Perhaps digitality is necessarily about the ephemeral. That could explain the fascination with making “graffiti” using light and digital paint, participatory but impermanent.
The latest twist on the meme comes to us from Nantes, France. Here, adding to the spirit of the temporary, the “brush” uses water to light LEDs.
The “Water Light Graffiti” is a surface made of thousands of LED illuminated by the contact of water. You can use a paintbrush, a water atomizer, your fingers or anything damp to sketch a brightness message or just to draw. Water Light Graffiti is a wall for ephemeral messages in the urban space without deterioration. A wall to communicate and share magically in the city.
The urban program is again ambitious. But beyond proof of concept, I wonder if these kind of installations could be used for real communication. Hobo codes or “hoboglyphs” were and continue to be used to impart information. Are these techie toys ever likely to reach the same level of utility?
Political power comes into play: it’s unlikely that, say, the Turkish government would at the moment want to set up walls for use by protestors. (It’d be a sign of an enlightened government if one did.) That returns to non-installation technologies like projection, which was used in Occupy Wall Street – see discussion at Projector Central, of all places.
But political speech isn’t the only form of communication. And on a more basic level, these sorts of installations create their own political dynamic, transforming outdoor lighting from its usual, top-down role of imparting information and advertising from unseen sources to inviting people at street level to make their own gestures.
In the meantime, the experiments continue and continue to add refinement. And water can become input for lights – itself a provocative notion. Stereolux is a venue at the forefront of this kind of experimentation; they just keep doing fantastic programming. Do have a look: