Environment, Cognition, Memory and the search for LA's Cultural Identity
ImageAbility: the quality in a a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer. Kevin Lynch, 1960
The mental images and cognitive maps individuals and communities develop in relationship to their urban environments are:
- meaningful expressions of their conceptual, emotional and ideological understanding and connection with the city.
- powerful tools for discovery, empowerment, dialog and transformation.
These internal images and maps hold a critical role in the formation and evolution of a city's cultural identities. In them is embedded a complex interpretative grid of geographical, historical, structural, political, technological, and cultural references and markers defining of the city's, the citizens', and the communities' overlapping conditions.
The ImageAbility of a city is intimately connected to the creative potential of its people to influence and shape their evolving environment. This potential suggests forms of civic creativity embrasive of participative empowerment culture.
The installation ImageAbility is participative artwork for community investigation of the city, collective remembering, self representation, imaging alternative futures, and engaged dialoguing about it all. It entails a “cultural civic computing” system bringing together interpretative databases, networks, interactive display technology, mobile devices, real-time imaging, and an innovative cognitive mapping interface into an integrated ever changing hypermedia environment.
ImageAbility will invite visitors/participants to construct a collective interpretative cognitive map revealing the underlying historical, political, economic, and cultural patterns and how these condition the relationship between urban design and community development. Participants will explore, deconstruct, compare, and express those relationships meaningful to their own cultural identity and their own experiences
As they enter the ImageAbility' installation visitors encounter a large projection screen and a number of smaller screens distributed in the space. The arrangement assures visibility and awareness of the large screen while at any of the small screens.
The large screen displays a composite visual collage resembling an illustrated, annotated urban map. The structure and aesthetics of the map suggest an informal, unfinished, collective construction. The map is also be populated by images, graphics and texts. Continue or repeated observation reveals a constant process of change; both the background geographical features and the foreground illustrations mutate producing a sense of constant editing.
On initial viewing this map will not seem to be of a familiar place. Further attention to the changing details of the evolving map reveals details recognizable as part of Los Angeles. The emerging, mutating, and disappearing illustrative components of the map include location specific images, videos, texts and sounds relating to the history and present of Los Angeles.
Ultimately it becomes apparent that the ongoing transformations are the result of real-time input/editing by other people. A subtle but clear notation approach indicates the physical or virtual source of each edit.
The smaller screens in the space (size and quantity to be determined) are at once display and digital drawing board. Upon approaching a small screen the visitors are invited/encouraged to draw their "own L.A." directly on the screen. A set of simple tools provide editing capabilities such as control of color, line, shape, fill, text, etc. Some faint, dynamic location clues are available to help initiate the drawing.
The dots, lines, and shapes participants draw in their "City Image" dynamically generate queries to an extensive database historical and current illustrative materials and trigger the emergence of spatially related images, texts, videos, sounds, as part of their drawn environment. Each of these emerging components functions as a sort of channel/window linking the personal drawing to other related media items. The visual interface allows people to activate these channels and explore them. Ultimately participants can accept or reject any component made available by the relational channels for inclusion in their "composition".
As participants create their visual representations (cognitive maps) of their Los Angeles and populate them with media components, they discover the generative relationship between their image and the mapping collage on the large projected screen. The large screen is actually an interpretative composition of the combined input of visitors to the exhibit, and its changing nature is triggered by the real-time collective contributions of participants drawing on the small screens.
People's individual drawings and slides of the collective composite map are made available to all participants on a web site.
Idea and Creation: Fabian Wagmister
Development and Technology: Jeff Burke
Production: Dara Gelof