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Shadows Come To Life On Bristol City Streets

Public art installation "Shadowing" records pedestrian's shadows and replays them for passers-by, offering them a brief glimpse into the lives of their anonymous neighbors.

Images courtesy of Watershed

Walking down deserted city streets can be a highly atmospheric experience—particularly when waltzing alone. Like Walter Benjamin, and Baudelaire before him, one can't help but think of the thousands who have walked that path before, and the thousands who will walk it after. By recording pedestrian shadows with a custom-built infrared sensor system, then projecting them back through the street lamps of Bristol, UK, projection-mapping public art installation Shadowing offers a glimpse into the lives of these anonymous others. The longer a visitor stands beneath a lamp, the more shadowy forms it projects.

Tonight, as dusk hits Bristol's streets and alleyways, the eight lamps that comprise Shadowing's infrared sensors and projectors will be activated as part of the International Making the City Playable Conference, supported by the Watershed art organizationAn effort to use technology to bring people together, "Shadowing invites interaction between people who share a space," designers Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier write on their Watershed project page. "This could be as simple as walking together, or more complex gestures could occur - a wave hello, a hop, or a dance." Movements common to physical human interactions are anonymously communicated via these projection-mapped shadows, lending emotional value to quotidian community interactions. 

The winning concept of Watershed's Playable City Award, whose self-stated goal is to imagine, "a city where people, hospitality and openness are key, enabling its residents and visitors to reconfigure and rewrite its services, places and stories," even if you're afraid of your own shadow, these friendly silhouettes are a cool step toward making the city of Bristol even more stimulating.

Below, images and a video of Shadowing in action:

The International Making the City Playable Conference runs September 10 & 11 at Watershed—click here to livestream the ongoing event and visit Watershed for more information.

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