3rd 01SJ Biennial September 2010

A global festival of art on the edge

Urban Observatory

Michael Herrman,
Bruce Gardner,
Ethan Miller
Urban Observatory, 2008
Artist in Residence, Montalvo Arts Center
Commissioned with the support of the James Irvine Foundation
Video Projections, handmade translucent polyester resin and fiberglass panels.
Circle of Palms
01SJ Festival
June 4-8, 2008

The Urban Observatory is a nomadic context-responsive space that serves as a vehicle through which the surrounding environment, both near and distant, can be experienced. Composed of an adjustable external structure and an internal adaptable fiberglass and polyester resin screen, the observatory affords an interactive, mediated, and artificial experience of its surroundings. It mimics its immediate context in both form and image, which it uses as a departure point to explore its context through location-based images and video. During the 01SJ Festival, the observatory will allow people to explore San Jose and the Bay Area. Digital video projection on the internal screens produces the mediated experience. This virtual movement through the surrounding environment facilitates the creation of a map and digital file containing an itinerary based upon the experience within the structure, and gives locations and opening times of the specific points of interest chosen. In this way, the observatory promotes a real experience, contrasting the artificial experience with the real and emphasizing the degree to which the perception of cities and their identities is heavily media-dependent and often differs with reality.

The observatory functions for those both within it and those around it. From the exterior, the projection illuminates the surfaces and allows the video and images shown on the interior to be seen. The cable-suspended translucent screens onto which the projection occurs, appear to float within the frame. Similar to Magritte’s The Human Condition, the Urban Observatory functions as a kind of window, however an inverted one that juxtaposes the real with the simulacrum.