Liverpool, 2009 Presented from 23 through 27 September 2009, the projection was a British version of the year-earlier Denver projection. In Liverpool, Wodiczko worked with British veterans, former soldiers in wars in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Falklands, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their war experiences. In his contacts with the veterans, Wodiczko was helped by Combat Stress, an organization working with traumatized veterans. During the projection, they communicated through audiovisual equipment installed on a British army Land Rover. The project, which dealt with the difficulties of former soldiers’ adaptation to civilian life, provided also for the participation of the veterans’ family members. The projection was presented for five consecutive nights in several places: the tower of George’s Dock Building, the World Museum building and on the façade of the postmodern Metropolitan Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Church’s main church in Liverpool. Organized within Polska! Year – Polish Year in Great Britain by the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool, with support from the Polish Institute in London, and with the assistance of Combat Stress. Curators: Heather Corcoran and Aneta Krzemień Software designer: Robert Ochshorn
War Veteran Vehicle
Denver, 2008 The projection, which dealt with the situation of US war veterans, was presented on August 22-24 in Denver during the Democratic National Convention. The artist used a vehicle that was an adapted version of the US Army’s battlefi eld Humvee vehicle. The weapons platform at the back of the vehicle, where normally a missile launcher or gun is mounted, had been replaced with a “projection platform” equipped with a powerful video projector and loudspeaker system in order to give a public voice to war veterans. “Firing” the sounds of words and images of texts, the vehicle became a “weapon” in homeless veterans’ struggle for the public to understand their experiences and existential situation. The projection was presented in two places: on the wall of the Aromor building, later converted into a temporary shelter for homeless veterans, and on the Performing Arts Center building, near where the Democratic Party’s convention was taking place. Publicly raising the issue of the social reintegration of traumatized war veterans, the artist had been working with homeless veterans through organizations such as the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless or The Cherokee House. The projection had been preceded by seven months of meetings and discussions with nearly forty homeless veterans, during which they formulated their statements, messages, and accounts of their war and post-war experiences. Material selected with their participation was then turned into an audiovisual projection. Organized as part of Dialog: City during the US National Democratic Convention, by Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, a collaboration with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Denver’s Road Home, Mercy Housing Colorado, The Cherokee House. Curator: Seth Goldenberg Software designer: Robert Ochshorn
2000 Instrument designed and built in collaboration with members of the Interrogative Design Group, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT: Adam Whiton, Sung Ho Kim, Jerzy Stypułkowski; Japanese team: Mari Ishiko with a group of school psychologists. Dis-Armor is a psycho-cultural prosthetic device designed as a communications tool for school students. It was directly inspired by the artist’s meeting with alienated, sociopathic Japanese youngsters. The project’s title serves as a reference to the need for “disarming” – for young people encased in a carapace of silence to open up. Resembling a protective suit, the Dis-Armor combines modern technology with Japanese cultural traditions; its overall aesthetic and individual elements were inspired by antique samurai armor. The device features two mini cameras that film the eyes and send the image to two small-size screens at the user’s back. Young people who otherwise avoid direct contact with others can communicate by “looking and speaking with their backs.” Three versions of Dis-Armor were made: a blue one (the earliest); a gold one with an added camera to play back prerecorded statements, with sound-image synchronization, and the option to switch between playback and live broadcasting; and a third one, equipped with a back camera and a small LCD screen replacing the earlier rearview mirror.
Ægis: Equipment for a City of Strangers
1988 Instrument designed in collaboration with members of the Interrogative Design Group, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT: Adam Whiton, Sung Ho Kim, Kelly Dobson, Jerzy Stypułkowski, Bogdan Soboński, Todd Polenberg, Christe Erickson; built at Brooklyn Model Works. Projects featuring the Ægis carried out in: Berlin, New York.
The Ægis, the last and most technologically advanced of the Xenological Instruments, was designed as a dialogic device, allowing the user to dialogue with others and themselves, multiplied in recordings of their own person screened on two monitors. Each screen is connected to a computer with a built-in voice-recognition sensor that reacts to certain predefined phrases. The Ægis facilitates multidirectional dialogue: the screens displaying the user’s faces can be turned towards each other, towards the user, or towards other speakers. This is a device, the artist stresses, “serving the immigrant’s art of survival, but also meant for those who experience alienation for other reasons.” Pre-programmed dialogues make it possible for the users to talk to themselves about their own alienation. Allowing us to communicate with others as well as to hide behind a pre-recorded narrative, the device takes its name from Athena’s protective shield.
