Interactive public art project runs through April 27 in Austin
AUSTIN, TX – Over the past few weeks, thousands of Austin residents and visitors have begun sending text messages to lamp posts, bus stops, and other inanimate objects around the city. They are taking part in Hello Lamp Post, an international art project created by London-based designers Pan Studio which invites people to strike up conversations with familiar street furniture using text messaging. The project was commissioned by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department in celebration of the Art in Public Places program’s 30th anniversary year, and in partnership with Art Alliance Austin. The project combines art and technology to encourage people to look at the city in a new way and engage with the everyday objects that often go unnoticed.
The project launched on February 12 and so far over 2500 players have sent over 18,000 text messages and spoken to 1826 different objects. One of the most popular objects has been the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan on Auditorium Shores. Here is a sample of what people have said:
Question from Stevie #1954: This is a great spot for people watching, can you see any dog walkers on the trail?
Answer: Yes! Austin is full of dogs. I saw one on a dirt bike yesterday! Keeping it weird.
Q: Stop and listen…can you hear anything that sounds like music?
A: Church bells and bike wheels on gravel.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you are aware of right now?
A: Man canoeing backwards with no shirt on
Q: Are there any rules that you live by?
A: Kindness and generosity take you far in this life.
Hello Lamp Post was originally developed for Watershed’s Playable City Award in 2013 in Bristol, UK and the Austin project is the first time the platform has been launched in the United States. The next stop for the project is Tokyo, Japan, commissioned by the British Council. Beginning on April 25, 2015, residents and visitors to Tokyo’s Roppongi area will be able to exchange texts with objects such as the iconic Tokyo Tower, the Louise Bourgeois sculpture Maman, and Roppongi Crossing, as well as everyday Tokyo street furniture.
“Having Tokyo pick up the baton from Austin and be the third city to commission Hello Lamp Post is so exciting. We’ve seen how differently British and American audiences have responded and Tokyo is again a fresh context for the project. Seeing how citizens play with and subvert the system in new ways is exactly what Hello Lamp Post is all about. We’re looking forward to great story telling, some weirdness and just a little Kawaii,” said Ben Barker, co-founder of PAN Studio the creators of Hello Lamp Post.
Hello Lamp Post will be live in Austin through April 27, so there is still time to strike up conversations with objects all over town using the text messaging function on any mobile phone. People can interact with any object they choose, in any part of the city, because the project utilizes the thousands of pre-existing identifier codes that label items of street furniture, including (but not limited to) lamp posts, mail boxes, moontowers, utility boxes, manholes, or telephone poles.
Here’s how to play: Step 1: Find an object with a unique reference code – once you start looking, you’ll notice that many things are labeled with pre-existing identifier codes, such as serial numbers. A code can be a combination of numbers and letters. Step 2: Send a text message to the Hello Lamp Post phone number, 512-580-7373, with a message in the format "Hello OBJECTTYPE #OBJECTCODE". For example: "Hello lamp post #402455" or "Hello moontower #BS2032." Step 3: Follow the conversation – you should get a reply text soon. Answer the object’s questions and learn what other people have said. Different objects will ask you about different things and, as more people play, objects develop personalities and share stories that were anonymously given to them by other players.
You can also participate by taking a tour of objects curated by cultural partners, including Art Alliance Austin, Landmarks – the Public Art Program of the University of Texas at Austin, and AIA Austin. More information about the tours is available at hellolamppostaustin.com/tours. The project will also be featured at Art City Austin, April 25-26. The annual downtown Austin art fair is now in its 65th year; more information is available at artallianceaustin.org.
More information about the project, including a short video and a map of featured objects, is available at hellolamppostaustin.com.
About Hello Lamp Post: Hello Lamp Post was developed by PAN Studio and was the winner of the inaugural 2013 Playable City Award, launched by Watershed. The Playable City is a new term, imagined as a counterpoint to 'A Smart City'. A Playable City is a city where people, hospitality and openness are key, enabling its residents and visitors to reconfigure and rewrite its services, places and stories. It is a place where there is permission to be playful in public. In 2014, Hello Lamp Post was exhibited as part of Designs of the Year at London’s Design Museum. The first iteration of the project received press in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Fast Company Magazine among others. Hello Lamp Post: Austin is commissioned by the City of Austin Art in Public Places Program in partnership with Art Alliance Austin. The project is sponsored by the Downtown Austin Alliance and Capital Metro and is an official art project of SXSW 2015.
About PAN Studio:
PAN Studio is a London-based design practice with a specific interest in developing enriching experiences that in some way impart intellectual, sensory, or emotional value. As well as city wide playful systems, PAN creates interactive objects for installations and immersive theatre and experimental objects designed to find new ways of enriching everyday living.
PAN is a team of designers, developers, and engineers who look to form new types of collaboration and work across disciplines. In addition to Hello Lamp Post, they are the designers of Run an Empire, a location based strategy game, and Alpha-Beaters, a set of connected objects to turn the home into a musical instrument.
About City of Austin Cultural Arts Division:
The Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department provides leadership and management for the City’s cultural arts programs and for the development of arts and cultural industries. The Cultural Arts Division is responsible for the Cultural Arts Funding Programs, Art in Public Places Program, community-based arts development, and programs to assist the development of film and creative industries in Austin.
Founded in 1985, the Art in Public Places (AIPP) program acquires and maintains works of art for City facilities and parks through commissions, donations, and loans for the cultural enrichment of Austin’s community. By City ordinance, AIPP allocates 2% of eligible capital improvement project funding to the acquisition of site-specific public artwork. 2015 marks the 30th Anniversary of the AIPP program in Austin, the first municipality in Texas to make a commitment to include works of art in construction projects. For more information, visit www.austincreates.com.
About Art Alliance Austin:
Art Alliance Austin exists to broaden and strengthen Austin’s art community by producing a diverse series of cultural experiences that bring together artists, art buyers, collectors, and the public. Since 1956, the community-focused nonprofit has cultivated opportunities that directly support the region’s most promising visual artists, curators, and arts organizations. Art Alliance Austin programs and partnerships now engage more than 100,000 people annually and produce an estimated $2.5 million in annual economic impact. In addition to Hello Lamp Post, Art Alliance Austin produces or underwrites several events during the year such as Art City Austin, the Art Night series, PechaKucha Nights, and the Downtown Holiday Stroll in partnership with the Downtown Austin Alliance. For more information, please see www.artallianceaustin.org.