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Urban Drawing Version 1 (PDF)
A Description by the Artist

Urban Drawing Version 1 (UDv1) began as a performance on the busy streets of the ByWard Market of Ottawa, Canada, but its pursuit of a deeper meaning is achieved later, in the gallery setting. Like most of my work, UDv1 is fundamentally about balance. Finding balance in how we interact and share space is essential now more than ever. The core symbol for balanced interaction in this work is the visual translation displayed on the artist's back. It is a realtime display of a give-and-take relationship between a viewer or pedestrian and an interactive device, a camera and computer. From this, the work shares the space with the viewer, creates a personal space through interaction, and displays that space in a gallery in such a way as to recreate the experience.

Figure 1 - UDv1 on the street in the ByWard Market, Ottawa.

The work and the viewers all share the same space, a sidewalk. As a direct result, UDv1 walks with the pedestrians. It ensures the work is on an equal level to those with which it interacts, making the conversation more intimate and balanced. However, tension develops between the artist wearing the device and the people he approaches because they do not realise what is happening until they see the LCD imagery. The artist experiences this tension as difficulty to make eye contact, awkward body language, or comments from onlookers. However, the friction falls away when they seen the visual translation on the screen. Something is communicated in that instant that is too diverse to describe here. It is in that communication that the distance between the work and the viewer is shortened conceptually.

Figure 2 - UDv1 in a gallery with a viewer. The projection is displaying a closeup segment of the video.

This experience is recorded by a cameraperson walking behind the artist. The space around the work is captured in the video and displayed back on a large projection in a gallery setting. With the projection, the UDv1 device is running with camera and LCD pointed at the viewer. The result of this combination is the creation of a new interactive space. This interactive space displaying an interactive space is a conceptual recursion that creates a single experience the gallery viewer can enter. Interacting with UDv1, the viewer enters the work while the work is on the street, so the viewer is on the street too. Considering this delicate balance brings the viewer closer to the experience.

Robert Watson
March 7, 2006

Related texts:
Artist Statement
Walking with UDv1 - Edited Version of LS Mag Interview