narrative that commuters would catch glimpses of and see unfold over days and weeks. Instead, the works were contained within one-minute spots within a constant flow of images, self-contained like the advertisements themselves. Creative Time’s interventions continue a tradition of moving image art as an intervention or break from the flow of advertising, one seen in both Messages to the Public and initiatives in broadcast, but the screen landscape of Times Square was shifting itself. When surrounded by equally eye-catching content, such breaks might work best not by programing works on a single screen, participating in the multilayered flux, but rather by co-opting the environmental effects of the immersive, multiscreen environment itself. The 59th Minute ended in 2006, but Creative Time resumed programming in Times Square with At 44 ½ in 2008, which ran until 2010 on the  Chris Chang, “Jeremy Blake,” Film Comment 39, no. 6 (December 11, 2003): 17.  Margot Bouman, “The Temporality of the Public Sphere: Orpheus Descending’s Loop between Art and Culture,” InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture, no. 4 (2002), 50




high-definition screen located on the exterior of MTV studios. These were largely selections of film or video by established and emerging artists, though with some unique and specially commissioned works. Creative Time’s curated minute-long works were sandwiched between the ambient content passersby have already domesticated into their navigation of public space and the spectatorial expectations of single-channel video art. This kind of programming is not, to my thinking, what I am calling intra-­ spectacular as it does not work within spectacle to harness its effects to new ends but rather sees a spectacular form of media as a platform to program. Messages to the Public, while also only a single-channel intervention, required forms of translation that forced artists to make work for the screen. While in some single-channel works—like Rist’s—this happens; in others the distinction is less clear. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, high-definition LED screens took over the Bow Tie, expanding eventually to span entire city blocks, further skyrocketing prices for screen time and unmooring the single-channel video art intervention to be set adrift in a sea of moving images. Midnight Moment (2012–) In 2012, Times Square Arts, the public art wing of Times Square Alliance, the neighborhood’s business improvement district (BID) founded in 1992, initiated the most recent moving image art series in Times Square, Midnight Moment. Unlike the frequent 20-second messages and hourly one-minute spots of the Public Art Fund and Creative Time projects, each work in Midnight Moment appears only once per day, at 11:57 pm for approximately three minutes. What the more recent series lacks in daily screen time, it makes up for in-screen space—for those three minutes the artwork occupies over a dozen high-definition LED screens of greater clarity and luminance than Spectacolor or Astrovision and owned by competing out-of-home advertising companies throughout Times Square. The visual impact is much stronger than Creative Time’s interventions thanks to the works’ multiscreen immersion and the different spatial and temporal disposition of spectators. The audience for Midnight Moment— people in Times Square around midnight—is quite distinct from that of Messages to the Public or The 59th Minute, which ran throughout the day. More likely to be coming out of a Broadway show, out for a night on the town, or visiting the city than walking to and from daily activities, the passersby who encounter Midnight Moment are likely more predisposed to



take in the site’s spectacle. Artists’ work overtakes much of the Bow Tie and immerses spectators who now occupy a new plaza rather than cramped and overcrowded sidewalks. Created by Norwegian architecture studio Snøhetta between 2012 and 2016, the plaza expanded the success of the city’s earlier 2008 “Broadway Boulevard” experiment closing off a lane of car traffic to make space for pedestrians and public seating.52 Snøhetta’s design permanently replaced vehicular traffic on five blocks of Broadway, with pedestrian space lined with cast concrete tiles referencing the area’s historical marquee bulb lighting—a low-tech reference to Times Square’s original screen culture.53 A central project of the BID, Snøhetta’s pedestrian mall continued the transformation of Times Square from a pedestrian thoroughfare to a place of spectatorship begun with the installation of red glass bleachers in 2009 on top of the TKTS ticket booth in Duffy Square, the triangle at the northern end of the bow tie. The bleachers allow people to take in the canyon of screens and the busy intersection all at once. A bleacher spectator can be “in” Times Square but also slightly removed from and above it in order to take it in as a visual field, mixing de Certeau’s vantage points of being “possessed” by the energy of the street and taking it in as a text from above.54 This distinct form of spectatorship is folded into how the Times Square Alliance curates the works. When the screens first sync up, a black and white leader countdown appropriated from the history of film appears across the spectaculars, cueing viewers’ attention and signaling that the moments that follow will be more akin to a film than the cacophony that dominates the rest of the day.55 Midnight Moment produces a sense of enchantment by overtaking an environment transformed by multi-directional sensory overload and turning it into a singular visual experience. It produces, in some ways, the ideal spectatorship Chang sought out in The 59th Minute, only not through the forced focus of an individual viewer but through a multiscreen synchronization experienced simultaneously with others. When taking over 52  William Neuman, “Closing on Broadway: Two Traffic Lanes,” The New York Times, July 11, 2008, sec. New York, 53  “Times Square Transformation,” Times Square Alliance, March 21, 2017, https://; “Times Square,” Snøhetta, accessed September 18, 2018, 54  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 92. 55  The earlier initiatives discussed in this section also had title cards and credits, but the anticipation generated by the countdown is distinct.



multiple screens, these works formally resemble both Klein’s mid-­ twentieth-­century speculative rendering of the area and much of multiscreen immersive installation art, such as Jane and Louise Wilson’s Free and Anonymous Monument (2003), with their colorful collision of flat and floating screen surfaces. The Wilsons’ work, exemplary of contemporary projection installation leading up to and contemporaneous with Midnight Moment, makes an architecture out of multiple moving images where “looking is walking.”56 Moving through the Wilson’s installation stitches together space, architecture, and memory in a way that contrasts the idealized absorption of both the museum visitor in front of the painting and the cinema spectator in front of the screen. With Midnight Moment, screens again become walls that line a space of movement, but the peripatetic flows within that space have already been slowed or even halted through seating and the production of a plaza. The screens’ synchronization produces a moment of pause rather than acceleration of ambulatory discovery, one that changes the nature of spectatorship. Times Square Arts called Midnight Moment in 2013 “the largest coordinated effort in history by the sign operators in Times Square to display synchronized, cutting-edge creative content at the same time every day.”57 That taking three out of a day’s 1440 minutes for a reprieve from advertisements elicits such aggrandizing language from its organizers stresses how this project is seen less as an intervention into the world of advertising than as a synergy of art and commerce. Many of Midnight Moment’s offerings also feature partnerships with galleries, museums, festivals, or other arts organizations, furthering connections between screen operators, the BID, and the arts. Though the BID’s leveraging of moving image artworks is not without cause for critique, their mode of address is notable for its ability to harness the enchanting power of Times Square’s moving image landscape through coordination rather than intervention. Midnight Moment’s multiscreen scale employs an effective strategy that takes its particular screen situation and both the distracted and deliberate mobile spectators into account. By exploiting rather than attempting to combat the media environment of Times Square, which is saturated with multiple moving images of increasing scale and luminance, Midnight Moment’s 56  Giuliana Bruno, Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), 47. 57  “Times Square Alliance : Midnight Moment: A Digital Gallery,” accessed February 13, 2013,



intra-spectacular synchronization distances itself from the chaos of conflicting moving images, unlike The 59th Minute’s interventionist strategy, which (arguably) adds to the confusion. Some of Midnight Moment’s works are re-presentations of previous Times Square projects. Pipilotti Rist’s Open My Glade (Flatten) (2000–2017) was a particularly effective reimagining of a project specifically for this new mode of engagement (Fig. 3.5). Rist’s smooshed face appeared on over a dozen screens and on a larger scale that allowed her to dominate Times Square. Her body’s image immersed the viewer rather than straining to break free from a single box. Juxtaposed against the massive billboards for the fashion industry, the feminist message of the original work came across even more forcefully in its new form. Re-editing and interspersing footage from ten of the original one-minute tapes irregularly across the screens, Rist’s reimagining of the project also mimicked the fast-paced editing and multiple simultaneous images of Times Square while still reading as one coherent work across many screens. Alfredo

Fig. 3.5  Pipilotti Rist, Open My Glade (Flatten), 2000–2017. © Pipilotti Rist. Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine. Screened as part of Midnight Moment, January 2017. (Photo by Ka-Man Tse for @TSqArts. Courtesy Times Square Alliance)



Jaar’s powerful anti-colonialist work This Is Not America (1987), originally part of Messages to the Public, overtook Midnight Moment’s many high-definition screens with a low-resolution message originally conceived for the bulbs of the Spectacolor board. Like The 59th Minute, Midnight Moment expanded access to existing work often only visible in the gallery. Andy Warhol’s iconic screen tests, images sourced from French street artist JR’s socially engaged Inside Out portraiture project, and Peter Campus’s single-channel video Head of a Sad Young Woman (1976–77) all appeared multiplied and monumental on the screens. Other projects took on entirely new dimensions. Sophie Calle’s emotional multi-channel portrait of Istanbul residents’ first encounter with the sea, Voir la mer (2011), took on a new temporality and scale in Times Square in 2017, though perhaps losing some of the empathetic connections built up through the gallery installation’s duration and soundscape. Erika Janunger’s single-channel video Weightless (2007), re-­edited as a multichannel work, transformed from an indie music video into a dizzying array of dancers impossibly climbing up the canyon of screens. Neil Goldberg’s Surfacing (2010–2011), a single-channel video of commuters emerging from the subway in a moment of spatial confusion analogous to Barthes’s ruminations on leaving the movie theater, became site-specific in its monumental re-presentation across multiple screens at a similarly bewildering site. Other works, like Chris Doyle’s colorful digital animation Bright Canyon (2014), were made with the site in mind (Fig. 3.6). Doyle’s piece reimagined the Times Square intersection as a gorge, drawing on the site’s geological history as a confluence of streams and populating the screens with animations inspired by photographs of the Palisades along the Hudson River and animals in Central Park.58 Jeffrey Gibson’s She Never Dances Alone (2019), also created specifically for Midnight Moment, honors Indigenous matriarchy, specifically focusing on the jingle dress dance of the Ojibewea Tribe. The run even included a live performance with Sarah Ortegon, the dancer featured in the work whose face and movements multiplied across the screens. Others, like Jeff Scher’s experimental analog animation Quasi Una Fantasia (2018) or Ryoki Ikeda’s digital flickers, were primarily abstract and recalled Klein’s speculative symphony of screens. By sacrificing the regularity of earlier single-screen interventions for the visual impact of multiscreen synchronization, Midnight Moment not only parallels the increased presence of immersive multiscreen installations in  “Chris Doyle – Bright Canyon,” accessed September 19, 2018, 58



Fig. 3.6  Chris Doyle, Bright Canyon, 2014. Screened as part of Midnight Moment, July 2014. (Photo by Louis Dengler Ostenrik for @TSqArts. Courtesy Times Square Alliance)

museums and galleries (though inverting their spatio-temporal effects), but also enacts a strategy of the out-of-home advertising industry. Many companies selling advertising in transit systems offer a package called “station domination,” an attempt to completely immerse commuters in one brand by overtaking all available adspace at varying scales and formats, effectively countering the domesticating tactics commuters undertake to ignore public advertising.59 In Midnight Moment, this brand delivery strategy removes brands rather than reinforces them, prompting a moment of enchantment that engages passersby perhaps less often but more fully than earlier interventions in Times Square. This would seem to literalize what Anne Ring Petersen refers to as “the capacity of the veritable universe of signs at Times Square to erase the signifiers of the individual signs and assimilate them in one great collective signifier.”60 The screens’ synchronized address does serve to aggrandize the BID’s contribution to public art and participates in  Zlatan Krajina, “Domesticating the Screen-Scenography: Situational Uses of Screen Images and Technologies in the London Underground,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O. Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 60  Anne Ring Petersen, “Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger at Times Square,” in The Urban Lifeworld: Formation Perception Representation, ed. Peter Madsen and Richard Plunz (New York: Routledge, 2005), 368. 59



the transformation of Times Square into a site of spectatorship through urban planning, serving, in some ways, as a means of branding Times Square itself. Nevertheless, the incredible visual impact of Midnight Moment’s synchronization creates moments that contain the capacity to enchant and opportunities for a broad and diverse audience to engage with public artworks that are complex, challenging, and even political. Paradoxically, it is through the project’s more direct cooperation with proprietors of advertising screens that it more successfully overcomes their visual effects. This somewhat unstable ground between public art and publicity haunts many moving image artworks, but I argue it does not automatically discount them. As Fred Evans and Cher Knight contend, the measure of art’s publicness can be related to how its multiple voices are not overtaken by oracles such as capital or spectacle and the opportunities it extends for the public to connect with it.61 While Midnight Moment might happen within the framework of Times Square’s architecture of corporate and real estate capital accumulation, it points to other uses for its spectacular infrastructure and harnesses them to produce jolts and disturbances. Rist’s numerous smudged faces, Doyle’s ecological memory, and Ortegon’s jingle dance produce moments of pause, engagement, and shared encounter that disturb our default sensory experience with a “shot in the arm” that awakens our sensory, spatial, and social being in the world—if only for a brief moment. Though public art interventions onto the screens of Times Square do not dismantle the advertising landscape—indeed they are embedded within it—these intra-spectacular projects can point to its edges and imagine new uses for its visually enchanting forms. At times these works produce explicit critique, while at others, interventions are more ambivalent—though these are not, I argue, less potent. The varying scales of the moving image screens that artworks occupy, their temporal relationship to the constant flux of images, and their impact upon multiple speeds of the viewers they attempt to enchant inform the visual impact of each work on its surroundings. The endurance of public art on the screens of Times Square testifies to both the potency of this mode of address and the attractiveness of associating with public art for advertisers and developers, spurning a number of similar programs all over the world, including Hong Kong and London’s Piccadilly Circus. 61  Fred Evans, Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy: An Essay in Political Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018); Cher Krause Knight, Public Art: Theory, Practice and Populism, 1st ed. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).



Other Platforms With the success of Messages to the Public and other initiatives, artists and curators have made multiple projects interjecting artworks into advertising platforms, often with different relationships to place, cosmopolitanism, and prestige. The Art Production Fund, a non-profit organization founded by curators Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen, has made numerous interventions into advertising infrastructures. PAUSE, an initiative that overtook the marquee of The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas ran from 2010 to 2016 and featured artists such as Leo Villareal, Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin, and TJ Wilcox. Art Production Fund also realized artist interventions onto the video screens on top of taxicabs in New York City and projections at the Standard Hotel in Los Angeles. One of their most ambitious video projects is an hourly twenty-second spot on the huge 280-foot long LED screen at Westfield World Trade Center, located at a major transit hub and site of the monumental 2016 building known as The Oculus. The project began in 2018 with Marilyn Minter’s I’m Not Much But I’m All I Think About (2011). Minter’s hypnotic, slow-motion videos of viscous liquids and glitter appear frequently at a number of high-­ resolution public art initiatives, including 44 ½, PAUSE, and the façade of the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum. Her work’s high-definition, tactile, and slow-moving images parallel similar strategies in advertising’s treatment of commodities, only with a gooey sense of excess and the abject. Minter also appeared in Commercial Breaks, part of Public Art Fund’s fortieth anniversary programming in 2017. This project featured specially commissioned work from ten to forty-five seconds sprawled across screens in all five boroughs of New  York City, including Times Square and the Westfield screen.62 Created by a younger generation of artists who could be called “digital natives,” these interventions played with the language of high-definition advertising and featured artists such as Martine Syms, Cory Arcangel, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Agnieszka Polska.

62  The durations and frequency varied from site to site. For example, 15-second videos appeared every 5 to 7 minutes on a billboard in Times Square, 30-second videos appeared every half hour on the curved screen at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, 10-second videos appeared every 100 seconds on Westfield’s network of 19 synchronized screens, and still and animated works appeared more randomly on LinkNYC kiosks. “Commercial Break – Public Art Fund,” accessed August 13, 2020, commercial-break/.



Other projects use interventions on public screens to highlight local artists and issues. Boston Cyberarts’ Art on the Marquee at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, discussed in the introduction to this book, exhibits a large number of regional artists’ moving image and digital work created specifically for the marquee’s three-dimensional surface and its supporting video sticks. Art on the Marquee has even paired artists working in traditional media with new media artists to produce new content. Overtaking a screen that is not strictly commercial (it also functions as a marquee and sign), these works generally appear with relative frequency—two thirty-second works run every fifteen minutes—though at times whoever is renting the convention center can buy out screen time. Anne Bray, an alum of Messages to the Public, has been exploring public space media art in her own practice for decades, inserting, redacting, or projecting onto advertising screens since the early 1980s. In Media Eyes (1981, with Antoni Muntadas), a work that predates Messages to the Public, she deployed slide projection onto a billboard with a close-up of a face with sunglasses and the question “what are we looking at?” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At night, projections of excerpts from advertising overtook the sunglass’s lenses, removing the details of products from their original context and challenging the presumed gazes of public space advertising. Upon relocating to Los Angeles in 1982, Bray took on curatorial projects aimed at combating both the dominance of commercial media and Los Angeles’s geographic and social sense of dispersion.63 The LA Freewaves festival, which was first held in 1989 and in various iterations brought media and video art into non-traditional venues all over Los Angeles including storefront windows, is in many ways a counterpoint to the light festival phenomena I explore in Chap. 5. Out the Window, a project on the Los Angeles bus system in 2011 and realized with Bray’s organization LA Freewaves, featured collaboration with local art and film groups to make 125 short videos that screened on the Transit TV system. Featuring small screens rather than large digital billboards, this project was more personal and intimate in its address to bus riders, echoing the interstitial tone of Masstransiscope. Bray was particularly interested in empathetically depicting the unique places that exist 63  Anne Bray, “The Community Is Watching, and Replying: Art in Public Places and Spaces,” Leonardo 35, no. 1 (2002): 15–21. Her billboard interventions have inserted provocative statements into advertising landscapes or even washed over them, as in White Out (1985) in Los Angeles.



behind the beige façades viewers see out of the window of the sprawling transit system and giving voice to the communities within them. Videos ranged from playful animations to social commentary, but all were decidedly “about/by/in Los Angeles.” In one video, a frustrated young woman doing her mother’s grocery shopping remarks on how long it takes her to purchase groceries using only the bus, calling attention to how food deserts and gaps in public transit intersect with socioeconomic inequality. Another details the history of the Maravilla Handball Court, an unassuming building embedded into East Los Angeles communities since the 1920s. Each short was followed by an interactive component—an open-­ ended question in English and Spanish along with a number where riders could text their responses to be cataloged on a website. Out the Window’s intervention not only co-opted video screens normally used for advertising or public service announcements for local public art, but also transformed transit—the state of being in-between two places—into a meditation on place, access, and mobility. These more local interventions, like the appearance of marquee visual artists on advertising screens in urban centers, demonstrate how artists and curators have been considering advertising platforms as potential vehicles for public art in a number of ways and nearly since their inception. The Turn Toward the Street The proliferation of public art initiatives on advertising screens in the 2010s parallels the expansion of moving image technologies in public space, but related projects took off even in earlier years when the technology was still a relative novelty. Following the success of Messages to the Public, Jenny Holzer again sought out cutting-edge advertising technology for public art. Her collaborative project Sign on a Truck (1984), also produced by Public Art Fund, ran for three days in the lead up to the 1984 election. The artist rented an eighteen-wheel Mitsubishi Diamond Vision Mobile 2000, a mobile version of the company’s large-scale video screen installed in sporting venues and the 1984 Republican National Convention. The apparatus featured a large electron tube screen capable of screening color video, an electronic message board, and an interior control room attached to an eighteen-wheel rig, making it not just a sign but a video screen and mobile television studio. The collaborative work featured short videos, still images, and animated texts contributed by artists pertaining to



the election, as well “man on the street” interviews conducted around the city and text messages contributed by the public. Where this project departed from interventions in Times Square was not only the screen’s potential mobility and lack of advertising, but more importantly what were called the “live mike” segments where members of the public on site were asked their thoughts on the current election.64 These happened during particularly busy moments, such as lunch and rush hour, and turned the work into an interactive space. Participants’ images appeared simultaneously on the screen as their voice projected into public space through the sound system, creating what the artist called “a spectacular soapbox for people who otherwise might not have one.”65 The political speech Holzer wanted to promote was not limited to those brave enough to step in front of the camera, however, but extended out through the screen’s volume of spectatorship: “The hope is, in making pieces for the truck, that people will clarify their opinions and then say exactly what is important to them, and that the individuals watching will be prompted to do the same.”66 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh compared Sign on a Truck favorably to the agit-trains of the Soviet avant-garde, particularly in its ability to engage “questions of audience address and audience specificity”67 as well as expand the scope of the public, but he cautioned against equating participants’ public assertion of political views with the creation of a liberated public sphere. “Without an artificial construction that accompanies the spontaneous representation of the collective consciousness, we shall be confronted simply with the voices of the ideological state apparatuses as they have been internalized.”68 Limitations around public funding and permits prevented Holzer from explicitly endorsing any candidate, though among the artists’ submissions were a number of anti-Reagan pieces with no anti-Mondale works. While Buchloh’s critique is important, the work’s earnest attempt at amplifying the voices of passersby is 64  Though this is usually spelled “live mic,” this spelling comes from photographs of the screen in situ with the words “LIVE MIKE” above a cartoon of a rear-facing Statue of Liberty holding up a microphone instead of a torch. 65  Jenny Holzer, “General Project Description,” 1984, Series VI, Subseries A, Box 39, Folder 27, Public Art Fund Archive, Fales Collection, New  York University Libraries, New York, NY. 66  Holzer. 67  Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “From Gadget Video to Agit Video: Some Notes on Four Recent Video Works,” Art Journal 45, no. 3 (September 1, 1985): 223. 68  Buchloh, 224.



commendable and inspired a number of socially engaged artworks employing video coinciding with US elections.69 Holzer again used trucks to mobilize her messages in IT IS GUNS (2018), an unannounced project in multiple cities featuring flashing messages on LED screens in white sans serif font responding to mass shootings in the United States, though this project did not involve an interactive component. What Sign on a Truck opens up for my conversation is a site of spectatorship that does not merely co-opt advertising technologies to transport, delight, or disturb, but produces a new space for immediate reflexivity and social interaction. During the “live mike” sessions viewers on the street could see both faces on the massive screen and their corresponding bodies on the street. The space in front of the screen became a stage and zone of interaction where the enchanting qualities of the moving image point back to our physical place in the city and encourage intersubjective exchange or public enunciation. While using this space for political speech has some limitations, the social plane that emanates out from the screen can be a site for multiple kinds of interactions and collaborations. In the next chapter I examine artworks that turn to this horizontal plane produced by moving image interventions in public spaces. This site becomes a zone of play, a mirroring interface, or a space where interactive technologies become inverted from fields of suspicion to stages of amplification.

69  Two works created around the 2016 presidential election were Hank Willis Thomas’s Truth Booth (2016-on-going) and LaBeouf, Rönkkö, and Turner’s HEWILLNOTDIVIDE. US (2017). Unlike Sign on a Truck, these projects did not use live images on a large screen but rather produced spaces for participants to speak and interact with a camera. Truth Booth recorded brief monologues in a traveling inflatable speech bubble that asked people to complete the phrase “the truth is…” HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US featured a stationary microphone and web camera outside of the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, that streamed live to the titular website. The project began on the inauguration of Donald J. Trump and was meant to be a participatory space where people would demonstrate a lack of division. The work’s intersecting vectors of celebrity, surveillance, and fringe Internet communities, however, cut the project short after “alt-right” instigators and white supremacists repeatedly showed up on site. I explore this further in Annie Dell’Aria, “From Rallying Cry to Dysfunctional Site: Surveying Participation in HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US,” International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 15, no. 1 (2019): 84–103.


Screen Spaces: Zones of Interaction and Recognition

This chapter turns to the relational qualities of screens, particularly the production of spaces of spectatorship where viewers are prompted to interact with each other. While I have alluded to the shared social experience of viewing moving images in public space, for the most part, the projects examined earlier address spectators in public space as individual passersby. Those artworks attract the attention of individuals and at times bring them into a sense of communal vision through momentary enchantment or cinematic immersion that disrupts their movement through public space, but largely leave them on this threshold between screen space and urban space. In this chapter, my focus is artworks that spark playful interactions and moments of recognition with other spectators along a horizontal plane produced by the viewing situation. This modality uses the moving image’s powers of enchantment, but rather than transporting its ambient audience onto a threshold between urban space and a diegetic universe, it invites them to step onto a platform. Screens facilitate a heightened awareness of the phenomenological and social body of the viewer at the site of spectatorship where the moving image points back to the space in front of it. A screen’s lines of vision perform a kind of architectural intervention in space. In Richard Koeck and Matthew Flintham’s geographical study of cinematic representations of Battersea Park in London, they look to the film camera as a form of architecture. They write: © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




what we see on the screen is a recording of a roving frustum volume of space. This 3D pyramidic volume has a rectangular cellulose acetate film frame (or more recently, the magnetic tape or digital sensor), at its source and apex while the glass lens defines the angle of the geometry that projects into infinity…In a sense, it is possible to imagine the projective vision of the camera as a kind of transient, immaterial architecture, interrogating the surrounding landscape of objects and events.1

Koeck and Flintham use these “geometries of image production” to “open direct communication between the film and the city” and dynamically map the cinematic representation of Battersea.2 This reading of the camera’s vision as a frustum volume charts a means for considering the intersection between the presumed immateriality of the moving image and the materiality of urban architectural space by imagining the camera’s projective vision as spatial architecture. Just as the camera carves through space in the field of vision that projects out from its lens, so too can we imagine similar geometries emanating from moving images themselves. Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone (1973) creates such a volume in the gallery through projection, materializing the projector’s growing beam of light through smoke and dust in the air.3 The two-dimensional image of a white line slowly drawing a circle against a black background recedes in importance to the sculptural form developing between projector and screen. This slowly developing cone makes tangible the invisible operations of the cinematic situation and invites the manipulations of viewers who slice through the misty form or insert their bodies into it. While the frustum of projection in McCall’s work implies a moving image largely obscured by viewers’ bodies, the screen itself can perform a similar architectural intervention that demarcates a spectatorial zone in front of it. Compared to the ever-shifting spatial world that unfolds within the cinematic screen, this spectatorial volume contains a relatively stable 1  Richard Koeck and Matthew Flintham, “Geographies of the Moving Image: Transforming Cinematic Representation into Geographic Information,” in Cinematic Urban Geographies, ed. Francois Penz and Richard Koeck, Screening Spaces (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 303. 2  Koeck and Flintham, 303. 3  When McCall first screened the work in grittier downtown loft spaces, he would “rely on the dust particles in the air, which would often be augmented by a couple smokers,” though when it is shown today in the more antiseptic white cube spaces of museums, curators opt for fog machines. Anthony McCall, “‘Line Describing a Cone’ and Related Films,” October 103 (January 1, 2003): 47.



horizontal plane (at least when the moving image is playing and assuming the screen is not moving itself). This space becomes dynamic through viewers’ actions within it. As Julian Hanich points out, even traditional cinema is always “part of a social situation in which the physical co-­ presence of others is, at the very least, part of our background awareness,” and in some moments, this social dynamic is amplified.4 A screen placed outside of the theater in public space similarly constructs a volume of spectatorship. Through particular modes of address, such as the instantaneous broadcast in Jenny Holzer’s Sign on a Truck (discussed in Chap. 3), artists can exploit this spectatorial volume to amplify the social. The space in front of the screen intersects with the different movements of passersby and offers up the potential for simultaneous occupation by strangers. Through a decidedly interactive mode of address, the artworks discussed in this chapter engage and activate this triadic form of spectatorship in public space in order to foreground presence with others and encourage interaction. This happens along a horizontal plane—a zone of interaction and recognition—facilitated by or responsive to what appears on the moving image surface. The horizontal plane perpendicular to the screen can be activated to incorporate the physical space of the spectator with or without interactive technologies, as historical precedents in expanded cinema like Line Describing a Cone attest. VALIE EXPORT’s Ping Pong (1968), a deceptively complex gallery work, features a ping pong ball and paddle, a truncated ping pong table abutting a wall, and an 8 mm black-and-white film featuring the movements of a black dot against a white ground projected from behind the viewer onto the wall. Viewers are invited to “play” against the pre-determined movement of a phantom ball, extending the content of the moving image into physical space and inserting their own presence into the image through their shadow. For Kate Mondloch, the “dual spectatorship” prompted by the work hinges on its interplay between “the screen’s immaterial representation” and “the material world,”5 a move that leverages the moving image’s own internal tensions to produce a horizontal platform for viewer engagement. Mondloch connects EXPORT’s film installation to Peter Campus’s closed-circuit video installation 4  Julian Hanich, The Audience Effect: On the Collective Cinema Experience (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 9. 5  Kate Mondloch, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 73, 68.



Interface (1972), underscoring how an interactive mode of address that spans multiple media may or may not contain images that respond electronically to the viewer’s presence. The play and interactivity evoked in EXPORT’s work is decidedly political, involving a Brechtian desire to activate the viewer and break down dominant forms of media consumption.6 This form of self-reflexive interactivity dominated media installation art of the 1960s and 1970s, something Christine Ross sees as shifting in the 2000s, toward “the regrouping of users as communities and collectives rather than the dividing and distancing of the self.”7 Ross remains somewhat skeptical of this shift, as do a number of other theorists and critics who maintain that attempts to reconstruct community though art or media are both hollow and suspect.8 Cristina Albu’s concept of “mirror affect” finds a middle ground between the poles of self-critical distantiation and ameliorative, homogenizing spectacle, arguing that incidental, anonymous, intersubjective exchanges within spectacular interactive artworks are important. Works that engage mirror affect “delineate an alliance between self and others mediated by reflective images or by similar perceptual experiences or behavioural acts, which momentarily seems to collapse the distance between individuals without necessarily abolishing interpersonal tension.”9 Employing concepts from phenomenology and the study of affect, Albu charts a similar shift from “introspection to collective engagement”10 as Ross, but maintains there is potential in these incidental shared experiences between anonymous strangers. Even though mirroring works may not foreground interpersonal dialogue, they do solicit affective encounters and intersubjective exchanges that “do not develop a cohesive group identity because [viewers] are acutely conscious of the subtle differences between viewpoints.”11 Albu’s disruption of the critical binaries around interactivity parallels the  Mondloch, 68.  Christine Ross, “The Projective Shift between Installation Art and New Media Art: From Distantiation to Connectivity,” in Screen/Space: The Projected Image in Contemporary Art, ed. Tamara Trodd (New York: Manchester University Press, 2011), 186. 8   Sean Cubitt, “Defining the Public in Piccadilly Circus,” in Ambient Screens and Transnational Public Spaces, ed. Nikos Papastergiadis (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 83. Claire Bishop, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics,” October 110 (Fall 2004): 51–79. 9  Cristina Albu, Mirror Affect: Seeing Self, Observing Others in Contemporary Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 23. 10  Albu, 29. 11  Albu, 184. 6 7



theoretical exploration of political and social potential within play. As geographer Tara Woodyer asserts, “playing’s self-­affirmation can stimulate a generosity of spirit towards others,”12 drawing on Jane Bennett’s notion of enchantment. Woodyer further contends that playing’s ethical and critical potential “need not be framed as resistance as it is traditionally conceived in terms of domination and subversion.”13 Such moments between domination and subversion or between complicity and critique become particularly relevant for art’s publicness, for its ability to both impact a wide audience and extend opportunities for complex engagement to a diverse group of people unprepared to encounter it. This chapter builds upon Albu’s reading of the social and political potential in incidental interactions between spectators in reflective works by looking at works that turn the space of spectatorship into a zone of play and recognition. The creation of this space occurs through moving images that attempt to make the screen represent the public: through publicly sourced portraiture, surveillance cameras, or social media. I begin with a close reading of Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain (2004), one of the anchoring artworks in Chicago’s Millennium Park, to consider how the space between screens becomes a site for play even without explicitly interactive technologies. I then turn to works that incorporate the viewer’s body through instantaneous or delayed presence on public screens to explore how they invert or amplify structures of participatory surveillance in public space. Close readings of moving image artworks by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer turn the horizontal platform into a screen itself and deliberately allow surveillance technologies to get “out of control.” I conclude with a brief consideration of architectural interventions that provide paracinematic parallels to the interactive moving image artworks to underscore how this broader turn toward a horizontal plane of interaction has echoes in urban design. The social zones these works create become physical manifestations of what play theorists call the “magic circle” that separates the space for play from the world around it. At times toying with the narcissistic impulse to see ourselves on screen, the strongest of these interactive artworks create moments that force us to think deeply about issues of recognition in public spaces. They encourage us to interact within their spectatorial zones through the misuse of technologies of the society of control and the evocation of parallel sites of public mixing and contestation, such as fountains, public pools, and disco dance floors. 12  Tara Woodyer, “Ludic Geographies: Not Merely Child’s Play,” Geography Compass 6, no. 6 (June 2012): 319. 13  Woodyer, 322.



Millennium Park as Public Art Playground For decades Chicago has been a site for innovation in public art in the United States. Genealogies of major trends in public art in the second half of the twentieth century reach back to key commissions or exhibitions in Chicago, including the public sculpture revival, community murals, and new genre public art.14 In the opening of the twenty-first century, Millennium Park is a prime example of contemporary interactive public art realized through public-private partnership. Though initially planned as greenspace above a parking garage, Millennium Park shifted course to emphasize marquee public art in order to attract top-dollar donors.15 The park itself is a popular, highly interactive space that merges private and public interests, evident by the corporate sponsors whose names adorn nearly every feature of the park. Anish Kapoor’s iconic sculpture Cloud Gate (2004), locally known as “the Bean,” is the feature piece of AT&T Plaza, which borders Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink. Boehing, Wrigley, Exelon, British Petroleum, and McDonalds all have named parts of the park, with the remaining “rooms” dedicated to philanthropists who endowed them, including Crown Fountain (2004), the park’s only video sculpture, named for the family that paid for it and were integral to the design approval process. As Timothy Gilfoyle details in his history of the park, the local media’s criticism of cost overruns overlooked the nearly unprecedented level private fundraising the project was able to achieve, primarily through named enhancements.16 The additional funds were raised by the city, including monetizing the subterranean space beneath the lot by turning it into a parking garage, a redirection of vehicular flows and speeds within the city to produce sites of public spectatorship that echoes Snøhetta’s later redesign of Times Square discussed in Chap. 3. Despite controversies, claims of cronyism, budget overruns, and late realization (Mayor Daley’s original budget was $150 million (the final cost was $490 million) and the park was meant to open, for obvious reasons, 14  The “Chicago Picasso,” a 1967 untitled piece by the world’s most famous artist living at the time, initiated the explosion of public sculpture in modernist plazas. Chicago was also at the forefront of the community mural movement in the 1970s, and in 1993, the city hosted Culture in Action, a show curated by Mary Jane Jacob that highlighted community engagement in art and featured works that were defined by Suzanne Lacy as “new genre public art.” 15  Timothy J.  Gilfoyle, Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 107. 16  Gilfoyle, 173.



in 2000),17 Millennium Park is considered a success in its ability to generate local pride, promote tourism to Chicago, create new landmarks, and engage passersby with interactive and approachable works of art.18 With all the clear corporate and private interests, Millennium Park would seemingly be an example of the impossibility of truly public space in late-capitalism or the encroachment of private interests into the public sphere. As writers like Rosalyn Deutsche and Setha M. Low have argued, the increased private ownership of ostensibly public spaces can lead to eviction of marginalized people, a decrease in civil liberties, and sterilized spaces intended only for the use of tourists.19 Philosopher Fred Evans maintains, however, that the park’s stylistic diversity of offerings and interactive and inherently relational forms contest the oracles of capital and “wow” aesthetics. Evans even maintains that the park is an act of citizenship, a “unity composed of (rather than imposed on) difference.”20 Cher Knight also finds Millennium Park to be highly successful in its ability to generate “lively, resonant art experiences amid daily life activities for large and varied audiences…without sacrificing the artists’ aesthetics or theoretical interests.”21 Furthermore, as many analyses in this book contend, spectacle may have a positive side—modes of enchantment that spark interest in passersby and encourage them to engage with art together with others. Knight similarly defends spectacle in her discussion of themed environments and their ability to generate moving experiences that are widely understood by their audiences. She writes: “some members of the art community still look at the public at large as a problem to solve, or too simple-minded to really understand art. Conversely entrepreneurs [of themed environments 17  Hal Dardick, “Millennium Park Built ‘the Chicago Way,’” The Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2014, sec. News, 18  However, this is not without some local resentment at both the corporate control of the space and the lack of involvement by residents in selecting or designing the works in the park. Corrinn E. Conard, “Where Is the Public in Public Art? A Case Study of Millennium Park” (MA Thesis in Art Education, Columbus, Ohio, The Ohio State University, 2008), 125–27. 19  Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998); Setha M. Low, “The Erosion of Public Space and the Public Realm: Paranoia, Surveillance and Privatization in New York City,” City & Society 18, no. 1 (June 1, 2006): 43–49. 20  Fred Evans, Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy: An Essay in Political Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 160. 21  Cher Krause Knight, Public Art: Theory, Practice and Populism, 1st ed. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), 156.



like Disney World] often give audiences more credit, assuming we perceive this and ‘get’ that.”22 She goes on to argue that within spectacle’s holistic sensory and experiential qualities lies the possibility to reach audiences and produce engaged and even critical interactions with viewers. Millennium Park uses spectacle in decidedly participatory ways: in the reflective surface of Cloud Gate, the meandering walkways of the Lurie Gardens, and by explicitly engaging with the connective elements of water and the moving image in Crown Fountain (Fig. 4.1). Fountain Portraits Fountains have long acted as focal points for public plazas and parks, but with varying degrees of interactivity. Fountains were sites of public bathing and social interaction in ancient Rome, served as tranquil environments for reflection in Chinese scholars’ gardens and medieval cloisters, and became sites of significant public sculpture during the Baroque period. Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain, completed in 1927 and designed by Edward H.  Bennett, mimicked the sculptural grandiosity of the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles. Long a tourist attraction in Chicago, Buckingham Fountain is both an icon of the city (featured memorably in the opening credits of the long-running Fox sitcom Married…with Children, 1987–1997) and an important photo opportunity. Visitors cannot get too close, however, as the elaborate structure is surrounded by a waist-high metal guard rail—a physical barrier that enforces the visual experience and prevents a haptic one. Likewise, many other public fountains forbid public wading and become visual icons rather than enterable spaces. Buckingham Fountain’s barrier betrays visitors’ tactile desire to get closer to the water, however, as the top of the rail is shiny and lacks patina, thanks to the touch of countless visitors. In 2004 Spanish artist Jaume Plensa granted fountain visitors’ wishes for tactile engagement with water. Two fifty-foot monoliths face each other across a long, granite platform covered with a scrim of water. Each tower features an LED screen facing the pool that displays an individual face in tight close-up serenely looking outward, occasionally smiling and blinking. Every five minutes, the faces’ lips purse and unleash cooling streams of water; they smile once more, and then fade out and transition to a new pair. Plensa initially imagined the space between the two  Knight, 103–4.




