Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki

(close-up) uses a mobile ad-hoc network to link either iPaqs (PocketPC computers) or bluetooth equipped Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) that were attached to white umbrellas. The sensors in the umbrella detects whether the umbrella is opened or closed. When a participant opens their umbrella, the sensors notify the opened state of the umbrella so then the hardware attached to their umbrella communicates to the PDAs to start up a connection with other PDAs. Then the Light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate their umbrella either in blue or red to show their connection state. There are three states that include a red-lit umbrella showing that it is searching for a connection. A blue-lit umbrella indicates that it is connected to other umbrellas. If the umbrella has a flashing blue state, it means that it is transmitting data between umbrellas. The iPaq and PDAs include a text-messaging application to communicate with other participants holding the umbrellas. They also include a graphical interface to show where each participant is in relation to their own umbrella. ( )

The artists' website includes their statement and vision for their project:
" is a project exploring transitory or ad-hoc networks and their potential for causing sudden, striking, and unexpected connections between people in public and urban space. The project focuses on the theme of 'networks of coincidence', or how shared, yet disconnected activities can be harnessed into collective experiences. examines how the haphazard and unpredictable patterns of weather and crowd formation can act as an impetus to examine coincidence of need networks..." The artists also portray an image of the streets of Dublin, Ireland where there is "frequent and unpredictable is common to witness a sea of umbrellas in the crowded streets sweeping open as raindrops first hit the ground. This collective, yet isolated act of opening an umbrella creates a network of individuals who are connected through similarity of action, and intent...we believe these transitory networks can add surprise and beauty to our currently fixed communication channels in the crowded streets sweeping open as raindrops first hit the ground" ( The Mark Tribe website also provides connections between aspects on society and the project's relations to other artists such as John Klima's Ecosystm and Christo and Jean-Claude's Umbrella Project. It states that "The absurd nature of the umbrella's enhanced functionality seems to poke fun at the increasing ubiquity of digital technology in the early 2000s, from robotic vacuum cleaners to microwave ovens that utilize live Web data to determine cooking times" (Mark Tribe).

I like the idea of connections and coincidences due to natural circumstances, in this case, rainfall. Everyone has something in common physically when they they are affected by the rain and use an umbrella to shield themselves from the rain, and when we see this image from afar, we can see an almost common movement of umbrellas. The image posted above creates an interesting and unexpected combination of a captured colored image of real participants holding the LED umbrellas on a background of a grainy black and white photograph of a street in Dublin during a rainfall. The people on the image almost seem out of place compared to the background from it's "flash of color" coming from the LED umbrellas. This is where I can see why the Mark Tribe website thought that the artists might be "poking fun at the increasing ubiquity of digital technology." However, from reading the artists' statement on their project, I think it is possible that they were at the same time focusing more on the phenomenons of making connections between people in a public space ( and that their project creates a new aesthetic approach to technological and communicative connections.

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