Interview with Mark Shepard at House of Electronic Arts Basel

On the occasion of his participation in the exhibition Sensing Place. Mediatizing the Urban Landscape at House of Electronic Arts Basel, we had the chance to talk to artist and scientist Mark Shepard. In this interview, he talks about his Sentient City Survival Kit, his participation in this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, and other projects.

Mark Shepard earned Master Degrees at Columbia University and Hunter College, City University of New York and works as an artist, architect and researcher. His research focuses on the implications of mobile and pervasive computing for architecture and urbanism. In fall 2009 he curated the exhibition “Toward the Sentinent City” that was organized by The Architectural League, New York. In the exhibition, Shepard critically explored the evolving relationship between ubiquitous computing, architecture and the public space. In addition to the exhibition he edited the book “Sentinent City: ubiquitous computing, architecture and the future of urban space”. He currently holds a fellowship at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York.

Interview with Mark Shepard at House of Electronic Arts Basel. September 1, 2012.

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More info from the press release:

Sentient City Survival Kit, 2010, Video documentation
The works of American artist and scientist Mark Shepard engage with the cultural, social, and political implications of “ubiquitous computing” in urban environments – intelligent information systems that will be able to recognize incidents and react to them in the near future. For this scenario, Shepard has developed a kit that serves as survival tool in the “sentient city”. The “Sentient City Survival Kit” consists of a specially designed navigation app for iPhones, underwear designed to detect RFID-chip sensors in shopping malls, a communication-enabled coffee cup, as well as an umbrella equipped with infrared diodes that is able to irritate video monitoring systems. “Sentient City Survival Kit” provides tools to deprive oneself of sensory control and ironically comments on the developments of “ubiquitous computing” and its potential social impact.

Serendipitor, 2010, iPhone App, Video documentation
The idea of a sentient city implies a ubiquitous and intelligent information system that continuously monitors our behavior and has the capacity to actively intervene in our lives. In such a city it will no longer be a problem to find your way from A to B but rather to register what happens along the way. The iPhone navigation app “Serendipitor” created by Shepard as part of his “Sentient City Survival Kit” calculates the ideal route for a walk in the city, then offers detours and delays by way of Fluxus-inspired instructions in order to open the user’s eyes to new and unknown features of the city. The only thing you have to do is follow the computer-generated directions and carry out the instructions: “Walk toward the heart of the city. If the city has no heart, give it one.”

The “Serendipitor” app can be downloaded for free at the Apple app store.

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