The Legible City

'Legible City' (1989) is a groundbreaking interactive installation by Jeffrey Shaw. It was shown at V2_ in the exhibition of Manifestation for the Unstable Media 4.

The Legible City

Jeffrey Shaw: Legible City, Photo © Jan Sprij

Excerpt from Jeffrey Shaw's essay Interactive Digital Structures:

THE LEGIBLE CITY (Artec 1989, Nagoya, Japan 1989) was a three-dimensional digital image whose virtual size was approximately six square kilometers. The viewer could interactively travel in this space using a special bicycle. The ground plan of this space was based on an area of Manhattan south of Central Park. Instead of buildings lining the avenues and streets, the writer Dirk Groeneveld wrote a number of stories for this work and the letters and words of his text constitutes the visual architecture (fig 4c). In this way the 'city' was transformed into a kind of three-dimensional book, and bicycling there was an activity of reading.

The bicycle had electronic measuring devices on its handlebars and ped als which indicated to the computer-graphic system the momentary position and speed of the bicyclist. As a consequence of this information, the computer could calculate and display on the screen the appropriate sequence of images. This 'real time' interaction of the bicycle and image allowed the bicyclist complete freedom to go anywhere. Following the streets, turning at intersections, driving at random, and even passing through the letters, each bicyclist could choose his/her own personal path in THE LEGIBLE CITY, and in so doing construct his/her own unique reading of the text.

In THE LEGIBLE CITY, the six square kilometers of virtual space of imagery was virtually located beyond the surface of the projection screen and thus outside the actual room where the bicyclist (and other spectators) were situated.

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