Saturday, August 26, 2006

This is Public Art: Third Time Lucky

documentation 4, originally uploaded by rina.liddle.

documentation 3, originally uploaded by rina.liddle.

It`s Monday morning, I called the HHS Hire people. I have found that if you present a problem and then feign as if you have no idea of any possible solution, Londoners love to find you a solution, particularly if you are a girl and they are not. If you find your own solution and ask them for what you want, you will get the big egg. Responses include: “No, we don’t do that”, “No, that is against our rules” and a particular favorite, “No, I can’t help you, that is another department”. So long-winded it was, I recounted the weekend’s activities for the technician and happily, he soon was at my house, picking up the defunct generator bringing another, bigger version in hand.

Well armed, off we went, and, as a descendent of Italian heritage, the kind that resembles a subject that is uneducated and superstitious, I was thinking. “third time lucky”. Thankfully Eleanor, a classmate of mine, helped with the driving, and being a rather confident Londoner, she was not afraid to park illegally. We arrived at our destination, set everything up –the only anxiety this night was of the technical kind—only discover that I needed an adapter for my mac. Bloody hell. So Eleanor zipped though the streets to South East London and thankfully I found mine exactly where I thought I left it.

Back again and everything was almost beautiful, except the projector wasn’t reading my computer. Thankfully the AV rental people had posted their cell phone right on their equipment and I called for a little emergency consult. Within minutes we had things running, finally.

The response was a mixture of what I had expected. There was a range of engagement, from people glancing and walking past, a few apologies from those who realized part way that they were walking through the projection (or perhaps through the videoing of the projection), to people who stopped to enquire about the project.

The woman whose response I had found most interesting was a resident of the neighbourhood. Just to set the tone, this area is in the financial district of London; and therefore, it is frequented primarily by office workers and tourists who come to see St. Pauls Cathedral and the surrounding statues. This woman was shocked to see the CCTV images. While understanding on an intellectual level that every angle of the square was imaged by the cctv cameras, she was quite unaware of what those images looked like. The project gave her a different understanding, one that she could relate to in a tangible way. This response was what I was after; to create a different way to apprehend the condition of London life, from that of knowing that you are being watched, into the experience of knowing that you are being watched. It is subtle in words, yet phenomenally different.

I am now off to the south of France to spend eight days writing my dissertation, what can a girl say about that?

Monday, August 21, 2006

This is Public Art, A Failed Event

When you think you have accounted for everything, you are still not prepared for all potentiality. Or, put simply, the last laugh might be on you. I know this to be true, particularly after this weekend.

The “customer service” woman at the HSS Hire shop assured me three things before I placed my reservation on her hand-held generator for this weekend’s event. First, it was silent. Of course, I didn’t expect silent exactly, but quiet was what I was hoping for. Secondly, after explaining that I was a 5” 3 weakling, she assured me that indeed I would be able to carry this thing across London by tube. It was a handheld generator after all. And lastly, she assured me that there was 500 watts of power, plenty for my 150w data projector. (A fact I knew because she made me call the data projector “customer service” people, who much less confident and not at all interested in checking, told me that it would definitely be under 500w).

And my prep day went like this:

Carsten, my German friend who is on holiday with me at the moment and I walked down to Brockley Road. I sent him off in a direction for good coffee, Time Out travelers guide and A-Z in hand. I met Michael and we headed to the Home Depot store, can’t remember the English name for it, to source wood and various gadgety-things for our show in September. With a short stop at Comet, to buy a dvd player, we made our way to the gallery space where Tom was working on the roof and Alison was already waiting for us. Alison, Michael and I proceeded to test the infamous brick clips ™ (thank you Lee Valley) and measure the ins and outs of the space. The procedure ran like a well-tuned machine, efficient and satisfying.

Then I went home to run my last checks on the equipment for the event. The generator worked, but silent, it was not. Our first clue was the “must wear ear protection” sticker slapped on the side. Remarkably, we got the data projector doing its thing quite quickly and I phoned for technical support regarding the power surge protector. Then we packed up and were transported by a very large moving van from Poland –an extremely funny way of transporting our hand-held generator.

The thought of the loud generator in that space, with all the cameras and a parked police van not more than 12 feet from where I wanted to project and a building security guard sitting in a lobby, was torture. And then I remembered that the point of the game was to get things running and get them shut down. So I got everything set up saving the generator for last. Pulling the generator starter and hooking up was the climax. Get the power surge protector in, got that running. Hook the data projector in, got that working. Plug the data projector in, got standby power there. Turn data projector on, and the power ceased. The climax fizzled as I tried a few more times to get the power to get there. The generator sounded pathetic as it struggled to rev up enough power for my 150w device, never getting there. I phoned the rental place only to be told that the 24hour centre in Hackney was only 24hours during the week, a different story than the one I was told only hours before. We packed up and went home.

Ironically, I didn’t feel complete failure as I had expected; I had after all run a loud generator in public space for at least a half an hour without any attention, and in a paranoid anti-terrorist kind of place, that was something.

Friday, August 18, 2006

This Is Public Art

this is public art, originally uploaded by rina.liddle.

Today is the day. It seems I have been preparing for this day for over 6 months. I am projecting my dissertation final project into public space, guerilla style. This Is Public Art consists of london cctv footage that is intermittently interrupted with the text: this is public art. I will be projecting the footage back into the space where the footage originated, near Saint Paul’s tube station, in full view of the camera that gave birth to my piece and possibly the same surveiller who helped me set up the camera to my aesthetic taste.

My anxiety is running high. With a lack of technical support from my sociology-based visual program, I have yet to confirm if, in fact, a hand held generator will in fact power the data projector for a half an hour without a power surge. Apparently, the tool rental technician advised me not to power such equipment with their generator, even with a power surge protector, which they will rent to me for an extra tener. The data projector, I acquired, is not insured, of course.

But perhaps I won’t even get that far, projecting into public space, I mean. The police are quite fast here, I have noticed, with all the terrorism hoopla, which is the point. When I was in the bank control room taking portraits of the lovely chief inspector (nice ass, I have never really been drawn to men in uniform…) I couldn’t help but notice that one of the operators had noticed some kind of disturbance and dispatched someone, I am assuming by foot, to go check it out. And when I was setting up for another portrait just outside the Liverpool Street Station, the foot patrol were on me really quick-like. I would like to know if terrorists are really so clumsy as to use medium format cameras and tripods.

I guess my question, as I set out to start me day is: If I am successful with this project, as in if I get to project a half hour of footage into the space unattended to, what does that say about my project and my dissertation argument? Only failing will prove my point.