“Hello Lamp Post” project descends on Austin

With a considerable amount of fanfare this morning, the city of Austin introduced “Hello Lamp Post” a text message-based art project.FullSizeRender

The project — which involves engaging urban utility “furniture” in text message conversations  — marks the 30th anniversary of the city’s Art in Public Places and is co-sponsored in partnership with Art Alliance Austin.

“Hello Lamp Post” is the latest generation of feel-good public art antics — an inoffensive if only passingly entertaining game that uses pre-existing identifier codes on municipal furniture along with proprietary chatterbot software.

Text a code to the project’s designated number and strike up a conversation with an inanimate object.

Developed by London designers PAN Studios, “Hello Lamp Post” is not new: It was first presented in 2013 for the Playable City Award competition in Bristol, UK.

And the designers have said that the impetus behind “Hello Lamp Post” is to reawaken urbanites to their surroundings and encourage them to look at the most over-looked parts of a city’s infrastructure.

Ostensibly conversations build over the course of the project (it will remain active through April) which you can later look up on the project’s web site: http://www.hellolamppostaustin.com

Here’s how to play the game:

  • Find a piece of municipal urban “furniture” — fire hydrants, street lights, Moon Towers, etc. — and look for its code number.
  • Text to 512-580-7373 with “Hello object #….”
  • Engage in a conversation via text message.

Venturing no farther than a streetlight (pictured) on S. Congress Ave. outside the American-Statesman, this is a “conversation” that ensued today.

And like any technology-based or social media-based interaction, the dialogue remained pretty glib and forgettable.

Stoplight: Good Afternoon. Thanks for waking me up. I haven’t seen you before, have I? Who would you like most to cook you dinner?

Me: Not a lamp post.

Stoplight: OK. Someone told a friend ‘Yes, I smell yesterday’s barbecue… I’m interested to know the answer to this. I’m learning about the internet, what was the first web page you ever looked at?

Me: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stoplight: “Oh wow. I’m going to have a think about what you said now. Come and find me again soon.”

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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