Fig. 4.1  Jaume Plensa, Crown Fountain, 2004, glass, stainless steel, LED screens, light, wood, black granite, and water. Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois. © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid. (Photo by Annie Dell’Aria)



monumental screens as a “dignified public space where visitors would gaze at the faces of 1,000 ordinary Chicagoans,” but as Blair Kamin noted in his review on the tenth anniversary of the park, children’s interactions with this space “endowed Plensa’s imaginative synthesis of architecture and digital media with an unanticipated identity: a raucous urban water park.”23 By producing an interactive space, members of public—especially raucous children—redefined Plensa’s artwork through playful interaction. Crown Fountain not only allows and even encourages members of the public to enter into its spaces, but it also attempts to evoke a democratic, collective identity of the city through the content of its moving images. Like the mirrored surface of Kapoor’s reflective bean, Crown Fountain both invites interaction and reflects the population of Chicago, only Crown Fountain does so not by a process of mirroring but through portraiture. In the production of the videos, Plensa and his collaborators at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago asked 1000 participants, selected from open calls sent to 180 community groups, simply to stare straight into the camera and “blow a kiss.” This action is itself a gesture which mimics tactile contact and proximity across a distance, attempting to collapse space between two people. The expanse between the screens, however, is not an insurmountable distance traversable only by a kiss blown in the air, but rather an active space for play. The videos’ monumentalization of unnamed citizens celebrates everyday residents of Chicago, and the set is intended to be re-edited to reflect changing demographics. This impetus to reflect and amplify local residents appears frequently in contemporary public art. As commissioning bodies and artists seek alternatives to traditional monuments of “heroic” public figures in favor of projects that involve participation with local communities, projects often take on the form of monumental or abstract portraits of unnamed citizens. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s piece Portrait of a Young Reader (2006) in the Bronx Library Center in New York, for example, initially appears to be abstract decoration of colored cylinders but is actually a visualization of the DNA of an anonymous local student.24 French street artist JR enlarges black-and-white photographs of local 23  Blair Kamin, “Millennium Park Full of Surprises,” The Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2014, 24  Samples were taken via cheek swabs from a small group of participants, and one was selected at random, so neither the participant nor the artist knows precisely whose DNA informs the pattern.



residents to cover buildings and streets as part of his Inside Out project. In these works, a small sample stands in for the collective. The DNA sequence in Portrait of a Young Reader, the massive faces in JR’s photographs, and Crown Fountain’s video portraits are both entirely unique and interchangeable to the casual viewer. They echo a broader tension between anonymity and intimacy in much of Plensa’s oeuvre, as seen in his monumental heads of young girls in contemplation, four of which were installed at Millennium Park to celebrate Crown Fountain’s tenth anniversary. The massive faces in Crown Fountain stare alertly back at the city before closing their eyes to blow a kiss. The screens monumentalize individuals who are offered up not as exemplary citizens, but as anonymous surrogates for many diverse publics. The formal qualities of Crown Fountain’s screens and their moving images also make this surrogate public portraiture into a material presence. The screens’ black reflective form and vertical format slightly prefigured the materiality and aspect ratio of the smartphone, the technology that has normalized vertical screens in contemporary culture and accelerated vernacular portraiture in the form of selfies. As Noam Elcott outlines, the twenty-first-century proliferation of vertical screens is a continuation, rather than a break, from historical precedent. From the phallic form of the monument to the vertical format of portraiture, there is a decidedly anthropomorphic element to vertical screens. Elcott discusses the portrait as one media archeological origin of vertical screens’ contemporary dominance (the others being the material film strip and the divine evocations of Gothic stained glass).25 He writes, The opposition between the horizontal landscape and the vertical portrait dates back at least to the Renaissance and likely to the Medieval distinction between icon and narrative (or imago and historia)…We might hazard that the turn to verticality stems from or even effects a shift from narrative to images, from then and there to here and now; in short, from diegesis to mimesis, telling to showing.26

25  Noam M. Elcott, “Material. Human. Divine. Notes on the Vertical Screen,” in Screen Genealogies: From Optical Device to Environmental Medium, ed. Craig Buckley, Rüdiger Campe, and Francesco Casetti (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), 293–320. 26  Elcott, 309.



These monumental, non-narrative video portraits assume a material presence rather than becoming windows into another world, standing like sentinels at the boundaries of the social space between them. Plensa’s videos also evoke a portraiture tradition from avant-garde film, namely, Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (1964–66), which, like many of his silent films, were shot in sound speed but specified to be projected at silent speed. Warhol’s sitters, mostly fellow artists, friends, or other regulars at The Factory, look directly at the camera with virtually no direction, moving or fidgeting in movements that appear uncannily slow. Plensa’s unnamed Chicagoans are similarly slowed down and addressing the camera (and viewer) directly but appear in a much tighter close-up that consumes the narrow frame. The faces become strange, and each subtle facial movement becomes a monumental performance, though one lacking the idiosyncrasies of personality that come through in Warhol’s medium shots. As single-channel works, the videos would be perfect examples of slow cinema, but the durational challenge implied in this term is negated in a public space or gallery where the choice to view or not to view is open and fluid. Slowness becomes an openness to incidental spectators who do not need to enter at any particular moment but rather immediately apprehend facial forms of communication in public spaces (the affective geographies Nigel Thrift locates in the similarly slow-motion work of Bill Viola27) while simultaneously having these expectations disturbed by the faces’ uncanny slowness and scale. The work’s slowness facilitates a productive tension between a distracted, even peripheral spectatorship and an engaged sense of expectation similar to cinematic suspense. Crown Fountain’s two screens do not merely screen content but produce a zone of encounter, with the monumental faces of unnamed Chicagoans and with each other. The Magic Circle Crown Fountain is far more interactive in the summer than in the winter. Though the design statements claim that the videos are just as engaging in the winter, the site is comparatively absent of people and the space between the screens becomes covered with slush and snow. My observations of the

27  Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (New York: Routledge, 2007), 196.



site are thus confined to the summer.28 During warm months, the work is best understood as a zone of play. The pool of water becomes an active field bookended by monolithic screens. The physical setup generates what we might call a “magic circle” by seemingly closing the space of the fountain off from the surrounding city. The forbidding barrier at Buckingham Fountain becomes a permeable membrane, within which visitors play and interact. The concept of the magic circle stems from Dutch historian Johan Huizinga’s 1938 book Homo Ludens: The Play Element in Culture. He argued that play was both a “significant form” of culture and a “free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious’ but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly.”29 Play’s spatial and temporal boundaries are demarcated by what he refers to as “the magic circle,” an important yet porous boundary between the spheres of play and ordinary life. Huizinga’s focus was largely on competitive forms of play involving rules, a point later theorists critiqued. Roger Caillois, for instance, placed competitive play on a spectrum that also considered more free-form and spontaneous activities.30 Although the kind of playing witnessed at Crown Fountain is definitely open, free-form, and without many rules, what I find important to take from Huizinga’s landmark study is the concept of the magic circle. My reading of the magic circle in artworks like Crown Fountain is as a “transient, immaterial” architecture created by the screen. Like the volume of space carved into the city through the screen’s sight-lines, the magic circle also connotes a horizontal space of engagement—a social sphere that pops up amidst normal life, allowing for intersubjective exchanges and awareness of both shared experiences and differences through a free, non-serious, yet also absorbing activity. The magic circle becomes an actual horizontal space, produced within the moving image’s own spatial intervention and taking shape through the actions and interventions of people who enter into it. Those who enter Crown Fountain’s magic circle are overwhelmingly children, mostly around ages ten and younger. As the kids play in the 28  I visited Crown Fountain over two days and one night in August of 2014, and was fortunate to have brief conversations with approximately forty individuals across fifteen groups. 29  Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Roy Publishers: New York, 1950), 13. The book was originally published in Dutch in 1938. This English translation is based on both the 1944 German publication of the book and Huizinga’s own English translation. 30  Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games, trans. Meyer Barash (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961).



water—some splashing each other, lying down to mimic swimming, or anxiously awaiting the gargoyle’s spit—parents and guardians sit along the ample seating lining the work’s periphery. Seating here is not directed at screens, but rather at the space between, the zone of action created by the screen situation and scrim of water. This is especially true during the day when the video images are less striking than in the evening and in direct sunlight barely visible from some angles. Rather than transporting spectators to an elsewhere through the moving image, the screens are presences that generate a ludic space in the here and now. Children’s spectatorial attention at the site is both ambivalent and intense, performing the kind of “double vision” Greg Siegel analyzes in relationship to large-screen video displays at live sporting events.31 In many instances, the children run and play—interacting with each other and the water more than the screen. In others, however, play is facilitated by an intense engagement with the screen itself. The periodic spit of the gargoyles every five minutes is bracketed by the long, slow-motion shots of individual faces. As the monumental faces blink, move their mouths, or slightly smile, the children physically and vocally express their anticipation. One child I observed even shouted “come on!” at the screen when he was tricked into thinking a tiny facial tick was an oncoming spout of water. When the faces begin to spurt, children signal to each other, yell, and run toward the refreshing stream of water—a cathartic release following cinematic tension. During a warm day, some of the most striking things about experiencing the fountain in person are the non-visual elements. The smells of chlorinated water and sunscreen and the sounds of splashing water and children rambunctiously playing are overwhelming, despite the fountain’s proximity to noisy Michigan Avenue. Other visual elements reinforce this pool-­ like setting: orange safety cones at the edges of the pool of water, signs cautioning against running, adults lining the surrounding seating armed with towels and sunscreen, and many children clad in swimsuits and pool shoes. Public pools have long had a connection to public social life in the United States; they were an integral part of the public initiatives funded by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, and municipal pools were important sites for the construction and contestation of communal

31  Greg Siegel, “Double Vision: Large-Screen Video Display and Live Sports Spectacle,” Television & New Media 3, no. 1 (2002): 49–73.



identity along lines of race, class, and gender.32 In his proposal, Plensa argued that his concept would relate to historical uses of water as a connector for communities and the function of fountains as a site of civic identity.33 The waterpark atmosphere is perhaps more rambunctious than Plensa’s concept, though this is very much in keeping with contemporary trends in urban fountains. The transformation of urban fountains into zones of play participates in the rise of more ludic urban design. The concept of the “playable city” seeks to humanize smart city technological infrastructures, and pliability, transience, and openness to participation challenge the monolithic statements of traditional public art forms.34 Departing from the sculptural public fountain and replacing the role of the public pool in cooling off city residents in the summer, interactive zones produced through the interplay of water and light increasingly appear under the guise of public fountains. These splash fountains are more official off-shoots of the splash park, a playground feature with interactive jets that circulate chlorinated water. Splash parks first appeared in British Columbia in the 1980s, expanding primarily in Canada in the 1990s and exploding in popularity in the United States in the 2000s.35 Splash parks became highly desirable in playgrounds as playful cooling spots for children without the need for lifeguards or the danger of drowning. Illuminated splash fountains, derived from these playground splash parks, appear with greater frequency in public parks and city squares since the turn of the millennium. These sites feature water jets, moving puddle pools, scrims of water over polished stone, or other features embedded in the ground and accompanied by colored lights at night, producing safe, cross-generational spaces for water play in public parks. In replacing the sculptural, often “off-limits” urban fountains of the City Beautiful era with sites of play and nocturnal illumination, splash parks extend the ludic atmosphere of the playground and the enchanting qualities of light design into a city’s symbolic spaces of civic identity. Like the monumental, anonymous surrogates on the screens, the production of 32  Jeff Wiltse, Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010). 33  Keith Patrick, Jaume Plensa: The Crown Fountain (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2008), 106. 34  Anton Nijholt, ed., Playable Cities: The City as a Digital Playground, Gaming Media and Social Effects (Singapore: Springer Science+Business Media, 2017). 35  Lisa J. Lewis, “Role of Splash Parks in Outdoor Public Recreation” (Master of Landscape Architecture Thesis, Texas Tech University, 2005), 34–35.



this zone of play in Crown Fountain uses new civic spaces to contribute to an image of the city as open and participatory—whether or not that may actually be the case. In my discussions with people at Crown Fountain, far fewer comments were made about the videos during the daytime than the evening. Most viewers instead discussed the water feature and zone of play. Though everyone answered with strong affirmation to the question “would you miss it if it were gone?”, most suggested an openness to rotating screen content, a finding that echoes my discussion of Masstransiscope in Chap. 2. In the evening, children still make up the majority of active participants, but there are also a number of adult viewers entering the water or its periphery to take pictures. The work’s video and lighting elements are more visually striking in the evening when both screens are more visible. The shimmering pool of water reflects the moving images, and alternating colored lighting from inside the glass monoliths illuminates each tower’s other three sides. Nighttime viewing also enhances the interactivity between viewer and screen as people frequently stand even closer to cast silhouettes as they pose for photographs. Since the illuminated screens make a stronger visual impact at night, more of the comments made by viewers in the evening were about the videos. Overall, commenters found the work to be uniquely reflective of the city, mentioning the diversity of the faces and its thematic connections to Cloud Gate. When they discussed things they would like to change, they pointed to enhanced interactivity: an on-site studio where people could sit and instantly see their faces on the screen, a hashtag or mobile uploading platform for selfies from participants near and far to appear on the screens, or adding images or scenes from around the city.36 In sum, audience members thought very seriously about this work as part of the identity of the city of Chicago and reacted predictably to the media-based and permanent architectural aspects of the work—they expect change in screen content but see architecture and sculpture as fixed. The ludic space produced by Crown Fountain’s screens encourages interaction and play among strangers and screens a participatory portrait of the city, though without the capacity for viewers’ immediate appearance 36  Digital interaction was part of the initial concept for the piece, as Plensa had envisioned a website where participants could change the colors of the lights illuminating the structures by popular vote online, but this component of the project was eventually dropped for logistical reasons. Patrick, Jaume Plensa, 106.



and amplification on the screens. The work’s transformation of the site points to how moving images produce social spaces and how these can become zones for play and interaction. While the nameless faces that consume the monumental screens purport to represent the city, they also stir within viewers the desire to see themselves, either through their creation of photographs within the fountain or their expectation of an invitation to put their own faces on the massive screens. When artworks acquiesce to these viewer expectations, they can contribute to the space of interaction as well as reduce interactivity to an opportunity for a selfie.

Big Screen Selfies Seeing ourselves in a work of art both pulls our consciousness out of the represented space back into our embodied presence in front of it and places our bodies into the space of the image. The tension between materiality and immateriality folds in on itself, reasserting material presence as it simultaneously produces another immaterial space. For the first generation of video artists, video’s capacity to immediately place the body on screen marked what Rosalind Krauss called its condition of narcissism,37 though for gallery installations, this became a site of rupture, such as in Dan Graham’s Present Continuous Past(s) (1974) or Bruce Nauman’s Live-Taped Video Corridor (1970). In the twenty-first century, interactive artworks not only seem to compensate for this distantiation through a turn to the social, as Ross contends, but also wed the space of the image and the viewer through more vernacular means. The widespread popularity of immersive installation art on Instagram, such a Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms (begun in 1965), attests to this phenomenon. The frenzy around capturing selfies inside of Kusama’s installations has led to long lines, a scarcity of tickets, occasional accidents by distracted selfie-­ takers, and viewing times shortened to as little as 30 seconds.38 These selfies record the viewer within the physical place of the work of art itself, which is to say that such an act—despite its production of a dispersive  Rosalind Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” October 1 (1976): 51–64.  William Grimes, “Lights, Mirrors, Instagram! #ArtSensation: Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Mirrored Room’ at David Zwirner Gallery,” The New York Times, December 1, 2013, sec. Arts / Art & Design,; Emily Palmer, “Is That Yayoi Kusama Selfie Worth the Wait?,” The New York Times, March 14, 2017, sec. Art & Design; Philip Kennicott, “I Went to Kusama and All I Got Was This Lousy Selfie,” The Washington Post, April 14, 2017. 37 38



photographic image—participates in what Walter Benjamin called the work’s “aura,” its singular existence in space and time.39 With digital photography and social media, the image is code, which often includes inscription of the temporal and spatial location of the phone camera lens as well as of light captured by it. Even the accelerated pace of dispersion of the image on Instagram relies on a sense of physical, place-­ bound immediacy through GPS tagging, hashtags, and the viewer’s position within the image, which acts as a supporting document rather than a replica of the original work of art.40 The tagged Instagram selfie reinforces the physical and temporal validity (and cultural capital) of being co-­present with the work of art precisely through the selfie’s ever-expanding ability to multiply as an image across multiple screens. Paradoxically, the acceleration of reproducible images through digital channels reasserts the presence, uniqueness, and even autonomy of the original. The decentering of the viewer at the heart of installation art’s rise in the 1960s and 1970s happens at an accelerated digital pace just as the viewer is re-centered within the image. A Kusama selfie proclaims “I was there” to the world— it places the viewer/photographer inside the work of art in a manner perhaps more democratic than but similar to how Velázquez incorporated the artist and viewer into the pictorial spaces of Las Meninas (1656). The space in front of Las Meninas, alluded to in the mirror reflection of the king and queen in the back wall of the painting’s represented space, becomes as rich with signification as the complex portrait within the frame. This reflexive turn back toward the real, physical presence in the “here and now” produces a complex folding that implicates the viewer (or, more precisely, the original viewers who commissioned the work). My allusion to the Baroque is not merely an art historical precedent but part of a particular genealogy of digital interfaces. Both Anna Munster and Timothy Murray evoke Baroque aesthetics in their discussion of the digital, particularly drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s notion of “the fold.”41 Rafael 39  Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn, first Schocken paperback edition (New York: Schocken, 1969), 217–51. 40  The Instagram hashtag “#latergram,” which is used for images uploaded a significant amount of time after the user took them, is a perfect example of this phenomenon, as is the mere term “Instagram” and the application’s evocation of Polaroid photography’s immediacy and aesthetics. 41  Anna Munster, Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics (Hanover: Dartmouth University Press, 2006), 31; Timothy Murray, Digital Baroque: New



Lozano-Hemmer cites work by artists like Velázquez as enhancing the “moment of complicity between the representation and reality,” collapsing the space of the image with the presence of the viewer.42 This collapse offers a mode of spectatorship opposed to theories of absorption and passivity, though it does not necessarily disallow the fictive space. Public artworks that place viewers within moving image screens or projections open up a number of possibilities. These projects can make monumentality and portraiture open to the public, democratizing city surfaces into spaces for personal amplification, but they can also simply become massive selfies, one more in a host of photo opportunities in the experience economy. In Faces in the Crowd (2017), an interactive piece realized by the design company Brave Berlin, attendees at the BLINK Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, were invited to step into a tent to dance or otherwise perform for a ring-lit camera in front of a black background. Participants’ silent, high-definition moving images were then projected in monumental scale onto the exposed party wall of a residential building, its adjoining space now a parking lot. The projections appeared on a delay of about two minutes, to, in the words of one of the volunteers working the booth, “give you time to pull out your phones.” The parking lot became an outdoor party with a DJ and beer tent, making it a popular stop in the downtown festival, which I explore further in Chap. 5. People in line or milling about watched as groups of friends danced and made faces and family portraits became performative on a massive scale. Particularly powerful were moments when children of color would overtake the architectures of a neighborhood in the midst of gentrification. While Faces in the Crowd allowed for this kind of amplification of ordinary people in public space, the project did little to disturb or remake the narcissistic impulses of the photobooth and the Instagrammable moment, forms of interaction popular at parties, weddings, and corporate events. The work produced a kind of participatory, monumental portraiture that was in many ways compelling, but offered little reflection on how these processes impact our cities and our social lives as well as relatively little interaction between strangers in the space in front of the screen. Chris O’Shea’s earlier interactive piece Hand from Above (2009) similarly allowed people to see themselves on a massive public screen but Media Art and Cinematic Folds (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 5. 42  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Under Scan (Montréal, Québec: emda & Antimodular, 2007), 14.



offered more tension between the crowd and selected individuals within it by inverting surveillance cameras rather than producing a selfie booth. Commissioned for the BBC Big Screens project, a nationwide network of public screens erected in city centers across the UK that I discuss in Chap. 6, and later touring to other cities, Hand from Above overtakes an existing large urban screen with a live image of the space in front of it. Periodically, a computer-animated hand reaches down to tickle, pick up, flick, or otherwise torment individuals within the square. The moving image on screen contains an element of enchantment that entices viewers to become aware of their bodies’ physical position and relation to others within the square. O’Shea’s menacing hand has its origins in what Erkki Huhtamo calls the “hand of God” topos, a recurrent cultural form that extends back to ancient and medieval iconography and often reappears in relationship to new technologies.43 The menacing interference implied by the hand of God utilizes surveillance technology, both closed-circuit video from the security camera mounted on the screen and tracking software programmed to recognize and predict individual movement within the image. The animation produces a tension between being part of a crowd and singled out, and between celebrity and surveillance. In video documentation of the work, people playfully engage the interface and shift their attention between the screen and the square, wanting to locate the person singled out on screen or draw the giant hand’s attention. The “magic circle” again creates a permeable membrane in public space where passersby engage in playful behaviors and interactions outside of their everyday movements). Hand from Above’s clear ability to attract sustained attention made it attractive to managers of the BBC Big Screens network, and it was also quickly co-opted by the advertising industry, who made use of interactive interfaces in LED billboards. A year after the work’s debut, a large “spectacular” above the retail fashion store Forever 21 in Times Square used the very same technology as Hand from Above during interactive interludes to its ambient advertising content. Periodically a young model appeared overlayed on top of a closed-circuit image of the space in front of the screen, seeming to hover over the tiny people below much like O’Shea’s 43  Erkki Huhtamo, “Dismantling the Fairy Engine: Media Archaeology as Topos Study,” in Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications, ed. Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 35–36. Huhtamo cites advertisements for products as diverse as the Model-T Ford and the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner that make use of this topos, as well as films such as Roberto Rossellini’s La macchina ammazzacattivi (The Machine That Kills Bad People, 1952).



hand. Instead of manipulating and poking the people below, the model instead picked up people carrying yellow Forever 21 bags or snapped Polaroids that isolated and magnified individuals or groups. The digital advertising agency Space150, which was responsible for the billboard, highlighted the work’s ability to obstruct foot traffic and produce sustained engagement, transforming the “audience into stars of their very own Times Square experience.”44 Unfortunately, Chris O’Shea did not reap any financial benefits or shared credit from this sign’s success, despite evidence that Space150 was aware of Hand from Above prior to pursuing the project.45 Hand from Above’s activation of surveillance and tracking technologies caricaturizes the usage of these interfaces in multiple dimensions of public space—in art, advertising, state-sponsored surveillance, or corporate datamining—and turns public space surveillance infrastructure into an otherworldly, responsive site of play. As Elise Morrison contends, surveillance is a theatrical medium, “a representational practice in which bodies, objects, and gestures within a given frame function on both material and symbolic levels, simultaneously referencing and holding up for critical inspection their material and ideological referents from the everyday social world.”46 She further contends that surveillance art must maintain a Brechtian edge that causes viewers to reassess contemporary surveillance mechanisms and imagine alternatives.47 In this light, the Forever 21 knockoff or the photobooth in Faces in the Crowd replicates the narcissistic impulses of both 44  “Forever 21: Times Square Digital Billboard | space150 Work –,” accessed February 25, 2015, 45  When first covered in an online article via the trade magazine Fast Company, there was no mention of O’Shea’s piece until the artist himself commented on it, prompting some back and forth between O’Shea and Space150. This exchange and controversy are detailed in a second article from Fast Company. It seems Space150 reached out to O’Shea with an incredibly nebulous offer to work on a project. After he declined, they proceeded without crediting the artist’s work or remunerating him in any way. Cliff Kuang, “Giant Model in Spy TechPowered Billboard Plucks, Chucks Times Square Visitors,” Fast Company (blog), June 25, 2010, and Cliff Kuang, “Times Square Billboard Touches Off Controversy Over Artistic Credit-Sharing,” Fast Company (blog), June 28, 2010, 46  Elise Morrison, Discipline and Desire: Surveillance Technologies in Performance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016), 10. 47  Morrison, 12.



participatory surveillance and social media, disallowing any kind of critical reassessment. Faces in the Crowd, while producing a kind of participatory amplification in public space, also did little to activate the social space in front of it. O’Shea’s work, on the other hand, playfully reimagined public space under surveillance by producing a new social use that maintains the disturbing trace of menace that reminds us of surveillance’s dominant view of people in public spaces.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Spontaneous Moving Image Communities Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has an international public art and gallery practice that spans multiple media. His installations often employ responsive technologies that relay viewer presence or speech through moving images, water, sound, or beams of light, and have been included in a number of international exhibitions and theoretical considerations of the digital in phenomenology, media studies, public art, and philosophy.48 For my discussion, I focus on a particular strand within his work—moving image interfaces that foreground the accumulation of strangers. These works become meeting places where the screen acts as a site of gathering in public space. Lozano-Hemmer’s works prompt an overlapping of viewers with strangers, triggering both playful zones and stages of mutual recognition. Surveillance technologies become not only performance spaces but situations that are deliberately allowed to get out of control. This happens in the artist’s gallery practice as well. Level of Confidence (2015) exists primarily in the gallery, but as open-­ source software, freely available to download and modify, it could also be considered a kind of public art (Fig. 4.2). The work employs facial recognition software trained on an intentionally limited data set—the faces of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College who were 48  Mark B. N. Hansen, Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media (New York: Routledge, 2006); Munster, Materializing New Media; Scott McQuire, The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (Los Angeles: Sage, 2008); Jennifer Johung, Replacing Home from Primordial Hut to Digital Network in Contemporary Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012); Scott McQuire, Geomedia: Networked Cities and the Future of Public Space (Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2016); Albu, Mirror Affect: Seeing Self, Observing Others in Contemporary Art; Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, Digital Uncanny (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).



Fig. 4.2  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Level of Confidence, 2015. Shown here: Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2018. (Photo by Guy L’Heureux. Image courtesy the artist)

disappeared and likely murdered in 2014  in Iguala, Mexico. The computer’s systems of recognition always fail. The interface reads the facial features of the viewer and attempts to locate which of the students it thinks it has found. The student’s face, along with a “level of confidence” percentage, appears with the result, the summary of which is always “student not found.” This work inverts surveillance systems to produce a new kind of memorialization, and, as Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli notes, “makes us confront a technology that can not only confuse victims with perpetrators but also exhibits confidence in its own algorithms.”49 The particular algorithms Lozano-Hemmer appropriates are used primarily by police and military, but by using them here, he exposes a crime against humanity likely perpetuated by those very same forces. Through the superimposition of the gallery viewer with the database of images of the disappeared, Level of Confidence also shifts algorithmic facial  Ravetto-Biagioli, Digital Uncanny, 30.




recognition processes into the realm of ethical recognition. As defined by philosopher Paul Ricoeur: To recognize as an act expresses a pretension, a claim, to exercise an intellectual mastery over the field of meanings, of signifying assertions. At the opposite end of this trajectory, the demand for recognition expresses an expectation that can be satisfied only by mutual recognition, where this mutual recognition either remains an unfulfilled dream or requires procedures and institutions that elevate recognition to the political plane.50

Ricoeur’s concept of mutual recognition informs Martin L.  Johnson’s reading of “local films,” early and mid-twentieth-century productions made and exhibited within localities for participants to see themselves on screen,51 and it also offers a useful framework for reading the use of interactive and mirroring technologies in contemporary installation art, especially of facial and movement recognition systems. Through superimposition within the recognition interface, Level of Confidence prompts the viewer to both mourn the absence of the students and recognize their human dignity. The ghost in the machine inverts the system’s pretentious claims to recognize and instead becomes an interface for potential mutual recognition. Furthermore, through the code’s deliberate disruption of the mirroring processes assumed within facial recognition and the narcissistic impulse embedded within live feedback video systems, the work’s dataset pushes us into an ethical public sphere. Though experienced within the gallery space, Level of Confidence is open-source and adaptable to other datasets of disappeared persons, making the work assume a level of publicness. Lozano-Hemmer’s inversion of surveillance interfaces takes on new dimensions when used to unearth and produce social interactions in public spaces, often in forms that are quite a bit more playful. Shadow Play Lozano-Hemmer contends that his public works “occupy space as aliens, that is, they don’t belong to a place. They remain there for a while, coexist

50  Paul Ricoeur, The Course of Recognition, trans. David Pellauer, Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 19. 51  Martin L. Johnson, Main Street Movies: The History of Local Film in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018), 164–96.



with the place, and slightly change its dynamics before disappearing.”52 In some ways, we can think of these temporary micro-communities that arise at the site of the screen as similar to what James Meyer calls the “functional site”53 or what Nicolas Bourriaud refers to as the “interstitial” spaces of relational aesthetics.54 The social relations they engender within the superstructure of surveillance, though, are not strictly convivial and playful but, like Level of Confidence, contain an element of menace and asymmetry that points back to (rather than glossing over) structural forms of oppression in the public sphere. Jennifer Johung contends that Lozano-­ Hemmer’s public work can be situated between architecture and performance, specifically his “relational architecture” series where buildings “masquerade” through media.55 Kathryn Brown looks specifically at his works’ ability to use technology to prompt encounters between strangers that cultivate cosmopolitanism.56 These readings and others closely attend to how the artist uses interactive technology to intervene within public space, architecture, and surveillance, often exploring his use of search lights and sound, but rarely underscore the unique role of the enchanting properties of the moving image in particular artworks. The ludic qualities Lozano-Hemmer’s public works would become known for stemmed, in part, from a minor public art failure—a moment of unpredicted audience response that arose specifically through the production of an enchanting moving image interface. Commissioned for the Third Internationale Biennale Film +Architektur in Graz, Austria, in 1997, Re:Positioning Fear was the third installment in the artist’s Relational Architecture series (Fig. 4.3). Projected text from live online chat discussions among artists, scholars, and other thinkers about the contemporary concept of fear overtook the Landeszeughaus military arsenal. This projection formed a thematic connection with both the monumentality of the 52  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Out of Control: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Intervewed by Alberto Sánchez Balmisa,” in Practicable: From Participation to Interaction in Contemporary Art, eds. Samuel Bianchini and Erik Verhagen (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2016), 693. 53  James Meyer, “The Functional Site; or, The Transformation of Site-Specificity,” in Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art, ed. Erika Suderburg (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 23–37. 54  Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Paris: Les Presse Du Reel, 1998). 55  Johung, Replacing Home from Primordial Hut to Digital Network in Contemporary Art, 142–43. 56  Kathryn Brown, “Computer Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination,” in Interactive Contemporary Art: Participation in Practice, ed. Kathryn Brown (New York: I.B.  Tauris, 2014), 37–56.



Fig. 4.3  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Re:positioning Fear, Relational Architecture 3, 1997. Shown here: Landeszeughaus, Architecture and Media Biennale, Graz, Austria. (Photo by Joerg Mohr. Image courtesy the artist)

imposing military structure and the city’s historical public projection of communal fears, specifically the fifteenth-century Landplagenbild mural attributed to Thomas von Villach on the exterior of Graz’s cathedral. The mural depicts three main fears of its age—locust plague, Black Death, and Turkish invaders—essentially projecting contemporary anxieties onto a building’s exterior in much the same way as Lozano-Hemmer’s projector did onto the arsenal. A second projector of bright, white light washed out



the text projections, which became legible only when activated by shadows of passersby, using what the artist calls a “tele-absence interface.” The intent of this work was to make viewers contemplate how our fears are intertwined with both physical and virtual presence, looming as shadows as much as (if not more than) actual physical threats. In Mark Hansen’s reading, Lozano-Hemmer “directly correlates disembodiment with the informational transformation of the spatial environment…he literally creates a ‘body-in-code.’”57 These bodies, however, quickly found other forms of performance and play. In what the artist called a “beautiful failure,” almost immediately participants would play with scale and interact with the shadows of others in ways that had very little to do with the theme of the work.58 They moved closer or farther away from the projector so as to appear as giants or Lilliputians to their friends and strangers, an unanticipated reaction that informed and inspired many of the artist’s later works, such as Body Movies (2001), Two Origins (2002), Under Scan (2008), and Airborne Projection (2013). What the artist stumbled on to here (or what passersby and participants unmined) was how such an interface produces not only a kind of communication between projected information, the body, and architecture, but also a plane of social interaction emanating out from the screen— a magic circle in the public square. The image’s responsiveness stems from both the pre-cinematic (arguably pre-historic) form of shadowplay and the digital interface of contemporary surveillance. Like Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone (1973), the work turns projection into something that is spatial and activated by the presence of the viewer. Unlike McCall’s work, however, where the beam itself becomes the sculptural object while the moving image recedes in importance (or is frequently obstructed by the presence of viewers’ bodies), with Lozano-Hemmer’s shadow play the projected image is still the primary source of enchantment. Its images attract engagement and enliven the projection beam so that it becomes a social space. The screen becomes both a performative site of amplification and a place for superimposition of self with other—a medium for recognition.

 Hansen, Bodies in Code, 96.  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, interview by author, March 27, 2015.

57 58



Under Scan In Under Scan (2005) and Sandbox (2010), also part of Lozano-Hemmer’s Relational Architecture series, the projector beam shifts toward the ground. This new horizontal space of the screen creates uncanny encounters between spectators and moving images of others that provide a sense of enchantment and the “jolts” with the unfamiliar that Richard Sennett argues are essential to experience in public space, providing subjects with “that sense of tentativeness about [their] own beliefs which every civilized person must have.”59 They do this, however, by amplifying rather than inverting the two trajectories Sennett describes as responsible for the disintegration of public life: the moves from civility to intimacy and from speech to visuality. These strangely intimate, visual encounters with moving images of self and other in public space disturb the normative affective flows of advertising and mobile media in public space to produce opportunities for co-presence with strangers. The social space in front of the screen and the moving image itself collapse into one plane—a zone of performance, discovery, and interaction with strangers that encourages passersby to break from their usual movements and isolation and returns them to the social space around them. Both works were commissioned as part of public-private initiatives designed to enliven public spaces, making their original installations connected to both playable city principles and the placemaking initiatives I discuss in the next chapter. Neither work was actually tethered to a specific site, however, and they both toured or appeared in multiple cities.60 Under Scan was selected from an open call for proposals for temporary public projects solicited by the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) for public squares in cities in the East Midlands region of England. Under Scan also uses a “tele-absence” interface that requires the presence of a viewer (specifically their shadow) in order to activate digital portraits (Fig. 4.4). A high-intensity white light illuminates a city square, 59  Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, 40th Anniversary edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017), 365–66. 60  Under Scan was installed originally in five cities in the East Midlands of England between 2005 and 2006 (Lincoln, Derby, Leicester, Northampton, and Nottingham), then presented at the Mexican Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Biennale, and performed again in 2008  in Trafalgar Square, London. Sandbox was made initially for the Glow Festival in Santa Monica, California, in 2010 and was also exhibited at the Amorepacific Museum of Art in Seoul, Korea, in 2018.



Fig. 4.4  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Under Scan, Relational Architecture 11, 2005. Shown here: Brayford University Campus, Lincoln, United Kingdom. (Photo by Antimodular Research. Image courtesy the artist)



in some ways replicating the harsh, utilitarian lighting responsible for a sense of disenchantment with a mundane and over-illuminated city.61 As people walk through the space, surveillance cameras map their movements onto a grid, predicting individual paths and speeds. Reading this system, a second set of projectors aim pre-recorded video portraits into the shadows of passerby. As people pass through the square, the figures appear on the ground, dissolving into the darkness of viewers’ shadows and enticing them to interact. The portraits interact with the viewer for as long as their shadow makes it visible. The viewer’s bodily presence quite literally conjures the appearance of the apparition. Much like contemporary screen interfaces, which constantly require our physical presence or touch, once the viewer’s physical presence is no longer felt by the surveillance system, the image goes to “sleep”—the recorded performer rests or goes back to lying down before the image fades away. The spectator’s bodily movement places them within a responsive system of representation parallel to Peter Campus’s Shadow Projection (1974). In Campus’s work, the viewer confronts both  a live image of themself rear projected onto a screen and a shadow projected from a light behind the viewer. As David Joselit puts it, “the ‘work’…is to superimpose one image upon the other in order to resolve their difference in size. The ‘play’ which the installation simultaneously enables is to widen this disparity, in what might be a pleasurable experience of an attenuated or asymmetrical self.”62 Superimposition in Under Scan is not with the self but with another, producing moments of empathy and encounter within a horizontal plane of interaction rather than a psychic distantiation along the vertical surface of representation. For Cristina Albu, the work “made a compelling call for the rediscovery of the role of the body in mediating perception and cognition, as well as in enabling empathetic connections to others.”63 These connections happen through very particular types of moving images and a transformation of the ground into an interface. The form and dispositif of the video portraits are particularly effective in producing a sense of enchantment that unsettles and unnerves. In a manner similar to many of the digitally appropriated and manipulated video 61  Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Angela Davies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Tim Edensor, From Light to Dark: Daylight, Illumination, and Gloom (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017). 62  David Joselit, “The Video Public Sphere,” Art Journal 59, no. 2 (July 1, 2000): 50. 63  Albu, Mirror Affect: Seeing Self, Observing Others in Contemporary Art, 234.



installations of Candice Breitz, the videos in Under Scan do not merely run from start to finish; they also play in reverse, adding an uncanny quality to each performer’s silent movements.64 Each video is a full-length single shot filmed against a black background and recorded from above, placing the viewer in the same physical relationship to the subjects as the camera (a Baroque di sotto in su in reverse) and making the image appear to have no frame. Not cut off by the limits of the frame nor in front of any recognizable space within the image, each subject appears in their entirety, producing a co-presence analogous to what Noam M.  Elcott calls the “phantasmagoric dispositif.”65 Unlike the phantasmagoria, however, these phantoms do not appear as vertical ghosts co-present with the viewer in space, but beneath them, attached to a horizontal surface, and responsive to viewer movements. The viewer assumes an unsettling sense of power, just as the figures’ at times intimate performances entice or disturb this relation. The figures turn the space we normally look to in order to avoid eye contact with others—the ground—into a site of encounter with strangers, strangers who, in the first iteration of the project, were also neighbors. The videos were part of a database of 1000 video portraits taken at “universities, rock concerts, community centers, and other local gathering places” by local artists and filmmakers at each of the work’s original five cities.66 Similar to Jaume Plensa’s process in Crown Fountain, the participants were selected from an open call throughout the area, and both artists originally intended to modify or add to this database over time. The portrait collection changed with each East Midlands iteration, and over 250 portraits were added upon the Tate’s presentation of Under Scan in Trafalgar Square in London in 2008, a site whose proximity to the National Portrait Gallery lent art historical validity to this manner of participatory portraiture.67 As Kathryn Brown points out, the original series also toured, aiding EMDA’s desire to promote a vision of the East Midlands that 64  A specific example of this effect in Breitz’s practice is the use of isolated movements of the actress Meryl Streep in Her (1978–2008) (2008). 65  Noam M. Elcott, “The Phantasmagoric Dispositif: An Assembly of Bodies and Images in Real Time and Space,” in Screen Space Reconfigured, ed. Susanne Saether and Synne Tollerud Bull, MediaMatters (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 283–315. 66  Lozano-Hemmer, Under Scan, 9. 67  Elena Papadaki, “Interactive Video Installations in Public Spaces: Rafael LozanoHemmer’s Under Scan,” in Besides the Screen: Moving Images through Distribution, Promotion and Curation, ed. Virginia Crisp and Gabriel Menotti Gonring (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 197–212.



would “appeal to the idea of a cosmopolitan society.”68 Like Crown Fountain, each video featured a single, static shot and a single direction: in Crown Fountain it was to “blow a kiss;” here it was to, at some point, make eye contact with the camera. Eye contact not only disturbs pedestrians’ usual avoidant gaze at the urban ground but also simulates the faceto-face connections desirable for urban “buzz”69 in thriving city centers. The full shot and looser set of directions made the video portraits far more expressive than the monumental faces of Crown Fountain, who gaze out and through urban space rather than making eye contact with specific individuals. Beyond the allusion to phantasmagoria, the work connects as well to Lozano-Hemmer’s interest in the fantastical speculations about the future of technology by nineteenth-century computer pioneer Charles Babbage and twentieth-century Argentinian science-fiction writer Adolfo Bioy Casares. The fantastical devices of Babbage and Casares, which would read past voices from the air or create realistic three-dimensional images that move and speak, allude to the long genealogy of understanding technological interfaces as sites of magic rather than logic. Under Scan produces these magical apparitions through a play of technology, but importantly makes their actualization in the public square a process of discovery, one that is particularly invested in prompting moments of playful interaction along a horizontal plane facilitated by moving images. A monitor installed near the projectors revealed the surveillance interface, exposing the technological architecture of the magic circle and the mechanism of enchantment. This interface also overtook the ground projection every seven minutes (Fig. 4.5). This exposure of the magical interface proved to be one of the most stimulating and interactive parts of the project. As Nadja Mounajjed notes in her observations and interviews with viewers at the East Midlands exhibitions, the increased physical activity and excitement over the periods featuring the “grids” or “scanners” was a surprising result. Viewers ran around, moved frantically, and danced during what was initially meant to be only an “interlude” to the video portraits.70 Participation within the revealed interface is another example  Brown, “Computer Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination,” 49.  Michael Storper and Anthony J. Venables, “Buzz: Face-to-Face Contact and the Urban Economy,” Journal of Economic Geography 4, no. 4 (2004): 351–70. 70  Nadja Mounajjed, “Interviews with the Public,” in Under Scan, ed. Rafael LozanoHemmer and David Hill (Montréal: emda & Antimodular, 2007), 100–101. 68 69



Fig. 4.5  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Under Scan, Relational Architecture 11, 2005. Shown here: Castle Wharf, Nottingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Antimodular Research. Image courtesy the artist)

of a work reconfigured through spectators’ interactions. The grids exposed the surveillant infrastructure of what Gilles Deleuze called “the society of control” and Alexander Galloway referred to as “ludic capitalism,”71 but even this revelation was not tied to a didactic sense of critique. Instead, it was deliberately opened up to spectator discovery, misinterpretation, and unanticipated activation. The gridded image in these technological interludes in some ways resembles the illuminated dance floors of the disco age. Made popular by the film Saturday Night Fever (1977) and replicated at special events and weddings to this day, the illuminated ground produces a space for expression and social interaction. As Tim Lawrence has pointed out, the dance floor of the disco era “functioned as a threshold space in which dancers 71  Papadaki, “Interactive Video Installations in Public Spaces: Raphael Lozano-Hemmer’s Under Scan.”



broke with the tradition of couples dancing and forged a new practice of solo club dancing,” a moment that was not marked by loneliness and solitude but rather one that found new partners and eventually connected dancers to “the collective rhythms of the room.”72 This horizontal plane of interaction prompts dancers to unhinge themselves from their usual rhythms and movements and form new bonds with strangers. The dance floor forms not only a media archeological origin for Lozano-Hemmer’s use of the horizontal plane but also, perhaps, a biographical one. Lozano-­ Hemmer’s parents were nightclub owners in Mexico City during his youth, and the atmosphere of the party, as well as the use of flashing light to produce ambience and disorienting effects, had a profound influence on him.73 While his parents’ club did not have an illuminated floor in their club, the entire space (including the floor) caught the projections of flashing lights and mirrored balls.74 The artist explicitly references the material culture of disco in External Interior (2015), a wearable gallery installation made of 1600 small one-way mirrors that to the wearer appears as a kaleidoscopic mise-en-abyme but to an external observer like a transparent helmet shaped like a disco ball. Unlike the social overlap and accumulation realized in the public projects I discuss, External Interior foregrounds a kind of self-reflexivity that blinds the viewer to others co-present in space. According to Mounajied’s study, viewers of Under Scan responded positively to the new bonds and connections forged with others though the work, but commented that they expected to see their own images at some point, echoing what I encountered at Crown Fountain and suggesting how much audiences anticipate interactive media art to produce moments for people to see themselves.75 The surveillance system in Under Scan does take live images of passersby, only not to project them back into public space but to use them to position the spectral presence of others. 72  Tim Lawrence, “Beyond the Hustle / 1970s Social Dancing, Discotheque Culture, and the Emergence of the Contemporary Club Dancer,” in Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader, ed. Julie Malnig (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 199–200. 73  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer explores human identity in our hyper-connected world, interview by Hannah Ongley, December 19, 2018, https://www. 74  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Email with Author,” July 20, 2020. 75  Mounajjed, “Interviews with the Public.”



