I’m for You (User Friendly) public art installation

Supernormal designed this site specific and interactive installation as a commission for Design Seaport, a program of public art in Boston’s Seaport district in the depths of the pandemic winter of 2020-2021.

The piece considers its context, the generic Seaport development full of self-similar buildings for potentially self-similar people, and the condition of the pandemic as a moment of longing for something more. We constructed a box – the size of a building fragment that might have fallen off of the corner of any building in the Seaport – as a facade for a continuously becoming new architecture created by artificial intelligence. We trained a machine learning model on existing building facades and projected the looped video output onto the box, which sat in conversation with a slouching inflatable that was responsive to the box and its context. Learn more about the research behind this project here.

Here is the project statement:
In a moment defined by social distancing, systemic loneliness, and political polarization, I’m for You (User Friendly) explored physical and digital closeness in the public realm. The interactive piece occupied public space at the gateway to Boston’s Seaport during the shortest, coldest days of the year. It was designed to be most alive, engaging, and visible during the darkest and longest nights, when light is most scarce. The installation is a reflection on real and imagined relationships between places, people, and their machines in a time of isolation.

The work presents itself in two parts. A soft, corporeal form, dubbed “the Sloucher,” holds a silent conversation with a generic box at the size of a building fragment that continuously transforms by rolling through image after image to engage its viewers. The Sloucher responds and brightens as visitors approach, calming and slowing the image feed in response to closeness.

The changing identity of the box surface speeds up as visitors become distant, presenting an alternative Seaport to the Sloucher. The box feed is the output of a machine learning model that is built from and trained on buildings in Boston’s least connected neighborhoods. Artificial intelligence provides a new, hybrid, and continuously becoming fragment of an imagined Boston that alternately mimics, compliments, and challenges its surroundings.

Supernormal is grateful to WS Development and OverUnder for their support of art and culture through Design Seaport, to LuminArtz for projection equipment, and for the video installation talents and perseverance of Pamela Hersch.

Elizabeth Christoforetti, Nathan Fash, Trent Fredrickson, Keith Hartwig, Romy Sayah, and Hyunsuk Yun. Construction by Supernormal. Photography by Jane Messinger, WS, and Supernormal.