CITYWIDE PUBLIC ART PROJECT INVITES RESIDENTS AND VISITORS TO TALK TO AUSTIN’S STREET FURNITURE

Hello Lamp Post: Austin hits the streets Feb. 12 – April 27

(AUSTIN, TEXAS – February 2, 2015) – The hidden life of Austin’s street furniture will come to light next month with the launch of Hello Lamp Post, an international art project created by London-based designers PAN Studio which invites people to strike up conversations with familiar objects around the city using text messaging. The project has been commissioned by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department in celebration of the Art in Public Places program’s 30th anniversary year, and in partnership with Art Alliance Austin. Starting Feb. 12, anyone can text the official Hello Lamp Post phone number and “wake up” lamp posts, mail boxes, hydrants, or even buildings and discover what these objects have to say. The public is invited to a free kick-off event, complete with drinks and bites, Feb. 12, 4-6 p.m. at Republic Square Park, 422 Guadalupe St. A short video about the project, starring the streets of Austin, is available now at www.hellolamppostaustin.com.

Hello Lamp Post is a citywide platform for play that allows participants to talk to the city’s infrastructure and share stories using the text messaging function on any mobile phone – no smart phones required. People can interact with any object they choose, in any part of the city, because the project utilizes the thousands of pre-existing identifier codes that label items of street furniture, including (but not limited to) lamp posts, mail boxes, moontowers, utility boxes, manholes or telephone poles.

Here’s how to play:

Step 1: The participant chooses an item of street furniture with a unique reference code – a code can be a combination of numbers and letters, such as a serial number.
Step 2: The particiant then sends a text message to the Hello Lamp Post phone number with a message in the format “Hello OBJECTTYPE #OBJECTCODE.” For example: “Hello lamp post #402455” or “Hello moontower #BS2032.”

Step 3: Follow the conversation – the participant should receive a reply text soon and answer the object’s questions to learn what other people have said.

After the first conversation, participants can keep playing. Hunting down and waking up as many objects as possible, or returning to the same objects for more in-depth conversations. Different objects will ask participants about different things and, as more people play, objects develop personalities and share stories that were anonymously given to them by other players. The Hello Lamp Post phone number will be become available on Feb. 12. The project is free to anyone, but standard text messaging rates apply.

“This is an important project for Austin. An international art project that hinges on technology and pushes our understanding of public art,” said Asa Hursh, Executive Director of Art Alliance Austin. “Additionally, it’s a partnership between the City, arts nonprofits, businesses, community organizations, SXSW and technology companies, therefore not only connecting partners for further collaboration, but also connecting and educating more people about what is happening here.”

“We are proud to bring this unique project to Austin as a special commission to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Art in Public Places program,” said Kevin Johns, Executive Director of the City’s Economic Development Department. “We’re enthusiastic about the project because it showcases technology and the evolving nature of public art, and is not centrally located but spans across all 10 districts. It’s a gift to the entire city.”

Hello Lamp Post: Austin is an official art project of SXSW and is sponsored in part by the Downtown Austin Alliance. The project runs for 10 weeks, beginning with the launch on Feb. 12 through April 27. Other public events will occur during the run of the project, including an official SXSW event on Tuesday, March 17. The project will also be featured at Art City Austin April 25 and 26.

“Austin’s street furniture will be waking up to talk to you,” said Ben Barker, co-founder of PAN Studio the creators of Hello Lamp Post. “Hello Lamp Post combines art and technology to change the way we interact with the urban landscape, augmenting existing infrastructure of the city with digital encounters to create playful experiences. It encourages people to look at their city with fresh eyes, engage with street furniture and ultimately each other.”

Hello Lamp Post was originally developed for Watershed’s Playable City Award in 2013 in Bristol, UK. Over eight weeks, residents and visitors to Bristol sent 27,000 text messages to everyday street furniture. 1,133 objects around the city were woken up by a text, including over 200 lamp posts.

“Though culturally there seems to be a lot of common ground, Austin is a radically different city to Bristol in its use of space and infrastructure,” said Sam Hill, co-founder of PAN Studio, the creators of Hello Lamp Post. “We’re envisioning a very different feel. How will the voices of the people of Austin define what Hello Lamp Post can become? More than anything, it’s a chance for the people of Austin to express their character.”

Visit hellolamppostaustin.com for project updates as the launch date draws near.

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