1993 Instrument designed and tested at the Interrogative Design Group, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT; built at Brooklyn Model Works. Projects featuring the Porte-Parole Mouthpiece carried out in: Stockholm, Malmö, Helsinki, Warsaw, Angers, Trélazé. The Porte-Parole Mouthpiece is the second in a series of Wodiczko’s Xenological Instruments, more radical, a kind of cultural prosthesis enabling the users to communicate and express themselves and overcome their sense of alienation. Encircling the jaw, the device resembles a mask with a small built-in video monitor and small loudspeakers. The screen displays the image of the user’s lips as they narrate their story: “the immigrant’s actual testimony is replaced by a moving image of his mouth and the sound of their voice.” Worn on the face as an extension of the user’s body, the device turns the user into a cyborg exhibiting their virtual strangeness. The work’s second version was equipped with an adjustable monitor that could be pushed aside to expose the mouth, allowing the user to switch freely between “broadcasting” pre-recorded statements and speaking “live.” The small-size screen, the artist wrote, “drives viewers to come closer to the user’s face in order to see the image of the moving lips and hear the voice. As a result, the distance between immigrants using the Mouthpiece and non-immigrants is reduced not only physically but also, let us hope, in the psychological sense.”
Alien Staff: Xenobàcul
1992 Projects featuring the Alien Staff carried out in: Barcelona, Paris, New York, Stockholm, Helsinki, Marseilles, Warsaw, Rotterdam, Houston, Boston. The first in a series of Xenological Instruments designed for immigrants to let themselves be heard in public space. The first version, resembling the staff of the biblical shepherds, was created in Barcelona; the subsequent versions have built-in plexiglas containers, inspired by the form of the reliquary, where the user can store memorabilia, documents, photographs, etc. The staff is crowned by a hood-like head containing a monitor and a speaker to play back the user’s pre-recorded statements. A special bag worn on the shoulder contains video players, batteries, walkie-talkie or CB radio. As portable performative instruments, imbued with the user’s personal experiences, the staff’s purpose was to allow immigrants to present themselves and communicate. “Doubled” with their own image, voice, and memory stored in the staff, the immigrants/users visualized themselves both for him- or herself and for potential viewers/listeners who, approaching the staff, overcame the distance separating them from aliens. Several versions of the staff were made: wooden, metal, and an interactive one realized in collaboration with the MIT Interrogative Design Group.
1991 Poliscar is the design of a vehicle whose name alludes to the Greek name for a city-state, conveying the idea of creating a polis for the homeless by means of a vehicle that would help them communicate and gain visibility in public space. “The Poliscar is a three-wheeled vehicle that looks like a tank with a revolving conic lid on the top. A small gasoline engine is attached to facilitate habitability and movability. The various information and communication tools contained in it are intended to establish a communication network among homeless people. With a Citizen’s Band Radio they could potentially communicate both among themselves (i.e. with other Poliscars) and with a fixed base. Wodiczko even considered broadcasting video images to Poliscars all over the city via the transmitter on the 82nd floor of the Empire State Building. This sort of network could increase or make possible the following: security for “Homeless Polis,” social and cultural solidarity, various kinds of urgent support services, exchange of information on job chances, and so on. As a result, it would strengthen the homeless community…” (Nakamura Kejii, “Introduction to Krzysztof Wodiczko,” in: Krzysztof Wodiczko. The 4th Hiroshima Art Prize, exhibition catalogue, Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, 1999, p. 143). Poliscar was designed with the idea of organizing a communications network for homeless people in order to increase their sense of security, boost their participation in municipal, state, and federal elections, develop a sense of social and cultural bonds among the homeless population, help the homeless create their own history, and support programs for legal, medical, and social aid, and to include the economic system of the homeless in the larger economic system of the city.
1988-1989 The vehicle was tested and used by homeless people in New York and Philadelphia. Created in response to a growing number of homeless people, approaching 100,000 in New York City in the late 1980s, the vehicle was meant to combine practical and symbolic functions, offering strategies of survival to homeless people while calling into question the economic and political systems responsible for their marginalization. For Wodiczko, this project is an example of what he calls “scandalous functionalism,” since it responds to needs whose existence is a social and political scandal. Made of aluminum, steel mesh, sheet metal, and plexiglas, the vehicle’s construction has been associated with constructivist functionalism and military technology used as an “anti-anti-homeless device.” Made in consultation with actual homeless persons and modified according to their suggestions, the vehicle offered mobility and security. As a means of transportation and shelter, it was designed so as to provide scavengers with a sleeping space; as a survival-supporting device, it was adapted to the easy collection and storage of bottles and cans. When folded, the vehicle could be used as a cart for collecting refundable cans and bottles.
In their description of the project, Krzysztof Wodiczko and David V. Lurie listed its following characteristics: Mobility: – A simple suspension system, larger wheels, and other adjustments to facilitate increased maneuverability over curbs, potholes, and steps. Safety: – A simple brake system both for slopes and for parking while resting or sleeping. – An emergency escape system in case of fi re or attack. – A lock and alarm system to protect collected goods and personal property. – Rearview mirrors and emergency signals to protect against traffic. Variants: – Versions of the vehicle responding to the needs of various users, in particular those of women scavengers. – Transformation of the vehicle into a vendor’s cart for selling found goods, such as clothing, magazines, etc. – Assembling vehicles in groups as collective habitats or defensive encampments against police harassment. [Originally published in Krzysztof Wodiczko, Łódź, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, 1992]