How Digital Installations Shape the Future of Public Art

We often talk about the growing role of technology in architecture and modelling, in systems planning and transportation, but it’s also playing a huge role in changing public spaces. Digital art installations are on the rise in cities and they are having huge impacts on the way we engage with public space.

The possibility for interactivity is far greater with digital installations. Unlike a traditionally static sculpture or mural, technology allows a user to see the art change or to participate in the making of the art piece. For example, this summer, any passerby in Vancouver can control the lights of the iconic Science World dome, thanks to OH!, an interactive art installation from Tangible Interaction. Tangible Interaction has created a huge assortment of interactive technologies, from “digital graffiti walls” to “sound clouds” that adjust their colours according to the ambient noise around them. Whether users are physically manipulate the installation or these pieces are passively adjusting to their surroundings, they are constantly changing.

Digital displays don’t require permanent infrastructure and can be temporary, low or lower cost ways to engage citizens. They can add technology to existing infrastructure to transform an under-utilized space into a public place, as the Uninterrupted video experience does. For a half hour each evening, the underside of a bridge is transformed into a video screen to display the story of a salmon run.

These installations can fundamentally change the public space they are put into, making spaces more functional all thanks to the addition of the art. Dave Colangelo from the blog “The Artful City” says that “sites that support urban media art require the careful planning of the spaces around the screen to make them more inviting and amenable to the kinds of interactions they can engage. through things like benches. embedded speakers. and sensors.” Adding art can improve the public space beyond the added benefit of the art itself.

Digital art is constantly innovating. What will developments in technology add to urban media next? And more importantly, with new and unexpected spaces being claimed for art, how will municipal art policies adapt to bring even more digital installations into our public spaces?

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