Art & Culture

A little story about Anab Jain

sign for the downtown yellow chair

The first time I met Anab Jain, it was in San Jose, California, during the 01SJ/ISEA 2006 festival. I was drawn to the yellow chair perched in a grassy square, and when I finally got close enough to see that it wasn’t just any yellow chair, but the Yellow Chair at the heart of a project that I had read about online and so admired, I was thrilled. I was doubly delighted when I discovered the creator of such a cool project, Anab, was there for me to meet.

The Yellow Chair Project is one of those beautiful projects that demonstrates many things. It is an elegant illustration of how wireless networks can be so much more than a soulless pay-for service, while also being a fun way of encouraging dialogue around sharing, and highlighting the evolution of social relationships in our urban terrain (where the proverbial ‘cup of sugar’ that we might borrow from a neighbour used to involve face-to-face contact, and now, the sugar has turned into wifi that we borrow and don’t even know which neighbour it came from).

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself, giving the project away before really telling you what it is. I’ll quote Anab’s website, as the creator often describes their work best:

“”My Wi-Fi network is open for neighbours and passers-by. Free access from the yellow chair.” By placing this sign and a yellow chair outside my house, I conducted a live service design intervention and extended the boundaries of my home to encompass the boundaries of my wireless network. This ‘grass roots’ design approach illustrates how wireless technologies could become interfaces to recreate transient spaces for conversations at the threshold of the public and the private, the physical and the electronic.”

Anab produced a small advertising campaign to draw attention to the presence of the yellow chair and encourage people to share her wireless network. She solicited feedback from the users of her network, and received several positive comments (“It’s nice to sit in the fresh air and check my mails…”). This is already a project that has won over my heart, but then… Anab upped the ante by opening up the shared folder, and making it a curated space where she offered something new every day. Music files, a recipe for chicken tikka masala, an offer to have a cup of tea… All this at the humble yellow chair! See if you get that kind of service from The Cloud!

Anab describes herself as someone who likes “to tell speculative stories of possible near futures at the intersection of the technological and sociological”. The Yellow Chair project I’m telling you about is just the tip of the iceberg, she has gone on to do many more impressive and insightful projects (more info on that here), and what’s more — she’s curious and supportive and stays in touch. After that little meeting we had in San Jose at her yellow chair, I dropped her a line. I don’t set my expectations too high for further contact after these brief meetings at art events. Now that I know Anab better, it comes as no surprise that in addition to being a woman of exceptional talent, she’s a warm and supporting colleague who stays in touch.

In short, Anab rocks and if you want to know what the future of design will be, you should fix your eyes firmly on her projects!

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. This is my contribution.

Art & Culture My Projects Technology

Creating Spaces: Net Art in the “Real World”


A short while ago, I wrote a lead article for the latest issue of the electronic magazine of the Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal (CIAC). CIAC was created in 1983 and since 1998, it has been producing the Biennale de Montréal.

In the article I wrote, Creating Spaces: Net Art in the “Real World”, I look back on Canadian net art history, filtered through the lens of projects that have strong links to occurrences and objects in the offline world. As I mention in the article, “These links between online and offline, net art and other forms, has proven to be one of net art’s most consistent strengths in recent history, underpinning the critical complexity of the works and adding to the durability of these works over time.” I discuss the work of Wayne Dunkley, Michelle Teran & Isabelle Jenniches, Willy Le Maitre & Eric Rosenzveig, and Risa Horowitz.

Image: AFK by Michelle Teran & Isabelle Jenniches

Art & Culture My Projects

This happened comes to Edinburgh

This happened, an interaction design event network, is coming to Edinburgh! This happened was founded in 2007 by Chris O’Shea, Joel Gethin Lewis and Andreas Müller. The network then expanded to Utrecht, and was nominated for an award in the Interactive category of Designs of the Year 2009, before we came on board. (Click that link — you can still vote for us!) This happened Edinburgh is organised and curated by Chris Hand, Martin Parker, Chris Speed (who are such lovely fellows!) and myself.

Our first event will be taking place on March 5 at the GRV, and features Jamie Allen, Henrik Ekeus, Zoe Irvine, Jon Rogers, and Yann Seznec. Unfortunately the event sold out very quickly, but if we have cancellations I’ll try to post an announcement here as soon as possible!

Art & Culture

A one-liner about Cloaca

Cloaca, artist Wim Delvoye’s shit-generating installation, is now on view at the Galerie de l’UQAM in Montréal.

The video posted above depicts gourmet meals being lovingly fed to the machine. When Cloaca was installed in New York City in 2002, well-known restaurants such as Barolo, Jerry’s, MARKT, and Savoy produced meals for the machine that were presented during public feedings.

Years later, Cloaca is still doing the art-circuit, but its diet has apparently shifted. At the Galerie de l’UQAM, several local artists in Montreal prepared it a meal as part of a public event. For the rest of the duration of the show, rumour has it that the machine will be fed leftovers from the University’s cafeteria — which would give even a robot indigestion, I’m sure.