The plane where this occurs transforms a rationalist grid of suspicion into a zone for play and a dance floor where we might come to encounter others through jolts that disturb. In a later public project, Lozano-Hemmer similarly inverts surveillance technologies to create new means of representation and spaces of play along a horizontal plane, only in this instance the images are live, collapsing two social spaces rather than two moments in time. Sandbox Sandbox premiered in the summer of 2010 at the second Glow Festival in Santa Monica. This festival, which had three iterations between 2008 and 2013, was billed as “an all-night cultural experience featuring original commissions by artists that re-imagine Santa Monica Beach as a playground for thoughtful and participatory temporary artworks…part of a global movement producing ‘white night’ or ‘nuit blanche’ events.”76 Glow shared some of the playable city and placemaking goals alluded to in other works in this chapter, and is part of the light festival phenomenon I discuss in the next. Sandbox connects two adjacent sites of viewer participation: a 27  ×  36-inch sandbox and an 8000  square-foot space on the beach illuminated by two very bright digital projectors hung from a boom lift (Fig. 4.6). Infrared sensors record people on the beach and relay their presence to the sandbox as small ant-sized dots. At the same time, projectors beam live footage of participants’ hands in the sandbox onto the beach in high definition. The result is a play on three scales: the tiny scale of the sandbox, the actual scale of the human participants, and the gigantic scale of the beach projection. This last scale, perhaps the uncanniest, recalls the “hand of God” topos in Chris O’Shea’s Hand from Above and similarly inverts a surveillance interface to both produce a social zone of play and render the surveillance apparatus cartoonish. The play of scale in both works invites a ludic sense of engagement and an unheimlich feeling through enchantment, pointing to the cracks within and potential misuse of surveillance technology. With Lozano-Hemmer’s work, however, the space of the screen and the zone of interaction overlap. To experience these disparities of scale, particularly as beachgoers subject to the whim of those participants generating the “hand of God,” is 76  “About | Glow,” accessed June 2, 2015, Website is now down.



Fig. 4.6  Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Sandbox, Relational Architecture 17, 2010. Shown here: Santa Monica, California, USA. (Photo by Antimodular Research. Image courtesy the artist)

unsettling as much as it is playful. In video documentation, participants on the beach frequently try to escape from, as much as engage, the attention of the enlarged hands of sandbox participants.77 A sandbox player might place a lighter or soda can wherever a beachgoer walks as the latter frantically hops or runs away. Some Sandbox participants elected not to engage tactilely with the sand and their ant-sized neighbors and instead placed their faces, dogs, or Slinky toys under the camera in order to be projected at a larger scale. In other instances, people on the beach attempt to engage or interact with a toy or object of a sandbox player: a man hops onto and follows a flashing mobile phone; another breakdances to parallel the movements of a spinning toy wheel. In these moments, the horizontal screen again resembles the threshold space of the disco floor, encouraging people to strike out on their own, improvise performances, and form new connections with others. The work uses the same surveillance technologies 77  The artist has posted robust video documentation of most of his works on his website. The video of Sandbox can be viewed at



that track and capture border crossers or monitor shoppers in malls, making painfully obvious the mechanisms of the society of control that pervade contemporary public spaces. In the artist’s words, it makes “tangible the power asymmetry inherent in technologies of amplification.”78 It does so, however, in a way that is not overtly didactic but rather uses the seeds of resistance sewn by play.79 The live quality of the images and interaction in Sandbox removes the pre-recorded portraiture of Under Scan and the computerized hand of Hand from Above, making the use of cameras and video projectors purely relational, generating one-time interactions and images that are only recorded by secondary cameras for the sake of documentation. Like the gallery installations of Bruce Nauman and Dan Graham, live-feed reorients the viewer in space, causing a disjunctive experience. In Sandbox, however, technology does not unravel a split subject in relationship to themself but fosters strange relationships among strangers co-present in nearby spaces. The sandbox sits just next to the beach projection area on a platform. In video documentation, sandbox players seem just as often to be looking at the beach to see their enlarged hands interacting with real people as they look down at the ant-like presences in the sandbox. The sandbox players’ glances back and forth simulate how bodies in public spaces are present both on screens and in reality. The work would be completely different had the sandbox been located in another part of the city where participants only encounter dehumanized ants, perhaps evoking the work of artists like Wafaa Bilal. By placing the sandbox in proximity to its related performance space, there is a co-presence across disparities of scale. This has the effect of humanizing the ant-like presences projected in the sand, giving presence to the US military’s horrific term for someone killed by a drone strike—“bugsplat.” Moving image interfaces can, in this way, facilitate a recognition of others’ bodily autonomy as much as it can dehumanize them from afar. In both Under Scan and Sandbox, interactive moving image technologies generate new social spaces that collapse differences in time and space to generate a participatory plane activated by the co-presence of viewers. Lozano-Hemmer inverts functions of communication and surveillance to generate a sense of communion. This term, which the artist has used in 78  “Rafael Lozano-Hemmer  – Project ‘Sandbox,’” accessed June 3, 2015, http://www. 79  Woodyer, “Ludic Geographies.”



multiple talks and interviews, removes the “command-and-control ethic of communications” and suggests instead a genuine sharing of space and ideas.80 Robert Lepage also used communion in reference to the possibilities for technology in performance art, echoing Laurie Anderson’s evocation of technology as “gathering place” and “camp fire.”81 The concept of communion connotes a sense of togetherness and also has spiritual undertones that suggest technology can generate moments of enchantment through the co-presence of bodies. Cutting-edge technology is not merely a means to dazzle the viewer or communicate an artist’s ideas to the public, but rather a vehicle for creating a magic circle and temporary commons that can pop up anywhere and host jolts and collisions among strangers in public spaces. Stumbling onto these zones pulls us out of our everyday rhythms and asks us to see each other and ourselves both as we are and how we are seen by others and by systems that invisibly watch and track us every day. Much like Plensa, Lozano-Hemmer reaches back to the history public fountains in pitches to various public art stakeholders as a way to connect media art to established public art traditions,82 but these works also engage the ludic spaces of the splash park and the disco floor. Interactive zones produced through moving image technologies parallel a wider range of playable city initiatives, even certain architectural forms that produce projections onto the ground.

Paracinematic Parallels The horizontal planes produced through moving image artworks in this chapter parallel the vogue of projecting onto the ground in both art and commercial contexts. Businesses frequently project logos onto sidewalks and interactive ground projections increasingly populate visitors’ centers, museums, and light festivals. The Playable City initiative in Bristol, 80  Sean Cubitt, The Practice of Light: A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014), 273. 81  Aleksandar Saša Dundjerovic, Theatricality of Robert Lepage (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2007), Kindle e-book. 82   “#IF13: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer ‘Art Is Not about Communication; It’s about Communion,’” Insider Louisville, accessed June 3, 2015,



England, premiered Shadowing (2014), a work that turned streetlamps into ground projectors, recording silhouettes of previous viewers and transmitting their shadow for later passersby; and the 2019 version of the BLINK festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, featured an interactive, abstract ground projection that sought to create an immersive and participatory space within the festival’s many attractions (one that not incidentally also had mobile photo booths).83 Colored or patterned canopies, be they temporary interventions or permanent structures, mimic the effects of these ground projections and abound in both historical districts and new developments as markers of playable city and creative placemaking principles. As architectural interventions, transparent canopies project an array of colors and patterns, transforming the ground into a low-tech screen. These interventions or structures create zones that parallel splash fountains, disco floors, and interactive screen-based works through a kind of paracinematic architecture. By paracinematic I am referring to what Jonathan Walley calls the distillation of cinema to its barest elements—light and time—challenging medium-specific assumptions of structuralist film theory and practice.84 Though mostly used to discuss installation work by artists like Anthony McCall, paracinematic effects can also be located within architectural interventions, and in many contemporary contexts these connote a sense of play and vibrant city life, often by casting shaped shadows and colors onto the horizontal plane we encounter with others. Liam Gillick’s “platform” sculptures, begun in the 1990s, allude to architectural interventions, often using industrial materials such as aluminum and plexiglass in flat, awning-like and seemingly precarious structures that hang from ceilings and walls by cables. Titles allude to social interactions implied within the permeable spaces below, such as Discussion Island Dialogue Platform (1997) and Big Conference Platform Platform (1998), and Gillick’s practice more recently extends into explicit discussion platforms, architectural collaborations, and public artworks. When placed 83  The artists for Shadowing were Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier. The BLINK ground projection was created by Fifth Third Bank, whose headquarters were next to its location. 84  Jonathan Walley, “The Material of Film and the Idea of Cinema: Contrasting Practices in Sixties and Seventies Avant-Garde Film,” October 103 (January 1, 2003): 15–30.



outside, Gillick’s platforms take on a sturdiness, and their transparent colored materials become projectors through the addition of sunlight and artificial illumination. At Centene Plaza in St. Louis, Missouri, for example, Gillick’s 2010 canopy used a rainbow of transparent, colored bands for its roof that creates a dramatic entrance for the headquarters of the Centene Corporation. Situated in an otherwise bland pedestrian plaza between Centene’s sleek new office tower and parking garage, Gillick’s work projects onto the white walkway in bands roughly the size of each flat, smooth paving stone, producing a visual play between projected and permanent grids on the ground as the day progresses and a bright zone of color thanks to artificial illumination in the evenings. At Summit Park, a suburban public park in Blue Ash, Ohio, that opened in 2014 on the site of a closed regional airport, architecture firm MKSK designed a sloped canopy with transparent and tinted glass, echoing the windows on buildings on either side of it (Fig. 4.7). Acting as a kind of entry gate from the parking lot into the park’s green space, the canopy stretches across the development’s upscale and fast casual dining establishments and projects an irregular grid of blue, orange, and green onto the ground. The canopy provides a bit of shade and shelter from rain but also (on sunny days) transforms the space below with a visually arresting play of light against the park’s irregular, rectangular pavers. Similar canopies that project patterns of color and shadow are popular in New Urbanist developments, and, like the splash parks that populate new and renovated public parks, they deploy permanent, architectural design to create enchanting and ephemeral plays of light along a horizontal plane of interaction. Temporary canopies perform a similar function as these architectural projectors, often with an increased sense of play and whimsy. The international Umbrella Skies Project, for instance, features a canopy of colored umbrellas linked together by rows of cables that stretches over alleyways, plazas, and other public spaces. Inspired by the story of Mary Poppins, the umbrellas first appeared at the ÁgitAgueda Art Festival in Águeda, Portugal, in 2012 and were the creation of Portuguese “guerrilla marketing” company Impactplan. Since then, the installation has appeared in over thirty cities in Europe, four in the United States, as well as once each in Bahrain and Japan as well as countless spinoffs and related alleyway installations of floating sculptures, lanterns, or lights that similarly create



Fig. 4.7  Canopy at Summit Park, designed my MKSK, 2014. (Photo by Scott Dimmich)

whimsical zones and project colors and shadows onto the ground. Impactplan specifically mentions the ability of the work to circulate on viral social networks, a process that, they argue, both produces an encounter with the fantastical within the city and contributes to tourism and economic growth.85 These spaces frequently become hotspots for selfies, blurring the lines between producing an interactive social plane and turning specific spots within tourist destinations into colorful backdrops, a discussion I pick up in the next chapter. These paracinematic canopies, falling perhaps on both ends of this critical spectrum, are nevertheless popular and appealing to developers and city leaders, in part, I argue, because of their allusion to cinematic projection and a mode of address that creates zones of play. 85  “The Umbrella Sky Project,” Impactplan – Art Productions, accessed August 1, 2020,



The interactive artworks discussed in this chapter demonstrate how moving images in public spaces can produce social planes of spectatorship among viewers—zones of interaction and recognition. These works may or may not rely on technological interfaces but produce various “magic circles” in the city. Their permeable membranes overlap with urban space so as to produce interstitial, temporary micro-communities where interactions and behaviors not usually found in public spaces are allowed and encouraged. Modeling a form of interactivity that combats the oft-­maligned atomizing powers of technology, this mode of address can create sites of gathering, even ones that invert oppressive or exclusive systems of surveillance and representation in public space. They often create these spaces, however, with the approval of placemaking initiatives: the multi-­million-­dollar public park, a development agency, or the light festival. Allusions to interactivity or participation in urban planning or design do not always signal democratic processes. They can even, as Shannon Mattern points out, be operationalized by dominant actors or used to mask evictions.86 In his foreword to the Under Scan publication, EMDA board member Ross Willmott makes explicit reference to Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) in explaining its commissioning of “a work of genuine international quality that would help communicate better what the East Midlands is really like—a flourishing region with a diverse and dynamic culture and a rich pool of talented people.”87 He suggests, in effect, that the presence of Lozano-Hemmer’s project in East Midlands cities affords a layer of cosmopolitan sophistication and potential for economic growth. The “Millennium Park Effect” similarly touts the positive economic impact of spectacular public art, encouraging a trend of public-private partnership that defines much of the public art landscape of the United States today.88 Crown Fountain, the works of Lozano-Hemmer, and paracinematic installations are a testament to how works produced in this framework can become beloved 86  Shannon Mattern, “Post-It Note City,” Places Journal, February 11, 2020, https://doi. org/10.22269/200211. 87  Under Scan, 6. 88  Regina M.  Flanagan, “The Millennium Park Effect: A Tale of Two Cities,” in The Practice of Public Art, ed. Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis (London: Taylor & Francis Group, 2008), 133–51.



fixtures in a city or thought-­provoking temporary interventions, but the overlap of Creative City placemaking and moving image-based public art requires scrutiny. In the following two chapters, I turn to how moving image artworks become implicated in placemaking initiatives, first considering the light festival phenomenon and then turning to moments of failure in permanent projects. Light festivals can provide moments of meaningful enchantment, though they can also become instrumentalized by an experience economy with particular designs on what the city should be.


The Light Festival Phenomenon

This chapter shifts from looking at how moving images in public art produce new spaces of encounter to considering how they interact with the concept of place. Screens are historically linked to “elsewheres”—continuity editing generates a seamless fictional world analogous to Renaissance perspective, television claims a simultaneity that pipes the same broadcast content into millions of homes, and mobile media offer connections to a “world wide web” that collapses spatial and temporal distances at the touch of the screen. However, screens are very much embedded within and can even transform the places they occupy. Perhaps nowhere are the moving image’s own internal tensions between materiality and immateriality more culturally anxiety-producing than with regard to place. According to Yi-Fu Tuan, place is not only associated with more specificity than space but is also defined by pause.1 Marc Augé’s term “non-place” argued that the contemporary world of interconnection and mobility has led to a loss of place. Non-places are defined by movement and transience: highways, malls, hotels, airports, and other locations that, not incidentally, are also often filled with screen media. Non-places are not gathering sites for the masses or crowds, but rather spaces through which contemporary 1  Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Fifth Edition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




individuals drift and move, alone.2 Screen media seem to threaten fixity, create gateways to other places, or, worse, transform place into commercial non-place or spectacle. Paul Virilio argued that screens replaced the function of city gates, creating “the overexposed city.” From the aesthetics of the appearance of a stable image—present as an aspect of its static nature—to the aesthetics of the disappearance of the unstable image—present in its cinematic and cinematographic flight of escape—we have witnessed a transmutation of representations…forms as volumes destined to persist as long as their materials would allow has given way to images whose duration is purely retinal.3

Transition from stability to instability happens through screen media, particularly through moving images’ retinal speed of change. To Virilio, this “phantom landscape” is but a shadow of past cities, and to more recent critics projected moving images in cities may “conceal the identity and integrity of the object, site, or being”4 it takes as its ground, in effect destabilizing place with the indeterminacy of space or non-place. In these critical models, the moving image’s threat to the concept of place stems from its very ontology. Such broad critiques do not tell the entire story, nor do they align with concepts of place as an assemblage or a process of becoming. Public screens become part of the social and material worlds that surround them, but there are also ways that screens can define and even generate places as much as be affected by them. Anna McCarthy explored how when television screens enter places they “simultaneously [enter] the webs of signification and material practice that define each as an environment.”5 Germaine Halegoua reminds us that urban places themselves are experienced in flux and that people use “digital technologies and practices to re-embed themselves within urban space and create a sense of place.”6 2  Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, trans. John Howe (New York: Verso, 1995), 120. 3  Paul Virilio, “The Overexposed City,” in The Paul Virilio Reader, ed. Steve Redhead (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 98. 4  Abigail Susik, “The Screen Politics of Architectural Light Projection,” Public 23, no. 45 (June 2012): 112. 5  Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 225. 6  Germaine R. Halegoua, The Digital City: Media and the Social Production of Place (New York: NYU Press, 2020), 3.



In other words, screen media, whether emplaced or mobile, are part of both long-standing and emergent practices of making place. Like Doreen Massey’s “global sense of place,” which considers place to be a “constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a  particular locus,” moving images might be thought of as “meeting places.”7 Pointing to the surfaces of the built environment, the geographic coordinates of a screen’s location, and the elsewheres or fantasies indexed by moving images themselves, moving image artworks can produce viewing situations that realize a more “extroverted” sense of place. Cinema scholars have recently begun to look at the complex ways cinema “takes place,” considering its capture and production of place as well as its exhibition site.8 When shown in public places, these issues become even more fluid and complex, and the statement that moving images “take place” leads to the question of whether or not they can also make place. This chapter and the next consider phenomena where the moving image’s power of enchantment and fluctuation between materiality and immateriality become entwined with placemaking events and objects. In this chapter I examine the surge of light festivals in downtown districts, and in Chap. 6, I turn to challenges that arise with aspirationally permanent public artworks with moving image technologies. In attempting to leverage the moving image for placemaking ends, the light festivals discussed in this chapter and the permanent installations discussed in the next actually reveal the instability inherent in the moving image, particularly the difficulty in negotiating a place between artistic practice and commerce.

Placemaking The social processes by which space becomes place are contested and fluid. They happen both organically and inorganically along varying temporalities. Geographer Alan Lew teases out the nuances of making place along three spellings: place making, place-making, and placemaking. Place making is a holistic term that encompasses all ways a culture may cultivate a

7  Doreen Massey, “A Global Sense of Place,” in Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 154. 8  Elena Gorfinkel and John David Rhodes, “Introduction: The Matter of Places,” in Taking Place, ed. Elena Gorfinkel and John David Rhodes, Location and the Moving Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), viii.



sense of place.9 These activities occur along a continuum with place-­ making, a bottom-up, organic process on one end, and placemaking, a top-down, planned approach involving official actors like governments, architects, planners, and designers, on the other.10 Most places involve some combination of top-down and bottom-up, and as Lew points out, tourism perspectives tend to skew toward the top-down, though a place’s “cultural soul” often stems from the bottom-up.11 Placemaking has become a key concern in contemporary urban development through both the revitalization of urban cores and the generation of New Urbanist “town centers” in increasingly dense suburbs. Despite decades of criticism from multiple angles, developers and public-­ private partnerships in the United States still look to Richard Florida’s concept of the Creative City for generating the appearance of bottom-up place through top-down placemaking initiatives and real estate schemes designed to attract investment and employers that prompt an affluent, young workforce known as the Creative Class to relocate.12 Unlike the postwar “company man” who fled to the suburbs and gravitated toward the stability of location and schedule, Creative Class professionals want to stay downtown, partaking in nightlife, amenities, and transportation. The model for development is not to perpetuate the suburban sprawl of the post-WWII decades, but rather to either reinvigorate urban centers negatively affected by decades of disinvestment, white flight, and segregation or generate new walkable communities and public spaces in  dense suburbs. These places are meant to appear vibrant, safe, and diverse, though they are often predicated on surveillance, gentrification, and displacement of minority communities. New Urbanism, for example, can actually be seen as “anti-urban, deleting the elements of diversity and contestation which contribute to cosmopolitanism in favor of a highly regulated and selective nostalgia.”13 Illumination, moving images, and urban screens, hallmarks of major metropolises around the world, become attractive means to signal vibrant 9  Alan A.  Lew, “Tourism Planning and Place Making: Place-Making or Placemaking?,” Tourism Geographies 19, no. 3 (May 27, 2017): 450. 10  Lew, 449. 11  Lew, 452. 12  Richard Florida, The Rise of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, First Printing edition (New York: Basic Books, 2002). 13  Malcolm Miles and Steven Miles, Consuming Cities (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 106.



urban spaces through placemaking initiatives. In the Quartier des Spectacles in Montréal, projection is employed year-round as public art in order to demarcate a vibrant arts district and creative economy. The relationship between public art and top-down, strategic placemaking gives many critics pause, worried that public art becomes instrumentalized by capital as a form of “artwashing” that glosses over displacements and evictions.14 Catrien Schreuder argues that video art in public space must “take a critical position by directly reacting against the forces within which it operates,”15 setting up an almost impossible position of biting the hand that feeds you. Public art’s relationship to structures of power, be they capital or the state, should always be interrogated, but to subject all public art to a political litmus test would both mandate didacticism and discount moments of enchantment and engagement that imagine new constellations place and community. I argue it is better to look instead to moments where public art “restructure[es] the everyday” through “politically indirect” means, as Diana Boros contends,16 and to be mindful of Fred Evans’s concept of the many voices necessary for democratic public art and the oracles which threaten to overtake them.17 My reading of practices within placemaking initiatives aligns with these authors’ expansive definition of democratic potential in public art and builds upon concepts introduced in previous chapters: enchantment’s capacity to promote an affective reinvestment in the world, the possibility of an intra-spectacular public art, and the seeds of resistance sewn through the production of zones of play.18

14  Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998); Malcolm Miles, “Critical Spaces: Monuments and Changes,” in The Practice of Public Art, ed. Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis (New York: Routledge, 2008), 66–90. 15  Catrien Schreuder, Pixels and Places: Video Art in Public Space (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2010), 30. 16  Diana Boros, Creative Rebellion for the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Public and Interactive Art to Political Life in America (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 15. 17  Fred Evans, Public Art and the Fragility of Democracy: An Essay in Political Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 170. 18  Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Tara Woodyer, “Ludic Geographies: Not Merely Child’s Play,” Geography Compass 6, no. 6 (June 2012): 318.



Interfaces Between the City and the Urban Urban light art festivals feature a mixture of light installation, interactive artworks, and moving images projected onto buildings. They occur at a variety of scales and temporalities—some sprawl across entire cities, while others occupy a single park; festivals can run nightly for a month or only for one night from dusk to dawn. These events transform downtown districts into enchanting spectacles that synthesize the “oneiric city”19 of the early twentieth century with the technocratic Smart City and Creative City of the twenty-first. Festivals project visions of the future onto the material fabric of the city, but this projection is neither seamless nor universal. Festivals become zones of negotiation between multiple actors and realize a density and diversity of audience that should not be discounted. Light festivals are often organized and funded (at least partially) through public-­private partnerships such as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Chambers of Commerce, intersecting with strategic placemaking, playable city principles, and nighttime economies. This causes many critics either to ignore these events or see them as little more than contemporary manifestations of Jean Baudrillard’s “simulacrum” or Guy Debord’s “society of the spectacle,” forces that disconnect us from “the real,” sublimate the city into publicity, and render viewers into passive consumers up all night.20 Broad brush critique does not tell the whole story and fails to take into account how the other voices of artists, curators, contexts, and viewers form relations that resist being overtaken by spectacle and capital. Geographer Tim Edensor similarly refutes critiques that see only entanglement with neoliberal politics and economics in light festivals. He cites four processes by which light festivals prompt meaningful encounters: defamiliarization, the production of a sense of belonging, conviviality produced by interactivity, and artistic experimentation through the assembly of different experts in art, technology, and design.21 I echo Edensor’s refutation 19  Scott McQuire, The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (Los Angeles: Sage, 2008). 20  Susik, “The Screen Politics of Architectural Light Projection”; Heather Diack, “Sleepless Nights: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Performance,” Public 23 (June 22, 2012): 8–22; Johanne Sloan, “Experiments in Urban Luminosity,” Senses & Society 10, no. 2 (July 2015): 200–216. 21  Tim Edensor, From Light to Dark: Daylight, Illumination, and Gloom (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 114–15.



of the blanket critique of these events and similarly locate potential within them. However, I do this while being mindful of the presence and volume of oracles, considering the festival itself as a zone of place making that contains within it both an architecture of placemaking and multiple practices of place-making. I turn toward the rise of light festivals in the United States in the 2010s in smaller cities and neighborhoods. This is a specific phenomenon that centers light art to promote a particular vision of twenty-first-century urban life and does not encompass the entire history of festivals or exhibitions of media art in public spaces.22 This is also a particular moment when the concept of arts-led “creative placemaking”23 ascended in the United States and when urban illumination itself underwent significant change through the roll-out of LED lighting techniques that moved away from impersonal utility toward an attitude that curates atmospheres and accents through ambient lighting and color. The United Nations even declared 2015 as the “International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies.” This moment coincides as well with a time where projection was the dominant medium in the gallery for considering issues of place and displacement.24 I focus particularly on BLINK, a biennial festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, begun in 2017, as a case study, but reference other events in the United States and elsewhere. Examining light festivals requires what I call a varifocal critical lens. This lens considers the light festival on multiple scales—the broad scale of the phenomena itself, the city-wide scale of particular festivals, the monumental scale of projection mapping, and the granular scale of spectatorial experiences. This requires refocusing at each stage, drawing upon interdisciplinary discourses on the city, labor, geography, architecture, public art, and spectatorship. This move from the macro to the micro informs my 22  Expanded cinema artists in the 1960s and 1970s hosted a number of exhibitions in public spaces, and LA Freewaves hosted a public media art biennial from 1989 to 2008, which worked specifically to bring the public into contact with video art outside of the mainstream. 23  Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa, “Creative Placemaking,” white paper, The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a Leadership Initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in Partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation (Markusen Economic Research Services and Metris Arts Consulting, 2010). 24  Alison Butler, Displacements: Reading Space and Time in Moving Image Installations, Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 17–20.



sections below. I include analysis of the organization and placemaking goals of light festivals, the rhetorical and visual strategies of promotional and wayfinding materials, and the ground-level experience of urban space and encounters with particular artworks. I look particularly closely at festival artworks that take place on the surfaces of urban space—projections onto buildings. Through enchantment and spectacle, light festivals become interfaces: between placemaking and public art, between the industrial and postindustrial city, between citizens on the street, and between the material city and the abstract, virtual concept known as “the urban.”25 In this way, they quite literally attempt to project the urban onto the city. Interfaces, however, are not simply points of exchange but “autonomous zones of activity,”26 as Alexander Galloway contends. These zones contain within them both a system of effects and a number of conflicting forces—even cracks and glitches. Examining how placemaking and place-making occur within light festivals allows us to not only better understand this increasingly popular urban phenomenon but also potentially create conditions for progressive potential within its future. Origins As a cultural form, festivals are part of nearly every society and every period. They are simultaneously a departure from social norms and a vehicle for the celebration and codification of culture.27 These “socio-spatial” phenomena tap into both local pride and tourist interest, and festivals of culture (such as art, film, or food) have increased significantly since the mid-twentieth century.28 Urban arts festivals in particular became increasingly site-specific, moving beyond dedicated exhibition venues and into the city itself.29 The rise of the urban light festival connects to these trends, 25  Shields draws on the work of Henri Lefebvre to parse out the differences between the city (the actual, material place) and the urban, a “temporal and spatial logic” that is “immanent and virtual.” Rob Shields, “The Virtuality of Urban Culture: Blanks, Dark Moments, and Blind Fields,” in Cartographies of Place, ed. Michael Darroch and Janine Marchessault, Navigating the Urban (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014), 47, 41. 26  Alexander R. Galloway, The Interface Effect (Malden: Polity, 2012), vii. 27  Waldemar Cudny, “The Phenomenon of Festivals: Their Origins, Evolution, and Classifications,” Anthropos 109, no. 2 (2014): 642. 28  Cudny, 643, 646–47. 29  These were largely begun by urban arts and theater festivals in Avignon, France, under the direction of Jean Vilar. Matthew Reynolds, “Dream Factory Détournement: Freewaves, Art, and Urban Redevelopment in Hollywood,” in Spectacle, ed. Bruce A. Magnusson and



as well as to the biennial boom in the artworld since the 1990s, but has its immediate origin in the turn of the millennium, especially stemming from the success of the Fête des lumières in Lyon, France, an annual event running since 1999. Tourism scholars Emanuele Giordano and Chin-Ee Ong cite Lyon’s festival as by far the most influential, sparking a worldwide trend that has since been exported to cities looking to spark tourism and invigorate nighttime economies.30 Their list of nearly 100 festivals around the world, begun between 1994 and 2016, has a noticeable uptick in the 2010s but practically ignores any festivals in the United States,31 an omission I seek to remedy. The genealogy of light festivals, both large and small, also reaches much further back into the history of the visual culture of public space. The spectacular transformation of public spaces through light has historically been employed to enchant or otherwise magically enliven both place and the social body. Arguably we can trace nocturnal projections and spectacle at least as far back as the spectacular nightly Baroque fireworks and fountains at Versailles and the illuminated transparent paintings of eighteenth-­ century pleasure gardens.32 By the twentieth century, electric light became the subject of nocturnal transformations, including Claude Bragdon’s Festivals of Song and Light in early twentieth-century New York, which sought to enact direct democracy through the transformative potential of communal singing and electric lit spectacles inspired by n-dimensional space and Theosophy,33 and—far more nefariously—Albert Speer’s architecturally scaled light spectacles in Nazi Germany, a moment cited Zahi Anbra Zalloua, Global Re-Visions (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016), 158–59. 30  Emanuele Giordano and Chin-Ee Ong, “Light Festivals, Policy Mobilities and Urban Tourism,” Tourism Geographies 19, no. 5 (March 17, 2017): 699–716. 31  Giordano and Ong, 708. Their list only takes note of one event in the United States: New York’s Festival of Light in DUMBO Brooklyn in 2014, even though some of the events I discuss started during the period they studied. This points to a research problem. Assembling any kind of comprehensive list of these events is virtually impossible, as they arise under a number of different terms, have varying levels of publicity, and often are hosted on websites that constantly change or remove past content. 32  Naomi Stubbs, “Pleasure Gardens of America,” in The Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island, ed. Jonathan Conlin (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 134. 33  Jonathan Massey, “Organic Architecture and Direct Democracy: Claude Bragdon’s Festivals of Song and Light,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 65, no. 4 (December 1, 2006): 578–613.



frequently by detractors and critics of spectacular, light-based public art. In 1952, Paul Robert-Houdin held the first modern son et lumière show at the Château de Chambord, achieved through powerful projectors and experimentation in broadcast stereophonic sound.34 This moment spurned a number of similar approaches to the lighting of monuments in the tourism industry, from theme parks to historical landmarks, and is the most direct precedent to light festivals.35 Contemporary light festivals often allude to the wizardry of new technologies, ignoring these historical precedents. When they do acknowledge them, they often do so in the service of aggrandizing local histories. The Street Light Art Festival in Rochester in 2015 connected directly to Bragdon’s early twentieth-century events, and Lyon’s Fête des lumières has much deeper origins in seventeenth-­ century candle-lit processions and nineteenth-century nocturnal fireworks celebrations for the Catholic holy day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In sum, despite associations with new technologies, light festivals draw from a much deeper lineage of nocturnal spectacles that temporarily transform public space in ways meant to produce particular affective bonds between spectators, place, and power. Projecting the Future City Light festivals project a desired image of the city and urban life through the temporary transformation of the built environment through light and the moving image. Festival titles, such as GLOW (San Diego and Washington, D.C.), BLINK (Cincinnati), LUMA (Binghamton), ILLUMINUS (Boston), Spark (Minneapolis), Brilliant (Baltimore), IMMERSE (Orlando), and InLight (Richmond), foreground the optical transformation of the city, alluding to illumination’s magical or enlightening associations rather than Virilio’s unstable retinal image. Promotional materials emphasize how events bring people together and transform the city, alluding to the magical, spectacular, dream-like, or enchanting experiences to be had. They often call upon terms like “future city” and “Creative City,” and I argue they can also be considered part of what is called “the 34  Éric Monin, “Les techniques pionnières des premiers spectacles son et lumière,” Revue Sciences/Lettres, no. 6 (February 18, 2019). 35  J. Lovell and H. Griffin, “Fairy Tale Tourism: The Architectural Projection Mapping of Magically Real and Irreal Festival Lightscapes,” Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events 11, no. 3 (December 18, 2018): 469–83.



projective city.”36 Connecting the “future city” to nocturnal urban illumination would at first seem to advance both the optimism and otherworldliness of early twentieth-century illumination, such as Coney Island’s Luna Park, and science-fiction’s dystopian vision in films like Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), though festivals’ activation of this term frequently alludes to material and social transformations as much as to mediated spectacle. The “manifesto” published in early promotional materials for BLINK Cincinnati as well as incorporated into the website of both the 2017 and 2019 events recalls the mid-century optimism of futurist Buckminster Fuller and the original theorist of expanded cinema, Gene Youngblood, though with particular resonance to contemporary placemaking: The people of the Future City are united and enlightened. In the BLINK of an eye their hearts and minds glow with the radiance of transcendent knowing. Knowing the light of a thousand tomorrows of opportunity and hope. Knowing the light that shines from their hearts is all that was ever needed to stay the darkness of ignorance and poverty. Not here they said. Not in our shining Future City. They work and play and draw the light from one another until it outshines the sun. The light inside revealed in all. The only light that matters. Together they shine with celebration, laughter and labor shared for all the world to see and in the blink of an eye their radiance is undeniable.37

Through its rather hopeful proclamations, this text outlines connections between BLINK’s ephemeral transformation of the city and a strategic realignment of bodies, urban space, and capital in realizing a particular version of the “future city.” The phrase “they work and play and draw the light from one another” suggests a slippage between labor and play akin to “ludic capitalism,”38 and the movement of “light” between subjects  Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (New York: Verso, 2005). 37  The actual text on the BLINK website has every word (including prepositions) capitalized, which I have changed here for ease of reading, but I have maintained the all-caps “BLINK” in the first line as well as the capitalization of Future City. This text first appears in a promotional brochure from October 2016 and was part of the websites for both the 2017 and 2019 festivals. “ABOUT,” BLINK CINCINNATI (blog), accessed April 17, 2020, 38  Galloway, The Interface Effect, 27. 36



could be read as either vivifying or vampiric. Certainly, the immediacy of the “blink of an eye” has a direct parallel to Virilio’s anxieties over the instability of the retinal city. It also echoes the speed with which public-­ private partnerships have remade the neighborhood that hosts the festival. The “enlightening” aspect of illumination sets up a dichotomy between the “ignorance and poverty” of the “dark” past (or present) and the luminous future, a rather troubling (though unintended) parallel to the rapid gentrification of the historically Black neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine, which formed the core of BLINK’s footprint. As Colin Woodard wrote on Over-the-Rhine’s “renaissance” in 2016: It’s a transformation that happened in the blink of an eye, turning a neighborhood that in 2009 topped Compton in Los Angeles for the ‘most dangerous’ title into something that looks and feels like Greenwich Village…Virtually everything that’s occurred in Over-the-Rhine—from the placement of the trees in the park to the curation of ground floor businesses—has been meticulously planned and engineered by a single, corporate-­funded and decidedly non-governmental entity.39

That entity is the public-private partnership Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, known as 3CDC, one of the many sponsors of BLINK, and an entity that holds extensive real estate investments in Over-­ the-­ Rhine and the neighboring Central Business District that host BLINK’s projections. Though some contend that 3CDC makes good-­ faith attempts to minimize displacement, others maintain that they accelerate gentrification and that their impact on the neighborhood disproportionately advantages corporate partners and the Creative Class residents they hope to attract. The future city implied by many festivals not only overlaps with many properties held by real estate stakeholders but also directly involves the Creative City players behind contemporary gentrification. At BLINK, showcasing Cincinnati-area creative industries was at the center of the project’s conceptualization and realization. The entire event is the brainchild of Brave Berlin, a design and production agency headquartered in Cincinnati that creates immersive environments and events for largely 39   Colin Woodard, “How Cincinnati Salvaged the Nation’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood,” POLITICO Magazine, June 16, 2016, Emphasis added.



