[ISEA2016] Workshop: James Partaik, Hernando Barragan, Luc Lévesque & Thomas Ouellet Fredericks — ConcreteCity: An ultralight approach to urban interventions

Workshop Statement 

In the past few decades, the intensity of the transformational forces that disrupt the “urban condition” has called into question the claims to control and stability upon which the ambitions of the urbanistic project have traditionally been based. This state of things is not without repercussions on the ways of imagining, theorizing and putting into practice urbanism and the territorial project. If the relation to fluxes can be operated by the action of bigscale architectural infrastructures, the deployment of a constellation of urban microelements would constitute another way of thinking and implementing the idea of infrastructure as an equipment that is atomised, reticular, open and malleable. An ultralight approach to urbanism reframes the role and ambition of microintervention in the urban project as a strategic territorial vector of action. What was usually belittled or simply not even seen by the conventional architecture and urbanism approaches– the very small, the moving, the informal : the “plankton” – thus regains a new informative and operational value to imagine territorial intervention. “Plankton” not as a cluster of indistinct, apathetic and passive organisms, but rather as a virtually multitude of small devices meant to facilitate varied performances and uses, a moving myriad for a creative colonization of the spatial and temporal potentials of the urban landscape.
The workshop ConcreteCITY aims to incite participants to conceptualize, construct and implement an ultralight, largescale wireless intervention of audio elements inserted in a public space, transforming a section of the city into a sound experience. The work will be achieved through a hands-on approach constructing and deploying an ephemeral wireless ubiquitous computing network, by temporarily grafting actuators, small devices “plankton”, that inhabit, tap (solenoids), shake (DC motors), stimulate (piezos/servos) objects and urban infrastructures, (…can a stop sign shudder ?). These urban elements, diverted from their primary use, create a furtive audio orchestration. The resulting composition is a largescale spatialization of sound with multiple points of listening. The spatial forms include elements of the site’s material things, social activities, phenomena and the processes that are concomitantly taking place, specific to a time, place and culture. ConcreteCITY focuses on the imagination of urban sites, their materiality, usage and memory. By interfering with what is normally a given “state” of operations, the intervention reveals an “augmented everyday soundtrack” leaving the field open to exploring the potential of the sounds of the city, the interaction with urban spaces and objects and the diverse interpretations of what surrounds us. ConcreteCity reveals itself as a sonic experience of inexplicable beauty, evoking the Sharawadji effect.

We will post suggested reading on the webpage if participants wish to prepare. insertio.com/concretecity

The workshop ConcreteCITY is an interdisciplinary workshop. It aims to gather academics and practitioners interested in ubiquitous computing, urban interventions, audio and device art, computational and contextual art. Youths are welcome and no untechnical knowledge is required.

INSERTIO (http://insertio.com) is an interuniversity research lab that unites four researchers-creators: James Partaik, Luc Lévesque, Hernando Barragan and Thomas Ouellet Fredericks.

  • James Partaik, artist, professor of digital arts and Director of the SCAN at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Canada. He is director and of the research-creation lab INSERTIO. Since 1990, he has been committed to initiate and facilitate artistrun projects, notably co-founding member of Avatar, creation of association and sound diffusion, uqac.ca/scan jamespartaik.ca avatarquebec.org/en/about/
  • Luc Lévesque is an architect, professor of the history and theory of architectural practices in the history department of Laval Université in Quebec City, Canada. In architecture, he has collaborated with various offices in Quebec and abroad, including the Zoom workshop (Quebec), Peter Eisenman (New York) and Rem Koolhaas / OMA (Rotterdam and New York). ateliersyn.wordpress.com
  • Hernando Barragan  is currently the director of the Department of Design at the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. Artist and designer, he initiated and developed the Wiring open source project, a prototyping platform consists of an innovative programming language (derived from the Processing) and an electronic board (microcontroller) with input and output (I/O). His invention has spread globally as the Arduino. barraganstudio.com
  • Thomas Ouellet Fredericks is an independent artist, teacher and consultant. He has developed several libraries for Wiring and Arduino. He makes software, installations, audiovisual performances and interactive objects. He lives in Montreal and regularly contributes to Open Source hardware and software platforms. He is a member of Perte de signal (http://perte-de-signal.org) and a researcher with Insertio. He teaches several electronic art forms at UQAC, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi and at UQAM (Montréal, Canada).