App producers of the extraordinary kind, LoVid, are about to take you on a journey, right here in New York City. Are you ready? All you need is your fully charged smart phone and some headphones in order to be transported. Presented by Elastic City, LoVid’s latest project revisits their “appreciation of the physical environment through a digital lens,” and uses their latest smartphone app, iParade 2: “Unchanged When Exhumed”, to give their audience an alternate experience of Hamilton Grange’s move around Harlem.
The app uses locative video, so that everyday surroundings metamorphosize into the surreal, as “participants may graze with a hungry tree, safari in jungles between residential homes and the street, and climb hills to uncover an emerald treasure.” Essentially changing the way we use technology to interact with our environment, for LoVid, life is a virtual set. We spoke to LoVid about the new project, the way we interact with digital screens, and the advent of interactive, new media art…
Portable: What gave you the idea for Unchanged When Exhumed?
LoVid: This is the second iParade we’ve done, though it is much more complex than the first. We are interested in the possibilities of using mobile media to extend our ongoing exploration of the relationship between technology and the human body. Last year, we had a residency at NY City College in Hamilton Heights, Harlem. While at City College, we did some research on the history of the neighborhood and the university. A few interesting anecdotes captured our attention as things we could build a piece around: an archive of student film works from the 1940s-1950s, produced under the direction of the filmmaker Hans Richter, and the two relocations of Hamilton Grange between 1802 and 2008. Both of these seemed relevant to themes of memory, displacement, and shifting perceptions of time and place in relation to media and technology.
P: How did you develop the technology?
LoVid: Our first iParade was built on the ARIS platform. This time, we wanted a little less baggage and also to make it available on different kinds of devices. We worked with a developer, Sean M. Montgomery, to build the App from scratch. It was developed using PhoneGap/Cordova.
P: What were the biggest challenges?
LoVid: The biggest technical challenge was to make the App cross platform so that it can run on different phones. This area is such a new frontier that there are constant updates to the development systems, programing languages, etc., creating a moving target and several redesigns right when we thought it was finished and ready to launch. A more conceptual design challenge was the question of the audience; how do we communicate with them through the App, provide the viewer the immersive experience and suspension of reality we hoped to create.
P: What did you learn from the process?
LoVid: Often we build our own systems from scratch, from basic components up. This is the first project we’ve done using such cutting edge technology. We learned the obvious lesson that everything takes longer than expected. More importantly, we are still learning about people’s behaviors and habits when it comes to public space and digital space. We recognize that there are some habits that seem common to most people and there are always differences in people’s reactions and experiences. It is an interesting territory to explore and one of the exciting and inspiring elements of this project for us.
P: We already watch so much through screens, our TVs, laptops etc., and a more recent change has been watching live action i.e. a concert through a smart phone screen while taking photos/recording. How do you see the future of our relationship with the smart phone?
LoVid: The issue for us is not so much the screens themselves but the content and how they modify the user. This could develop in several ways, either everything might become advertising and users will have no choice over what content they are exposed to, or we will be able to access alternative as well as main-stream media through the same channels. In a Sci-Fi way, which we discuss in this piece, our phones or other mobile devices, could hold a more concrete piece of our consciousness, in a way they abstractly do already.
P: With your particular project a) how is the experience shared/socialized and b) how does perspective and experience shift from one viewer to the next, or does it even shift at all?
LoVid: This piece can be seen in several ways: individually, one viewer by themselves, or as a group during one of our events. The goal is for the individual viewer to have a personal private experience that we feel is very important to encourage and is often neglected in our “socially networked era”. For the group, we are hoping that there will be a shared unique experience that is a combination of the content we worked on putting in the piece and the unpredictability of doing anything with a group, particularly in public space. The group emphasizes an additional layer of the performance. We hope that the participants, as well as pedestrians who pass by, will see the movement of a group of people walking, holding video displays, looking for GPS locations, as a sort of improvised choreography. The piece doesn’t particularly change from one viewer to another, but we hope that every audience member will have a different perspective that they bring with them based on their background and interests.
P: What are you working on next?
LoVid: Our next portable project will involve audience generated QR code that will be created through a series of public workshops and presented as large scale QR code posters. This is another way of investigating public space, private space, and their relationship to technology. We will also be looking into creating new iParade episodes as it is an ongoing series. Now that we have a strong platform, we are beginning to think about the next interesting location to create an iParade for.