Lightbox

In collaboration with Murilo de Paiva Homsi.

What: interactive analog installation which consists of a wood box with a lamp inside, a sign written “show us what you do here” and an envelop with cut out letter in different fonts.

When: Fall of 2017 – present.

Display History: At the second floor of the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication at the University of Texas at Dallas.

This project started on a Semiotics class led by Dr. Mihai Nadin. We decided to use the building of the School of ATEC as our semiotic object of study. During the semester, we used different methodologies, including a prototype of mass observation and short interviews, to better understand the space of the school. We felt like the school has missed connections, in the sense that collaboration, synthesis of ideas, people, and projects could be richer, and we wanted to investigate the relationship between the space and the human dynamics fostered (or not) by it.

We wanted to understand the meaning of the architecture in the relationships of the school. We did this through three projects: a map experiment, a mass observation prototype and a public interactive. For the map experiment, we first created multiple maps of the school (using ATEC’s floor plans) based on our relationships with different spaces. In class, we asked our peers to build a collective map, where each person marked spaces they used the most. Then we led a discussion about which type of work each student did, and if they frequented the same spaces, or not, and how that affected their potential for collaboration and exchange of ideas. We then asked for volunteers to do a mass observation, which we  hoped would help us understand better the multiple ways of using the space of ATEC. We had great insights, like finding out that many people who work in different departments come to ATEC for lunch because it is very bright (although there is no food for sale apart from vending machines). It is still in our plans to lead an actual massive mass observation, with hundreds of participants. The public interactive is what we called the Lightbox.

The Lightbox was created from our desire to encourage an appropriation of space by the students. We wanted to encourage the change of the semiotics of the space by changing how people use it (how they perform that space), not its physical structure. We chose to work with light because it is supposed to be a point of light in the darkness of the corridors of ATEC. We see the piece as a non-institutional beacon for students to externalize their ideias, motivations.

At first the box remained intact. After a couple of days, people started writing on it, and it has been daily interacted with since. One curious incident was when the envelope got ripped: it was replaced by a new one in a couple of days. Since neither the authors nor people from facilities management were responsible for it, we imagine students themselves fixed the envelope.