CNET Top 5
High-tech public art masterpiecesTo make high-tech art that works outside a museum you have to be extra smart. Here are some of the best.
Welcome to CNET Top 5, where each time we meet, we count down another trenchant CNET list. I'm Tom Merritt. Technology and art have been mixing it up for years. Some of the coolest combinations are public art where your work has to resist the ravages of time and weather as well as compete with noise and distractions of the city. Wanna see what we mean? Let's count down the most impressive pieces of high-tech public art in the world today. At No. 5, Jim Campbell's lightbulb grids. Proving high-resolution is not always best. Take that, Sony! Campbell takes nearly all the video pixels away and replaces what's left with old-fashioned lightbulbs, creating some truly haunting, shadowy images. Coming in at No. 4, "Impersonator" by Janet Zweig. When you enter the Instructional Technology Center at Santa Fe Community College, you'll trigger a sentence on the overhead "flip-disc" display. The sentences are generated by a computer program and never repeat, resulting in phrases like: WELCOME ABOARD THE TRANSIENT VIRUS OF MARRIAGE and ASK ME TO TELL YOU ABOUT GERTRUDE STEIN. I wonder if it could pass the Turing test? Up to No. 3. More words of wisdom in The Hall of Ideas by David Small and Howard Ben Tre. Projected letters and words flow from a fountain, spilling onto the floor and swimming up the walls where they arrange themselves into inspirational quotations. You can find it at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston and it's beautiful. Sliding in at No. 2, "Moveable Type" by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin. This is not the blogging software, it's a major piece of public art in the lobby of the New York Times building. 560 vacuum-fluorescent displays present a dynamic portrait of the paper's daily output and archives since 1851, plus the activities of visitors to NYTimes.com. There's some powerful parsing programs at work here, producing some startling results. Before we get to No. 1, let's take a look at some of the other outstanding examples of high-tech public art. Electroland has too many many cool projects to pick just one. Alright, let's get to our No. 1: our favorite high-tech public art work. At No. 1 it's "Nosy" by Christian Moeller. Stroll down this street in Osaki City, Tokyo, and you'll find yourself picked up and tracked by a robotic video camera and your image displayed on three huge towers covered with white LEDs. Like the muppet Elmo, "Nosy" somehow manages to be creepy and cute at the same time. Nice one, Mr. Moeller. Well that's it for this Top 5. You can find links to these artworks on our blog at blog.cnettv.com. Many thanks to my producer Laurence Campling and Shelly Willis of the Sacramento Municipal Arts Commission for their help in assembling this Top 5. I'm Tom Merritt, see you next time.