Every year, in early October, there is an arts festival in Toronto, called Nuite Blanche. The real title is “Scotiabank Nuite Blanche”, after a surprisingly large bankcorp that apparently decided that giving an arts event a bunch of money was a good move. Whether this makes for a bunch of overly bland corporate art is a question for people who spend more time thinking about that sort of thing, but I will note that the independent/outsider art pieces that were allowed to participate were in a parking lot in the distant reaches of bumblefuck nowhwere.
Also, at least in 2010, a lot of the pieces could be summed up as “Revenge of the Son of the Guy with a 20k Lumen Projector”. There were a lot of illuminated rectangles of shifting colors or scrolling text messages projected on the flat sides of buildings. That’s not how you do engagement with the urban space. Really, they could have at least done projection mapping on interesting buildings, or responded to the historical and geographical placement of the building. That’s also not how you do engagement with the audience. Any pinhead with $200 to rub together can have “LOL DONGS :-P” in fifteen foot high letters on the side of a building. They don’t really need an an artist with a SMS-to-projector gateway to set it up.
The cumulative effect of both the administrative actions (street closings, businesses staying open later) and the placement of the art seems to say that art is still a one-way channel from the artist to the spectator, but also a transient thing that doesn’t leave a permanent change in the urban environment. Art is something other people make for you to watch at special times, not something for you to do whenever you want.
So I’m restarting my project to build the NUITEBLASTER. It’s a portable projector that people can use to project responses (critical or otherwise) directly onto the art at Nuite Blanche. The heart of the projector will probably end up based on this laser projector, using a 200mW laser shining through a tiny LCD. Laser-based projectors have a couple of unique advantages over white-light projectors, not the least of which is that they are in focus at all distances. By choosing an output lens with minimal enlargement, I can probably throw a readable image quite a long way. The whole device will be lightweight and small.
For the display and input, I may end up using a combination of an LCD from one of my old wearable computer monocular displays and a BOB-II video overlay board that I have sitting around. I may also just skip the video overlay board entirely and have a laptop with S-video or composite out generate the video signal directly. Either way, people will be able to put the generated video stream up on the sides of buildings. I’ll let members of the public put whatever they want up, right next to (or over) the approved artists.