We have decided to utilise public space to house an interactive technological event in support of Amnesty.  Having been majorly inspired by the Graffiti Research Lab’s skyscraper laser tag projections, we thought a little research into their use of technologies, space and project feedback would tie nicely to our final design idea.

The Graffiti Research Lab (GRL) – who are they and what do they do?

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GRL consists of a bunch of hackers and graffiti writers who get together to design and implement impressive street projections onto public buildings. They see public space as a creative canvas that should be embraced to promote non-corporate political messages and messages of peace, love and unity.

Although GRL is tied in with the hip hop, rap and graffiti scene, their audience is similar to ours in that their public messages are meant to impact the lives of everyone connected to that public space.

For example, someone could be sat in their flat enjoying an evening tea and notice the messages on a building in their view of the city distance. That person is connected to the public space which acts as a background to GRL’s projections. Even though physically, the person in context is not at the projection site, they are still connected to it by the power of public space.

GRL is similar to Amnesty contextually, as they stand beyond the mouths of manipulating rulers and mass media conventions. Their political messages are propped to promote awareness, it’s like they’re saying: “open your eyes people, don’t trust the corporates and those in power”.

As well as the projections being a hugely creative display of messages and tags, they promote a feeling of unity. Amnesty promotes power to the people, which is exactly the feeling conveyed when I read about GRL’s productions. Using this sort of technology in our campaign may not only be interactive and engaging, but totally immersive and unified, as a result.

“Stop asking permission from law-enforcement offices, city officials, arts organizations, and copyright owners (but feel free to take their $$$$). Causing mayhem in public space is like downloading music on the internet: if enough of us rush the guards, they won’t be able to take us all out.”

Our Amnesty campaign will need to reach out to the lives of everyday people, as written in our mission statements. GRL are successful in doing through their use of space and technologies.

Space:

GRL have travelled far and wide to experiment with global public space. Their trip to Hong Kong (the city of lights) in 2007 saw them enter the Guinness World Records as the worlds farthest tag, apparently they were “just practising…”.

The Hong Kong expedition was light hearted and steered towards experiencing the Cantonese Hip Hop culture. However, a feeling of unity still transpired through the coming together of similar groups from countries far and wide – similar to our aim of bringing together people from all walks and directions in the Bear Pit.

The projections were displayed on large skyscrapers, for all to see. The GRL still respected Chinese culture though, by stating that they are not Triads or Al-Qauda. Their aims were not to promote criminality but entirely the opposite.

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The ‘Lazer Tag’ Project:

This powerful laser tag project was extremely innovative in terms of public space and impactful messages. GRL made use of a standalone large building, that had the correct height and width measurements to act as a canvas. The projector was set up easily from the crew’s van in the car carpark below the building.

Graffiti tags, political messages, like “Fuck the pigs” and “Don’t trust bush”, and controversial personal statements, like “My pin: 1459”, were projected onto the building for all to see. The pin statement was especially interesting, as the person who wrote the pin was confident in the actuality of potentially hundreds of onlookers knowing his number, as he was protected by the small area below the building. This emphasised his trust in the world (as well as his crew members) and most importantly, b) that pin numbers are a fiction of the banks that control us, what do they really mean into comparison to life’s great experience?

 

In terms of our project, we should use a space that can be seen by everyday people, preferably a space that people would stop for. We could use a large building, but this would raise constraints regarding legalities and council restrictions.

Although a large  building would be hugely impactful and (let’s be honest) cool, we could still make use of a smaller canvas in an area of community space. The GRL crew have even used a lorry as their projection canvas. It’s about content over size.

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The Bristol bear pit is not only a space rich in our target audience, but surrounding the perimeter are flat surfaces that could be used for projections. We’ll go and check out the space in a field observation context soon.

Technologies:

Interestingly, GRL have published the open source C++ code and DIY tutorials needed to build a cheap set-up. This means that access to the means of implementing a final large-scale show piece is a reasonable consideration. At the present, the technology is older meaning each piece shouldn’t be too costly. The online tutorials literally tell you step-by-step how to construct an outdoor digital projection kit.

“Outdoor digital projection in urban environments is a great method for getting your content up big before the eyes and in the minds of your fellow city inhabitants.” GRL encourages anyone to set up the projection kit, emphasising that public space really is a canvas for creativity and innovation, the technology is not super complex and costly so this appeals to all community people.

What do we take from this?

  • Content is important to create impact.
  • We should find a community space in Bristol to project on, taking in background and restriction considerations. Utilising public space is easy enough though
  • The technology it accessible and there are plenty of online tutorials.
  • The GRL have published a download of the source code here. We can have a look at this when considering the technical side of the project.

References:

e, fi 5 (no date) How to start your own graffiti research lab. Available at: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Start-Your-Own-Graffiti-Research-Lab/ (Accessed: 1 March 2017).
James Powderly (2007) All you see is.. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFWcAkxzkv4 (Accessed: 1 March 2017).
The Graffiti Research Lab (no date) L.A.S.E.R. Tag. Available at: http://www.graffitiresearchlab.com/blog/projects/laser-tag/#video (Accessed: 1 March 2017).
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