TXTual Healing, oh baby, makes me feel so fine

By Laura Blasey
For The Diamondback

(Photo by Charlie Deboyace/The Diamondback)

Whoever “ryan ben and amer” are, the Art-Sociology Building wished them a happy birthday yesterday.

The side of the building was given a voice by Chicago artist Paul Notzold, who brought his “TXTual Healing” project to the campus last night. The event was organized by the Digital Cultures and Creativity program in the university’s Honors College and Professor Jason Farman’s mobile media culture class.

Since 2005, Notzold has been touring the country with his TXTual Healing exhibition, in which speech bubbles and images are projected onto the sides of buildings and on-lookers are encouraged to respond by sending a text message to a phone number revealed at the event. At last night’s event, the speech bubbles were filled with everything from Saturday Night Live quotations to cephalopod-related “Occupy” protest puns to sentences that began with “In Soviet Russia…”

“I wanted to enable an audience to be the creator,” Notzold said of his creation. “I was also interested in creating public spectacle and reclaiming our public spaces that were being bought and sold through advertising and corporate money.”

Farman’s interest, though, was in the technology that was being used to reclaim those public spaces.

“I first learned about Paul’s work about two years ago,” Farman said. “The thing I really like about Paul’s work is the way it transforms our cell phones into public interfaces. Our cell phones are mostly designed for individual consumption and don’t often work well as an interface for a group. TXTual Healing takes this individual interface and turns it outward by projecting text messages on buildings.”

Notzold’s project was also used as a campaigning tool in Obama’s 2008 presidential tool, and has been featured on London TV and in Milan during Design Week.

TXTual Healing isn’t without controversy, however: Some have criticized Notzold’s work because he doesn’t censor the messages being projected.

“I don’t agree with every message that appears, or I wonder why the hell would anyone feel the need to say certain things, but on the other side, this is user generated,” Notzold said. “It becomes a documentation of what people say or think when asked to be spontaneous in a given place and time period.”

“I think that people just want to test or push their boundaries,” Notzold said.

When asked what his favorite message he had seen was, he cited one simple message:

“what’s wrong with being easily amused?”

You can also check out Campus Drive on Facebook and on Twitter at @theDBK.

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