sketch 09 01 05 modified

A proposal for a permanent light-based art installation located in an industrial area of Ottawa, Ontario.

The bus yard evokes the homesteads of early settlers, their livestock corralled in the clear starlit darkness of the long Ontario winter. As cattle crowded together against the cut of the wind were their dreams infused by the cascading crystals and frozen spires in the sky? Or was it the other way around? Perhaps, as some hear strains of alien music in the northern lights, the spray of illusory colour was simply a trick of the eye, a cow’s dream projected into the heavens.

Two low-resolution screens constructed using exterior rated polychromatic LED light fixtures projecting through a diffused lens are mounted in a sound wall facing Industrial Avenue. The screens are capable of reproducing still or video images in super-low resolution or digitizing information feeds through a graphic interface.

The screens are remotely responsive, presenting a visual representation of external information feeds such as Environment Canada weather data or the “health” of buses monitored by the electrical heating system used in the bus yard. The screens respond according to a program, changing pattern and colour in response to changes in temperature, wind and precipitation. The project can also support a web-based interface in the future, allowing artists and members of the public to create and submit programs for broadcast on the screens.

site plan

The screens are also locally responsive to traffic on Industrial Avenue. Light sensors in the vicinity of the screens identify changes caused by car headlights that creates a unique “noise” disturbance that interrupts the ambient program of the screen. Each event is unique, changing in accordance to the brightness of the headlights, the speed of the passing car and the ambient light and snow conditions.

In the prevalent reality of single-occupant vehicles, the experience is personal and touching. It is an acknowledgement of the individual in the anonymous isolation of traffic, but it is also a message; the car is a powerful tool and its ubiquity affects the city, the community and the environment. In contrast to the inherently social and cohesive nature of the bus, solitary confinement in a car is a self-imposed condition with serious consequences both for the social milieu of the City and the environment as a whole.

C:Documents and SettingsMark AshbyMy Documents2008 005 OC Tr

Proposal for public art: Ottawa, Ontario
Client: OC Transpo
Year: 2008
Design Team: Mark Ashby, Alex Grünenfelder, Sarah Hay, Bruce Lau