corporate clients. Brave Berlin previously put on Lumenocity, an outdoor concert with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with projection-mapped animations onto the historic Music Hall, and BLINK sought to expand this medium into other parts of the city. Creative economy players often dominate the rosters of artworks at light festivals, blurring the roles of artists and designers in public art, something Joel McKim took note of with regard to Montréal’s Quartier des Spectacles and sees as indicative of a broader shift in the aesthetic treatment of public spaces post-Tilted Arc.40 At BLINK’s inaugural 2017 event, all of the twenty-two architectural projections were produced by creative economy players: brand management and marketing firms or individuals who produce immersive environments, events, and content for concerts and corporate clients.41 The LUMA Festival in Binghamton, New York, similarly highlights the local creative economy. Its website reads: “Every LUMA festival showcases the unique talents of the many professionals in our community. We hope the continued recognition of this event, the city and its people can only add to Binghamton’s reputation as a growing and revitalizing community with so many great talents and attractions.”42 As visually appealing and complex as these projections often are, they tend to shy away from site-specificity, conceptual substance, or challenging subject matter. Projections mapped onto the neoclassical façade of Memorial Hall at BLINK, for example, by Sean Van Praag in 2017 and Foster & Flux in 2019, explored digital decay and glitches in bright colors. These projections were certainly dazzling but walked a line between the jolting possibilities of enchantment and the smoothness of culture industry amusements, which disallow any critical thought or sense of surprise.43 Creative economies become intertwined with both public art and visions of the future city. Festivals frequently host conferences and public 40  Joel McKim, “Spectacular Infrastructure: The Mediatic Space of Montreal’s ‘Quartier Des Spectacles,’” Public 23, no. 45 (June 22, 2012): 129. 41  Event partner AGAR, for example, who created multiple projections in both versions defines themselves as “experience makers,” “memory builders,” and “growth drivers” who “leverage human experiences, event production, digital technology, music, art and content to inspire and jolt audiences, build memories and get results for brands and communities.” “AGAR,” AGAR, accessed June 8, 2020, Artists were more strongly represented via street-level “light sculptures” located primarily in Washington Park. 42  “Community Impact – LUMA – America’s Premier Projection Arts Festival,” accessed May 19, 2020, 43  Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics, 127.



talks on innovative strategies in various industries, turning light festivals into platforms for technocratic visions of the future city. BLINK hosted a number of related talks or promoted parallel “partner events” during the daytime including a meet-and-greet with Brave Berlin and the “Fresh Error” symposium on “supplemental perspectives in design, art, architecture, fashion, commerce, and culture” in the creative industry organized by a boutique design firm in 2019.44 In England, the Lumiere Festival in Durham holds frequent related conferences, starting with “Arts Means Business: How Culture Can Change the World,” with developers, policy-­ makers, and creatives in 2013.45 Light City in Baltimore, Maryland, refers to itself as a festival of “light, music, and innovation,” and hosted [email protected] LightCity from 2016 to 2018, a conference featuring entrepreneurial speakers across seven themes: SocialLab, EduLab, GreenLab, HealthLab, ArtLab, MakerLab, and FoodLab.46 This event was pay-what-you-can, in keeping with Light City’s focus on issues of social equity, but the presumption that all answers to social problems can be found in technological innovation, corporate partnerships, and entrepreneurship is troubling. The notion of innovation labs echoes the discourse of the project as outlined in 1999 by Luc Boltanski and Éve Chiapello in The New Spirit of Capitalism. To Boltanski and Chiapello, the project is a direct response to the transformation of labor and spatial relations characterized by a networked world where “social life is composed of a proliferation of encounters and temporary, but reactivatable connections with various groups, operated at potentially considerable social, professional, geographical, and cultural distance. The project is the occasion and reason for the connection.”47 Unlike in the industrial city where the common principle was efficiency, in the projective city it is activity: “activity in the projective city surmounts the oppositions between work and non-work,” as well as 44  Theo Erasmus, “The Art of Fresh Errors: Conference Seeks to Disrupt Local Design Thinking,” Movers & Makers Magazine, Cincinnati (blog), October 2, 2019, 45  “Art Means Business: How Culture Can Change the World – Lumiere Durham 2013,” Lumiere Festival, accessed July 16, 2020, 46   Stephen Babcock, “7 Startup-Centric Talks to Check out during [email protected] Light City 2018,” Baltimore, April 11, 2018, baltimore/2018/04/11/7-startup-centric-talks-check-labslight-city-2018/. 47  Boltanski and Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, 104.



distinctions between capitalism and its critique.48 The projective city is a useful framework for thinking about how moving image installation becomes a site for mediating place, as Maeve Connolly points out,49 and for examining how terms like project and lab appear with frequency in public art, transforming a field formerly known for permanent monuments into something responsive and transitory that paints cities as expressive and full of activity. “Buzz cities,” as geographers Michael Storper and Anthony J. Venables called them, support creative industries that feature high uncertainty and frequently tacit knowledges through physical agglomeration and face-to-face contact.50 Nigel Thrift notes, however, that “buzz” is not simply a product of Creative Cities but can also be engineered into their affective infrastructure.51 Projection in the context of the light festival could be read as simply a manifestation of the projective city—a temporary means for forging connections between disparate but networked actors. We can see at least how organizers might seek to blur the lines between work and play or capitalism and social justice and produce a sense of energy and buzz that flows through spectators along lines of affect. Certainly, the BLINK Manifesto’s vision of the future city could be seen as a projective city transformed “in the blink of an eye” into a radiance of “celebration, laughter, and labor.” How post-1990s corporate culture has absorbed the terms derived from a critical attitude toward commodification by artists in the 1960s further complicates the issue.52 Terms like “disruption,” “innovation,” “creativity,” “maker,” and “collaboration” abound in technological and entrepreneurial circles, and appear with frequency at events like [email protected], LUMA, and BLINK, blurring the boundaries between public art practice and production design wizardry. The inclusion of creative economy players is thankfully not always at the exclusion of artists. As Kevin Fox Gotham 48  Boltanski and Chiapello, 109. “Utterly different things can be assimilated to the term ‘project’…This is one of the ways in which the projective city can win over forces hostile to capitalism: by proposing a grammar that transcends it.” Boltanski and Chiapello, 111. 49  Maeve Connolly, The Place of Artists’ Cinema: Space, Site and Screen (Chicago: Intellect Books, 2009), 40–42. 50  Michael Storper and Anthony J. Venables, “Buzz: Face-to-Face Contact and the Urban Economy,” Journal of Economic Geography 4, no. 4 (2004): 351–70. 51  Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (New York: Routledge, 2007), 172. 52  Danielle Child, Working Aesthetics: Labour, Art and Capitalism (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019), 61.



notes, the inherent tension between tourism and local culture at the heart of the festival boom makes these events into “battlefields of contestation” where different groups jockey for centerstage or attempt to remake the festival for their own ends,53 and this occurs within cities’ many creative economies and circles as well. Some festivals seek to foreground artistic practice rather than Creative City players. These resemble curated open call or juried exhibitions, but use the buzz and activity of the light festival to address themes that complicate and critique placemaking goals. These events seek out the participation of official actors within the city but maintain a stronger basis in public art practice rather than production design through their curation and organization. The Northern Spark festival in Minneapolis, founded by media art curator Steve Dietz, began in 2011 as an all-night, dusk-to-­ dawn event and shifted to a two-night event in 2018.54 The festival model was particularly attractive to Dietz because it “brings a density to a space that’s difficult to achieve with a single project.”55 This density creates room for experimentation, greater social interaction, and the added presence of the artist, all of which are difficult to maintain over the course of longer running projects. While Dietz acknowledges that partnerships with chambers of commerce and other official actors are important, he maintains that festivals work best with an arts or cultural organization at the helm and a clear curatorial voice guiding the project.56 Unlike events like BLINK, which position themselves as generic celebrations of the city, Northern Spark looks at themes that open up questions about local identity and inclusion. In 2018, for example, Northern Spark’s theme was “Commonality,” and the curatorial statement has noticeable differences from BLINK’s manifesto. A sample of it reads:  Kevin Fox Gotham, “Theorizing Urban Spectacles,” City 9, no. 2 (July 1, 2005): 225–46.  Dietz also realized some outdoor media art projects at the Walker Art Center in 2003 and 2006. Northern Spark is part of Northern, a broader initiative that commissions media art in public spaces. Northern Spark went on hiatus in 2020, which was planned and announced well before both the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests and civil unrest that rocked the city of Minneapolis following the police murder of George Floyd in 2020. A planned leadership transition was also announced at this point, and Steve Dietz stepped down as director of the organization. “Press Release: Northern Lights.Mn to Take a Year Off from the Northern Spark Festival in 2020 to Plan for the Future,” Northern Lights, October 22, 2019, 55  Steve Dietz, Interview with author, August 27, 2018. 56  Dietz. 53 54



Is it possible to share common ideals and goals while acknowledging significant differences in heritage, lifestyle, income and interest? What do we have in common in a city with significant racial disparities in employment, education and other markers of well-being? Can there ever be a common ground on land that was colonized? And what do these questions mean for Downtown Minneapolis—one neighborhood in the midst of many in our metropolis? We dream of dynamic, shared spaces. A commons that is available to everyone for collective and individual purpose.57

Inherent in Northern Spark’s topic of commonality is an acknowledgment of difference, highlighting work that needs to be done to imagine a new commons—itself a site of contestation—rather than an ideal unity that happens in “the blink of an eye” and smooths over any conflicts or division. Northern Spark 2018 also played on the name of one of the festival’s locations, a recently completed park called The Commons, which was part of a flurry of development near the football stadium and a site of political battles over public or private use. Northern Spark’s other locations, an outdoor pedestrian mall and public library, formed other potential concepts of a twenty-first-century commons. The curators wanted to specifically address racism, sexism, and attacks on free speech, and the selection of artworks highlighted a number of perspectives from Black and Indigenous artists.58 By taking the question of the commons (rather than the projection of an ideal unity) as the organizing principle of the project, Northern Spark created space for conflicting visions of the city. Other festivals seek to create nodes for an international roster of artists or expand local galleries’ reach into the public realm. Georgetown GLOW, organized by the Washington, D.C. neighborhood’s BID and taking place over the winter holidays, stemmed from an invited exhibition of four artists featured at Lyon’s Fête des lumières in 2013. InLight Richmond started in the Virginia city in 2008 as a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the 1708 Gallery. The annual festival features a guest juror and structures its themes around its shifting location, often including some political work by emerging artists. For example, experimental filmmaker Logan 57  “Commonality,” Northern Spark 2018, accessed June 12, 2020, Bold text in original. 58  Particularly strong was the short-film screening Free Kin, featuring work by and centered on the experiences of oppressed peoples curated by Adja Gildersleve that ran at the library both evenings.



Dandridge created multi-channel outdoor projections in both the 2018 and 2019 versions of InLight that explored the history of the Black Power movement through found footage and sound. Even festivals like BLINK can provide opportunities for experimental projects through their expansion and adjacency. In 2019 BLINK increased its number of projections and sprawled across the Ohio River and into the neighboring city of Covington, Kentucky, a move that also allowed for the participation of more visual artists—notably more women projection artists.59 More adjacent projects unaffiliated with the festival but participating within its downtown spaces also appeared in 2019, harnessing the festival’s crowds for increased visibility. The Weston Art Gallery, located in the heart of BLINK’s footprint on the city, hosted Emanate, a group show of light-based work from local artists. The gallery was open late every night of the festival and featured the attention-grabbing neon installation Ocular Reverb by Erin Taylor and Hank Hildebrandt in the glass-walled street-­ level lobby space. Related screenings, events, and even socially engaged projections took place downtown at the same time as BLINK’s events. Though not on the official roster or map, these events still attracted passersby and interest by proxy. These might be understood as interstitial projects within the dominant structure of the festival, or tactics in the midst of BLINK’s top-down strategies.60 BLINK’s capitalist emphasis on growth paradoxically led to an increase in the multiplicity of voices. The expanded roster and adjacent projects included more community voices, social commentary, and public art practice, arguably disallowing the oracles of capital and spectacle to completely overtake the festival’s rendering of the future city. However, the adjacent voices often appeared through self-funded and self-promoted means, latching onto BLINK’s density and audience but without its structures of support. The interface between the physical city and virtual visions of urban life produced by light festivals may be dominated by the discourse of the project, but it also has the potential to assume the role of the commons. While the project contains a networked sense of buzz and ability to smooth over differences, the commons, as Patricia C. Phillips discusses, is “the physical 59  The roster of companies hired for the 2017 iteration featured mostly male leadership, and the only individual names listed on the projections in the first iteration were men. 60  Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les Presses Du Reel edition (Dijon: Les Presse Du Reel,Franc, 1998); Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).



configuration and mental landscape of American public life” at the heart of public art.61 Full of contestation, the commons “existed to support the collage of private interests that constitutes all communities, to articulate and not diminish the dialectic between common purpose and individual free wills.”62 The overlapping of creative economy experience design with public art troubles the festival as a space of the commons with the managerial efficiency of the project and the smoothness of amusements. However, through curatorial vision or even adjacency, such events can still offer moments of enchantment which prick and disturb visions of the future city or imagine new ones. Turning from the projective city to projection itself, we might examine more closely how these events project onto the city— what kind of images do they superimpose onto urban space? And how do they take existing surfaces, institutions, and places as a “ground”? Turning the City into a Canvas Imagining a future city through projection in some ways treats urban space as a blank canvas upon which to project visions of urban life. In these moments, the city can become a ground for an image. This operation happens in two ways: first by flattening urban space into an image for consumption and background for packaged experience, and second through the appropriation of urban surfaces as a blank screen for projection. Both instances highlight those aspects of festivals’ participation within neoliberal economics that give so many critics pause, yet they also contain their inverse possibilities: contributing to a sensuous and multidimensional image of the city and highlighting underacknowledged or in-­ between spaces. The first point concerns the overall packaging of festival content. Promotional videos often feature drone footage taking in an entire urban space, transporting the viewer away from the experience of a sidewalk spectator via the floating drone’s eye perspective, assuming the domain of the planner that de Certeau contends transforms the world into a text.63 Through a festival’s visual attraction and branding, rather than a text, the city becomes an image. This is distinct from what Kevin Lynch famously called “the image of the city.” Lynch’s concept is a mutable, subjective,  Patricia C. Phillips, “Temporality and Public Art,” Art Journal 48, no. 4 (1989): 332.  Phillips, 333. 63  de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 92. 61 62



and dynamic mental image co-produced by observer and environment that contributes to a sense of place developed through design and experience.64 Unlike this dynamic mental image produced through sensuous encounters between observer and city, when a city becomes an image it is compressed into a static picture developed through city branding to sell an idea of urban experience packaged flat for replication, dissemination, and photoshoot wallpapers. When a city becomes an image, it functions as both commodity and backdrop for consumption. The use of images as engines of urban growth and city branding occurs through both the packaged products of official actors and the diffuse and crowdsourced conduits of social media.65 The particular kind of image often produced by light festivals moves through both channels and is tied to consumption within the experience economy. In Consuming Cities, Steven and Malcolm Miles wondered, “have cities, in fact, ceased to become a place and emerged instead as an emotional experience, a way of thinking about the world, an idealized perception of experience that may not necessarily reflect the mundane reality?”66 Images become the packaging and delivery mechanism for this emotional experience and idealized perception. This transformation happens not only through pictorial and photographic representations but also spatially, through made-for-selfie spaces that produce images that communicate an urban experience in two dimensions. Sculptures of words where visitors and locals pose with readymade captions and views of skylines, urban murals that simulate wings or false architectures for people to pose with, and pop-up “Instagram museums” with photo-ready immersive spaces are but a few examples of this trend. Considering how festivals contribute to the production of a sensuous, fluid, and experiential image of the city or ossify urban space so as to transform it into an idea of emotional experience packaged within an image is perhaps a useful framework for considering how they escape or reify the neoliberal city branding for which they are so often critiqued.

 Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1960).  Katherine McCallum, Amy Spencer, and Elvin Wyly, “The City as an Image-Creation Machine: A Critical Analysis of Vancouver’s Olympic Bid,” Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 67 (2005): 24–46; Brettany Shannon, “Urban Design and Public Art on Instagram,” in The New Companion to Urban Design, ed. Tridib Banerjee and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris (New York: Routledge, 2019), 661–74. 66  Miles and Miles, Consuming Cities, 4. 64 65



The flat image I am thinking of here has much in common with the concept of the brand, and creative economy players involved with light festivals work mostly with brand promotion. Producing a “brand image” for investment and tourism drives many festival organizers,67 and brands appear frequently in their ephemera and marketing. The sponsorship sections of festival maps, programs, and websites often feature a mosaic of corporate logos, making the festival itself part of a world of brands. Development companies, local television channels, major corporations headquartered or with outposts in the city, local universities, and other businesses form the branded background and financial support of festival attractions in a similar manner as walk-a-thons, 5K races, and other events that temporarily overtake downtown spaces. The “logo creep” within the actual spaces of artworks is relatively low, but the logos of festivals themselves are nearly always omnipresent. Festival names, often single words written in all capital letters, lend themselves to logos that appear throughout festival spaces. The BLINK logo, a flat, almond shape with an off-­ center doughnut overlay or cutout simulating an eye glancing upward, appeared on all promotional materials, wayfinding, explanatory panels, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia. This brand image—itself a flattened abstraction of the body’s sensorium—has the effect of packaging a diverse array of installations and attractions under one project, a project that becomes synonymous with the brand and with city branding. Interactive installations produce images of urban buzz and energy that circulate frequently in promotional material and social media. Many of these works travel from festival to festival, making them both an extension of nomadism in contemporary site-oriented work and an example of how festivals become mass-produced phenomena.68 Jen Lewin’s The Pool (2008), featured in BLINK 2017 and described by Edensor as part of VIVID Sydney’s attempts to “encourage visitors to discard self-­ consciousness and publicly perform in ways they usually would not,”69 is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The Pool consists of a circle of illuminated, pressure-sensitive disks that change color as participants step on them, producing new movements between participants who collaborate 67  David Mercer and Prashanti Mayfield, “City of the Spectacle: White Night Melbourne and the Politics of Public Space,” Australian Geographer 46, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 507, 514. 68  Miwon Kwon, “One Place after Another: Notes on Site Specificity,” October 80 (1997): 85–110; Giordano and Ong, “Light Festivals, Policy Mobilities and Urban Tourism.” 69  Edensor, From Light to Dark, 132–33.



and collide to animate the ground beneath them. Its form recalls the horizontal platforms discussed in Chap. 4, illuminating how playable city principles and the notion of the city as a playground drive festival organizers. Part of the Lewin’s “Have Art Will Travel” program, the work debuted at Burning Man in 2008 and within twelve years appeared in fifty-five cities on four continents, most often as a part of downtown festivals. A number of other interactive installations, like Alan Parkinson’s inflatable Architects of Air luminaria (begun in 1992) and the competitive bike race light sculpture Light Battle (2013) by the Dutch design studio Venividimultiplex, also travel, suggesting that light festivals make place at least in part with interactive works unhinged from a particular site. These installations do allow a kind of un-self-conscious performance and play, but they also become attractive subjects for drone’s eye publicity photography that renders festival space into a playground and hotspots for selfies with their pleasing and complementary soft lighting. Festivals encourage selfies and promote hashtags, creating a participatory experience as well as readymade publicity. The IMMERSE Orlando festival emphasizes interactive, selfie-ready environments, including The Worlds of Corkcicle, an “immersive photo experience,” which is, in reality, an interactive advertisement for a luxury water bottle company. These readymade, itinerant experiences, which are marketed as contributing to the creation of urban buzz and a sense of place, also function to create marketable images, distributable tokens of urban experience packaged flat. The second way festivals make the city into a canvas is to treat the built environment as a blank ground for artworks. Using projection or moving image screens to overtake otherwise quiet neighborhoods or neglected urban walls manifests in a number of ways all over the world and with varying relationships to place, temporality, and spectatorship.70 These events may appear ad hoc and DIY, but the appearance of guerrilla-style

70  Examples include Rirkrit Tiravanija, Community cinema for a quiet intersection (after Oldenburg) (1999), realized for a festival in Glasgow, and A Wall Is a Screen, an annual roving projection event in Hamburg, Germany. Both discussed in Anna Schober, The Cinema Makers: Public Life and the Exhibition of Difference in South-Eastern and Central Europe since the 1960s (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2013). See also the Pop Up Cinema project in Stockholm, Sweden in 2016. Annika Wik, “A New Role for Film in Urban Space. Evaluation Report Pilot #1 Play or Pause, Pilot #2 Pop up Cinema,” Smart Kreativ Stad (Film Capital Stockholm and the European Union, 2016).



urban intervention is often a myth or origin story.71 Similar to the two-way street between cinema and the museum Erika Balsom charts from the late 1990s to the present,72 cinema and quiet urban surfaces similarly form a symbiotic relationship: cinematic projection enlivens otherwise neglected spots at night, and the specificity or romance of the building or ruin re-­ enchants the cinema with the aura of place. Appropriating the city as a blank canvas can obscure social histories and current realities, treating abandoned and economically or environmentally devastated neighborhoods as a “tabula rasa,” that becomes both “the canvas for artists and curators” and “attractive properties for investment capital and new development opportunities,” as Matthew Reynolds notes on the post-Katrina art triennial Prospect.1.73 The corner projection Blink Factory by animation studio Foster & Flux at the 2017 BLINK festival produced just this kind of effect. Blink Factory appeared to transform the interior of an abandoned residential building into a colorful Rube Goldberg machine  (Fig. 5.1). Cartoon eyeballs resembling the BLINK logo careened down chutes and sputtered out of gears. The projection wrapped around a street corner and overtook two sides of the building, outlining window frames and cornices and producing the illusion of cartoon machinery within the empty building. The ground for this projection was one of many vacant and boarded up nineteenth-century Italianate buildings in the northern section of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, what in 2017 was the edge of gentrification. This particular building was purchased vacant in 2012 by a limited liability company incorporated in Maryland, one of many vacant buildings in the neighborhood currently held by investors waiting for the market to turn. In this context, the assumption of the building’s emptiness and projection of BLINK’s own apparatus within it has troubling implications. Blink Factory’s appropriation of the building’s vacancy inserts an entirely new system inside of it. The illusion of a functioning interior on the surface of an abandoned 71  Schober, The Cinema Makers, 203. The founder of Orlando’s IMMERSE festival frequently cites the event’s origins in an unannounced downtown performance of the city orchestra and Cirque de Soleil “without permission” in 2012. Cole NeSmith, “How Creativity Can Transform Cities” (Tedx Orlando, Orlando, Florida, 2018), https://www. 72  Erika Balsom, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013). 73  Reynolds, “Dream Factory Détournement: Freewaves, Art, and Urban Redevelopment in Hollywood,” 175.



Fig. 5.1  Foster and Flux, Blink Factory, 2017. BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Image courtesy Foster and Flux)

building is not unlike the practice of painting trompe l’oeil doors and windows on the sheets of plywood that board them up, a tactic used in many communities to hide blight and curb broken windows in an effort to deter crime and attract potential developers. The projection goes a step further to transform the function of the building into a fantastical factory of visual pleasure, in effect washing over a symptom of unequal development and access to housing with an entertainment apparatus. One of the adjacent projects at BLINK 2019 used a usually quiet space in the middle of Over-the-Rhine to call attention to (rather than obscure) issues of housing, development, and displacement. Local artist Mary Clare Reitz collaborated with residents and university students to create Time for an UPdate? (2019). The projection appeared on the exposed party wall of buddy’s place, a supportive housing center for people experiencing



homelessness and located in another nineteenth-century building.74 This two-channel projection illuminated an otherwise dark architectural surface and transformed a quiet parking lot into a new pocket of interest in the middle of BLINK’s attractions. The lower register of the projection mapped onto a small community mural and the upper channel displayed a four-minute animation featuring questions and responses asked of Over-­ the-­Rhine residents. Animated text simulating a typewriter or handwriting asked questions about good times or trauma experienced in the neighborhood. Responses ranged from recollections of moments of joy at a concert in the park to feeling hurt by “obnoxious revelers” in the trendy bar scene openly mocking local residents. When asked what signs they would bring to a protest, responses included “Black Life Matters,” “See Me,” “Housing 4 ALL,” “Affordable housing is NOT low income,” “No guns allowed,” and “This is a neighborhood NOT an amusement park.” These themes contrast BLINK’s dominant narratives about the city, its future, and belonging while still participating within the festival’s spaces and visual language of projection mapping. Though making very different claims about housing and the city, both Time for an UPdate? and Blink Factory illuminated otherwise dimly lit surfaces with projection-mapping technology. Projection can also call attention to bland or forgettable urban surfaces to point to other places. Tiffany Carbonneau’s public art, for example, employs projection to animate archival research into local histories of migration. At Northern Spark, she produced Something Worth Remembering (2018), drawing from The University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center Archives (Fig. 5.2). Projected onto the bland, Brutalist façade of the Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH department store along Nicollet Mall, the outdoor shopping district that formed the pedestrian core of the festival’s attractions, the video layered an abundance of references to the city’s 74  Reitz is emphatic that she is not the artist of this work. She provided this full list of collaborators: “Key Beck, Dionna “DeeDee” Flowers, Ms. June Alexander, Ms. Janet AlbrightCaptain, Mark Miles (sadly, passed away during the making of TfaU), Tony Drummond, Jeremy Neff, Ann Driscoll, Jacquie Eaton, Sarah Corlett (with her kiddos Annabelle and Walter).” Both the mural and the housing center are spelled with lowercase letters in honor of the name and preferred spelling of buddy gray, a local homeless advocate who began welcoming the city’s homeless into his house in the 1970s, later founding evening shelters for the homeless. The ground floor storefront houses the Miami University Center for Community Engagement, which was also involved in the project, and the upper floors feature twenty apartments.



Fig. 5.2  Tiffany Carbonneau, Something Worth Remembering, 2018. Northern Spark Festival, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Tiffany Carbonneau. Courtesy the artist)

many histories of migration. The montage included letters from immigrants in the early and mid-twentieth century, banknotes from the countries of Minneapolis’s largest current immigrant populations, nineteenth-century maps with migrant routes in Minnesota, found video and film footage of migratory birds and Nicollet trolleys, historical images of the man believed to be the first person of African descent born in Minnesota and the first Indigenous woman to graduate from the Washington College of Law, and other material to illustrate Minneapolis’s complex layers of migration.75 The retail thoroughfare of Nicollet Mall became a conceptual departure for exploring forms of movement. The projection transformed an impersonal and uninteresting architectural surface that itself houses a chain store named for another place into a screen 75  “Something Worth Remembering,” Tiffany Carbonneau, 2018,



that, rather than inserting a fantastical apparatus, points to how history connects places. Carbonneau also projected onto a former tailoring store in Covington, Kentucky, at BLINK 2019, using its 1912 slogan as her title, Today, Tomorrow (2019). The work again layered archival documents from the artist’s research into the building’s former uses and immigrant owners with video evoking transatlantic migration and a mapped animation overlaying the building’s blueprint onto the façade. Realized within light festivals, these projections called attention to how movement, migration, and mobility construct place, echoing Doreen Massey’s notion of “a global sense of place” and challenging some of the dominant forms of projection and placemaking at light festivals. Festivals also often appropriate signature buildings as screens for projection. Recalling the cinematic wrapper on the Hirshhorn Museum, discussed in Chap. 2, projection also overtook Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in both the 2017 and 2019 iterations of BLINK (Fig. 5.3). Corner projections produced by the production company Lightborne featured abstract animations that were marquee installations. Speculative renderings of the CAC transformed through projection were hallmarks of promotional material leading up to the first festival. The jutting volumes of the CAC’s architectural façade were treated as a sculptural canvas for projection. Abstractions mimicking and accentuating the building’s formal style appeared to break down, burst, liquify, or twist architectural form. These projections beautifully articulated and even helped lend a visual apprehension of Hadid’s Deconstructivist style, but they did little to connect to what lies within the CAC’s walls. Although CAC curators and staff were consulted in the development of the projection, the relationship between light festivals and existing arts institutions and communities can be strained. Festivals make frequent use of museums’ monumental surfaces and surrounding landscapes for projection and installation but can at times merely appropriate them as screens rather than expanding their cultural offerings and curatorial vision.76 By transforming the city into a canvas for art, light festivals dominated by placemaking actors threaten to flatten the sensuous image of the city into a branded product for consumption or artwash processes of social exclusion by treating urban space as a “tabula rasa,” but the multiplicity of 76  This situation improves through the many projects at the site of Saya Woolfalk’s BLINK installation in 2019, which occurred in tandem with her solo show at the CAC and which I examine in the sections below.



Fig. 5.3  Lightborne, The Portal, 2019. BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Image courtesy Lightborne)



the festival format provides space for counternarratives and contestation that produce a richer and more layered engagement with place. Projection  mapping, a key technology in the more attention-grabbing installations of light festivals, also animates and reimagines monumentality in urban spaces, forming a tactile interface between the material architecture of the city and luminous projection. These works exploit the tension between materiality and immateriality inherent in the moving image to produce a complex form of “surface tension”77 upon the city’s architecture. Monumental Moving Murals Cinema’s migrations from the theater are often linked to the rise of small screen formats, the fragmentation of the audience, and the disappearance of shared communal forms. As this book contends, however, the movement out of the theater went in multiple directions. Cinema also migrated toward and expanded onto more monumental forms of projection—onto museum walls and wrapping architectural façades. As discussed in Chap. 2, projection involves an explicitly public form of moving image media, one that escapes possession and has the enhanced capacity for scale.78 Without access to the projector, one cannot break or even obstruct the screen other than through the insertion of shadow, a form of interactivity denied in most light festivals’ intentionally high placement of projectors on scaffolding and inside of buildings. When placed outside, projection’s capacity to overtake architectural façades suggests it can destabilize or erase a sense of place as defined by architectural fixity. Understanding place as a process of becoming rather than a static concept challenges this assumption, and a more pointed interrogation would ask not how projection contests or overtakes the building but rather how the new assemblage of projected light and architecture communicates a sense of place—how a mediated monumentality functions in public space. Despite celebratory or damning claims about new media’s capacity to alter urban space and animate the inert surfaces of monuments, the transformation of monumentality through media and technology was heralded by theorists of architecture and the city throughout the twentieth century. Lewis Mumford’s “death of the monument” and Sigfried Giedion’s “new 77  Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). 78  Balsom, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art, 43.



monumentality” looked to moving image media or nocturnal light spectacles as ways to replace or reimagine what they saw as a dead culture of monuments.79 Dave Colangelo has called contemporary large-scale projection a form of “massive media” and a “new ‘new monumentality,’” leveraging the affordances of cinematic and digital media, including superimposition, montage, and dispositif.80 Craig Buckley reminds us that the façade itself has “a deep and unstable historical role as a medium,” that stretches long before questions of media facades or architectural projection.81 Light festivals’ projections, as I have argued, both connect to the broader concept of the projective city and make particular claims on the city as a ground for an image. Turning to the technology itself, projection mapping’s reliance on the material built environment makes it a particularly rich visualization of the role of light festivals as interfaces. Projection  mapping digitally warps images onto irregular surfaces or masks them so as to animate murals. “Mapping” refers not to cartographic charting but rather to “dressing, coating, texturing, covering, transposing, and tuning.”82 Though the term “projection mapping” (sometimes alternately called “video mapping”) is relatively new,83 projecting onto three dimensional objects so as to make them appear to come alive has deeper origins, including in tourist spectacle and magic lantern shows, producing a kind of unheimlich sensation through the encounter with objects or places made marvelous.84 Dan Torre contends that digital projection 79  Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1938), 446; Sigfried Giedion, “The Need for a New Monumentality,” in New Architecture and City Planning: A Symposium, ed. Paul Zucker (New York: Philosophical Library, 1944), 559–61, 568. 80  Dave Colangelo, The Building as Screen: A History, Theory, and Practice of Massive Media, MediaMatters (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 63. 81  Craig Buckley, “Face and Screen: Toward a Genealogy of the Media Facade,” in Screen Genealogies: From Optical Device to Environmental Medium, ed. Craig Buckley, Rüdiger Campe, and Francesco Casetti (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), 74. 82  Daniel Schmitt, Marine Thébault, and Ludovic Burczykowski, “Introduction,” in Image Beyond the Screen: Projection Mapping, ed. Daniel Schmitt, Marine Thébault, and Ludovic Burczykowski (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2020), xvii. 83  The term “video mapping” itself only first appears in 2008, and skyrockets ten years later. Ludovic Burczykowski, “The Origins of Projection Mapping,” in Image Beyond the Screen: Projection Mapping, ed. Daniel Schmitt and Ludovic Burczykowski (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2020), 3–4. 84  One of the first recorded instances of mapped projection in 16 mm were faces projected onto statues of characters on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland in 1969, and some historians have discovered that camera-obscura devices may have been used to illuminate



mapping onto architecture constitutes an entirely new form of “situated animation” that fuses the “irreality” of animation with the concreteness of the urban landscape. Far from producing a simulated world where we lose our sense of place, Torre instead suggests the dual operation upon animation and place can be understood through the Deleuzian concept of “the fold.”85 If projection mapping relies on the concrete surfaces of the structure to produce its fluid forms, illusions, and animations, its use in light festivals can be read as an interface between the industrial and postindustrial city. The architecture that defines postindustrial late capitalism is itself seemingly liquid and immaterial—skyscrapers of reflective glass that evince a sense of almost repressive transparency. Anne Imhof used this building material as a ground for the marathon performance work Faust (2017). This work transformed the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with an elevated glass platform, upon and below which performers slowly crawled, wrestled, and moved, turning the architecture of finance into a brutal, inhuman cage within the pavilion’s Fascist architectural shell. The surfaces of glass skyscrapers are already somewhat cinematic—their glass façades offer shifting and sometimes glaring reflections of the city, sun, and sky throughout the day, and they become glowing bulbs of light in the evening. Projection mapping in most light festivals occurs not on these supermodern surfaces but upon older facades and edifices. The immaterial and ever-shifting images that would seem to threaten architectural fixity in most cases actually depend on the materiality of urban space, most often on the opacity of brick, stone, plaster, and concrete that are hallmarks of architecture before the twentieth century.86 Projection  mapping’s dependency on the concrete forms of architecture can be seen in the medium’s frequent use to tell the story of a faces of statues as far back as ancient Greece. Ludovic Burczykowski and Marine Thébault, “Ponts of View: Origins, History, and Limits of Projection Mapping,” in Image Beyond the Screen: Projection Mapping, ed. Daniel Schmitt and Ludovic Burczykowski (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2020), 79. Burczykowski, “The Origins of Projection Mapping,” 4–6. 85  Dan Torre, “The Metamorphosis of Place: Projection-Mapped Animation,” in Animated Landscapes: History, Form and Function, ed. Chris Pallant (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 211. See also Gilles Deleuze, “The Fold,” trans. Jonathan Strauss, Yale French Studies, no. 80 (1991): 227–47. 86  Though it is technically possible to project onto glass, this requires either smart glass or the addition of a film substrate to register the projected image. To do this only temporarily and at an architectural scale would be a prohibitive cost for most light festivals, and the technology is usually used for rear-projection.



building’s history for special events or historical celebrations, such as the work of German design studio Urban Screen and the Czech collective The Macula. Unlike these often stand-alone events derived from son et lumière spectacles and producing a (somewhat) central focus of enchantment and place narration, light festivals feature multiple examples of projection mapping, creating a variety of spectatorial nodes and attractions that remake urban space. These brief cycles invite visual pleasure and large pop-up audiences who marvel at the illusory dematerialization of the building or the seemingly magical animation of the mural. Most often without narrative, screened on a loop, and of relatively short duration, festival projections could be understood as what Tom Gunning called the “cinema of attractions.” Spectators certainly experience a sense of enchantment from the illusionism of the moving image; however, they do “not get lost in a fictional world and its drama, but [remain] aware of the act of looking, the excitement of its curiosity and fulfillment.”87 Counter to the rapt viewers implied by critiques of projection mapping, the actual spectatorial experience at festivals involves brief loops and a clear apprehension of the surrounding built environment. Since locals make up the majority of the audience at these events, they are also aware of what city space looks like normally. Projection’s “defamiliarization,” in this light, can lead to a re-­ enchantment of the everyday.88 Spectators’ gasps at technological wizardry are not those of a spellbound audience hypnotized by the sudden retinal transformation of the built environment but rather a form of spectatorial excitement that contains within it the seeds of enchantment as well as the potential for slick amusement. Mapped projections onto murals in particular become fascinating sites for considering light festivals’ interface with the built environment. As a form of public art, murals have a closer historical connection to bottom­up place-making than the more official voice of monuments—from the progressive politics of Mexican and New Deal muralism in the 1930s to the community mural movement of the 1960s and 1970s to the rise of street art in the 1980s and 1990s. Contemporary urban murals also connect directly to placemaking efforts in blighted areas of cities, usually overtaking exposed party walls (walls between adjoining structures)—covering 87  Tom Gunning, “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator (1989),” in Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, Seventh Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 743. 88  Edensor, From Light to Dark.



up a site of demolition and vacancy with vibrant color and design. Many of these murals “[prioritize] formal and environmental issues” with primarily abstract imagery in contrast to the iconography of community murals.89 These murals serve to announce or demarcate hip neighborhoods associated with artists, a process that often leads to gentrification and development which often displaces artists and covers up murals by filling vacant lots. In this way, urban murals are often themselves a different kind of moving image through both their ties to relocation and their inherent ephemerality (intended or unintended). BLINK commissions a number of murals that expand those realized through Artworks, a Cincinnati non-profit that primarily produces eye-catching murals along with educational and employment opportunities for local youth, a model copied in a number of cities. Often featuring strong graphic design elements and local themes, such as Kentucky-born Hollywood star Rosemary Clooney or nineteenth-century painter Elizabeth Nourse, new and preexisting Artworks and BLINK-commissioned murals serve as the ground for some of BLINK’s most captivating projections—quite literally turning the party wall into a party. Saya Woolfalk’s mural for BLINK 2019, Visionary Reality Threshold (2019), features a kaleidoscopic rendering of three mandala-like figures who stand in for “empathics,” a fictional race of women who alter their genetic code to merge with plants (Fig. 5.4). Part of a multi-year speculative project in a variety of media (viewable in a solo show at the CAC that overlapped with the festival), Woolfalk’s utopian world merges Afrofuturism with science-fiction to center women’s experiences and pose questions about the utopian possibilities of cultural hybridity. The mural replaced an earlier Artworks-commissioned piece, What’s Happening Downtown (2007), which featured people looking out of three trompe l’oeil window sills based on actual lintels and sills in downtown Cincinnati. With major development across the street and the entire wall now revealed with the demolition of a one-story car repair shop to create a parking lot, Woolfalk’s mural overtakes the entire wall with far more eye-catching color and design.90 During the festival, this mural came alive with projection-mapped  Andrew Wasserman, “Beyond the Wall: Redefining City Walls’ ‘Gateway to Soho,’” Public Art Dialogue 4, no. 1 (2014): 76. Wasserman is here specifically discussing City Walls, an organization founded in New  York City in 1967  in the midst of economic and urban decline that became a model replicated in a number of cities in the 1970s. 90  The building is owned by Talbert House, a non-profit behavioral health and addiction treatment organization, which operates a treatment center there and purchased the building in 2011. 89



Fig. 5.4  Saya Woolfalk, Visionary Reality Threshold, 2019. Mural and projection for BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Annie Dell’Aria)

animations. Woolfalk has produced a number of public moving image artworks, including for the Urban Video Project in Syracuse, New York, and the Art Production Fund. The projection mapping at BLINK was completed with the help of Brave Berlin, serving as a promising example of fruitful collaboration possible between studio artist and creative economy player. Abstract patterns flowed and pulsated with otherworldly energies as leaves swayed gently below. Occasionally the painted blue faces of the empathics faded into each mural. In these moments, video transformed the abstract patterning and animated forms with the monumental facial presence of the empathics. This appropriates how the face is, in Nigel Thrift’s words, “a primary composer of affect and maker of presence”91 in cities, especially through screen media and advertising; only these faces produce a moment of strangeness and enchantment rather than commodity desire.  Thrift, Non-Representational Theory, 195.




