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Urban Appointment

A Possible Rendezvous With The City: excerpt by Brian Massumi and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in the context of the HUMO masterclass.

To catch the city in a different light, the Situationists recommended making virtual appointments. A group member was asked to show up at a certain corner at a pre-designated time. Neither party knew who the other was. Steeped in uncertainty, the encounter was destined to remain merely a possibility. Merely a possibility? Fully a possibility. Think of what it feels like going to meet someone you have never seen before in a public place. Every person walking by might be about to step into your life. The slightest of gestures amplifies into an emergent sign of recognition. The space around is no longer a neutral frame. It is charged with anticipated gazes leading potential approaches.

Your peripheral vision sharpens to catch the subtlest flutter of arrival at every angle all around, giving a much more palpable sense of immersion than you normally feel. Space thickens, liquefies and stirs. Wavelets of possibility fill it like a fourth dynamic dimension. The device of the virtual appointment is designed to make possibility movingly palpable, in a city space now defined as much as an over charge of potential paths of human encounter as by its geometrical and geographical properties.

The HUMO workshop made a virtual appointment, not between individuals in the city but between a collectivity and the city. Twelve artists were invited to Linz, Austria, for the week of 3-7 February 2003. Waiting for them was the world's most powerful projector mounted with a power generator on a 12-ton truck. The projector is capable of throwing an image over 60 x 60 meters, large enough to cover the facade of a large building. HUMO = HUge and MObile. "The project", Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's call for participation announced, "will consist of rapid deployment of strategic images to transform urban landscapes. Logos, emblematic buildings, quotidian spaces, suburban malls, advertising billboards etc, will be the targets of unannounced, unregulated ephemeral interventions ... below the radar of potential regulators". The Ars Electronica FutureLab was placed at their disposal for the preparation of digital images and their transfer to acetate slides for rapid-fire open-air projection.

Like the Situationist dérive, or experimental urban "drift", for which the possible rendezvous was one tactic, HUMO was a plan to exceed the expected. A truck-borne band of artists would roam the city making stealth image attacks on buildings, factories, fields and highway underpasses; onto anything and everything. The locations would be scouted ahead of time or chosen on the spur of the moment, in passing. They would be as central as a main plaza or as marginal as an industrial slag heap. In either case, art would leave the walls of the gallery behind to flit for a moment on the periphery of official urban vision, out of place, out of scale, out of nowhere. The image's arrival would momentarily alter the perceptual conditions of the local space, crystallizing at least a vague sense of the unaccustomed possibilities it enfolds. Even if no legible message were sent, the anomaly of the image's very presence would signal a "more" postulating the existence of an elsewhere, beyond the conventional logic of that place.

Excerpt by Brian Massumi & Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 2003

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