Ed Purver's "A Show of Hands."
To be shown at D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival, Brooklyn, on the exterior of the Empire Stores building overlooking the East River, near the corner of Main St & Plymouth St, after dark
Keeps your eyes open for Ed Purver’s monumental video projections installation on the side of the Empire Stores building overlooking the East River. This impressive public art project receives messages from members of the public and translates them into American Sign Language, and projects the large images of arms and hands signing on the building’s architecture. The resulting videos of hands signing are projected onto buildings and look like they emerge from the windows of the architecture, inviting viewers to think about the architecture of free speech and public space in the age of Homeland Security and the presence/absence of the body in the built environment.
Some of the silently transcribed phrases include”
We spoke with Ed to learn more about his piece.
MG: What was the inspiration for A Show of Hands?
EP: Living in New York, surrounded by high-rise architecture that is packed full of people who don't know each other. I was just gazing out of a window one day and daydreamed the visual concept for A Show of Hands. When I'm in cities I really enjoy drifting off and transforming public spaces inside my imagination. Quite childlike, really, I suppose.
MG: How long have you been working on this project?
EP: I first had the idea back in the spring of 2008, but I didn't have time to actually start working on it for a year, until May 2009.
MG: How did you first get interested in new media? What is your attraction to it?
EP: When I first started working with new media, I was really attracted to its interactive potential. I'd been making a lot of multimedia performance stuff, and I wanted a change from needing the audience to come and passively consume what we had made. At that time, I wanted to create responsive environments that people could come and play with. But, actually, the media in my work is not especially 'New', even though I've made web-based projects and interactive installations. I think I'm more connected to video/film, photography, and spatial design/architecture.
MG: How/why did you get interested in such large, monumental projections?
EP: My interest in projections began with my work in theatre, working with projections, set design and actors. I've always been interested in architecture, but I became especially drawn to working with it in artistic ways after I had a really profound experience some years ago, when I perceived a large high-rise building as being fluid. This wasn't a drug experience or anything like that, but it was one of the most terrifying moments of my adult life and changed many of my assumptions about what stuff is 'made of'. From that point on, combining projections with architecture seemed like something I just naturally wanted to do.
I don't always want my projects to be large-scale, but this project is part of a series that plays with the relationship between the body and architecture/urban planning, and reversing the balance of scale that we are used to (and in so doing, making bodies larger than architecture as opposed to vice versa) is a visually engaging way of questioning how the built environment may sculpt our own consciousness and how the pathways of the city may shape the pathways of our psychology.
MG: On your Art+Culture profile page I see that you chose Jenny Holzer as someone you feel you work is related to. Could you explain that a little bit?
EP: The first time that I came into contact with Jenny Holzer's work was when I walked into a bookshop in San Francisco, and saw a book cover with a photograph of a huge illuminated sign outside a casino in Las Vegas displaying the words "Protect me from what I want". I thought it was genius. The way she temporarily usurped and transformed that visual broadcast was very attractive to me, it seemed rebellious but with such a mournful truth to it. Discovering her work really opened my mind to more possibilities of transforming space with light. So her work is a huge influence on me.
MG: How did you hear about DUMBO Art Under the Bridge Festival?
EP: I can't remember now - I guess someone told me about it. I actually had a different piece in this festival back in 2007 (Future Perfect), which I had made with a couple of friends of mine - Ariel Efron and Christian Croft.
MG: Where and when will your work be shown?
It will be shown after dark. Projected from the park onto the exterior of the Empire Stores building overlooking the East River, near the corner of Main St & Plymouth St