Fig. 5.5  Inka Kendzia and Faith XLVII, Ad Pacem, 2019. BLINK Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Chop em Down Films)

In Ad Pacem (2019), media artist Inka Kendzia called upon montage and the creation of cinematic space to animate and enrich street artist Faith XLVII’s new mural, also for BLINK 2019 (Fig. 5.5). The two South African artists explored themes of migration and non-violence in an interconnected world through their collaboration, which overtook another exposed party wall of a vacant four-story building built in 1878, one of many recently acquired by an arm of 3CDC.92 The mural features a streaky grisaille image of the mounted figure of Eirene, the Greek goddess of peace, waiving a white flag. Black and white projection alternately accentuated this image, making the flag appear to wave, and melted its forms away into a cinematic screen with close-up shots of a horse, anatomical renderings of a human body, or roving shots over an antique map. In other moments, radiating circles and a central pyramidal form within the mural became visual keyholes in a complex montage of archival and shot footage of human and animal migration, peace demonstrations, and abstract patterns. At times an aerial shot of running horses pushed the 92  The building was purchased by OTR Holdings LLC, which was formed in 2005 to hold title to real property and transfer income to 3CDC. OTR Holdings LLC owns over seventy properties in Over-the-Rhine and is second only to the City of Cincinnati in terms of number of properties held in the neighborhood.



mural’s mounted figure into the foreground, appearing to lead the charge. At others, scenes of refugees and freedom fighters mapped through the pyramidal keyhole flattened the mounted figure into a backdrop or static frame. The dramatic and sudden opening of cinematic space echoes what André Bazin referred to as the “centrifugal” aspects of the cinema. He argued that the moving image’s outer edges are not a delimiting frame but rather a form of masking over an image “prolonged indefinitely in the universe.”93 The masking of the cinematic image projected onto Ad Pacem shifts constantly, however, creating a Cubist-like visual push and pull that counters Bazin’s realism but echoes the geographic complexity and ethics of interconnected struggle that underpin the work’s theme. These centrifugal forces which pushed space into and beyond the mural expanded further through the dramatic score by Stellamara. Beyond animating and layering the mural’s form, the projection opened new spaces within and along the painted surface that deepened the iconographic reference to explore non-violent resistance to borders and oppression throughout the world. Projection mapping lends moving images a solid ground while at the same time destabilizing both the presumed fixity of architectural surfaces and the flatness of urban murals, producing a cinema of attractions in public space. Moving murals also highlight the ephemeral nature of urban mural programs themselves, and their implications in systems of relocation and displacement. While projection mapping may be a highlight of festivals like BLINK, it is rarely the only form of visual enchantment. Events feature a variety of light sculpture, performance, and interactive installation at the street level, creating multiple, multisensory, and dispersed forms of enchantment from the monumental to the microscopic. This variety produces a peripatetic spectatorial experience that happens at different scales. While projection is the spectacular scaffolding of many festivals, viewers’ alternately aleatory and choreographed paths form the experiential core. Multisensory Spectatorial Paths Visitors’ movements through light festivals are quite different from the serendipitous encounters a passerby might have with public art while going about their usual movements. Most viewers arrive with the  André Bazin, What Is Cinema? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 166.




intention of attending the festival, though movement is embedded within the experience. They become what theater scholar Susan Bennett calls a “peripatetic audience.”94 This audience comes into each looped projection at different moments and takes it in from a variety of angles, looking at other spectators as well as at the moving image. This reading of the peripatetic audience is at odds with the figure of the spectator “spellbound” by public projection in many critical frameworks. Jonathan Crary characterized a moment in 1907 where Sigmund Freud found himself entranced by a public moving image in Rome as indicative of a “dehistoricized perpetual present, wavering between boredom and absorption” brought on by the looped projection and the “production of historical amnesia.”95 Abigail Susik’s critique of placelessness in an emerging “monolithic culture of projection” argues that projection “seeks rapt spectators as much as it seeks passive surfaces.”96 Critics uneasy with projection  mapping’s slippage between real and irreal argue for critical projections that maintain a tension between image and architectural ground, but the relegation of the spectator to a state of passive, immobile rapture mischaracterizes the actual experience of light festivals. Spectators are rather more like the audiences of vaudeville’s “cinema of attractions” or the visitors of world’s fairs, enjoying the pleasures of visual illusions in motion and amidst an array of other events and stimuli. Content at festivals engages a peripatetic audience and the aura of a live event despite the fact that most projections run on a loop. Viewers can wander through urban space and form their own itineraries, creating cinematic montages directed by individual moments of enchantment with monumental moving images, smaller installations or performances, fellow audience members, and the city itself. At first, this would seem to recall far more avant-garde deconstructions of both cinematic narrative and urban space: surrealist André Breton’s activity of “dropping into the cinema when whatever was playing was playing…and leaving at the first hint of boredom”97 to go to another screening; and the Situationist’s psychogeographic practice of the dérive. Breton’s mobile spectator transforms the 94  Susan Bennett, “The Peripatetic Audience,” Canadian Theatre Review, no. 140 (Fall 2009): 12. 95  Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), 369. 96  Susik, “The Screen Politics of Architectural Light Projection,” 119. 97  André Breton, cited in Andrew V. Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 115.



presumed relationship between cinema’s narrative spaces and reality; as Andrew Uroskie contends, “cinema was not employed to flee reality, but to transform one’s encounter with it through its radical juxtaposition with the cinematic.”98 Radical juxtapositions and the transformation of one’s encounter with urban space similarly inform Guy Debord’s psychogeographic exercise of the dérive, a “playful-constructive” form of “drifting” that involves the “rapid passage through varied ambiences.”99 This exercise is meant to both undo and expose the dominant forms of movement produced by urban planning. Movement between projections and attractions in a light festival is similarly open, non-linear, and disallowing absorption into any one narrative space, but this individualized spectatorial experience is not a total subversion of the expectations of the cinematic-spatial situation but a production of it. BLINK co-founder Dan Reynolds of Brave Berlin referred to the placement of attractions to move viewers through the event as “beacons and breadcrumbs”: beacons are the large projections that generate fascination and attention from afar, whereas breadcrumbs are more ground-level attractions that pull spectators’ attention and curiosity.100 Encounters with light are also not merely ocular but affect the human sensorium,101 producing different haptic paths through space. Food trucks, beer stands, and live music further activate the other senses, making light festivals far more multisensory affairs than their optically themed titles would suggest. Through the dispersion and mixture of beacons, breadcrumbs, and other sensory delights, the spectator’s sensuous encounter with the city becomes unique and personal, or perhaps (like the dérive) connected to an activity shared among members of a small group who drift together. Tips on both promotional materials and local media coverage emphasize walkability and discovery. A press release tells BLINK 2019 visitors, “Don’t BLINK and drive,” “Pick a zone & go,” and “Take pause; together…allow yourself a moment of awe…with a united community.”102 This emphasis on walking transforms urban spaces usually dominated by  Uroskie, 115.  Guy Debord, “Theory of the Dérive (1958),” in Situationist International Anthology, ed. Ken Knabb, Revised & Expanded Edition (Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006), 62. 100  Dan Reynolds, Interview with author, December 19, 2016. 101  Sloan, “Experiments in Urban Luminosity.” 102  “HOW TO BLINK®  – News Release,” Cincinnati Regional Chamber, October 9, 2019, 98 99



cars, encouraging locals to navigate on foot parts of the city they would normally traverse behind the wheel or miss entirely. This prompts a sensory and temporal engagement with the city that produces a new sense of place. Planner Jeff Speck argues that the walkable city can “save America,” but to do so it must make walking useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting.103 Festival organizers attempt this by focusing attractions within a walkable area, installing clear wayfinding materials like sandwich boards and sidewalk stickers along potential paths, closing streets or creating busy crosswalks by working with volunteers or local police, and, of course, providing visual spectacle. The traffic jams and visual disruption of projections by the red and blue flash of police cars stationed to monitor busy intersections underscore that this walkability is both temporary and forced. Navigation materials, which help ground viewers overwhelmed or intimidated by the openness of the festival, similarly emphasize the pedestrian experience and the transformation of multiple blocks through illumination. Georgetown Glow’s map features a suggested walking path, LUMA’s map highlights the festival location with a virtual spotlight that points down from an omniscient perspective in the sky, and BLINK’s colored festival zones render the surrounding city bland and nameless. The walking itineraries of festival spectators produce a vacillation between movement and pause that rearranges urban space along moments of enchantment rather than automotive travel, daily business, or tourist itineraries. Mobile phone applications connect to GPS to provide walking directions to desired attractions; the BLINK 2019 app even marked “hot spots” where visitors were assembled or made repeat visits. At other times, artworks deliberately slow down or disturb festival goers’ walking paces. At Georgetown Glow  in Washington, D.C. in 2019, Boston architects Choi+Shine used crocheted lace and lighting to create The Heron (2019), a low-tech, site-specific cinematic experience along the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, a nineteenth-century artery for commerce and westward expansion. This piece explored a quiet urban ruin in the midst of an affluent neighborhood and provided a momentary reprieve from the bustle of the festival. Also redirecting spectatorial movements at Glow was Waiting… (2018), a work by Dutch architect and light artist Frank Foole that debuted at the Amsterdam Light Festival. This installation appropriates the spinning wheel that appears on phones and computers as content loads and 103  Jeff Speck, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 11.



transforms it into a massive sculpture of lozenge-shaped lights circling a vertical LED screen. The spinning wheel, almost universally recognizable, prompted passersby on the sidewalk to stop and wait, curious what would load. Brief vignettes of backlit figures drinking coffee, making phone calls, or holding magazines appeared on the screen as if in front of a window. The loading circle and the scenes each take about ten seconds, disturbing the desire for immediate gratification, any sense of narrative immersion, and the momentary glance of a passerby. Viewers assembled on a nearby street corner, waiting through a buffering cycle to see glimpses into the window and sharing puzzled glances and conversations about what might be happening in the screen’s limited narrative before continuing down M Street. At BLINK, there were also many moments of shared encounter and pause between strangers, as well as a transformed experience of urban space. In my conversations with spectators at BLINK 2017, visitors frequently recounted their path through the city, citing their favorite projections and discussing how this allowed them to see Cincinnati in a new light. Many particularly discussed feeling “safe” walking in areas they would not have ten years prior, some even specifically referenced the 2001 civil unrest in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood following the killing of an unarmed Black man by police. This both alludes to the transformation of the neighborhood in the past two decades and how some viewers, though Cincinnati residents, resided outside of Over-the-Rhine. Viewers also commented that they never imagined an event of this scale dedicated to art occurring in Cincinnati and remarked frequently on how BLINK created a shared experience with strangers. Most said they never saw that many people downtown before, and many also specifically mentioned the diversity of attendees and being able to share an experience with people they would not ordinarily meet. Crowd size frequently becomes a metric for success and “economic impact” cited by festival organizers, a point worth critique, but large crowds can create enhanced visibility for artworks and the “density of experience” Dietz mentions as a unique strength of the festival model. In opposition to the serendipitous itineraries of most festival visitors is the more regimented movement within the city in the form of organized parades. Often held during festivals’ opening nights, these parades are open to participation from individuals as well as organized groups. At BLINK, the “Future City Spectacular” parade happens on the first night of the festival and features a variety of participants donning costumes decked with LED-lights or carrying lanterns, light sculptures, or other illuminated props. Tim Edensor argues that a visually similar light



procession at the Moonraking Festival in Slaithwaite, England, “inscribes a collective identity in space, binding participants together in a carnivalesque, loosely scripted performance.”104 Though both processions involve local participants, the origins of the Moonraking Festival stem from local legends, not placemaking partners, suggesting a slippage between participatory place-making and experience economy placemaking in BLINK’s and other festivals’ rather nebulous celebration of the “future city.” Saya Woolfalk offered a counter-movement to BLINK’s parade through Cosmic Cartographies, a participatory performance at the site of her mural projection developed in collaboration with Aimee Meredith Cox that celebrated how Black women reimagine and remap the city in futuristic ways. Flipping the “future city” construct with the artist’s own speculative project and Afrofuturism, this event appropriated the ritualized movements of the parade in ways that pointed to gaps and ambiguities in the festival’s celebration of the future city. This performance was curated by the CAC and, along with the projection, demonstrated the potential in collaborations between designers, artists, and contemporary art organizations that is rare at many festivals, but hopefully becomes a model for the future. Aleatory and choreographed peripatetic spectatorship at light festivals reconfigures urban spaces primarily traversed by car into walkable zones of visual pleasure. Viewers often produce their own itineraries and spectatorial montages through walking, but wayfinding, event design, and promotional materials provide an infrastructure of multi-directional pulls on attention that generate a sense of activity. Hardly spellbound and wrapped within a perpetual present, light festivals can play with multiple temporalities and generate moments for many kinds of encounters with art and with each other.

On the Future of the Future City The light festival phenomenon of the 2010s highlights how placemaking through media art sets up contesting and at times conflicting relationships between city branding and public art. As projects, festivals create connections and encounters between visitors and place that often walk a line between a sense of enchantment that enlivens our sense of the world and the slick amusements of the experience economy. Critiqued as these events  Edensor, From Light to Dark, 131.




may be, they can prompt viewers to rethink, renegotiate, or question the assumptions made by placemaking initiatives. The festival format can offer up both moments of city branding and platforms for significant public art, even, paradoxically, through its capitalist insistence on expansion. My aim is not merely to refute the multiple critiques of light festivals and festivalization and point to progressive potential within them but to illustrate how these events become zones of negotiation between actual cities and virtual projections of urban life. By leveraging projection and illumination to transform our experience of place—and especially the moving image’s power to conjure elsewheres or animated images of irreality—light festivals are complex interfaces between the city and its projected image of itself. Within this zone lie moments that can defamiliarize and newly acquaint spectators with the city in ways that may reinforce or reimagine dominant narratives. The question remains: to what extent do festivals offer moments of enchantment and extend opportunities for members of the public to negotiate their own relationships with art? I contend that this relies in part on how they embrace or smooth over multiple definitions of place. Light festivals’ scale and ability to attract a dense and diverse audience should not be ignored or merely derided as spectacle. Rather, it should be mined for potential. To this end, festival organizers should not view the creation of crowds as an end goal but as a medium itself. How can festivals’ ability to produce density in public space not simply legitimize placemaking goals but itself begin to make place anew? The future of festivals depends in many ways on our ability to see them as examples of public art. Broad brush condemnation or art world ambivalence removes critical discussions about art and its relationship to many publics from the planning of these events, assuring their managers and organizers will work less frequently with artists, curators, and art institutions and exclusively with Creative City players and the growing experience economy who too often flatten place into a commodifiable image. In addition to the festival model, placemaking initiatives that want to provide an image of a thriving Creative City and nighttime economy also seek out more permanent forms of moving image-based public art. Whereas the festival creates an at times compromising overlap of public art with event planning, city branding, and tourism, these more sculptural and architectural initiatives face challenging issues related to their materiality, specifically artworks’ realization, preservation, and maintenance.


Precarious Platforms: The Paradox of Permanent Moving Images

The public-private partnerships behind most moving image-based public artworks in the United States often lead to unstable ground for initiatives aspiring to permanence. Unlike ephemeral projection or interventions onto commercial screens, the works I examine in this chapter were intended to be, in public art terms, permanent.1 Permanent public art often requires increased community approval, funds for preservation and maintenance, and longer processes and timelines that can stifle or slow experimentation.2 Permanent moving image-based public art requires investment in technological infrastructure, upgrades, and components, raising unique challenges in preservation and maintenance. As discussed in Chap. 2, before the MTA assumed ownership in 2008, Bill Brand’s Masstransiscope (1980) faced years of disrepair and obscurity due to a lack of funds for restoration and its status in between the realms of Creative Time’s experimental curatorial model and the material realities of a permanent installation. Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain (2004), discussed in Chap. 4, has (thus far) fared better, and its rather unique success is perhaps 1  Permanence is, of course, a very relative term, and even things like marble statues are prone to natural decay and change over time. In public art terms, permanence often means a work that is meant to remain in place indefinitely. Temporary projects can be up for months, and sometimes even over a year, but most always have a predetermined (if flexible) end date. 2  Patricia C. Phillips, “Temporality and Public Art,” Art Journal 48, no. 4 (1989): 331–35.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




indebted to the overt presence of private capital in Millennium Park. As Erika Doss notes, public art is essentially vulnerable, exposed to “processual conditions and variable circumstances of public places and space, audiences, and duration,” making its permanence a “dilemma.”3 For media art, the architectural, sculptural, and technological components raise even more challenges for permanence and preservation, let alone issues in maintaining quality programming and content. The moving image’s own ontological denial of permanence and embedded expectation of change exacerbates these technological difficulties, as well as permanent public art’s increased level of approval. Despite the moving image’s fugitive presence in space, its devices are still material objects subject to the same conditions and circumstances as other artworks placed outside. Zach Melzer begins his overview of urban screen studies with a quotidian encounter with discarded CRT (cathode-­ ray tube) monitors on the residential streets in Montréal. Oriented away from their domestic origins and reflecting the spaces around them, Melzer argues that these trashed sets “point to some of the ways screen technologies and cultures are thought about, imagined, and normalized in urban spaces as urban objects and practices.”4 Inert and turned off, these discarded screens echo Anna McCarthy’s contention that televisions are part of material as much as visual culture.5 These blocks of plastic, glass, and wiring also attest to the ephemerality of screen media’s material ground and technological supports, alluding to unique vulnerabilities screens have as public art fixtures. In this chapter, I examine moments where placemaking initiatives included permanent moving image artworks or the creation of public screens outside the realm of advertising. I outline challenges and narrate important failures that illuminate how moving images in public space not only produce anxiety around traditional notions of place but also open up questions about the presumed relationship between moving image media and commerce in the public sphere. I begin with a brief comparative study 3  Erika Doss, “The Process Frame: Vandalism, Removal, Re-Siting, Destruction,” in A Companion to Public Art, ed. Cher Krause Knight and Harriet F.  Senie, Wiley Blackwell Companions to Art History (Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2016), 404. 4  Zach Melzer, “Understanding Urban Screen Media and Culture,” in The Routledge Companion to Urban Media and Communication, ed. Zlatan Krajina and Deborah Stevenson (New York: Routledge, 2019), 36. 5  Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001).



of public screens in shifting commercial landscapes: Rio Videowall (1989), a short-lived, yet iconic project by Dara Birnbaum in a mall in Atlanta, Georgia, and the shifting screen cultures at the site of a former drive­in theater in northern Virginia. I then turn to projects that sought to erect permanent screens to host regular artworks and non-commercial content: the rise and fall of a national network of screens in the United Kingdom, the BBC Big Screens (2003–2013), and the narrative of a planned but never realized screen for public art in Indianapolis, Indiana. In a way, this is a chapter about failure. Failure is not a foreign topic to the study of public art. As Cameron Cartiere and Jennifer Wingate ask, “if we only celebrate our successes and continually deaccession our controversies, where is the learning?” They continue, “it is in part through our failures that we are able to develop and grow as a field.”6 The public art failures and controversies explored in this chapter are more than symptoms of a reactionary public wary of new media art. Rather, these stories are both related to the moving image’s own ontological denial of permanence and an example of screen media’s troubled position between art and commerce, issues that are compounded by a reduction of public funding for public culture and precarious partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Videowalls and Shopping Malls One of the earliest public art projects in the United States to include the (intended) permanent installation of video screens was Dara Birnbaum’s Rio Videowall (1989) in a new shopping center in Atlanta. Birnbaum, a pioneer of video art known for single-channel works like Technology/ Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978–1979) as well as the architectural treatment of video monitors in works like PM Magazine (1982), was among a number of New  York artists who explored the emerging phenomenon of the videowall in the 1980s. Made up of a grid of CRT monitors, videowalls became hallmarks of the New York nightclub scene as well as gallery installations by artists like Nam June Paik and Gretchen Bender, though they have been somewhat overlooked in the history of moving image installation.7 On the possibilities of the medium, Birnbaum wrote, 6  Cameron Cartiere and Jennifer Wingate, “The Failure of Public Art,” Public Art Dialogue 10, no. 2 (July 2, 2020): 112–13. 7  Recovering the history of videowalls in the 1980s and producing an oral history and digital preservation of the Rio Videowall are part of a current digital humanities and research



With the onset of digital video-wall systems, the television image seems to break through its frame for the first time in history. The television image, previously contained within an individual box, now pushes through this box into a multiframed matrix, stretching past its previous boundaries.8

The videowall’s capacity for expansion was not a means to produce a larger image that verges on the cinematic. Rather, the “multiframed matrix” created a spatial intervention and a push and pull of scale. In Birnbaum’s words, “the television box is now simply one of twenty-five modular units—a metaphoric pixel, a microcosm to the macrocosm of the total system.”9 Though Birnbaum’s project was the first in the United States to utilize a fully digital interface, videowalls appeared in other realized and unrealized public art projects in the 1980s, making Birnbaum’s work less of an anomaly than many accounts suggest. The Lunatic of One Idea, a collaborative project organized by the Public Access Collective, took over a thirty-six monitor videowall in a shopping mall in Toronto in 1987. Like Messages to the Public in Times Square, discussed in Chap. 3, this was more of an intervention into the flow of an existing screen infrastructure than a permanent, placemaking installation. The goal of Public Access Collective’s work was to interject political messages or create a more ambiguous “unintelligibility or semiotic confusion” amidst the videowall’s usual flow of advertising images.10 Birnbaum’s project, by contrast, was to deploy a videowall solely as an artwork—a stability between platform and content that became a point of contention in the work’s troubled history. In a site-specific but never fully realized precedent to Birnbaum’s videowall, Mierle Laderman Ukeles included a “Media Flow Wall” in her proposal for Flow City, a multi-part, site-specific work for the 59th Street Marine Transfer Station of the New York City Department of Sanitation project by art and media historian Greg Zinman. Greg Zinman, “Public Art Goes to the Mall: The Digital Preservation of the Rio VideoWall (1989)  – A Project for the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center at Georgia Tech,” accessed July 3, 2020, 8  Dara Birnbaum, “The Individual Voice as a Political Voice: Critiquing and Challenging the Authority of Media,” in Women, Art, and Technology, ed. Judy Malloy (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003), 140. 9  Birnbaum, 140. 10  Johanne Sloan, Urban Enigmas: Montreal, Toronto, and the Problem of Comparing Cities, Culture of Cities Project Series (Montreal: Montreal Queens University Press, 2007), 225.



she began working on in 1983. Along with a passage ramp made of recycled materials and a glass bridge overlooking garbage being dumped at the site, the “Media Flow Wall” would act as a “permeable membrane” between the transfer station and the garbage’s final destination at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island.11 In 1991 the glass bridge was completed, and the rest of the project stalled due to a lack of funding, but the unrealized  videowall component contained the project’s most complex exploration of how place intersects with networks of maintenance.12 Twenty-four CRT monitors were to be set into a wall of crushed glass and screen a mixture of live video footage from cameras situated atop the transfer station, above and below the surface of the Hudson River, and at the Fresh Kills Landfill, as well as pre-recorded educational material from scientists and ecologists. As Lisa Woynarski contends, the Media Flow Wall would have implicated urban space and ecological matter in a way that dissolves “the urban/nature dualism in order to think of the city as an ecologically ‘alive’ space,” what she calls “bio-urban.”13 The Media Flow Wall also would have produced a sense of hypermediated, fragmented, and multi-directional visual energy in contrast to the rest of the site. In Ukeles’s drawing for the work, close-ups of water and shots of landfills pepper monitors around the perimeter while a single image of a masked sanitation worker moving a large red object spans across four monitors in the center, producing a flicker in scale across the monitors (Fig. 6.1). Architecture to the right in the image mirrors the gridded form of the videowall, while to the left a wide ribbon window with a view of the site creates a cinematic contrast to the videowall’s more dizzying electronic fragmentation and compilation of places. As a precedent to Birnbaum’s more well-known work, Flow City both demonstrates the richness in the investigation of place made possible through the videowall medium, particularly its ability to screen closed-circuit, broadcast, and pre-recorded content simultaneously, and exposes the significant challenges to realizing such an expensive technological public artwork. The initial success of Dara Birnbaum’s videowall in Atlanta stemmed in part from the attractiveness of the medium’s capacity for ever-changing  Mierle Laderman Ukeles, “Flow City,” Grand Street, no. 57 (1996): 209.  Ukeles’ ideas on maintenance were first outlined in her four-page typed document, “Manifesto for Maintenance Art,” first exhibited in 1969. 13  Lisa Woynarski, “Performing the Bio-Urban in Bonnie Ora Sherk’s The Farm and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s Flow City,” Performance Research 25, no. 2 (February 17, 2020): 127. 11 12



Fig. 6.1  Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Flow City, 1983–1990. Drawing. Public art/ video at 59th St Marine Transfer Station, NYC Dept. of Sanitation © Mierle Laderman Ukeles. (Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York)

imagery and sensory overload to the mall’s developers and designers. Mall developer Charles Ackerman first had the idea to incorporate some kind of outdoor video installation in his development for the Rio Shopping Complex after an encounter at a nightclub in San Francisco. “I saw video art in operation for the first time. It was 2:00 in the morning…I’m mesmerized by it…30 seconds later I said ‘This must be in Rio!’”14 The multiple temporalities embedded within this statement—the heady late-­night partying hour, the mesmerized state, and the 30-second decision—allude to the temporal fragmentation and intensity of feeling video installation was able to communicate in the nightclub setting, something Ackerman 14  Charles Ackerman, cited in Dara Birnbaum, “The Rio Experience,” in Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, ed. Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (San Francisco: Aperture, 1990), 190.



hoped to recreate in a shopping center. Rio was located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, a historically Black neighborhood impacted by years of segregation and urban renewal demolition in the 1960s. The development was part of a first wave of attempts to gentrify the neighborhood, a force that accelerated in the twenty-first century, when Rio’s short life as a shopping mall was already over.15 Ackerman and architectural firm Arquitectonica wanted the project to connect to a “whole new culture” emerging among the coveted twenty- to thirty-five-year-old demographic characterized by MTV aesthetics and night club ambiance. An international competition called for proposals for a permanent outdoor video installation as well as single-channel submissions to be screened in outdoor viewing booths. The video element was to replace the anchor department store as the main attraction of the mall, transforming the mall itself into a “microcosm of what the city center would be”; “Expect to have all your senses bombarded,” Arquitectonica claimed.16 Video installation, in other words, was part of a strategic placemaking endeavor to produce a particular effect on the sensorium that would make the mall into both a destination and an experience. Birnbaum won the competition with her proposal for Rio Videowall in 1987. A jury of arts professionals selected her work for its interactive element, reference to the site before the development, and ever-changing content.17 The videowall’s gridded form mirrored the wireframe details of the outdoor mall’s geodesic dome and postmodern architectural style, and its content created a temporal folding that wove an exploration of the mall’s place with global flows of information. Twenty-five 27-inch CRT monitors sat in a grid raised off the ground and surrounded by the same spandrel glass used in the mall’s design with an awning to block sunlight  (Fig. 6.2). Two video feeds played over the screens—live satellite feed from Atlanta-based cable news network CNN and pre-filmed, aestheticized video of trees and greenery Birnbaum recorded at a park situated at the site before the development—forming a juxtaposition between the constant flux of contemporary global events and an “electronic memory” of place.18 By recalling the physical history of the site, the landscape 15  “History  – O4wba,” Old Fourth Ward Business Association (blog), accessed July 28, 2020, 16  Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Martin Wander of Arquitectonica, cited in Birnbaum, “The Rio Experience,” 192. 17  Robin Reidy, cited in Birnbaum, 193. 18  Installation as described in final contract, cited in Birnbaum, 196.



Fig. 6.2  Dara Birnbaum, Rio Videowall, 1989. Atlanta, Georgia. National Endowment for the Arts Artists Archive, Smithsonian American Art Museum

footage attempted to illustrate the layers of meaning at a particular place and excavate ecological histories, similar to Alan Sonfist’s land art project in New York, Time Landscape (1968–present). Unlike Sonfist’s pre-colonial garden, the videowall presented the natural landscape of only a very recent past and with heavy mediation. The footage shifted between playing simultaneously on individual monitors or overtaking a larger part of the videowall in an oscillation between televisual replication and gridded cinematic image characteristic of the videowall medium. Movement within the mall further disrupted this televisual mosaic and formed the interface between its broadcast and pre-recorded content. When passersby walked between a CCTV camera and a  lightbox at the mall’s entrance, they triggered a silhouette-shaped keyhole through which the CNN footage appeared on the videowall (Fig. 6.3). Another camera was located at the mall’s glass elevator. Rio Videowall used luma key technology and a special computer program to produce this effect, and the apparatus was the first totally digital videowall brought in to the United



Fig. 6.3  Dara Birnbaum, Rio Videowall, 1989. Detail. Atlanta, Georgia. National Endowment for the Arts Artists Archive, Smithsonian American Art Museum

States from Germany. Much like Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “tele-absence” interface discussed in Chap. 4, Rio Videowall relied on the movement of bodies to reveal visual elements of the work. Unlike Lozano-Hemmer’s projects, however, the silhouetted bodies were not those of the viewers present in front of the screen but of passersby in other areas, possibly unaware of their presence on screen, though the artist planned for signage telling people they were being recorded. The keyhole footage required the connection of disparate parts of the larger commercial site via surveillance cameras, making the surveillant performance produced through the interface more compulsory than participatory. For Birnbaum, this responsive infrastructure, combined with the live news footage, created a piece that was “continuously being made,” which she argued was “essential in such an environment both because of the flux and constant change of activity within the shopping mall itself, and because of the installation’s permanence.”19 Furthermore, the intrusion of news from around the  Description in final round of competition and contract as cited in Birnbaum, 196.




world foregrounds current events that shoppers usually try to put out of their minds as they move through the artificial environment of a shopping mall. The work’s position between flux and permanence, while offering a complexity of place rarely explored in such commercial settings, also contributed to its relatively short life. Though commissioned to be permanent, Rio Videowall was a short-­ lived project that perished in the gray area between art and commerce and was subject to the changing circumstances of its commercial setting. In Birnbaum’s words, the project was “unable to receive the benefits afforded to a noncommercial art endeavor [due to sponsorship organizations backing out or being stripped of power], while at the same time, unable to attract the kind of financing appropriate to most commercial undertakings.”20 During contract negotiations Ackerman and Birnbaum disagreed on what constituted the “art”—the apparatus or the content— leading to disagreements over the screening of sports and other television broadcasts on the screens. Furthermore, the loss of specific cultural backers left the artist to assume too many roles, similar to how Bill Brand became torn between being an artist and a preservationist during the troubled days of Masstransiscope. Birnbaum recognized the necessity of sponsorship in realizing technologically sophisticated public works, but she also found that “an imbalance occurs when an independent artist engages in a complex set of interactions with a large commercial corporation,” particularly “if unrepresented by an organization with sufficient resources and muscle to match that of the corporation.”21 She argued that the opposition between “art” and “commercial” interests was not as fruitful as a potential “marriage” between the two, where ideally the creative and financial needs of the artist are kept in mind through the role of a strong producer,22 echoing curator Steve Dietz’s comments on the necessity of a clear curatorial vision in light festivals. These points, articulated by the artist in 1990 not long after the project’s completion, are not the only ways Rio Videowall was unsuccessful. There was also the broader economic failure of the shopping center. Anna McCarthy, who visited the site in 1993 and discusses it in the conclusion of Ambient Television, remarked that the site was almost entirely empty on a weekend. Many of the stores were vacant, and without the movement of  Birnbaum, 202.  Birnbaum, 202. 22  Birnbaum, 203–4. 20 21



shoppers throughout the mall, the work’s interface was not activated and the screen became mere “video wallpaper.”23 Even the more commercial operation of the videowall for broadcasting sports or television was short-­ lived, as the apparatus was in a state of disrepair by the mid-1990s due to exposure to the elements. Facing a similar lack of maintenance funds as the Masstransiscope, the work was switched off more often than it was on. Anna McCarthy contends that Rio Videowall’s failure demonstrates “the strength of place and its material processes as forces that operate on the screen,”24 but the work of art itself was both site-specific and a form of placemaking. Birnbaum attempted to activate a tension between the recent ecological history of the site and the continuous flux of televisual information and busy passersby, but it was the socioeconomic dimension of place that became most important to Rio Videowall’s narrative. The mall’s developers sought to revitalize a plot of land left vacant during major urban renewal projects, making the greenery Birnbaum recorded more tied to an urban history of segregation than an ecological past. Chronically unable to keep a full slate of retailers as tenants, the mall was demolished in 2002 to make way for future gentrification and development that would overtake the neighborhood in the 2010s. As Birnbaum said, “instead of remaining as a permanent installation, [the work] too became an electronic memory.”25 Demographic change and density can also have the opposite effect on a public screen, as the shifting landscape for one suburban drive-in theater attests. There has been a cinematic exhibition venue on the same site in Merrifield in Fairfax County, Virginia, since the 1950s, but its form has bounced between outdoor and indoor spaces as an exurb transformed into a population center. The Lee Highway Drive-In was in operation from 1954 to 1984 and located on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. area suburbs. The drive-in featured the area’s only outdoor Cinemascope screen, a capacity of over 1300 cars, a playground, a patio, and a restaurant.26 As Mary Morley Cohen has argued, drive-in movie theaters, long thought to  McCarthy, Ambient Television, 244.  McCarthy, 247. 25  Dara Birnbaum, Barbara Schröder, and Karen Kelley, “Dara Birnbaum by Barbara Schröder & Karen Kelley – BOMB Magazine,” July 1, 2008, articles/dara-birnbaum/. 26  Robert K.  Headley, Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C.: An Illustrated History of Parlors, Palaces, and Multiplexes in the Metropolitan Area, 1894–1997 (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999), 284. 23 24



be only a marginal blip in film history, “participated in, reflected, and at times subverted” postwar societal reorganization following the expansion of suburbs and the explosion of car ownership.27 Drive-in theaters were situated on the threshold of suburban developments and more rural areas, and the location of the Lee Highway Drive-In was just that in the 1950s. The population of Fairfax County nearly tripled during the heyday of drive-ins, from 98,577 in 1950 to 275,002 in 1960.28 The drive-in survived a lightning strike in 1958 but was no match for the broader industry changes of the 1970s and 1980s, when exhibitors moved away from large-­ scale theaters to focus on multiplexes and malls. By the mid-1980s there were only four drive-ins in the entire Washington, D.C. area, and there were none by the end of the decade.29 In the midst of the decline of drive-ins, National Amusements opened Multiplex Cinemas on the site of the Lee Highway Drive-In in 1986, complete with twelve screens and a large, sprawling parking lot conveniently in place from the previous occupant. By this time, the Merrifield area was in the middle of densely populated suburbia and no longer on the outskirts. The county’s population continued to soar to 818,584 by 1990 when the area was made even more accessible by the nearby Dunn Loring station on the Washington Metro rapid transit system, completed in 1986.30 Following further increases in population density and affluence in the area during the first decade of the twenty-first century, even the multiscreen complex seemed a waste of valuable real estate, and its sizeable parking lot was ripe for New Urbanist development. The multiplex was demolished in 2009 to make way for the Mosaic District, a 31-acre mixed-­ use residential, retail, and office development, very much in keeping with the principles of Creative City placemaking, including commissioned murals and occasional temporary art  installations, such as an outdoor

27  Mary Morley Cohen, “Forgotten Audiences in the Passion Pits: Drive-in Theatres and Changing Spectator Practices in Post-War America,” Film History 6, no. 4 (Winter 1994): 478. 28  US Bureau of the Census, “Virginia: Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900–1990,” accessed June 25, 2015, va190090.txt. 29  Headley, Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C.: An Illustrated History of Parlors, Palaces, and Multiplexes in the Metropolitan Area, 1894–1997, 217. 30  US Bureau of the Census, “Virginia: Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900–1990.”



piano reminiscent of Luke Jerram’s international Play Me, I’m Yours initiative (2008–) and an over-sized, playable chess set. In the center of Mosaic is the Angelika Film Center & Café, an upscale, boutique art-house cinema chain. The arcade games that cluttered the sticky, popcorn-riddled, carpeted lobby of the multiplex were replaced by espresso machines and wine bars in a sleek decor. The theater sits near dining establishments and next to a small park, forming a sort of hearth for Mosaic’s simulation of urban space—a hearth facilitated by a screen. An over-sized outdoor LED screen attached to the façade of the theater overlooks the greenspace known as “Strawberry Park,” and, according to developers, creates a “gathering place for the surrounding community.”31 The screen features occasional outdoor movie screenings, Saturday morning cartoons, and even live sports events. Its more quotidian, ambient programming features a series of selected inspirational shorts, trailers for upcoming films at the Angelika theater, and a number of “informational videos” pertaining to the retailers in the Mosaic district, which Mosaic’s marketing team was careful not to refer to as “ads.”32 Terms like “sponsorship” and “partners” distance promotional content or branding from association with the out-of-home advertising industry, which has adverse relationships to both a traditional sense of place and residential property values. While the Mosaic screen is not specifically a venue for art, its ostensibly non-commercial presence attempts to facilitate the same kind of anchoring presence in an outdoor retail environment as Birnbaum’s videowall. Rather than connecting to an “electronic memory” of a site’s ecological past, it reaches back into Merrifield’s moving image exhibition history. In the past sixty years, the Merrifield site’s relationship to outdoor screens has come full circle. The outdoor drive-in screen, marker of the outskirts of a population center, parallels the urban LED screen at the center of a new one. The use of public screens to generate a sense of place at Mosaic is linked not to the urban revitalization that characterized many light festivals in downtown areas, but rather, like Rio Videowall, intended to anchor a manufactured experience of urban space within a shopping complex. The Merrifield screen is part of a longer history of cinematic exhibition, however, perhaps securing its presence and connecting the 31  Alison M. Rice, “A Suburban Wasteland in Virginia Gets a Modern Urban Feel,” The New York Times, December 18, 2012, commercial/a-suburban-wasteland-in-virginia-gets-a-modern-urban-feel.html. 32  Elizabeth Traynor, email exchange with author, email, July 29, 2015.



development to its past. Mosaic is bounded to the south by Merrifield Cinema Drive, alluding to the shared borders of the original exhibition site and the development’s simulation of a city center. Though Birnbaum’s videowall was much more solidly within the realm of public art than the evolution of screens at Merrifield, some important parallels illuminate how urban developments, retail environments, and demographic changes are intertwined with public screen sites. Both developers mobilized screen media as a means of signifying urban space in the middle of a suburban development, but external demographic changes and the commercial success or failure of the retail spaces were stronger indicators of longevity than site-specific design. The screen purely dedicated to art seems also more precarious, both in terms of its funding beyond the realm of advertising and in terms of its autonomy from other forms of digital or televisual content. As screen infrastructures become part of initiatives to renew urban spaces or generate new destinations, they become potential sites for encounters with art, though this exposes a number of competing interests and interpretations of public space. These screens can be free-standing, added onto buildings, or even integrated into architecture, forming dynamic media façades, but rarely do these fall entirely outside the realm of publicity. Their use as public art is more in the form of intermittent interruptions in advertising, as explored in Chap. 3. Even when designed specifically for public service or screening art, the precarity brought on by unstable funding partnerships, quickly outdated screen technologies, and the public’s uneasiness with the encroachment of public space advertising threatens public screens’ survival or realization.

