Building_Space_With_Words - Exploring The Intersections Between Physical and Virtual Spaces


Building_Space_with_Words, an innovative interactive multimedia art installation set to premiere at Polytechnic Institute of NYU, is a thought-provoking, metaphorical reflection on virtual space by Anne-Laure Fayard and Aileen Wilson. The exhibit uses the language of art and digital media technologies to deepen our understanding of how space, both physical and virtual, shapes our personal interactions and how our interactions shape space.

“Public spaces have been extended: they have become more than a physical location (such as a park or a coffee shop) in which people could congregate and interact with one another and they include “virtual spaces”. Today, with so many people “online” and with so many technologies available for people to interact with one another from anywhere around the globe—email, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and blogging—what constitutes a public space is challenged. Moreover, a multitude of questions arises regarding the impact of technology on social relationships, community identity, business practices” Fayard said.

“Understanding how the ‘dimensions’ of ‘virtual space’ can trigger interactions, relationships, and communities is crucial in today’s world, where societies are increasingly global, organizations are distributed, and a growing number of people are participating in blogs, online forums and other technology platforms for social networking and business.”

Building_Space_with_Words, designed by Anne-Laure Fayard, a social scientist and assistant professor of management at NYU-Poly and Aileen Wilson, associate professor of art and design education at Pratt Institute, will open March 5 at NYU-Poly’s MetroTech campus in the Wunsch Building located at 311 Bridge Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

Building_Space_with_Words grew out of Fayard’s attempt to explore the relationship between two venues of her research―space and informal interactions and language, and the building of shared cultures in online communities―and present her ideas through a different medium—the language of art—rather than the usual academic paper.

“Quite often,” says Fayard, “discourse from the social sciences offers a theoretical framework for a work of art, putting words around the piece and verbalizing and theorizing its meaning. In Building_Space_with_Words the approach is reverse.”

The installation explores at different levels the interactions between the physical and virtual realms. The physical component of the installation is a maze of semi-transparent panels onto which flickering digital text is projected—enveloping the visitor and creating the feeling of “being in communication” and “living in language.” A sound track, composed of sounds heard in both public spaces and virtual spaces (e.g. clicks and typing) and of voices talking in many different languages mirrors the projected texts creating a space of its own, and surrounding the visitor in a space of spoken text. In the center of the maze the visitors are invited on a “semantic voyage” through touch screen computers, which heightens the experience of the installation.

The projected text is taken from the Building_Space_with_Words blog—the virtual component of the work. Over the last few months, Fayard and Wilson have invited contributors from a wide variety of fields—art, architecture, design, organization behavior, sociology—into a fascinating dialogue on space.