In early February, the Cultural Arts Division will launch the Playable City Austin initiative. Funded by an NEA Art Works grant, Playable City Austin is a series of public workshops, presentations, and a public art installation that will activate local neighborhoods and engage the community through creative interaction and play.
As a global creative leader and UNESCO Media Arts City, Austin has a long tradition of engaging the community in creative and unexpected ways. In 2015, the City commissioned Hello Lamp Post, a ten-week project in which thousands of Austinites “conversed” with lamp posts, bus stops, and other objects throughout the City via text messages. Playable Austin will continue that trajectory by transforming public spaces through artistic interventions that invite residents to rediscover their environment and connect with the people around them. Based on the Playable Cities framework developed by Watershed (Bristol, UK), Playable City Austin will transcend cultural, economic, and geographic lines by re-using City infrastructure, through technology that encourages play with street light shadows, to create connections – person to person and person to city.
At the heart of the Playable City Austin project isShadowing, a 6-week temporary art installation that will launch in early February and run through March 18, 2018. Created by Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier, Shadowing gives memory to city lights, enabling them to record and play back the shadows of those who pass underneath them. As the sun sets, and street lights come on, traces of those who have passed will be captured and projected on the pavement below. As one walks under the lights, the shadow of a previous visitor will walk, hop, or dance beside them, and then their own movements will be captured and displayed to the next passerby. Shadowing street lights will be positioned around the City, with one in each of the six Soul-y Austindistricts. These include North Lamar, South Congress, East Cesar Chavez, Red River, Manor Road, and East 12th Street.
Panel Discussion and Workshop
Concurrent with the Shadowing installation, the Cultural Arts Division will present a free panel discussion, Playable City in Concept & Practice on February 5. Geared to catalyze conversation around City issues, the panel will include, among others, representatives from Watershed, Shadowing artists Chomko & Rosier, and a representative from York, UK—a fellow UNESCO City of Media Arts and previous Shadowing host city. The following day on February 6, the City will host Playable Mindset, a half-day workshop led by Watershed staff that will enable participants to explore the concept of the Playable City and discuss its relevance to Austin.
On February 8-9, the Playable Austin project will conclude with a two-day “IdeaLab” workshop, utilizing the Playable City framework. Targeted at local creatives, the workshop will encourage participants to look at issues facing Austin and develop playable solutions. Day two of the IdeaLab will culminate with a free, public presentation of the group’s ideas, all of which will be considered by City staff for implementation.