Outdoor Screen Networks and Precarious Partnerships From 2003–2013, twenty-two city centers across the UK underwent a major experiment in non-commercial broadcasting in public space. This project was fueled by the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics and challenged skeptical presumptions of screens in public space. Coined the BBC Big Screens, this project attempted to and, at times, succeeded in producing new civic spaces through moving image media, though the project’s sense of flux and financial precarity contributed to its demise. Each 35-foot LED screen sat at least one story above the ground, either



free-standing or attached to buildings, and was equipped with Bluetooth, a remote-controlled surveillance camera, and a networked laptop. The size disparity between their functional and ancillary objects alludes to what Erkki Huhtamo calls the “Gulliverisation of media”33 and allowed for interactive or responsive local artworks and programming. The funding and support for the network came from a three-part cooperation between the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and local city councils, a delicate balance between local and national control and financing that eventually fell apart. The narrative of the Big Screens’ rise and fall both points to some of the possibilities for public screens as civic spaces and exposes the fragility of realizing such screens outside of advertising. The first screen debuted in 2003  in Manchester’s Exchange Square under the name Public Space Broadcasting followed by a small network that extended to Liverpool, Hull, Birmingham, and Leeds. These early experimental stages were, according the Leeds screen manager Chris Nriapia, very exciting and more conducive to interactions with creative people and artists.34 Artworks on these screens sought “perfect moments” of engagement that punctuate everyday encounters with media. Curator Kate Taylor considered mobile spectators in the scheduling and duration of content on the Manchester screen, citing works that either span long stretches of time without narrative or contain short bursts of information as the most successful. Hopes, Fears, 20 Years (2006) by the artist duo Kartoon Kings, for example, featured text gleaned from fifty interviews with Mancunians. The release of text was timed so that a passerby would see one hope and one fear during a 45-second pass of the square.35 Like the later Time for an UPdate? at BLINK, discussed in Chap. 5, the work provided a stage for community feelings about place, extending a socially engaged practice into the realm of public media address. It did so, however, within the snippets of attention in the everyday movements of passersby rather than the peripatetic cinema of attractions of a festival. 33  Erkki Huhtamo, “Messages on the Wall: An Archaeology of Public Media Displays,” in Urban Screens Reader, ed. Scott McQuire, Meredith Martin, and Sabine Niederer, INC Readers 5 (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2009), 20. 34  Chris Nriapia, interview by author, July 20, 2013. 35  Kate Taylor, “Programming Video Art for Urban Screens in Public Space,” First Monday Special Issue #4 (February 6, 2006), view/1555.



Following the selection of London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, the BBC rolled out an additional three screens in the north and midlands of England by 2007, and an additional eight screens were launched in 2008 with a major cash injection from LOCOG and Philips, who manufactured the screens. The remaining screens deployed between 2008 and 2012, expanding beyond England into Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Originally, the BBC slated for a linked network of around sixty screens of various sizes, but, following the economic collapse of 2008, this number eventually dwindled down to twenty-two. Each screen was situated within a newly remodeled or existing city center. These sites were coded, as former Head of Public Space Broadcasting for the BBC Anita Bhalla said, as community spaces rather than commercial ones.36 Content broadcast within these sites served a public service function and was catered to a mobile, ambient audience. In broadcast television, what Raymond Williams described as “flow” sought to weave one program into the next to rivet a static viewer to the chair,37 whereas the Big Screens constantly switched between different content segments to momentarily engage a mobile spectator in motion. The overall goal is similar—to hold viewers’ attention amongst competing channels or stimuli—but what happens is a shift from flow to flux. “Flow” has connotations of seamlessness and fluidity, often being associated with rivers flowing out from a single source, whereas “flux” suggests a constant state of change, which can be erratic and multidirectional. This flux was managed in a central office in Birmingham that rotated national and local content with a software called AudienceTV. The program divided each half hour into chunks for news bulletins, sports bulletins, weather, LOCOG and sponsorship material pertaining to the Olympics, segments for local content (often short films and video art sourced by the screen manager in collaboration with local universities and arts organizations), and a “best of the best” segment providing a national platform for locally sourced content. At any given time, there were multiple clips for each block of time, creating a broadcast platform to screen new content to moving, distracted spectators. While this dynamic form of programing kept the screen interesting for its ambient audience, it posed a series of challenges to curators and  Anita Bhalla, interview by author, July 23, 2013, digital recording, Birmingham, UK.  Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1974). 36 37



programmers. Given the content wheel’s dynamic scheduling and that local screens had to receive special permission for special events to opt out of AudienceTV programming, many artists were reluctant to release their films, not knowing when they would screen and hesitant about increasingly strict editorial guidelines from the BBC.38 Screen managers like Kevin Heathorn in Plymouth considered special events as more successful in terms of audience engagement, and interactive artworks, like Chris O’Shea’s Hand from Above (2009), discussed briefly in Chap. 4, were prized for their ability to attract and sustain engagement.39 Like the initiatives in Times Square discussed in Chap. 2, public art was just one component within more diverse ambient programming, but unlike those initiatives, the screen itself was not installed to deliver advertising. Instead, the BBC Big Screens attempted to become part of the production of a sense of place in city centers and to facilitate shared experiences via moving image spectatorship within a site coded outside of the realm of advertising. This partnership, hinging too strongly on the temporary enthusiasm over and financial support from the Olympic Games, proved too delicate in the end. Following the BBC’s annual report of 2012, which argued for a reduction in overhead costs and greater transparency and efficiency of spending, the decision was made to back out of the partnership. In September 2013 they handed over complete control of the screens to the city councils. With neither the personnel in place to keep the operation afloat nor the funds for technical maintenance and hardware, most screens have been permanently switched off or dismantled. Though some screens continued to operate for a few more years, their life only lasted as long as the hardware survived exposure to the elements. Without the perfect balance of funding, national televisual infrastructure, and local support, non-­ commercial public broadcasting screens face an uphill battle. While this brief detour into the public screen landscape of the UK shifts away from the US focus of this book, the narrative of the BBC Big Screens points to both the possibility in a public screen infrastructure and the precarity of realizing this outside of advertising. The US and the UK have similar funding structures for public art, increasingly relying on public-private partnerships, meaning that screen media often have to wade very carefully into sponsorship models so as not to verge into the realm of advertising. Even then, funding for programming, maintenance, and infrastructure  Kevin Heathorn, interview by author, July 17, 2013; Nriapia, interview by author.  Heathorn, interview by author.

38 39



needs to be constant and stable. As a failed attempt to realize a screen for public art in Indianapolis attests, even when funding and infrastructure are in place, the public’s uneasiness with urban screens can impede the enhanced levels of approval needed for permanent public art.

An Unrealized Digital Canvas While the precarious partnership needed to maintain and manage the BBC Big Screens proved short-lived, in other instances the work of defining urban screens outside of advertising threatens permanent public art’s increased systems of approval. One promising initiative in Indianapolis, Indiana, failed to even get off the ground due, I argue, to screen media’s own expectation of change and shaky position between art and commerce. In 2013, architecture firm Schmidt Associates, along with developers J.C. Hart and Strongbox Commercial, developed an innovative plan to tie a dynamic public art venue to a retail and residential development in the trendy Mass Ave. district. Initially called a “media wall,” the project came to be known as the “digital canvas,” a term closely aligned with the notion of art and that implies a cloth-like permeability rather than an impenetrable wall. This screen was to grace the prominent, curved corner of “Montage on Mass,” a $44 million residential and retail development on the site of a former fire station. The building echoes the “fast casual”40 style popular in New Urbanist developments like Mosaic but with a curved glass corner facing a diagonal intersection on Massachusetts Avenue, a former trolley line. Marketed to Creative Class professionals who want to live in the historic arts district, the development features street-level retail space for upscale regional chains and four floors of luxury apartments with amenities like a pool and fitness center.41 In the initial proposal, the screen wrapped around the entire curved tower and was approximately 4000 square-feet, but this was changed to a more slender 1134 square-­ foot screen in the vertical shape of a smartphone (Fig. 6.4).

40  Kriston Capps, “The Problem With ‘Fast-Casual Architecture,’” Bloomberg City Lab, October 17, 2017, washington-d-c-s-wharf-is-fast-casual-design-so. 41  Eventual tenants for the development, which changed its name to Penrose on Mass, included Ohio-based Condado Tacos, Kentucky-based Louvino Restaurant and Wine Bar, a bank, and a Pilates studio. As of 2020, renting a one-bedroom apartment started at $1699 per month. The median household income in Indianapolis in 2018 was $46,442.



Fig. 6.4  Schmidt Associates. Rendering of projected digital canvas for Montage on Mass (now Penrose on Mass) development. 2015. (Image courtesy Schmidt Associates)

The proposal for the project took its relationship to its surroundings into account. The digital canvas was to use “Media Mesh” technology, which has increased space between LED lights, making the screen visible throughout the day but not blindingly bright at night. Proposal documents demonstrated how this technology was already used on the exterior of the Cleveland Institute of Art to show moving image artworks and included diagrams of pixel pitch and luminance in comparison to billboards, attempting to ease any concerns over light pollution.42 Schmidt Associates also emphasized that this was appropriate to the neighborhood, an arts district with an emerging nighttime economy, music and performing arts venues, and many public art works—the same kinds of neighborhoods that frequently host the light festivals discussed in Chap. 5. The digital canvas appeared to be an easy fit for a neighborhood already undergoing its own processes of Creative City placemaking. 42  Schmidt Associates, “Montage on Mass – Digital Canvas: Reinforcing the Arts on Mass Ave. PowerPoint Presentation.”



The screen would have been primarily a venue for local artists to show moving image work, though plans allowed for still imagery, some work from national and international artists, as well as some public service announcements and occasional live events modeled slightly on the BBC Big Screens. The Arts Council of Indianapolis would curate content in partnership with local universities and arts institutions, centering a community of visual artists rather than creative economy players. With an initial one-million-dollar investment by the developers, the digital canvas’s long-term operation, maintenance, and replacement costs were to be funded with a non-profit sponsorship program, which was to adhere to strict guidelines. Sponsorship material would appear on the screen as static slides rather than moving images, limited to a maximum of 20% of either screen space or screen time and indicating sponsorship rather than a traditional advertisement. The financial plan allowed for funding the Arts Council’s content curation (including paying artists), third-party tech support, maintenance, power, and enough put in reserve to completely replace the technology every ten years. Overall, the Indianapolis digital canvas was one of the most thought-out projects I have come across in my research in terms of curation, maintenance, and commitment to non-­ commercial content, yet the digital canvas will never happen. Due to the potential presence of logos of off-premise businesses as sponsors, the developers needed a variance on a billboard restriction in the historic neighborhood. Just before the hearing of the proposed digital canvas at the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC), the commission issued a lengthy staff report advocating a vote to deny the variance, a document that exposed how the project’s good-faith efforts to produce a non-commercial screen were no match for the moving image’s production of anxiety with regard to place and advertising.43 In the local media build-up to the hearing, the project was repeatedly called a “billboard,” a term the digital canvas team tried deliberately to avoid. A billboard connotes highways, more chaotic and commercial downtown spaces, and (above all) profit—not a platform for artwork in a historically landmarked cultural district. Even with the proposal’s careful delineation of the technological and programmatic differences between the digital

43  “Staff Report,” Pub. L. No. COA #2015-COA-344 (CAMA) 2015-VHP-035 PART B, § Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission Department of Metropolitan Development (2016).



canvas and an electronic billboard, the IHPC report still contended that the distinction was unclear. The IHPC report took liberties in their illustrations that demonstrated a lack of confidence in the digital canvas’s ability to endure as a space for public art, casting doubt on the Arts Council’s curation of public content, the sponsorship model’s differentiation from crass commercialism, and the screen’s functionality. Staff provided illustrations that offered somewhat ludicrous examples of questionable art that could prompt public complaints. “Some video art is obvious, but…Is a YouTube video of stupid cat tricks ‘artistic media’?,” the staff wondered, and digital images sourced from the Internet, including a frightening digital wallpaper of the Batman villain Joker, a digital drawing objectifying a female rock guitarist, an image of a marijuana leaf, and a photograph of a sad girl’s face covered in pills, served to destabilize what could be considered “artistic media” in public space.44 Other illustrations of the screen featured copy-pasted advertisements for major corporations or screengrabs of local news broadcasts squeezed to fit within the screen’s vertical aspect ratio and without the translucency of the digital mesh. The report also cited potential noise complaints and a worry that when turned off, the “gray mesh” would “leave the tower looking incomplete, like something is missing.”45 The report’s conclusion cited the reasons for recommending voting the project down were concerns over its scale and design being “out of character” with the surrounding area, that it would look ugly when turned off, and that the “ever-changing visual imagery” would have a “chaotic visual effect, much as a building would if its design, materials and colors deliberately conflict[ed] with its surroundings.”46 While it is true that Mass Ave. features some historic landmarks of nineteenth-century architecture and Italianate commercial buildings, animation and illumination are not entirely out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. Julian 44  Staff Report, 136. Reverse Google Image searches for these images turned up a number of hits on thematic Pinterest boards, but no artists or other attributions, suggesting they were located with simple keyword searches. Two images were actual recognizable artworks: a public artwork in Prague by Czech sculptor David Č erný of four massive guns pointed toward each other, and Aktikompositsioon 19 (1988) by Estonian photographer Jaan Künnap, a black-and-white image of superimposed silhouettes of a nude woman. These were not attributed to their source in the report (the image of Č erný’s sculpture was given as an example of “photography”) and were likely chosen for their allusion to violence and sex. 45  Staff Report, 138. 46  Staff Report, 140.



Opie’s sculpture Ann Dancing (2007) is only one block away and features a block of four, low-resolution LED screens animating a swaying line drawing of a female figure in a sheath dress. This sculpture is one of many contemporary artworks placed on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail  that employ cinematic effects. Though Opie’s is the only moving image screen, the trail does include a textual screen, Care/Don’t Care (2010), a pedestrian signal that flashes the titular commands by Jamie Pawlus. Other works on the trail employ lighting or sculptural forms that project ambient light, such as Swarm Street (2012) by Acconci Studio, with sensor-­ responsive LED lights lining the ceiling of a tunnel to a parking garage, and two sculptures that feature transparent colored planes or shadow-­ producing forms that shift as the day progresses and the viewer moves.47 Since 2008, the decorative lights on the façade of the Indiana Power & Light building, less than a one-mile walk away in downtown, have been computer programmable so that its façade and colors deliberately and constantly change. The concern over the modern and mediated appearance of the canvas was also not a problem for the owners of the historic theaters cited in the report, both of whom welcomed the presence of dynamic public art in the neighborhood and wrote letters in support of the digital canvas. The worry over the “ever-changing visual imagery” perhaps gets more to the heart of the issue. This alludes to Virilio’s juxtaposition of the “stable image” of architecture and “the aesthetics of the disappearance of the unstable image” created through “cinematic and cinematographic flight of escape” in urban screens.48 Couched within the report’s assessment of moving image media was a fear that the fleeting images would somehow spiral away from the goals of public art—into the realms of offensive content, blatant commercialism, or permanent disrepair. Despite the careful planning of partnerships, sponsorships, infrastructure, and funding, the IHPC’s recommendation suggested that the medium itself was doomed. Though moving image media is increasingly instrumentalized as public art in light festivals, which are welcomed for their ability to generate development and buzz downtown, moving image screens as long-term spaces for public art are often met with suspicion and practical challenges. Outliers are those that have clear, 47  These are Looking Through Windows (2012) by Michael Kuschnir and Talking Wall (2010) by Bernard Williams. 48  Paul Virilio, “The Overexposed City,” in The Paul Virilio Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 98.



sustained, and robust institutional or private support, miraculous stories of restoration, or are simply low-resolution media façades or sculptures like Opie’s. As large public art organizations organize significant exhibitions working within existing spaces of advertising spectacle and institutions collecting moving image art adorn their exterior walls with moving images, the public screen purely dedicated to art is rare in American cities. Syracuse’s Urban Video Project, though projection-based and not an LED screen, is a successful ongoing venue purely dedicated to exhibiting moving image art outdoors, but even this decade-plus venue experienced some degree of itinerancy. Its initial three venues throughout the city were retired after just one year, and the project’s permanent home became the cinema screen-shaped massing on I.M. Pei’s Everson Museum of Art. The few LED screens that endure as fixtures for public art, such as the digital mesh over the entrance to the Cleveland Art Institute, are literally attached to arts institutions. Even Doug Aitken’s site-specific LED screen Mirror (2013) at the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum, which features an evershifting montage of footage shot around the city triggered by responsive computer programs, has spent many months switched off. In other words, the moving image in public space would seem to have no possible permanent home beyond the spaces of advertising or the walls of museums that have only recently embraced them. The few that do, such as Crown Fountain, benefit from private capital and often face their own criticisms of “Disneyfication” prior to their realization.49 Andrew Uroskie concludes his study of expanded cinema practices in the postwar period by discussing this condition of the “homelessness” of the moving image, considering how expanded cinema practices rejected art-house theaters while also troubling the spaces of the gallery and the art world’s credo of medium-specificity.50 Tainted with the history of commercialism and lacking an internal fixity, moving image media in public spaces finds itself in a similarly precarious position. The IHPC’s rejection of the digital canvas reveals more than a midwestern aversion to avant-­ garde art or big city aesthetics. In a climate where public arts funding is increasingly thin and dependent on private and corporate capital, it is no

49  Timothy J.  Gilfoyle, Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 290. 50  Andrew V. Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 233–38.



wonder that the moving image’s unstable cultural position between the spaces of art and commerce renders its apparatus a threat in public spaces. What we see in all of these examples is the precarious nature of trying to make place through the presence of moving images in public spaces. When this is done in certain commercial contexts, the result is clear: multiple advertising screens moving in different rhythms connote a busy commercial center, silent televisions placed overhead take on an authorial address to communicate a place of waiting, low-resolution LED façades appropriate moving image effects into lighting techniques, and a public media screen affixed to a local theater or museum communicates Creative City buzz. When moving images attempt to make place through public art, they become sites of conflicting and competing interests. Official actors merge the production design of creative economy players who promise to deliver experiences for clients with the goals of public art and its attempt to facilitate a commons. The practical challenges to funding and preservation further challenge permanent initiatives or threaten their existence from the start. Perhaps the best way for moving image-based public art to leave a mark on place, as Miwon Kwon would like site-specific art to do,51 may be through its afterimage, through works that intervene perhaps less loudly but become more tightly entwined with organic forms of place-making always in process and remain in our minds long afterwards. These works might mobilize moving images in the service of new pathways and portals, the illumination of hidden histories, or forms of meaning outside dominant narratives of place—themes I explore further in the next chapter. Nevertheless, the light festival phenomenon and the numerous failures of aspirationally permanent public video art screens tell us much about how the moving image’s own internal tensions expose predicaments inherent in using moving images in placemaking endeavors.

51  Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004), 166. “Only those cultural practices that have this relational sensibility can turn local encounters into long-tem commitments and transform passing intimacies into indelible, unretractable social marks.”


Superimposition: Forms of Moving Image Site-Specificity

Site-specific moving images can challenge, complicate, and upend established notions of place. Whereas placemaking efforts attempt to leverage the moving image for a sense of buzz or energy, the artworks considered in this chapter deliberately destabilize notions of place through modes of superimposition. Screens in these works do not produce the sterilized non-places of commerce. They rather understand place as a complex assemblage always in process. Francesco Casetti calls contemporary screens’ presence in public places a condition of “hypertopia”: “rather than [going to the cinema and] taking off toward an ‘other’ place, there are many ‘other’ places that land here.”1 We might develop this concept further to explore what can happen at these points of contact. I consider them “meeting places,” to borrow a term Doreen Massey uses to describe an extroverted, “global” sense of place.2 To think of moving image screens as meeting places considers how this point of contact connects here and there, is always in a state of flux and change, but is nevertheless a place. Like many artworks discussed in this book, projection is a particularly important medium for interrogating place. Dominique Païni claims 1  Francesco Casetti, The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 144. 2  Doreen Massey, “A Global Sense of Place,” in Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 146–56.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




“[t]ime is consubstantial with the projected image,”3 and we might also add to this place, specifically the place of the screen. It is this surface which, as Païni contends, may be “foreign” to the projected luminous images but nevertheless comes to “embody them.”4 Without such a surface, the image would not even materialize. Giovanni Anselmo explored this condition in the gallery installation Invisibile [Invisible] (1971)—a slide projector whose image (the word visibile, Italian for visible, in white light) only appears when the viewer steps into the beam of light. Exposing projected images’ reliance on foreign surfaces, Anselmo’s gallery work is instructive for thinking about how projection relies on the presence of a ground. In site-specific moving images, the event through which a surface comes to embody a foreign image is neither seamless nor total and can be extended to other moving image media. Both the screen material and the textures surrounding it assert themselves through a process of translation with the moving image. This new assemblage can complicate our assumptions of place and challenge our understanding of who and what belongs where. While this kind of operation occurs through many of the artworks discussed in earlier chapters, in the moving images discussed here it is foregrounded to the point of being central to each work’s mode of address. Superimposition is a term usually used to describe two-dimensional images, often photography or film. Dave Colangelo looks to superimposition in architectural projections as “extending the potential for ontological hybridity and narrative and creative expansion” beyond the limits of the moving image’s frame and diegetic space.5 I am mobilizing the term here in relationship to place to think of how moving images can quite literally impose upon a place, forcing it to accept something normally unwelcome. The works explored in this chapter exploit the moving image’s internal tensions and capacity for superimposition in order to deconstruct, haunt, or contest places. These artworks are site-specific but distinct from the placemaking goals of light festivals or permanent initiatives, though they can occasionally occur by using these vehicles as unwitting collaborators. First, I explore screens used as portals to other places, inverting the presumed relationship between interior and exterior in film theory’s metaphor of the window. These portals include Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s deployment of video screens and cinematic framing to create mediated 3  Dominique Païni, “Should We Put an End to Projection?,” trans. Rosalind E. Krauss, October 110 (2004): 24. 4  Païni, 24. 5  Dave Colangelo, The Building as Screen: A History, Theory, and Practice of Massive Media, MediaMatters (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 64–65.



and at times deliberately deceitful forms of architectural fenestration and temporary “wormholes” that open up spontaneous connections with peripheral or distant locations. I next explore the notion of haunting to examine how artists like Judith Barry and Tony Oursler use projection and the moving image’s ephemeral and temporal qualities to trouble architectural forms with the specter of missing iconographies or hidden pasts. Projections by Krzysztof Wodiczko also create a form of apparitional presence, specifically one that imposes upon the surfaces of public monuments to make a demand for marginalized persons’ “right to appear,” to borrow a phrase from Judith Butler’s performative theory of assembly.6 Finally, I consider how artists employ moving images as forms of détournement that merge an oppositional form of superimposition with visual and temporal enchantment. Moving images become meeting places between locations, temporalities, subjectivities, and ideologies, pointing to how the surfaces that come to embody them are already locked within complex and ever-­ shifting assemblages and constellations.

The Other Side of the Window The metaphor of the window undergirds realist film theory, which understands cinema to open up a seamless portal into another world. Unlike the related film theoretical metaphors of the picture frame and the mirror, the window is also particularly architectural. Complicating the architectural roles of windows, screens, and mirrors has long fascinated artists like Dan Graham. His unrealized proposal Cinema (1981) featured a cinema theater on the ground level of an urban building whose screen (positioned at the corner) and walls were two-way mirrors. When the film played, it could be viewed from both inside and outside the theater, and cinemagoers could see out onto the street on either side of the screen, disturbing their absorption into the projection. When the house lights were up, passersby could look into the theater at spectators who see only reflections of themselves  on the walls, highlighting the social aspects of going to the cinema. This proposal sought to disturb film’s primary metaphors through architectural fenestration that complicates the relationship between interior and exterior presumed by the screen. As Anne Friedberg outlines, the history of architectural fenestration charts a shift in the function of the window—from providing light and 6  Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015).



ventilation to a role that aligned with the cinema, “to frame a view.”7 Friedberg traces how this played out in twentieth-century battles between verticality and horizontality in both architecture (the French windows favored by Auguste Perret versus the ribbon window of Le Corbusier) and film (Sergei Eisenstein’s call for a phallic verticality versus the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ standardization of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and later embrace of widescreen).8 The window assumed in both Friedberg’s historical tracing and film theory’s metaphor is almost always one experienced from the inside looking out. The window in this configuration offers access and framing of a wider world—specifically from a point of view cut off from that world. The view of the window from the street, on the other hand, assumes a very different perspective. It is one that is simultaneously emplaced, mobile, exposed to the world, and voyeuristic about private goings on rather than the viewpoint protected in private and curious about the wider world of the street. The window to the external viewer offers glances rather than sustained views; it becomes a display rather than an immersive screen.9 When we stop and visually enter into the spaces offered up through the window, this has the sense of disturbing our usual movements, making us aware of both our exteriority and our exposed position in the world. In popular films, scenes where characters walk down streets and stop to look into windows often create moments of empathy for lacking parts of their lives, such as when a character might look longingly at a happy family eating dinner or at products they cannot afford. Public artworks that employ the moving image to open up views to other places produce this kind of outside-in viewer perspective that appropriates some of the cinema’s window metaphor but emphasizes the viewer’s exteriority to that world. These artworks not only invite the spectator to enter into the places depicted through images but also call attention to the relationship to the physical place of the screen and to the experience of being on the outside looking in. Below I analyze two sets of works—what I call moving image fenestrations and wormholes—to highlight how moving image-based public art can facilitate points of contact and exchange between separate places. These points of contact contribute to a sense of connection and simultaneity that both disturbs and contributes to a sense of place at the meeting place of the screen. 7  Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009), 103. 8  Friedberg, 123–33. 9  Francesco Casetti, “What Is a Screen Nowadays?,” in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel O. Moore (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 16–40.



Moving Image Fenestration Video and media art date back to the very beginning of Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio’s collaboration in the late 1980s, running through what later became the architecture studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro. They have incorporated moving images into gallery installations, public artworks, and designs for buildings. When affixed to architectural facades, screens can function as dynamic windows that provide communication between interior and exterior. These screens offer access to the interior for passersby on the street, but one that is fragmented, partial, and even fictional. Jump Cuts (1996), realized by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, installed screens on the outside of a new movie theater in San Jose, California. The theater was part of a recently redeveloped condominium and shopping area that echoed the Rio development in Atlanta discussed in Chap. 6. As Edward Dimendberg describes, the theater was “envisioned within a pedestrian and entertainment district with glass facades and lobbies, the [then] dominant idiom for American urban regeneration in the age of the suburban mall.”10 Twelve liquid crystal screens, angled toward the viewer on the street, created a row of screens above the theater’s entrance. In the daytime, the translucent panels revealed etched text in two circular phrases: “Truth is stranger than fiction is stranger than truth…” from the street and “Life imitates art imitates life…” from the inside. The texts invited a deliberate confusion at the site of the window that challenged glass architecture’s transparency. At night, rear projection transformed the panels into moving image screens. Bird’s eye and elevation-­level perspectives of the theater’s escalators created a play of perspectives, and a rotating program of movie trailers offered glimpses into the narrative spaces enterable via the cinema screens within the building. This work was meant to both turn the building inside out and recall the “grand social ante-spaces” of historical theaters such as Charles Garnier’s Paris Opera.11 The work highlighted the social aspects of movie viewing and called attention to the architectural site behind the walls, connecting movement in the building via surveillance relays, something explored earlier in their Museum of Modern Art installation, Para-Site (1989), and echoed in Birnbaum’s 10  Edward Dimendberg, Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture after Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 92. 11  Based on artists’ statement from their webpage. “JUMP CUTS | Diller Scofidio + Renfro,” accessed July 29, 2015,



use of CCTV in Rio Videowall. Jump Cuts also connects to the longer history of the movie marquee, a site of spectacle that addresses potential spectators on the street. Diller + Scofidio turned this form into a fractured visual window—into both the social and narrative spaces of the theater— rather than a linguistic sign. Ten years later, Philippe Parreno would make Marquee (Esther Schipper Plans) (2006), the first in his well-known series of seemingly haunted marquee sculptures that turn cinema’s historical beacons into floating sculptures devoid of language and pulsating with light. Diller Scofidio + Renfro also explored transparence and fenestration in Facsimile (2004), commissioned for the façade of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California (Fig. 7.1). The architects commenced work on the project in 1996 and went through twenty moving image-­ related proposals involving LED screens, projected “meeter greeters” to welcome people into the building, and other interactive features that were all rejected by the city for “zoning, traffic, safety, and maintenance considerations.”12 The final design for Facsimile looked again to the glass façade’s presumed transparency and to the screen’s window metaphor. A roving LED screen scanned the surface of the building via a traveling armature. As the screen crawled across the façade, a traveling shot moving at the same speed relayed on screen so that the image appeared to be a moving window slicing through the building like an x-ray. Sometimes this was the case, but at other times it was a deliberately false correspondence. On the reverse of the screen was a camera that could record the interior, and this live footage was intercut with pre-recorded vignettes or “imposter videos”13 taking place in fictional hotel rooms and office spaces. Scofidio, project leader Matthew Johnson, and cinematographer Dan Gillham became “de facto independent film producers” to realize the elaborate shoot of over sixty vignettes.14 Recalling their earlier film and performance Overexposed (1994), the vignettes featured single, smooth tracking shots— the epitome of cinematic realism and virtuoso direction. The adjacent rooms were built on a sound stage in New Jersey, each with a width that corresponded to the distance between mullions on the Moscone façade and the size of the screen. The camera’s movement across the set paralleled the screen’s movement across the façade, offering scenes regularly interrupted by an architectural intrusion. In a decidedly postmodern vein,  Dimendberg, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, 98.  Dimendberg, 101. 14  Dimendberg, 101. 12 13



Fig. 7.1  Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Facsimile, 2004. Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, California. (Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Facsimile realized Le Corbusier’s concept of the building as a camera— only one that deliberately engaged fiction and fragmentation. The screen’s views of interiors punned the presumed transparency of the convention center’s glass architecture with high resolution opacity. Echoing my discussion in the previous chapter, technical and maintenance issues doomed both projects. Jump Cuts had to be retrofitted from laser disk to DVD technology and by 2010 was only functioning as a display for movie trailers before the cinema closed in 2016.15 Technical problems also plagued Facsimile almost from its moment of conception. In a 2003 Public Art Review article, Steve Dietz referred to the work as “a border on the map of public art terra incognita between the siren call of new technologies that promise to upgrade the very notion of site-specific public art, and the pragmatic realities of attempting to do so.”16 The LED  This observation is based on a personal account by Dimendberg in Dimendberg, 93.  Steve Dietz, “Interactive Publics,” Public Art Review 15, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 2003): 23.

15 16



screen quickly had to be replaced and the armature made too much noise turning the corner and frequently got stuck. Other technical issues meant the project was only functional for a few weeks at a time. In early 2015, the San Francisco Arts Commission removed the work from the Moscone Convention Center following a public debate and vote at its September meeting. Both projects’ short lifespans demonstrate how even realized and supported permanent moving image works face overwhelming material challenges. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s more recent “infoscape” transformation of Lincoln Center, which deploys vertical screens and LED text crawls set in marble steps, has thus far endured, possibly in part because this project mobilizes screens as vehicles for Lincoln Center informational programming rather than stand-alone public artworks. In a far less technologically complicated evocation of cinema in public space, Diller Scofidio + Renfro incorporated cinematic principles in their framing of vistas and movement on the High Line, an urban park on Manhattan’s west side that repurposed an abandoned elevated railway. The experience of the park is decidedly linear; visitors walk along the train’s tracks past buildings and views of the Hudson River, mirroring a cinematic unfolding of time. Along the way, park visitors encounter a number of windows, especially the glass curtain walls of new construction along the High Line and the Standard Hotel, a massive tower resembling a Le Corbusier building that straddles the park at its lower end. These windows—viewed from the outside—merge with the cinematic unfolding of the High Line itself. To make this connection to cinematic windows even more apparent, the designers included an amphitheater sunk down from the path that frames a view of the street below. This place of pause offers “a frame for watching the endless flux of the city,” in Giuliana Bruno’s words.17 At once exposed and protected from the street by the park’s elevation and the screen’s glass wall, the High Line theater plays with the assumed positions of inside and outside of cinematic and architectural windows. While not explicitly a moving image, the allusion to film spectatorship in the High Line illustrates how cinematic principles inform urban design, particularly through the metaphor of the window. As Richard Koeck contends, cinema offers not only a means for understanding urban space and architecture captured within it, but its modes of experiencing space and 17  Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 135.



time have also come to inform the built environment itself.18 The High Line concept, which did not involve quickly outdated technologies, has proved the most durable of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s moving image fenestrations, echoing the paracinematic canopies discussed in the end of Chap. 4 as well as the challenges to permanent moving image work explored in Chap. 6. Spencer Finch’s seven-year High Line installation, The River That Flows Both Ways (2009), extended this trend in low-tech, paracinematic, site-specific installation. Installed in a former loading dock, the work features 700 colored window panes, each corresponding to a single pixel of a photograph of the Hudson River’s surface taken each minute over the course of a nearly twelve-hour boat ride. The stained glass both abstracts and obscures the Hudson River just beyond it, turning the windows of an architectural ruin into screens that document a journey. These High Line installations, on more stable ground than Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s earlier moving image fenestrations, frame or filter views in ways that allude to moving images, but do not provide the collapse of spaces produced through Jump Cuts or Facsimile. Artists working outside of the constraints of architectural commissions can realize more pop-up and instantaneous juxtaposition of here and elsewhere. Wormholes Wormholes, in the sense of theoretical physics, are hypothetical portals between vastly distant points in the space-time continuum. In their representation in science fiction, they are often also temporary, opening and closing to allow for sudden access to a distant point. Artworks that take on the property of wormholes appear to open up portals that connect centers and peripheries or collapse distant locations, still hinging on the exteriority of the viewer’s position to that world. In Video View of Suburbia in an Urban Atrium (1979–1980), Dan Graham used this temporary view into an elsewhere to invert the dominant televisual viewing relationship between urban and suburban spaces. The work consisted of videos of bland suburban homes screened on a monitor installed in the public lobby of Manhattan’s Citicorp Building, a skyscraper completed in 1977 that stands on four massive columns and features a sunken, mall-like public lobby. Graham describes the work as follows: “Instead of viewers in their 18  Richard Koeck, Cine-Scapes: Cinematic Spaces in Architecture and Cities (New York: Routledge, 2013).



private home interiors seeing a view of public life in the city (which is safely ensconced within their homes), a public viewer in the center of the city sees a television image of the exterior of a suburban house.”19 Like VALIE EXPORT’s 1971 Austrian broadcast intervention Facing a Family, Graham’s installation disturbs the presumed roles of viewer and viewed. Through the synthesis of its content and the monitor’s placement, Video View of Suburbia in an Urban Atrium also inverts the presumed interiority of the window metaphor, forming, as I have outlined, a position on the outside looking in. In doing this, Graham highlights both the suburban site and the exteriority of the viewer to it. This superimposition also underscores the falseness of the “urban fantasy of the picturesque brought to the city center” conveyed by the design of the mall-like atrium, which is then compared to “the actual suburban edge of the city”20 screened on the monitors. Much like with Cinema, Graham subverts normal viewing practices not only to call attention to the act of viewing itself but also to create a connection (or inversion) between the place of the screen and those depicted within it. The spectator reads the atrium differently when confronted with the view of the actual suburban house, possibly recognizing the space’s artificial and mass-produced sense of conformity and safety as well as how the site where people consume televisual images of the city— the suburban home—rarely receives the same gaze. Graham’s inversion of urban and suburban televisual images and spectatorship parallels public artworks that engage the local periphery during major festivals or exhibitions in urban centers. Thomas Struth’s Eine Projektion für Münster [A Projection for Münster] (1987) at the decennial public art exhibition Skulptur Projekte (Sculpture Projects) in Münster, Germany, featured nightly slide projections of photographs of nondescript suburban architecture projected onto six walls in the city center. The work brought the peripheral parts of the city within reach of cultural tourists in its center and produced a more comprehensive view of Münster’s architectural identity. The superimposition of the periphery onto surfaces of the city center disturbs the festival-like atmosphere of nocturnal projection and the buzz of activity produced by the exhibition. Like Thomas Hirschhorn’s later socially engaged pavilions, Struth’s projections used

19  Dan Graham, “Video in Relation to Architecture,” in Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, ed. Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (New York: Aperture, 1990), 175. 20  Graham, 175.



the city center focus of the art world event to point to disparities between this location and the periphery. Similarly leveraging the downtown focus of the art event, Judith Barry’s Border Stories, Working Title, From One Place to Another (2000) explored the peripheral social and economic relations between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. The work featured a four-channel video installation rear-projected onto the windows of a bank, which housed the offices of INSITE, the public art initiative that realized the work for its 2000 exhibition. The bank was itself a kind of borderland, between “the clean, gentrified, tourist-friendly Gaslamp District” and “the dirty, seedy, sailor-haunts of ‘old’ San Diego with its indigent population and vestigial pawnshops,” in Barry’s words.21 The three narrative shorts by Barry depicted “the blurring, unbinding, instability of identity and even the transposition of cultural identities among people living in San Diego and Tijuana”22 and accompanied a small selection of other artists’ work and visual animations of INSITE logos. The shorts, which also exist as a gallery installation, explored economic relations between white San Diegans and Mexicans. In one scene, a blonde woman narrates a story about her mother’s stolen car from within a suburban kitchen. The story fades to a desolate parking lot, where the white woman has used a cell phone in the stolen vehicle to trap the Mexican man who stole it. The two other stories depict Mexican immigrants working in the United States: one a woman smuggled across the border by coyotes, the other a man with multiple working-class jobs who goes home to a rather opulent house in Mexico. Shot in video, these shorts aesthetically resemble televisual narratives. They feature white voice over narrators (the blonde woman, a suburban employer, and a customer) who appropriate the tone of documentary reenactment but disturb its presumed objectivity with privilege and strained economic relations. In its four-screen installation on the street, Border Stories appeared in the round with each screen on a successive delay, making each movement or cut move linearly along the street wall. This causes the eye’s viewpoint to shift along a horizontal surface rather than fixating on one window into the story, denying the presumed relationship between a cinematic window

21  Judith Barry, “The Space That Art Makes / El Espacio Que El Arte Crea,” in Dynamic Equilibrium: In Pursuit of Public Terrain, ed. Sally Yard (San Diego: Installation Gallery, 2007), 54. 22  Barry, 54.



and a fixed viewer not unlike the shifting screens along the Hirshhorn’s surface in SONG 1. Wormholes can also call attention to simultaneity across vast distances through digital or electronic connections. Wolfgang Staehl’s early work with live webcams, for instance, took on new dimensions in public space. Midtown (2004–2005) featured a live image of Manhattan refreshed every eight seconds. When projected at the Lumen festival in Leeds, England, passersby encountered the work in large scale on the façade of the Henry Moore Institute, located a short walk from the future home of Leeds’s BBC Big Screen. Kate Taylor remarked that “the real-time immediacy, vast difference in time zones and the still nature of the framing” made the work compelling and of interest to both the incidental glances of passersby and the sustained engagement of curious spectators.23 Simultaneity and slowness also inform Irish artist John Gerrard’s real-­ time portraits of specific places, often alluding to energy and infrastructure. Using game-design software, Gerrard’s moving images have an uncanny quality to them, being both a virtual rendering and a live depiction of a specific place. When they appear outside the gallery, their eerie slowness and production of a virtual portal into another part of the world disturb the experience of time and place. Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez / Richfield, Kansas) (2008) is a thirty-year simulation of a Mexican-­ American builder slowly painting a barn with an oil stick crayon. The character completes one small square per day and works from dawn to dusk, six days a week. The monotony and scale of the task feels Sisyphean, but the computational nature of the digital simulation leaves no doubt that the work will, at some distant point, be completed. In 2010, the work was part of the public art exhibition One Thing Leads to Another—Everything Is Connected in stations on the London Underground’s Jubilee Line, the show’s title stemming from a print by Richard Long distributed to commuters. Oil Stick Work’s virtual portal into a remote site in Kansas connected to the exhibition’s theme and, when projected onto a large screen in the Canary Wharf station ticket hall, Martinez’s seemingly pointless task, which approaches the length of a full career, took on new dimensions amidst the bustle of commuters rushing to and from work.

23  Kate Taylor, “Programming Video Art for Urban Screens in Public Space,” First Monday Special Issue #4 (February 6, 2006), view/1555.



Gerrard’s Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014), another digital simulation, actually debuted as a public work, specifically a 28 × 24 foot frameless LED screen in the middle of Lincoln Center Plaza in New York (Fig. 7.2). The simulation features an actual solar plant, synchronized to the exact time of day and the movements of the sun and moon. As the mirrors in the plant shift to capture the sun’s rays, the simulated camera’s point of view moves slowly from ground level to satellite every sixty minutes, meaning viewers who pass by at different times during the day will always see a different image. This portal to a far-off place eerily devoid of people and featuring dramatic plays of light appeared on a large, monolithic screen of monumental size and dazzlingly bright luminance. The work, which was visible throughout the day, became a hyperreal portal whose image was marked by both site-specificity and placelessness and whose apparatus took on the physicality of monumental public sculpture. Gerrard later toured the piece as a frameless rear projection in galleries and again as an outdoor LED work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As a ground-level outdoor moving image, the work was remarkably accessible physically. Viewers frequently approached the screen to pose for pictures, casting silhouettes or basking in the blue light in the evenings, recalling the sensation Fred Shapiro wrote about in 1977 upon being “struck magenta” by the light emanating from the Spectacolor board in Times Square in his disorienting first encounter with it.24 Signage by Lincoln Center and sponsoring organization Public Art Fund promoted hashtags for visitors to upload their images, creating another layer of simultaneous yet dispersed temporal and spatial presence (as well as free publicity). Gerrard’s digital simulation has a precedent at Lincoln Center, one that not only provided a window into a simultaneous elsewhere but also prompted interaction between passersby in disparate spaces. Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz’s Hole in Space (1980), one of their most well-­ known public projects, similarly provided a wormhole to the West. Live video and audio, linked via satellite, connected screens in Lincoln Center and the Century Center shopping complex in Los Angeles. Presented with no explanatory information or context, passersby who stumbled across the scene were transfixed by the immediacy of the life-sized images rear-­ projected in front of them and enthralled by the ability to interact. Crowds 24  Fred C.  Shapiro, “Talk of the Town: Spectacolor,” The New  Yorker, February 14, 1977, 27.



Fig. 7.2  John Gerrard, Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), 2014. Simulation. Installation view, Lincoln Center, New  York. October 3–December 1, 2014. (Presented by Lincoln Center in association with Public Art Fund. Courtesy of the artist, Simon Preston, New York, and Thomas Dane, London)

continued to grow via word of mouth for the second night, and a mass media announcement on the local news caused crowds in both cities to increase even more on the third and final night. Kit Galloway saw many of their early satellite projects, such as Hole in Space and Electronic Café (1984), as a response to top-down media culture, even mentioning their role in facilitating “a commons.”25 Margot Bouman posits that Hole in Space replaced the dominant model of “distraction” in television with interruption, shifting the enforced linear movement and anonymity on the

25  Steven Durland, “Defining the Image as Place: A Conversation with Kit Galloway, Sherrie Rabinowitz, and Gene Youngblood (1987),” in Social Media Archaeology and Poetics, ed. Judy Malloy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016), 176.



sidewalk toward “other urban social spaces such as a club or a festival,” where attention and interaction reign.26 In the video documentation of the work, there is a genuine sense of exuberance and joy on the part of the participants.27 They play charades, flirt, sing songs, and respond in surprise when they learn they are speaking with people at the opposite end of the continent. As word spread, family members met up to say hello, some having not seen each other in over a decade. One woman remarked that her brother had never seen her young son and commented on how special the event was for them. Billed as “a public communication sculpture,” the work was deliberately open-ended, taking on whatever form participants made of it. The artists wanted to explore the aesthetics of communication infrastructure in a way that allowed for democratic participation, and in 1980, the public response was decidedly ecstatic and enthralled. In a published conversation from 1987, Rabinowitz explained that the artistic duo “always approached the image as place…the magic is this ability to carry a living event and then interconnect with satellites to connect places over vast distances.”28 This concept of “image as place” suggests that the technology produces its own site— one defined as much by its proximity and embeddedness within the screen’s location as its distance from the origin of the feed it is receiving. Unlike the flattening that happens when place becomes an image (as discussed in Chap. 5), the moving image here becomes a communicative site of its own, produced by the co-presence of strangers on the street and across the continent. This process is facilitated by satellite technology and the enchanting properties of the moving images it relays. Like the zones of play and recognition discussed in Chap. 4, the horizontal plane in front of the screen becomes a social space. Unlike those works, however, social interaction happens both at the site of viewing and across the moving image’s indexed locations. The screen, in other words, is a “meeting place,” to quote Doreen Massey, defined not only by time-space compression but also by the actions of viewers in front of and within it. 26  Margot Bouman, “Move along Folks, Just Move along, There’s Nothing to See: Transience, Televisuality and the Paradox of Anamorphosis,” in After the Break: Television Theory Today, ed. Marijke de Valck and Jan Teurlings (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013), 172. 27  The documentation was produced with funding from the American Film Institute and the NEA, the latter also being a primary funder of the project. 28  Rabinowitz in Durland, “Defining the Image as Place: A Conversation with Kit Galloway, Sherrie Rabinowitz, and Gene Youngblood (1987),” 168.



Galloway and Rabinowitz’s work required in-kind support from Western Union for the costly satellite feed, but in the decades since, the novelty of instantaneous satellite communication has been replaced by the ubiquity of even clearer and cheaper Internet telecommunication. In the age of Zoom and FaceTime, a public project like Hole in Space would seemingly lack public interest. However, in 2008, British artist Paul St George created a similar public communication project in Telectroscope, produced by Artichoke, a UK-based public art fund founded in 2005 that produces large-scale, interactive public artworks. Taking its name from a nineteenth-century prototype for the telegraphic communication of images, Telectroscope connected New  York  to London via video screens linked by a broadband connection but claimed to be the completion of a nineteenth-century trans-Atlantic mirrored tunnel, the brainchild of the artist’s fictional great-great grandfather. The installation resembled a periscope pointing down to the ground, outfitted with a faux brass exterior, gears, and valves—all elements of the steampunk science fiction genre (Fig. 7.3). Visitors had to peer down the “scope” to view the video feed on a  monitor set back behind a circular pane of glass and appearing to come from the scope itself. Unlike the life-sized screens in Hole in Space, which attempted to make persons on the other side of the country appear to be as close as those on the street corner, Telectroscope underscored distance through the work’s aesthetic form, screen size, and fictional narrative. St George’s piece did not feature sound, but participants mimed conversations and wrote messages on a white board for the camera; some even spoke to friends and family they saw on screen over mobile phones as they peered in, underscoring how the physical distance between the two sites is surpassed with ease by contemporary communication technologies. The novelty instead stemmed from the shared experience among strangers near and far and the work’s fantastical form. Unlike the unannounced, rear-projected Hole in Space, Telectroscope featured an elaborate pseudo-scientific apparatus and dramatic arrival. In the days prior, a “drill” appeared to break through the ground at the sites of the Telectroscope’s installation, completing the mythical tunnel. Rather than a spontaneous, pop-up event, Telectroscope was orchestrated and spectacular, in keeping with the aims of Artichoke, who produce the Lumiere Festival in Durham, England, and other spectacular public art projects and performances. Telectroscope foregrounds these theatrical, fictional components of the work, rather than its ability to generate



Fig. 7.3  Paul St George, Telectroscope, 2008. New  York installation. (Image courtesy the artist)

spontaneous connections.29 Responding to an era when trans-Atlantic telecommunication is more commonplace, fantastical narrative allusions provide the sense of enchantment that prompts interaction and engagement. By producing windows and wormholes, public art can turn moving images into meeting places. As we have already seen, the place in front of the screen becomes a gathering place, or at least a place of shared encounter with others. In these works, the screen itself becomes a site of contact between two locations, even between two groups of people on other coasts or continents. These works also produce a way to rethink the screen’s metaphor of the window, considering the position from the outside looking in, though this can also include looking in to other 29  The work’s fictional nineteenth-century backstory, including speculative drawings, can be found on the artist’s website for the project:



temporalities or narratives. Moving images that become meeting places can superimpose temporalities as well as places. These works produce a similar sense of site-specificity by summoning spectral presences in the here and now.

Hauntings Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Chain Reaction (1983), another part of the rich history of moving image public art at Lincoln Center, similarly flipped cinema’s window metaphor and featured rear projection onto six windows at Alice Tully Hall. Along with deliberately placed props on the streets, such as fake newspapers detailing a toxic spill, the entire work became an interactive narrative that viewers had to stitch together  from fragments viewable from the street. Featuring an immersive score as well as multiple points in its moving image narrative, this work, which the artist referred to as a “light” opera, could also be thought of as a kind of haunted house, a transformation of place through viewer interaction and disturbing narratives about a site that unsettle what we believe to be real and what we know to be fiction. The transport of immaterial images onto the surfaces of the physical city via projection can be used to haunt sites. The son et lumière tradition, though certainly evoking a sense of magic, sought to enliven architectural monuments most often through highly celebrated narratives of the past already visible in the public sphere. Considering how projection can produce ghosts, on the other hand, alludes to those elements of place and the past that disturb or unsettle what is visible. Haunting directly relates to the concept of enchantment, particularly in its allusions to the supernatural and the sense of being confronted with something one cannot fully process. According to Avery F. Gordon, haunting “is a very particular way of knowing what has happened or is happening. Being haunted draws us affectively, sometimes against our will and always a bit magically, into the structure of feeling of a reality we come to experience, not as cold knowledge, but as a transformative recognition.”30 Haunting is also a frequent theme in artists’ cinema, particularly, as Maeve Connolly points out, through the “fascination with the supernatural, often aligned to the exploration of place” that runs through the work of artists in the 2000s, like 30  Avery F. Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 8.



Jane and Louise Wilson, Stan Douglas, Willie Doherty, and Eija-Liisa Ahtila.31 Haunting most often relates to a particular site, connecting past and place through the appearance of ghosts in the present. Artists working in public space employ seemingly immaterial moving images “a bit magically” in order to produce a particular “structure of feeling” about the past, alternative presents, or possible futures in site-specific works that interrogate new and old architectural forms. In some cases, like Tony Oursler’s Tear of the Cloud, ghosts and the supernatural are thematically evoked; in others, I am employing the term haunting more loosely. In some ways, we can understand a number of artworks discussed in this book to constitute a kind of slightly magical production of a structure of feeling. I summon haunting here to relate specifically to the haunted house, both as a kind of ride and as a phenomenon that happens at a particular architectural site that unearths ghosts or other hidden specters that transform our understanding of place. In addition to Border Stories, Judith Barry has worked with site-specific moving images for decades. In Glasgow, Scotland, Barry used slide and video projections in an abandoned nineteenth-century cheese market in Dépensé: A Museum of Irrevocable Loss (1990). Realized at a time when the city was experiencing high unemployment rates, the projections overtook a large, aged museum vitrine and featured archival images and films of the city’s “glorious industrial past.”32 Work documents with no contemporary value and unwanted even by the historical society lay strewn about in front of the screen. The material documents and immaterial images create a tension between the myths and inheritances of the industrial revolution. Giuliana Bruno discusses the work in Public Intimacy, particularly in how it merges “the museum, the cinema, and the department store” into a “common architectural form,” charting the movement from “cineres to cinemas, from the ashes of the necropolis to the residual cine city.”33 The immaterial projections of an idealized past haunt the matter of the past that remains in the present, creating an unsettling commentary on how nostalgic images and material traces of the past loom in urban ruins and 31  Maeve Connolly, “Of Other Worlds: Nature and the Supernatural in the Moving Image Installations of Jaki Irvine,” Screen 49, no. 2 (July 1, 2008): 203. 32  Judith Barry, Judith Barry. Body without limits (Salamanca: Da2 Domus Artium, 2013), 121. 33  Giuliana Bruno, Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), 30, 33.



cultural memory. Site-specific explorations of abandoned sites of industry that include archival images or material remnants of the past are widespread in art since the 1990s, seen in the work of artists like Ann Hamilton and the curatorial projects of Mary Jane Jacob. Dépensé was part of a similar initiative, the TSWA Four Cities Project: New Works for Different Places, an exhibition of public artworks mounted in Newcastle, Glasgow, Derry, and Plymouth that featured a number of works at abandoned sites or reusing abandoned materials. The 1990s’ impetus to uncover pasts at the site of industrial ruins and other abandoned architectures spoke from a moment where new architectural forms were often critiqued as ahistorical, sanitized, or shallow pastiche. Haunting in these sites happens not through the romance of the ruin but by making visible all that is evacuated in postmodern quotation and sanitized urban renewal. For her video installation Adam’s Wish (1988) in the North Gatehouse of the World Financial Center complex in New York City, Barry haunted this new corporate architecture with the specter of a possible iconography (Fig. 7.4). The World Financial Center and wider Battery Park City development was both a laboratory and battleground for public art in the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to the site’s development, artists working in site-specificity and land art exhibited at Creative Time’s Art on the Beach (1978–1985), an annual exhibition held on what was then a vacant landfill on the waterfront of Lower Manhattan. In 1982, Agnes Denes planted a two-acre wheat field at the site, a moment that juxtaposed the natural with the urban, questioned capitalist real estate values, and prompted striking photographs that loom large in histories of site-specific art. Public art was then folded into the massive development of the site into high-rise housing and office space. Scholars such as Rosalyn Deutsche and Malcolm Miles have long been rather dismissive about these projects, especially usable, furniture-like sculpture by Scott Burton, arguing that they were in the service of evictions and forwarded an aesthetic of bland, corporate hegemony.34 As Michelle Bogart points out, though, such critiques are a bit broad and overlook the virtually unprecedented integration of sculpture, site, and development for the time—“a new civic experiment involving contemporary art.”35 Adam’s Wish, perhaps somewhat overlooked in the public art history of Battery Park City, offers 34  Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998); Malcolm Miles, Art, Space and the City (New York: Routledge, 1997). 35  Michelle H. Bogart, Sculpture in Gotham (London: Reaktion, 2018), 255 n. 14.



Fig. 7.4  Judith Barry, Adam’s Wish, 1988. Installed in World Financial Center, New York, New York. (Courtesy the artist and Mary Boone Gallery, New York City)

another perspective on the search for a visual language in this new urban landscape as well as insight into the complexities of Battery Park City’s engagement with public art in the late 1980s. Adam’s Wish was part of the exhibition The New Urban Landscape, curated by Ann Philbin in the newly developed World Financial Center and Battery Park City, a connection between the urban development projects and the vogue for more experimental, place-specific public art exhibitions. In a one-minute loop, Barry reimagined historical ceiling frescoes, specifically quoting Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, as a mythical narrative of a contemporary worker. Projected onto a “baldacchino”-like screen in front of the North Gatehouse’s dome (available projectors could not reach the 80-foot apex), the entire cycle could be viewed during a trip down the building’s escalator. In the video’s opening, the character of



Adam, seen from above, stands in worker’s clothes in the octagonal gatehouse structure gazing up at the building’s dome, almost meeting the gaze of the escalator rider. As the camera closes in on his gaping mouth, the video dissolves into a shot of the oculus, making it appear that Adam is “swallowing the architectural space around him.”36 We next see him superimposed onto Michelangelo’s famous fresco just before he falls from the sky—first spiraling past architectural renderings, perspectival drawings, and tiny replicas of famous ceiling frescoes floating in screen space; then through a dome-like drawing and a linear rendering of the city superimposed with aerial footage. Adam lands, dressed as a businessman, in a public park. He looks around confused at the various historical references in the architecture around him—Neoclassical, Gothic Revival, International Style—before falling once more into a model of the World Financial Center to start the cycle again. The play between architectural space and the floating scenes, where images, bodies, and drawings swirl weightlessly, both enhances the vertiginous qualities of the work and points to the technocratic logic of many of the buildings’ new corporate occupants. In Barry’s words, Adam’s body “undergoes a number of transformations according to a series of computer graphic and computational rules which govern the relationship each of us have to the commodity structure.”37 Both the visual complexity and the circular nature of the piece recall Manfredo Tafuri’s reading of Piranesi’s eighteenth-century Carceri prints—“a systematic critique of the concept of place.”38 In addition to undergoing computational mutations, Adam also changes clothing mid-fall, from a toga-like covering worn in the fresco shot to a business suit, recalling Robert Longo’s Men in the Cities series (1980) or the later title sequence to the television drama Mad Men (2007–2015), and then again to worker’s clothes. In visualizing late capitalism’s vertiginous qualities, as well pointing to its creation of homelessness in both Adam’s lack of stable ground and the surrounding onlookers in the public park, Barry’s projection haunted the bland surfaces of corporate architecture with an iconography of its placelessness and human

 Margaret Morse, “Judith Barry: The Body in Space,” Art in America, April 1993, 118.  Judith Barry, “Adam’s Wish,” in Public Fantasy: An Anthology of Critical Essays, Fictions and Project Descriptions by Judith Barry, ed. Iwona Blazwick (London: ICA Editions, 1991), 51. 38  Barry, 51. 36 37



toll. It does so, however, with a sense of humor, narrative, and the surreal rather than straight didacticism or counter-ideology. The New Urban Landscape featured a number of multimedia artworks, including a camera obscura room by Henry Jesionka, but according to Roberta Smith, “most of the work, even the most large-scaled and urban-­ oriented, [was] no match for the high-powered unsympathetic environment into which it [had] been unceremoniously plunked.”39 Barry’s installation, however, took both the unsympathetic environment and unceremonious plunking as its subject, almost mocking the skyward gazes the building’s form hoped to create and taking escalator riders on a dizzying funhouse ride. The work appeared again in 1989 at the Real Art Ways theater in Hartford, Connecticut, another space that Barry remarked “raises questions about art and arts organizations’ participation in urban development.”40 Adam’s Wish haunted these sites to produce a transfigured understanding of them. In its original iteration, it referenced the site of the screen in both content and perspective, taking the viewer moving down the escalator on a haunted house ride that lent the massive, sterile development a bit of the enchantment and illusion of art history’s ceiling painting tradition. A similar moving perspective informs Tony Oursler’s installation at the Seattle Central Library, Braincast (2004), a diorama of the artist’s signature sculptural projections of faces that viewers encounter riding down an escalator in a building designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. The urban transformations that created the World Financial Center and Battery Park City’s bland architecture also displaced much of Manhattan’s industrial past. Tear of the Cloud (2018), Tony Oursler’s second project with Public Art Fund, and one of the artist’s many public art projects, took one of these sites as its ground (Fig. 7.5). This work picked up on many of the themes and histories explored in Oursler’s The Influence Machine (2000), a multi-channel projection and sound installation first realized in Madison Square Park that has since traveled to other locations. Tear of the Cloud’s site-specificity extended the artist’s long interest in the Hudson River region and the specters from technology’s past. Most of the work’s projections centered on the arch-like gantry of the 69th Street Transfer Bridge, a relic of industry erected in 1911 to transfer rail cars 39  Roberta Smith, “Review/Art; A Wide-Ranging Spread Of Artists and Installations,” The New York Times, November 4, 1988, sec. C. 40  Barry, “Adam’s Wish,” 50.



Fig. 7.5  Tony Oursler, Tear of the Cloud, 2018. Multi-channel installation. Courtesy of the artist. (Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY)

from cross-river barges onto the city’s rail line. Like what later became the High Line Park, the gantry went from a derelict railroad relic to a protected landmark in a highly desirable neighborhood. As discussed in the opening to this book, the work featured a dizzying array of historical references to the history of film, artificial intelligence, telecommunications technologies, literature, and the arts projected on and around the gantry, pier, and park. Connections between these stories were rhizomatic, sprawling across different histories and legends in non-linear and multi-pronged directions. Even the work’s didactics played into this motif—dizzying tree graphs posted on site and a hyperlinked glossary of terms available online explained the many rich references while intentionally denying any clear narrative message or straight chronology, instead replicating the digital logic of the cloud. The projectors also ran on loops of different durations, producing new connections and juxtapositions with each spectatorial path. Like the two-way flow of the tidal river, temporalities shifted throughout the piece so that haunting produced a sense of “temporal ubiquity”.



As Chris Speed, Maureen Thomas, and Chris Barker discuss, computing has for decades made claims to forms of ubiquity; “temporal ubiquity,” together with the ghosts and hauntings it implies, is a particular function of social media and cloud computing. We check updates constantly to keep up with the Zeitgeist (a term that itself refers to a spirit) and “databases provide us with a living memory we are able to access at all times,” allowing us to “reach into the past and pull forward images and texts for discussion, making the ‘present’ a highly relative concept.”41 While Speed, Thomas, and Barker use this concept to discuss a series of location-based mobile applications where viewers elect to summon particular ghosts at a site, public projection compels viewers to grapple with the co-presence of different temporalities in a way that points to shared experience and the public sphere. Oursler’s haunted ruins turn the database inside out. The interconnectedness of past and present, industry and nature, and colonial and Indigenous memory is not bound within a world of information accessible at one’s fingertips but an atmospheric landscape through which multiple spectators move. Spectators assemble individual narrative montages and itineraries through the movements of the body while simultaneously coming to terms with the contested and haunted histories of the monumental ruin in public space. One of the work’s more low-resolution images—a man jumping, falling, and getting back up—is a GIF encoded into the DNA of Hudson River bacteria. The animation is a metaphor for the artist’s notion of artistic creation and uses the CRISPR gene-editing process, an archival material that lasts far longer than celluloid, video, or microchips—an ultimate form of temporal ubiquity that merges the biological and the technological in ways that can produce dreams or nightmares. By haunting architectural sites and riverfront landscapes, these works and others like them infuse place with presences from fictional or actual pasts and presents. Rather than a window, the moving image becomes a ghost that inserts itself uncomfortably into the place of the screen. This occurs frequently in a number of other public projections at ruins, rivers, and other sites of urban porosity, such as Shimon Attie’s The Writing on the Wall (1991–1992) in Berlin’s former Jewish Quarter, William 41  Chris Speed, Maureen Thomas, and Chris Barker, “Ghost Cinema App: Temporal Ubiquity and the Condition of Being in Everytime,” in Cinematic Urban Geographies, ed. François Penz and Richard Koeck, Screening Spaces (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 317.



Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments (2016) along the Tiber River in Rome, and Ofri Cnaani’s Moon Guardians (2013) in the windows of a building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Haunting can also transform more sanitized and mundane spaces like the World Financial Center. Through the production of an unheimlich sense of enchantment, the moving image can disturb and complicate place rather than reify dominant narratives, producing a sense of “transformative recognition” through the fugitive quality of projected light and the compression of multiple temporalities at the site of the screen and through the spectator’s movements. In Tear of the Cloud especially, moving images conjure historical, social, biological, and industrial ghosts not to romanticize place but to point to connections and fissures just below the surface.

Apparitions Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projections make space for the voices and experiences of the disenfranchised to appear, frequently by haunting urban monuments. Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1943 during the ghetto uprising, Wodiczko claims that he is himself “a living war memorial,” underscoring the importance of personal memory and experience in his interrogation of official surfaces of commemoration.42 In one sense, his works illuminate ignored places in urban settings, calling our attention to the constant peripheral presence of monuments of power in our daily lives. In another, his projections completely undercut these authoritative structures by explicitly highlighting lived experiences and injustices outside the realm of official history. As Dave Colangelo argues, Wodiczko’s projects point to how the moving image in public space can be mobilized for rehistoricization rather than disorientation or distraction: “a critical redefinition of space that changes what can be said, by whom, and at which scale and level of authority.”43 His works also have the quality of enchanting monumental surfaces with uncanny, anthropomorphic presences. I turn to particularly cinematic and proto-cinematic components of Wodiczko’s projections— their spatialization of the tenets of montage and their activation of the 42  Krzysztof Wodiczko, “Artist’s Statement,” in Krzysztof Wodiczko Monument (New York: Madison Square Park Conservancy, 2020), 20. 43  Dave Colangelo, “An Expanded Perceptual Laboratory: Public Art and the Cinematic Techniques of Superimposition, Montage and Apparatus/Dispositif,” Public Art Dialogue 5, no. 2 (July 3, 2015): 118.



“phantasmagoric dispositif”44—to consider how enchantment operates through the animation of monuments. In recent projections onto figural sculptures, the synthesis of light and bronze along with Wodiczko’s facilitation of “fearless speaking” by marginalized subjects posits moving image apparitions as powerful surrogates for the body’s power of assembly. This unheimlich sense of enchantment with passersby asserts his subjects’ “right to appear.” Montage Monuments Since the 1980s, Wodiczko’s outdoor projections have sought to combat the psychic power of monuments and buildings. In “Public Projection,” an essay published in the Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory in 1983, Wodiczko outlines, in manifesto form, the object of his critique and the means of attack. The public building, he argues, structures and defines the social body in psychoanalytic terms: “the very first contact with a social building is no less important than the moment of social confrontation with the father, through which our sexual role and place in society is constructed.”45 This function is largely an operation of the building’s “prime occupation,” which is “to remain still, to be rooted permanently to the ground, abstaining from any visible movement…This establishes an absent-minded relation to the building, an unconscious contact, a passive gaze.”46 Exposing the ideological power of the building involves an unexpected frontal attack in the darkness of night when the building “is asleep, when its body dreams of itself, when the architecture has its nightmares.”47 Wodiczko’s terms for this project suggest that illumination can become a vehicle for awakening critical awareness of the building’s power, but this happens through particularly enchanting means: By introducing the technique of an outdoor slide montage and the immediately recognizable language of popular imagery, the Public Projection can become a communal, aesthetic counter-ritual. It can become an urban night 44  Noam M. Elcott, “The Phantasmagoric Dispositif: An Assembly of Bodies and Images in Real Time and Space,” in Screen Space Reconfigured, ed. Susanne Saether and Synne Tollerud Bull, MediaMatters (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 283–315. 45  Krzysztof Wodiczko, “Public Projection,” Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory/Revue Canadienne de Théorie Politique et Sociale 7, no. 1–2 (1983): 185. 46  Wodiczko, 186. 47  Wodiczko, 187.



festival, an architectural “epic theatre”, inviting both reflection and relaxation, where the street public follows the narrative forms with an emotional engagement and a critical detachment.48

The aims of this practice are very much in keeping with the contemporaneous “subversive signs” employed by postmodern artists working to critique hegemonic structures through appropriation and work in the public realm,49 but the terms Wodiczko uses evoke a spectatorial experience undergirded by sense of enchantment and even astonishment. The “night festival” and “epic theatre” allow for “emotional engagement” in order to combat the building’s somnambulant effects rather than a purely cerebral or linguistic counter-discourse. Here we have a fascinating inversion of the usual terms of critique in relationship to projection’s threat to buildings’ fixity as discussed in Chap. 5. Rather than producing an unstable image or spellbound perpetual present, projection’s festival atmosphere, in Wodiczko’s configuration, can be leveraged as something that awakens. Many of Wodiczko’s early architectural slide projections contained an element of the uncanny that both enchanted and disturbed, often by using isolated body parts to turn the building into a kind of monstrous body. In the artist’s first New  York projection days before the 1984 election, he projected an image of Ronald Reagan’s hand, wearing a cufflinked shirt and excerpted from his cross-the-heart gesture during the pledge of allegiance, onto the AT&T Long Lines Building downtown. The building itself is a tall, foreboding, windowless structure, and Wodiczko’s projection (from inside another building) appeared forty-stories up the tower approximately where the building’s “heart” would be, were it a standing figure. The work lent the ominous tower a strange and unsettling form of monstrous agency. The president’s hand was cut out from the original image perfectly, recalling the disembodied fragments of Dadaist photomontage—an explicitly political form of superimposition. In Wodiczko’s projection, Reagan’s performance of patriotism seemed to literally pledge allegiance to corporations, critiquing Reaganomics through a collision at the site of the screen. Similar projections from the 1980s also anthropomorphized buildings, most often with hands, leaving buildings (for now) mostly faceless and anonymous.  Wodiczko, 187.  Hal Foster, “Subversive Signs,” in Art in Theory 1900–2000: An Anthology of Ideas (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 1037–38. 48 49



Wodiczko’s exploration of montage aesthetics through slides precedes public projection. In References (1977), a work completed prior to the artist’s immigration to North America, a series of three carousel slide projectors projected randomly selected images from official Polish media onto three canvases, each marked with a single horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line. Peter Boswell sees the two-dimensional genesis of Wodiczko’s interest in the parallels between architecture and images in this piece,50 but this early gallery installation also has a uniquely filmic component through its temporality and its connection to early experiments in cinematic montage. The accidental and random associations that arose from References parallel Lev Kuleshov’s famous experiment, which intercut the same shot of actor Ivan Mozzhukhin with shots of food, a young woman, or a girl’s coffin. The randomness of the slides in References and the use of found footage parallel Kuleshov’s exploration, but Wodiczko’s later “slide warfare” is certainly not random. These contain more of the dialectical notion of montage championed by Sergei Eisenstein but with the tactile juxtaposition at the surface of the screen explored in References. Unlike the followers of Kuleshov, who were more interested in the construction of meaning through a series or chain of fragments, Eisenstein saw the creation of meaning as happening through dialectical collision.51 Eisenstein extended this emphasis on colliding elements in filmmaking beyond the relationship between shots and into the shot itself, stating “the shot is not a montage element—the shot is a montage cell (a molecule).”52 After extending the notion of montage inward from the relationship between shots to the elements within an individual shot, can we not also extend this dialectical collision of meaning outward, beyond the film and into the cinematic situation—to the very fabric and architecture of cinematic projection? This kind of surface montage occurs most strikingly in Wodiczko’s projections onto urban surfaces densely loaded with signification: memorials and monuments. Official public sculptures in the service of commemoration, such as obelisks, mounted figures, and arches, are often directly 50  Peter Boswell, “Krzysztof Wodiczko: Art and the Public Domain,” in Public Address: Krzysztof Wodiczko, ed. Phil Freshman (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1992), 12. 51  Sergei Eisenstein, “Beyond the Shot [The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram] from ‘Film Form’ (1929),” in Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, Seventh Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 19. 52  Sergei Eisenstein, “The Dramaturgy of Film Form [The Dialectical Approach to Film Form] from ‘Film Form’ (1929),” in Film Theory and Criticism, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, Seventh Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 29.



implicated in violence.53 They are also, as Aruna D’Souza claims, implicated in silences—“proxies for things that go unnamed…and for the conversations that we, as a nation, seem uncapable of having directly.”54 Wodiczko’s many slide projections onto these structures sought “not to ‘bring life to’ or ‘enliven’ the memorial…but to reveal and expose to the public the contemporary deadly life of the memorial.”55 In some instances, this is quite literal—the projection of rockets onto phallic columns, for instance. In others, projection seems to interrogate the building so as to ask it to speak, as in the 1988 projection of hands and microphones onto the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., Giuliana Bruno writes of his practice, “Wodiczko has incessantly used the medium of projection to interrogate the face and façade of architecture as a dense surface: a permeable site for the mediation of memory, history, and subjectivity.”56 This surface also becomes a site of collision, a montage surface of superimposition. The interrogation of the monument implied in the Hirshhorn projection became, through the shift from slide to video, moments where buildings are made to speak. Bunker Hill Monument Projection (1998), one of the artist’s first works to use moving images and sound, overtook a Charlestown, Massachusetts, obelisk to the Revolutionary War’s first battle (Fig. 7.6). The project was realized for Let Freedom Ring, a four-part, week-long public art exhibition of site-specific work reimagining sites along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, another example of place-specific public art exhibitions in the 1990s. Wodiczko used this signifier of past violence to re-examine the local community’s unspoken yet pervasive violence in the present, specifically gangland killings in Charlestown protected by the community’s code of silence. Mothers, siblings, and others who lost loved ones, brought together through the artist’s collaboration with the group Charlestown After Murder, appeared in half shots on the obelisk’s side. Dressed in black and against a black background, their bodies melted into the darkness while their face and hands anthropomorphized the monument in a manner similar to the earlier still projections but with the individual, affective presence of faces and the attentional 53  W.J.T.  Mitchell, “The Violence of Public Art,” in Art and the Public Sphere, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell, 1st ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press Journals, 1993). 54  Aruna D’Souza, “Reanimations,” in Krzysztof Wodiczko Monument (New York: Madison Square Park Conservancy, 2020), 27. 55  Krzysztof Wodiczko, “Krzysztof Wodiczko/Public Projections,” October 38 (Autumn 1986): 10. 56  Bruno, Surface, 76.



power of moving images and sound. Bunker Hill Monument Projection produced a spectatorial situation of directed multisensory attention, temporal duration, and the moving image’s embedded sense of anticipation. To Lisa Saltzman, the oral testimony of community members relates to video’s ontology as a medium that declares “I see”: Wodiczko’s project brought together two forms, one, the monument, explicitly dedicated to the project of remembrance, the other, video, at least nominally dedicated to the activity of seeing, if not also to the experience of having seen. And in superimposing one form upon the other, video projection upon monument, the project at once insisted upon and blurred those differential functions, pointing to the capacity, and incapacity, of each form to fulfill its expected function.57

This superimposition might also be thought of in terms of montage, as a dialectical collision of two opposed structures of remembrance—the mythic depiction and the actual experience of violence—upon the screen’s surface to produce a new presence. Like how the viewer’s body materializes the slide in Anselmo’s Invisibile, the monument makes visible that which we could not otherwise see but is always in the air. As a mediator of place, Bunker Hill Monument Projection unearths a neighborhood’s invisible present by way of its hyper-visible past. Projection’s dependence on a screen materializes otherwise unseen (and unheard) subjects through the collision of immaterial moving image with monumental surface. It is important to note that Wodiczko’s moving images do not at all adhere to montage aesthetics. They are most often composed of long, static shots, such as the grieving family members discussing lost loved ones in Bunker Hill Monument Projection or the hands of witnesses to the atrocities of war in The Hiroshima Projection (2000) or of prisoners in The St. Louis Projection (2004). Any transitions between shots are cushioned with gentle fades, which do not produce the jarring collision Eisenstein championed and even provide visual pause between speakers where the monument reemerges. Montage occurs instead on the surface of the screen, and the moving image insists on a vertical presence that denies any view into another world, assuming the role of the monument but forcing it to confront all that it usually obscures. 57  Lisa Saltzman, Making Memory Matter: Strategies of Remembrance in Contemporary Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 44.



Fig. 7.6  Krzysztof Wodiczko, Bunker Hill Monument Projection, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998. © Krzysztof Wodiczko Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York



From Figures of Great Men to a Demand for the Right to Appear Some of Wodiczko’s recent projects have turned away from architectural monuments to figural sculptures of “great men” that pepper public parks. Unlike an obelisk, which abstracts ideas of nation and features an often deliberately universal and anonymous (though gendered) form of commemoration, these figural monuments embody concepts of nation and war through specific historical people, overwhelmingly white men. This is not the first time Wodiczko has turned to figurative monuments. At documenta 8 in 1987, he projected a shirt and tie onto the monument of Friedrich II and a crate marked with Daimler Benz’s logo onto its base. The work drew a parallel between how Friedrich’s sale of Hessian peasants to the British army funded the Fridericianum (one of the exhibition’s venues), and how documenta 8 accepted funds from companies who had business dealings with apartheid South Africa.58 More recently,  Wodiczko’s figural projections have sought not only to uncover the “deadly life” of the monument but also to use these forms as proxies for marginalized people. Two projections in New York City parks—Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection (2012) in Union Square and Monument (2020) in Madison Square Park—juxtaposed testimony from veterans and refugees of war with bronze monuments to leaders of the American Civil War (Figs. 7.7 and 7.8). Projection superimposed participants’ hands and faces onto the stately comportment of the monument. In moments of agitation or excited speech, speakers’ movements disrupted the illusion and uncannily animated the bronze figures. The Lincoln projection, commissioned by the organization More Art, opened on Veterans Day (known as Armistice Day outside of the US) and featured video and oral testimony of veterans of US-involved conflicts dating back to Vietnam, making the official figure of war on American soil “speak” the private histories of veterans of foreign wars once they returned home. The Lincoln statue was designed by Henry Kirke Brown in 1870 and sponsored by the Union League Club of New York. Not wanting to pour salt into the recent wounds of the Civil War (both for southern visitors and New York draft rioters), the artist decided to downplay Lincoln’s militarism, and the figure has a rather unassuming pose and baggy

58  Phil Freshman, ed., Public Address: Krzysztof Wodiczko (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1992), 141.



Fig. 7.7  Krzysztof Wodiczko, Abraham Lincoln: War Veterans Projection, Union Square, New  York, New  York, 2012. © Krzysztof Wodiczko Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

clothing that allowed participants to “wear” the sculpture with ease.59 The statue was moved to the north end of the park following a redesign of the square and subway station in 1930, where it currently stands in the middle of a path that crosses the park east-to-west. The sculpture is less immediately noticeable than Kirke Brown’s more prominent equestrian monument of George Washington at the busier south end of the park, making its use as screen in Wodiczko’s projection intimate, creating surprise encounters for passersby rather than beacons from afar. Monument, commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy, featured a similar format, but the images and voices were from refugees from civil wars around the world recently granted asylum in the United States, and the screen was Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s 1881 sculpture of Union Navy Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. Just as the projection of veterans onto Lincoln’s monument recasts the public commemoration of 59  Karen Yvonne Lemmey, “Henry Kirke Brown and the Development of American Public Sculpture in New  York City, 1846–1876” (Ph.D., New  York, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2005), 229–69.



Fig. 7.8  Krzysztof Wodiczko, Monument, Madison Square Park, New  York, New  York, 2020. © Krzysztof Wodiczko Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York



war, the projection of refugees points to the frequently overlooked massive human displacement caused by the American Civil War in the nineteenth century. Located on the northern end of Madison Square Park, the monument sits at an intersection of walkways used frequently to cross the park. Below Saint-Gaudens’s bronze is a monumental, curved base designed by Stanford White with allegorical figures and a biographical inscription carved in relief. The curved base in particular seemed readymade for projection, but Wodiczko pointed his beam of light only at the figure’s head and hands, opting for a kind of magical animism over a wider and potentially more luminous projection surface. While both projections looked down at passersby, they did so in human scale and only from the authority of a plinth rather than the scale of the building. The vertical appearance of anthropomorphic moving images contrasts with the horizontal expanse of the cinema screen, producing a presence in the here and now rather than a window into another world, specifically through what Noam Elcott calls the “phantasmagoric dispositif”: “the assembly, in a single space and time, of spectators and images (seemingly) freed from material supports.”60 Elcott’s term connects the projections of artists like Anthony McCall, Peter Campus, Tony Oursler, and Gary Hill to pre-cinematic forms of enchantment and illusionism ignored by dominant strands in film theory and anti-illusionist discourse in the art world. Wodiczko’s spectral projections similarly appear vertically, a bit magically, and in the same space as the spectator, but they do so in a way that does not attempt to obscure the material support of the monument. This does not take away from the supernatural and haunting qualities of the work, which participate in this dispositif and partake in a long lineage of myths where sculptures come to life and a media history of uncanny projections, like those of Tony Oursler, that appear to animate them. Frequently, however, the illusion falls apart; ambient light and the reflective surface of the bronze screen deny a truly deceiving sense of animism, though the enchantment produced through the moving image prompts attention and recognition of speakers’ stories and traumas in the public sphere. The “assembly” Elcott points to in the phantasmagoric dispositif has particular political potential in public art. Public assembly, a fundamental component of democracy, implies physical presence in public space. Judith 60  Elcott, “The Phantasmagoric Dispositif: An Assembly of Bodies and Images in Real Time and Space,” 286.



Butler’s performative theory of assembly argues that this force is fundamentally embodied, relational, and performative: when bodies assemble on the street, in the square, or in other forms of public space (including virtual ones) they are exercising a plural and performative right to appear, one that asserts and instates the body in the midst of a political field, and which, in its expressive and signifying function, delivers a bodily demand for a more livable set of economic, social, and political conditions no longer afflicted by induced forms of precarity.61

Though the veterans and refugees projected onto presidential and military monuments are not actual bodies, their moving images occur through the collision of light and bronze, a synthesis of immaterial and material representations of bodies in the service of nation. The sculptures’ forms attempt to immortalize the bodies of Lincoln and Farragut, making them impervious to time. The projected images, on the other hand, are immaterial, precarious, and fleeting. The spatial montage produced through the apparitions of veterans calls to mind Butler’s paradox of dispensability: “The body instrumentalized for the purpose of ‘defense’ is nevertheless disposable in the course of providing that ‘defense.’ Left defenseless in the course of defending the nation, such a body is both indispensable and dispensable.”62 The bodily precarity of veterans echoes the spatial and geographic precarity of refugees in Monument, who narrate stories of danger and displacement. As public projections, these two works declare not only, as Saltzman argues, “I saw,” but also “I’m here,” both as a demand for recognition and as an assertion of a right to appear. In an undated photograph referenced in Wodiczko’s writings and public talks, an immigrant man faces the camera on a public bus in an unknown western city as two European people look at him.63 According to the artist, this image represents a seemingly insurmountable communication gap between the isolation of the man who looks at the camera’s colonizing gaze and the couple who “cannot confront the presence of a stranger any more than they can confront their own strangeness, which is repressed and

 Butler, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, 11.  Butler, 17. 63  Krzysztof Wodiczko, “Open Transmission,” in Architecturally Speaking: Practices of Art, Architecture, and the Everyday, ed. Alan Read (New York: Routledge, 2000), 87–109. I also saw the artist reference this photograph in a public talk at the New School from 2011. 61 62



hidden in their unconscious.”64 In order to bridge this gap, Wodiczko turns to the concept of the “transitional object,” a term coined by psychoanalyst D.W.  Winnicott: “an object that will allow [one] to play and achieve a distance, perhaps even an ironic distance, from the painful and impossible experience, in order to stand behind or next to his own experience and somehow open it to the [others].”65 Such an object performs a strange operation—it attempts to reach across a distance by generating a new one. Through the strangeness of the transitional object, communication can occur “[b]etween the speechless pain and despair of the actual stranger and the repressed fear of one’s own strangeness.”66 In Wodiczko’s Xenology project of the 1990s, the transitional object was a wearable or portable audio-visual communication device.67 In Alien Staff (1992), for example, the walking stick, long a symbol of nomadism, hosted a computer-controlled video screen where immigrant collaborators could display their pre-recorded stories for passersby. In his later work, War Veteran Vehicle Projection (2008), Wodiczko transformed a military Humvee vehicle into a mobile projector of light and sound operated by veterans at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Projections featured words of veterans flashing rapidly as the speakers’ voices boomed over loud speakers, followed by an even faster repetition of particularly powerful phrases accompanied by the sounds of gunfire and other weapons of war. The work appeared in other cities in response to local traumas of war. In Derry, Northern Ireland, the vehicle was an ambulance and speakers spoke of traumas endured during The Troubles (1968–1998). Like Wodiczko’s earlier Homeless Vehicle (1988), these mobile devices were both usable and provocative, amplifying the presence of the user and forcing the passerby on the street to interrogate the conditions that make such a device necessary.68 Returning our focus to the figural projections onto Lincoln and Farragut, the monument itself becomes a kind of transitional object through projection. Superimposition renders the public glorification of  Wodiczko, 91.  Wodiczko, 91. 66  Wodiczko, 90. 67  This included works like Alien Staff (1992), Porte-Parole (The Mouthpiece) (1993), Aegis: Equipment for a City of Strangers (1998), and Dis-Armor (1999). 68  Dick Hebdige, “The Machine Is Unheimlich: Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle Project,” in Public Address: Krzysztof Wodiczko, ed. Phil Freshman (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1992), 54–73. 64 65



men of war strange and their everyday forms unheimlich. Furthermore, the inclusion of women and speakers of color disturbs the bronze statue’s presumed masculinity and whiteness. This strangeness provides a distance that allows communication between the trauma survivor and the public, what the artist refers to as parrhesia or “free speaking.” This occurs through deep engagement with his subjects to work through multiple drafts to the point where they “become psychologically and politically empowered and come to see themselves as artistic creators in their own right.”69 Wodiczko maintains, following trauma theorist Judith Herman, that “the struggle for recovery from trauma—to finding a narrative voice through testimony—has a greater chance of success when performed as a public speech act, even more so when directed as a social utterance to and on behalf of others.”70 Employing speech-act theory, Mechtild Widrich argues that the contemporary monument has itself become “performative,” in that it “does not ‘tell’ political facts, but engages audiences in forming new ones,” a moment that has both potential and danger.71 Wodiczko’s projections similarly produce a space for performatives and a temporal encounter between passerby and monument, but this is not an occasion through which the audience produces new political facts (as in the immersive monuments Widrich critiques) but one where the stranger demands the viewer’s recognition. Many of the things discussed by Wodiczko’s collaborators are incredibly hard to hear in public or private spheres, including tales of rape, suicide, violence, and torture. Overtaking the platform of symbolic speech (the monument), their personal remembrances become a history: they challenge nationalist myths of past wars, expose the horror of war in the present, and demand a future abolition of war. While the details of these terms happen through sound—the literal speech act that enters public space—the moving image provides both the vehicle for attention and the spatial demand for recognition. Despite both works’ employment of animism and magic to produce a sense of enchantment and the refugees’ and veterans’ compelling demand for recognition and the right to appear, their scale made encounters with them intimate. Ambient light and sound, including nearby Christmas 69  Krzysztof Wodiczko, “Art, Trauma and Parrhesia,” Art & the Public Sphere 1, no. 3 (December 1, 2011): 298. 70  Wodiczko, 293–94. 71  Mechtild Widrich, Performative Monuments: The Rematerialisation of Public Art (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), 19.



music during the late November screenings of Abraham Lincoln, created strange overlaps, and the busy itineraries of pedestrians and obliviousness of headphone-wearing passersby often elicited only a brief glance rather than deep, empathetic engagement. The works’ intimate scale and quiet encounter made their address more invitational than compulsory. Each individual testimony lasted only a few minutes, making the work accessible at any point in the cycle and open to encounters of varying lengths. Only a few viewers that I noticed at either work stayed for the entire half-hour to 45-minute cycle, and many merely glanced up without stopping. In some instances, it was clear that the intensity of the testimonies perhaps became too much. At others, it seems people did not really hear what was being said. These at times unsettling juxtapositions between harrowing tales of war and the seeming indifference from members of the public are part of the works’ strength. The variable attention of passersby mirrors how refugee and veteran traumas are both ever-present and frequently invisible. The monument again materializes what has always been in the air, and this creates not only an apparition but an audience of strangers. The encounter the viewer has with the work, which includes the co-­ presence with other spectators and non-spectating passersby, takes on the role of assembly. We are co-present together with others and with the spectral appearance of those traumatized in the name of nation.

Détournements Although I have confined most of my discussion to projects organized through official public art agencies, moving image superimpositions also occur through street art, often in the Situationist tradition of détournement. Defined as “the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a new ensemble,” détournement involves a hijacking or redirection of an image, object, or artwork where each appropriated element loses its importance and produces “the organization of another meaningful ensemble that confers on each element its new scope and effect.”72 These actions do not merely attack their subjects but engage in the production of new meaning that harnesses the enchanting qualities of the moving image itself. These street art practices share in the moving image’s ability to make spectators out of 72   Situationist International, “Détournement as Negation and Prelude (1959),” in Situationist International Anthology, ed. Ken Knabb, Revised & Expanded Edition (Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006), 17.



passersby, intervening in public space to produce incidental audiences that can partake in both a shared experience on the street and see their surroundings with new eyes. Unlike the protagonist in They Live  (John Carpenter, 1988), who upon donning the sunglasses that allow him to see through advertising spectacle sees only a grim, colorless world of directives, viewers of these détournements are taken in by a new form of enchantment. Jason Eppink’s Pixelator (2007), a do-it-yourself diagram for a device of white foamboard and diffusion gel, hijacks moving image advertising screens over subway entrances in New York City to turn them into abstract grids of forty-five blinking squares. Eppink calls the project “an unauthorised collaboration with the MTA [New York City transit authority], Clear Channel Communications, and the advertisers that pay to be on the screens,” a deliberately tongue-in-cheek gesture that mimics the language of public-private partnership many public artworks use and points to issues of permission and access.73 By superimposing advertising screens with handmade sculptural objects, the device both obstructs a moving image and produces a new one. The sensory pleasures of this altered moving image come from the original amusement losing its smoothness, through the parasitic production of a new enchantment. With inspiration from the work of artists like Wodiczko and Jenny Holzer, many street artists and activists also turn to projection. The Illuminator collective began during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests and produces urban projections with activist content, most often echoing the white, sans-serif capital letters of Jenny Holzer’s public projections. Like Wodiczko, The Illuminator produces a collision between the content of the projected message and the architectural surface. The group coalesced soon after the “OWS Bat Signal” action on November 17, 2011, where “99%” flashed within a circular “bat signal” along with other OWS slogans on the foreboding surface of a downtown tower commonly called “the Verizon Building” due to the corporation’s logo on the building’s upper stories.74 The artists sought permission and collaboration from the resident of what became their ad hoc projection booth in a public housing building rather than the owners of building that became the screen, 73  Alice Arnold and Jason Eppink, “Electric Signs: An Interview with Jason Eppink, the Pixelator,” in Urban Screens Reader, ed. Scott McQuire, Meredith Martin, and Sabine Niederer, INC Readers 5 (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2009), 217. 74  “We are the 99%” was a slogan of OWS, alluding to the disproportionate amount of wealth and power held by the richest 1%.



inverting assumptions about ownership and permission in urban space that are central to the ethos of street art. In the months following, The Illuminator moved their operations to a van and took on what they call a “superhero persona,” transforming the bat-signal’s call to a vigilante onepercenter into a collective call to action.75 The Illuminator’s use of light as a medium of critique is not without its legal battles. Three artists with The Illuminator were arrested for their projection onto the Metropolitan Museum of Art protesting the unveiling of the David H. Koch Plaza in 2014 (charges were later dropped).76 The Illuminator has also projected onto the Guggenheim and other museums protesting labor practices, environmental injustice, and other social ills, connecting to a longer history of institutional critique and tactical projections deployed in response to museum censorship. In 1989 the Coalition of Washington Artists projected slides of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work onto the Corcoran Gallery of Art following the museum trustees’ decision to cancel Mapplethorpe’s exhibition following pressure from conservative politicians and the religious right. Over two decades later, a similar projection of David Wojnarowicz’s Fire in My Belly (1986–1987) happened at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. to protest their decision to remove the film from a 2010 group exhibition following pressure from conservative members of the House of Representatives. In my discussion in Chap. 2, the walls of museums became a site of expansion through the projection of artists’ moving image. When the museum becomes a screen for protest, its walls become opaque surfaces with which images clash rather than transparent membranes through which the institution delivers cultural offerings. Activist projections call attention to how museums are implicated in economic, colonial, or environmental destruction and connect the institution to a broader critique of power structures embedded in public space. As Abigail Susik contends, the technological breakthroughs that have increased portability of projectors offer the same potential for artists as the commercial release of PortaPak video cameras in the late 1960s, as well as 75  “OWS Bat Signal – The Illuminator,” accessed August 15, 2020, http://theilluminator. org/ows-bat-signal/. 76  Julia Friedman, “Three Arrested, Charged in Koch Plaza Protest at Metropolitan Museum,” Hyperallergic, September 12, 2014, The artists have since sued the NYPD for unlawful arrest and for what they claim was an illegal seizure of their projection equipment. Their projection switched between “The Met.* / *brought to you by the Tea Party” and “KOCH=CLIMATE CHAOS / The Met is a museum, not an oil lobby.”



similar “symbolic aims” of “subversively rerouting the regulated flow of information in society.”77 The excitement around increased access to projecting technology expanded in the mid-2010s as projects received enhanced visibility on social media, adding virality to their already public mode of address. Of particular note are the actions of Robin Bell, a Washington, D.C.-based artist who has collaborated with The Illuminator and began projecting onto the Trump Hotel in D.C. soon after its owner assumed the presidency of the United States in 2017. Realized quickly and documented on social media almost immediately, Bell’s provocative and humorous projections include the phrase “This place is a shithole” surrounded by poop emojis soon after the president’s controversial statements about Caribbean and African nations and “Emoluments Welcome” surrounded with flowing visuals and an “open 24 hours” arrow pointing to the hotel’s entrance. As projections like The Illuminator’s and Bell’s go viral on social media and receive coverage in the press, more artists and activists create their own projections, often aided by how-to guides and manuals to help them. Ali Momeni and Stephanie Sherman co-authored A Manual for Public Projection in 2015, a short booklet freely available as a PDF-document and supported by a Creative Capital Grant. This booklet features theoretical and practical advice for public projections, making frequent and direct connections to the legacy of the Situationist International.78 Arguing that “art in public” is different from officially sanctioned “public art,” the authors suggest that since “[a]uthorization for art can be hard to come by, it’s often easier for authorities to grant forgiveness than approval.”79 Even with the manual’s activist ethos, the concept of enchantment can still be found: Places build up a charm, draw, and gravity that stays with them over time. Architectures house our myths, memories, and dreams. Broken and fallen places have extra nooks and crannies in which surplus magic resides. These places store and recover stories, organize imaginaries, and inspire conversations and anecdotes which animate the present. [Urban Projection] amplifies our collective connectedness to our mythical places by transforming the entire city into an outdoor theater, a mobile movie.80 77  Abigail Susik, “Sky Projectors, Portapaks, and Projection Bombing: The Rise of a Portable Projection Medium,” Journal of Film and Video 64, no. 1 (May 9, 2012): 89. 78   Ali Momeni and Stephanie Sherman, A Manual for Urban Projection (Creative Commons, 2015), 15, 79  Momeni and Sherman, 14. 80  Momeni and Sherman, 15.



Many protest projections circulate widely on social media and in photographic documentation, where they connect more closely to the tradition of photomontage. Thinking about these protest events spatially and temporally, however, restores some of their experiential power and capacity for enchantment—components that their practitioners emphasize. Whether it is the reclaiming of mythical places or the superhero persona adopted by The Illuminator, the ability to create strange and even visually enticing encounters with passersby inspires the détournement genre of moving image-based public art as much as the light festival or the oneiric projection event. These moments contain the seeds of enchantment and sense of anticipation produced by the moving image. They redirect attention, amass gatherings of passersby, and generate lines of force in cities that can move against or rewire the affective infrastructure in place. These interventions participate within a tradition of moving image artworks in public spaces as much as they produce alternatives to the more commercial uses of it. Moving images can impose upon the built environment. They open connections to other places and times, ask symbolic places to account for their position of power, and prompt viewers to question and critique both the world around them and their role in the public sphere. In terms of their site-specific relationship to place, the work of Krzysztof Wodiczko or the projections of the Illuminator seem more politically engaged than many of the other projects discussed in earlier chapters, leading some critical frameworks to favor them. Though their political messages are indeed powerful, such a privileging would discount the role the enchanting quality of moving images and projected light play within them and ignore how more playful or aesthetic encounters with moving images, such as those in Crown Fountain or Masstransiscope, also create space for passersby to develop rich relationships with art, place, and each other. The superimpositions that make up this final modality of moving image-based public art may complicate our relationship to place or even produce critical juxtapositions in the tradition of photomontage, but they do so with a degree of enchantment that harnesses the attentional and affective power of the moving image.


Postscript: Reflections from a Summer Without Public Space

In the course of this book, I have demonstrated how artists employ moving images in public spaces to generate particular spectatorial situations that can prompt moments of enchantment. Far from mere spectacle or distraction, these works produce complex encounters with place, history, and fellow viewers. They leverage both the moving image’s affective power and its own precarious vacillation between materiality and immateriality, a dynamism that creates the conditions for a wide audience often unavailable to many other forms of public art but also threatens its material supports. As a genre of public art, moving images produce a variety of encounters that range from the simple wonder at the illusion of movement to the political recognition of marginalized subjects’ right to appear. In their most compelling moments, these artworks create gatherings or meeting places in public space that reactivate the commons and create space for multiple voices. The spring and summer months of 2020, when I entered the final stages of writing this book, saw the issues central to it—public space, screen media, and shared experiences with strangers—change radically. The COVID-19 pandemic caused us to think very differently about our public spaces. Business closures, stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and telecommuting for academics and other white-collar workers evacuated public spaces while placing medical professionals and many working-­class populations increasingly at risk of infection. We became fearful of the kind of close © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




contact and shared experiences with strangers that underpin this book. During these months of relative isolation, parks and theaters closed, and many relied on small screens in the home for work, leisure, and communication. Writing about the shared experience of moving images in public spaces during this pandemic felt in some ways like an elegy for a lost past. In the summer months and still in the midst of the global pandemic, protesters sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a white police officer flooded public spaces (often wearing protective face masks) in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and voicing opposition to years of systemic racism and police brutality. In many instances, militarized police forces reacted tragically predictably, the documentation of which, along with the videos that galvanized the movement, circulated widely on social media. Many came to see the digital public sphere—itself under threat from the monopolization and manipulation of technocratic elites—as the most important site for urgent moving images. These two overlapping moments—one that lead to the evacuation of public spaces in the name of public health and one that took over public spaces in the name of social justice—would seem to overtake or cancel the seemingly minor interventions and often optimistic tone of many artworks discussed in this book. As both crises unfolded, quite the opposite proved to be the case. If anything, the strain on public space created by the dual crises of a global pandemic and police brutality produced occasions where public moving image artworks and ad hoc projections created solidarity or amplified voices in ways that responded to these moments’ urgency and strain on both many publics and many public spaces. Cinematic exhibition and arts institutions saw massive losses during the pandemic, yet both novel and historic forms of shared spectatorship emerged. Drive-in theaters saw a renaissance in many parts of the world, and museums and other organizations arranged for simultaneous streams of new releases or special screenings. This latter phenomenon’s expansion of geographic access to moving image works normally only available to residents or visitors of art world centers offers a possible reflection on how institutions themselves might become more equitable members of the public sphere.1 Notably, this expansion was not entirely on-demand and 1  David Joselit, “Art Museums Will Never Be the Same. That’s a Good Thing.,” The MIT Press Reader (blog), July 22, 2020,



occurred often through live streams or simultaneous screenings. As Sarah Atkinson put it, “despite the pervasive ‘anytime-anywhere’ rubric of film streaming platforms, what has manifested in the past few months [of the pandemic] is that when it comes to film viewing consumption, time, place and shared experience matter.”2 Despite the cancelation of a number of festivals and public artworks, moving images in public spaces became vehicles to communicate solidarity or symbolic presence at a moment when access to public space contracted. Though Midnight Moment stopped showing new programming from April through July, Times Square Arts began Messages for the City in partnership with the Poster House museum, PRINT Magazine, and For Freedoms, an initiative begun in 2016 by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman to promote civic engagement through public art. Messages for the City involved both a poster campaign and overtaking public screens in and around Times Square and on 1800 kiosks around New York City. The project featured public service announcements about social distancing and messages of thanks and support for “frontline workers,” as medical professionals, first responders, clerks, grocers, and others came to be known during the pandemic. Animated messages were particularly striking on the curved corner screen at 20 Times Square. Xaviera Simmons’s texts appeared as a two-channel installation with short phrases that thanked first responders, frontline workers, journalists, and others in a rapidly flashing, alternating two-color design, while Christine Sun Kim simulated handwritten chalk messages to space out “thank you” along five horizontal lines that wrapped around the corner. Jenny Holzer deployed her signature animated texts to implore viewers to “wash your thumbs too” or “protect nurses, doctors, yourself.” Mierle Laderman Ukeles offered the handwritten message, “Dear Service Worker / ‘Thank you for keeping NYC alive!’ For ⟶ Forever…,” reviving the expression of gratitude she said to 8500 sanitation workers as she shook their hands in Touch Sanitation Performance (1979–1980) for a contactless era. Carrie Mae Weems used her signature juxtaposition of photography and text to highlight Black, Brown, and Indigenous experiences with the virus, communities that were disproportionately impacted and more likely to be frontline workers (Fig. 8.1).3 2   Sarah Atkinson, “Post-Viral Cinema,” In Media Res Coronavirus and Cinematic Experience (June 15, 2020), 3  This was also part of Weems’s Resist COVID Take 6, an artist-driven public-awareness campaign directed at Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities developed together with



Fig. 8.1  Carrie Mae Weems, Resist COVID Take 6, 2020. For Messages for the Public, Times Square Arts, Times Square, New York, New York. Photo by Maria Baranova for @TSqArts. (Image courtesy Times Square Alliance)

A selection of multiple messages ran for a full minute and cycled through every fifteen, a rate of visibility unprecedented in the earlier Times Square programs I discussed in Chap. 3. While this could be seen as pricey advertising locations merely offering a discount during a time with significantly decreased visibility in public space, in other ways we can locate how, through decades-long involvement in public art, the “screen clusters”4 at Times Square have assumed at least a partial commitment to public service through collaboration with contemporary artists. Stories about the project spread widely in the art and popular press, broadening its reach beyond Times Square. Even some online streams had a public space component, bridging digital and physical public screenings. The curatorial collective Wavelength hosted the program #pandemicprojections in Singac, New Jersey, from April to June. The project featured ten screenings, each with a program of experimental films and video art, projected onto the mostly flat wall of a nail salon from an ad hoc projection booth inside curator Jeanne Brasile’s home. Brasile and collaborator Gianluca Bianchino found inspiration in the viral videos of Italians singing from balconies during lockdown and Pierre Loving. 4  Zach Melzer, “Screen Clusters: Urban Renewal, Architectural Preservation, and the Infrastructures of Urban Media” (Ph.D. in Film & Moving Image Studies, Montréal, Québec, Canada, Concordia University, 2019).



wanted to do something that would bring art into the public sphere in a way that respected social distancing. Located on a suburban corner, the site had a relatively small incidental audience limited to cars passing by and a handful of walkers, preventing the accumulation of crowds, but the Facebook Live stream reached a much broader and dispersed viewing public. Brasile narrated the streams from her window projection booth with running commentary on the films and interaction with viewers posting online, while Bianchino streamed to Instagram from the street level. Each projection began during the state-wide curfew, in the curators’ words, “using the ethereal and temporary nature of video projection as a vehicle to communicate from indoors and within legal constraints while still interacting in the public sphere.”5 As quarantine public art, #pandemicprojections both participated within the digital events that proliferated during the pandemic, expanding the reach of moving image artworks, and insisted on the shared experience of moving image projection in public space. Related events by organizations like LuminArtz in Boston similarly bridged the live online event with public space through nocturnal projections at rotating, undisclosed locations. While streaming technology brought together a dispersed and quarantined audience, what they delivered was itself a reminder of the power of viewing things together in public space. The scale of the building may have been reduced to the phone or computer screen, but the moving image’s tactile communication with architecture within the live-streamed video created a simulated spectatorial experience in public space. When it became safe to do so, #pandemicprojections held a drive-in screening, adapting to different stages of quarantine and social distancing protocols. At Emerson College projection even served as a proxy for assembly, specifically the commencement ceremony. The projection One Emerson overtook one of its building’s façades in downtown Boston with artists’ animations, graduating seniors’ names, and messages of congratulation to students and thanks to frontline workers.6 Projection similarly became an important component of actual public assemblies in support of Black Lives Matter activism later in the summer. Most projections occurred organically and were met with a range of official responses. Projections paralleled the near simultaneous explosion of  Jeanne Brasile and Gianluca Bianchino, “Email with Author,” May 1, 2020.  Artists involved with the project were Bunnie Reiss, Allison Tanenhaus, Randy Stolinas, and Thomas Wimberly III. 5 6



both graffiti on controversial monuments and municipality-sanctioned murals (often spelling out “BLACK LIVES MATTER”) on the surfaces of city streets. In Richmond, Virginia, local artists Dustin Klein and Alex Criqui projected nightly onto the equestrian monument of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general whose public statues have become lightning rods for controversy (Fig. 8.2). The site became both a physical and symbolic center for assembly and activist art, “a symbol for how Black communities are reclaiming spaces that historically have made them feel unwelcome.”7 Spray paint covered the monument’s stone base with messages, slogans, and names, which, though at times illegible through their dense layering, communicated a clear rejection of Lee’s legacy and the monument’s continued presence in public space. At night, Klein and Criqui appropriated the monument’s wide base to project still and moving images of civil rights leaders, abolitionists, and Black people killed by police brutality and racist violence; archival video of speeches and musical performances by Black icons; iconography related to Black Lives Matter and other social causes; or textual messages. In one instance they even transformed the monument into a “2nd Place” trophy, alluding to the strangeness of having such celebratory monuments to those who lost the war.8 The projections were mostly live and responsive, often with thematic tie-ins to events of the day and drawing on Klein’s background producing visuals for musicians. The equestrian monument itself mostly faded into the obscurity of night, illuminated only with the letters “BLM” as the base emerged as a screen. Other projections took place at monuments and other sights all over the country. Some even dislodged from the surface of the monument and hovered in front of it, such as The George Floyd Hologram Memorial Project, a traveling project organized by Floyd’s family. Photographs and videos of these projections (along with videos of various monuments’ removals) circulated widely on social media and in the press. The multiple 7  Sabrina Moreno, “Projections at Lee Monument Have Offered Peace in Times of Violence – a Glimpse into What the Monuments Could Be,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 27, 2020, ticle_15e77f3c-9f81-57f8-a2e5c01231b15fb9.html. 8  This is particularly odd considering Lee’s stated desire to never have a monument built of him, and one of his ancestor’s support for removing them.



Fig. 8.2  Dustin Klein and Alex Criqui, projection onto statue of Robert E. Lee, 2020. Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia, USA.  Photo by Zach Fichter. (Image courtesy Alex Criqui and Zach Fichter)



forms of “surface tension”9 created at the site of the Lee Monument and others—the neoclassical form, the dense and emotional layers of graffiti, and the appropriation of this material surface as the support for nocturnal projection—remade place both within the urban context and in our cultural image of it. As a vehicle for the amplification of public assembly, projections also featured numbers for bail funds and state officials to support those detained in protest. As monuments began to fall, many communities reevaluated public art dedicated to divisive figures. Responding to the removal of a mural of former Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, mayor Frank Rizzo, a figure marred by association with police brutality and resistance to desegregation, local public art organization Monument Lab projected video sourced from local artists in order to “visually cleanse” the wall. The removal of the Rizzo mural was part of a larger reassessment of public art and monuments to divisive figures begun during the summer months of 2020. Monument Lab’s projection positioned moving image art—specifically the shared experience of moving image exhibition in public space—as both an intermediary means of healing and a potentially more inclusive and dynamic form of muralism. Cited by the neighborhood association president as “an opportunity for all of us to step back, take a breath, and reimagine the space in a way that can unite as well as reflect the entire community,”10 the projection allowed for the neighborhood’s many publics to turn the symbolic site of the mural into a projection surface that embraces multicultural identity and produced a space for shared encounter and social distancing during the pandemic. These temporary interventions, part of a much wider turn to outdoor projections during the summer of 2020, showcase the power of moving images as public artworks, both as moments of enchantment to engage people in public spaces and as ways of contesting places of power that live on through their afterimages on social media. Responding to crises, removals, and injustices, these projects and many others are a testament to the resilience and relevance of moving image-­ based public art at a time when public space itself was extraordinarily 9  Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). 10  Elizabeth Estrada, “‘We Want to Fill This Space with Light’: Philly Artists, Residents ‘Cleanse’ Rizzo Wall,” WHYY (blog), July 15, 2020, we-want-to-fill-this-space-with-light-philly-artists-residents-cleanse-rizzo-wall/.



strained. Even when circulating primarily on social media, these works’ scale and occupation of architectural and monumental surfaces communicate shared experience in public space. Harnessing the visual power of advertising for public service, deploying projection as a proxy for physical presence, producing moments of communal gathering to heal divisions and imagine new futures, or demanding a right to appear in defiance of a symbolic landscape to white supremacy, the enchanting qualities of moving images and projected light move spectators both local and dispersed in profound ways. As projectors become increasingly portable and affordable and more organizations seek to produce immersive environments and spectacular events, the future of moving image-based public art is ripe with possibilities, both for works that produce moments of enchantment that invigorate, challenge, and enliven and for leveraging by placemaking actors and culture industry amusements. As I have traced throughout the course of this book, moving images have been deployed as public art in the past four decades in ways that prompt us to rethink spaces around us and our role within them. The many forms of spectatorship that emerge in urban space contain aspects of mobility, distraction, embodiment, sociability, and emplacement that challenge critiques that allude to public screens’ induced passivity. By locating moments of enchantment—a concept that acknowledges moving images’ visual and affective power as well as spectators’ potentially invigorating encounters with them—this book charts a path for the future selection and creation of public artworks in increasingly mediated urban public spaces. Through its own visually enthralling tension between the material place of our encounter and the many immaterial spaces produced within it, the moving image is a powerful and distinct component of the contemporary public art landscape—one that both continues to emerge in new forms and participates in a rich, intermedial tradition.


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A Acconci Studio, 208 Advertising, 63–67, 66n9, 66n10, 67n11, 71–75, 78, 80, 83, 85, 87, 88, 90, 93–99, 96n63 Aitken, Doug, 34, 48–62, 57n69, 61n74, 209 electric earth (1999), 61 Mirror (2013), 209 Sleepwalkers (2007), 48, 52, 53, 58, 61 SONG 1 (2012), 34, 49–62, 53n63 Ambient television, 196 Amusement, 68, 75 Art on the Marquee, 3, 5, 67, 96 Art Production Fund, 95 Astrovision, 80, 81, 83, 85n45, 88 Augé, Marc, 145


B Barry, Judith, 213, 221, 229–233 Border Stories, Working Title, From One Place to Another (2000), 221 Barthes, Roland, 54, 55, 57 Battery Park City, 230, 231, 233 BBC Big Screens, 189, 200–204, 206 Bell, Robin, 253 Bennett, Jane, 32–34 Birnbaum, Dara, 189–191, 193–197, 199, 200 Rio Videowall (1989), 189, 193–197 Black Lives Matter, 256, 259, 260 Blake, Jeremy, 86, 87 BLINK Festival, 119, 139, 167, 168, 172, 178, 179

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Dell’Aria, The Moving Image as Public Art, Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image,




Boston CyberArts, 66–67, 96 Brand, Bill, 34, 36–46, 44n37, 44–45n38, 187, 196 Masstransiscope (1980), 34, 36–46, 42n26, 61, 62, 187, 196 Brave Berlin, 119, 156–158, 178, 182 Bray, Anne, 79n32, 96 Bruno, Giuliana, 32, 37, 51, 55 Business improvement district (BID), 88–90, 93 Buzz, 132 C Calle, Sophie, 92 Campus, Peter, 103, 130 Canopies, 139–141 Carbonneau, Tiffany, 169–171 Something Worth Remembering (2018), 169, 170 Today, Tomorrow (2019), 171 Cinerama, 58, 59 Commons, 78, 84 Connolly, Maeve, 228 COVID-19, 255, 257n3, 258 Creative City, 148, 150, 154, 156, 159, 160, 186 Creative Time, 72, 76n26, 78, 85–88, 85n45 Criqui, Alex, 260, 261 D Dandridge, Logan, 161–162 Dérive, 181, 182 Détournement, 213, 250–254 Dickson, Jane, 72, 72n22, 73, 76, 77 Let Them Eat Cake (1982), 76 Dietz, Steve, 160, 160n54, 184 Digital canvas, 204–210 Diller Scofidio + Renfro Facsimile (2004), 216, 217, 219 Jump Cuts (1996), 215–217, 219

Disco floor, 136, 138, 139 Dispositif, 130, 131 Distraction, 64, 65, 65n5 Doane, Mary Ann, 58, 59 Doyle, Chris, 92, 94 Drive-in theater, 197, 198 E Edensor, Tim, 150, 165, 184 Enchantment, 5, 6, 9, 11, 13, 20, 25–27, 29, 31–62, 67, 68, 70, 75, 76, 84, 89, 93 Eppink, Jason, 251 Expanded cinema, 8 EXPORT, VALIE, 103, 104 F Fernández, Teresita, 39 Festivals, 147, 150–158, 160–166, 171, 173–176, 175n86, 180–182, 184–186 Fête des lumières, 153, 154, 161 The 59th Minute, 85–89, 91, 92 Film theory, 13 Finch, Spencer, 219 Flâneur, 23 Florida, Richard, 142, 148 Flow, 190, 193, 202 Flux, 193, 195–197, 200, 202 Foster & Flux, 157, 167, 168 Fountains, 105, 108–115, 117, 138, 139 Friedberg, Anne, 213, 214 Future city, 154–163, 185–186 G Galloway, Kit, 223, 224, 226 Hole in Space (1980), 223, 224, 226 Gerrard, John, 222–224


Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez / Richfield, Kansas) (2008), 222 Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014), 223, 224 Gibson, Jeffrey, 92 Gillick, Liam, 139, 140 Glow, 154, 155, 183 Goldberg, Neil, 92 Graham, Dan, 14, 28, 117, 137, 213, 219, 220 Cinema (1981), 213, 220 Video View of Suburbia in an Urban Atrium (1978-1980), 219, 220 H Halegoua, Germaine, 146 Haring, Keith, 73, 75 Haunting, 213, 228–236, 246 Hershman Leeson, Lynn, 228 Chain Reaction (1983), 228 High Line Park, 234 Hildebrandt, Hank, 162 Hirschhorn, Thomas, 220 Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 34, 49, 51, 51n54, 52, 52n57, 54, 56, 57, 57n69, 59, 61, 62 Holzer, Jenny, 64, 72n22, 73–76, 83, 97–99, 257 IT IS GUNS (2018), 99 Sign on a Truck (1984), 97–99, 99n69 Truisms, 73–75, 76n26, 83 Hypertopia, 211 I Ikeda, Ryoji, 92 Illuminator, The, 251–254 IMAX, 58, 59 IMMERSE Orlando, 154, 166, 167n71 Impactplan, 140, 141


Indianapolis, 189, 204, 204n41, 206, 208 InLight, 154, 161, 162 Institutions, 256 Ireland, David, 52, 52n58, 60 J Jaar, Alfredo, 52n58, 53, 79n32, 92 Janunger, Erika, 92 Jumbotron, 80 K Kapoor, Anish, 106, 110 Kartoon Kings, 201 Kim, Christine Sun, 257 Klein, David, 68, 70, 90, 92 Klein, Dustin, 260, 261 Kusama, Yayoi, 117, 118 L Levine, Les, 77, 78n31 Lewin, Jen, 165, 166 Lightborne, 171, 172 Light City Baltimore, 158 Lincoln Center, 218, 223, 224, 228 Lozano-Hemmer, Rafael, 105, 118–119, 122–138, 142 Level of Confidence (2015), 122–125 Re: positioning Fear (1997), 125, 126 Sandbox (2010), 128, 135–138 Under Scan (2005), 127–135, 137 LUMA Festival, 154, 157, 183 LuminArtz, 259 M Massey, Doreen, 147, 171 Matos, Johnny “CRASH,” 73, 75 McCall, Anthony, 14, 102, 102n3, 127, 139



McCarthy, Anna, 146 Messages for the City, 257 Messages to the Public, 71–80, 84, 85, 87, 88, 92, 95–97 Midnight Moment, 70, 85n47, 88–94 Millennium Park, 105–117 Minority Report, 64 Minter, Marilyn, 95 Montage, 235–241, 247 Monumentality, 173, 174 Monuments, 213, 228, 236–241, 243, 244, 246–250, 260–262, 260n8 Mosaic District, 198, 199 Muntadas, Antoni, 77, 96 Museums, 34, 45, 47–49, 51–56, 52n57, 59 N Nauman, Bruce, 117, 137 New Urbanism, 148 New Urban Landscape, 231, 233 Non-place, 145, 146 Northern Spark, 160, 160n54, 161, 169, 170 O Opie, Julian, 208, 209 Ann Dancing (2007), 208 O’Shea, Chris, 119–122, 121n45, 135, 203 Hand from Above (2009), 119–121, 135, 137, 203 Oursler, Tony, 2–4, 21, 28, 213, 229, 233–235, 246 Braincast (2004), 233 The Influence Machine (2000), 233 Tear of the Cloud (2018), 2, 3, 5, 229, 233, 234 Over-the-Rhine, 156, 167–169, 179n92, 184

P Pandemic, 255–257, 259, 262 Paracinema, 139 Parkinson, Alan, 166 Passerby, 4, 23, 24 Permanence, 187–189, 187n1, 195, 196 Place, 6–8, 10, 15–17, 19, 23, 25–29, 145–149, 151–154, 152n25, 159, 161–164, 166–171, 173–176, 183, 185, 186 place making, 147–152, 155, 160, 171, 176, 185, 186 Playable city, 115, 128, 135, 138, 139 Plensa, Jaume, 105, 108–112, 115, 116n36, 131, 138, 187 Crown Fountain (2004), 105, 109–111, 187 Portals, 212, 213, 219, 222, 223 Portraiture, 105, 110–112, 119, 131, 137 Projective city, 155, 158, 159, 159n48, 163, 174 Public Access Collective, 190 Public art, 2, 5–29, 21n57 Public Art Fund, 72, 73, 78, 79, 81, 84, 85, 88, 95, 97 Public pools, 105, 114, 115 Q Quartier des Spectacles, 149, 157 R Rabinowitz, Sherrie, 223, 225, 226 Hole in Space (1980), 223, 226 Reitz, Mary Clare, 168, 169n74 Ricoeur, Paul, 124 Rist, Pipilotti, 81, 83–88, 85n45, 91, 94 Open My Glade (2000), 81, 83, 85, 91


S Scher, Jeff, 92 Simmons, Xaviera, 257 Snow, Michael, 81, 85 Son et lumière, 154, 176 Space, 2, 3, 5–29, 8n11 Spectacle, 31n1, 33, 49, 53, 58, 59, 67, 68, 70, 83, 88, 89, 94, 146, 150, 152–155, 162, 174, 176, 183, 186 Spectacolor, 68–94 Spectatorship, 5, 6, 9–11, 13, 15, 26, 27 Splash parks, 115, 138, 140 Staehl, Wolfgang, 222 Midtown (2004–2005), 222 Stonbely, George, 72, 79 Struth, Thomas, 220 Eine Projektion für Münster [A Projection for Münster] (1987), 220 Subway, 35–46, 57 Summit Park, 140, 141 Superimposition, 211–254 Surveillance, 105, 120–125, 127, 130, 132, 134–137, 142 T Taylor, Erin, 162 Television networks, 80 They Live, 64, 78 Times Square, 63–99 Times Square Alliance, 70, 88, 89 Times Square Arts, 88, 90, 257, 258 Tourism, 148, 153, 154, 160, 165, 186 Tuan, Yi-Fu, 145 Tykkä, Salla, 56


U Ukeles, Mierle Laderman, 190–192, 257 Flow City (1983-1990), 190–192 Umbrella Skies Project, 140 Urban space, 5, 6, 11, 22–26, 29 V Venividimultiplex, 166 Videowall, 189–200, 189n7 Viola, Bill, 47, 47n47 Virilio, Paul, 146, 154, 156 W Wavelength, 258 Weems, Carrie Mae, 257, 257n3, 258 Widescreen, 53n63, 54–56, 58, 59 Wilson, Jane and Louise, 90 Windows, 212–228, 235, 236, 246 Wodiczko, Krzysztof, 213, 236–249, 251, 254 Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection (2012), 243, 244 Bunker Hill Monument Projection (1998), 240–242 Monument (2020), 243–245 War Veteran Vehicle Projection (2008), 248 Woolfalk, Saya, 171n76, 177, 178, 185 Visionary Reality Threshold (2019), 177, 178 Wormholes, 213, 214, 219–228