The idea that new technology is incongruous with the earnest, historic pursuit of art is a common one. Many artists and advocates of technology alike, however, disagree. One such person is Paul Notzold, who in 2006 began a project called TXTual healing that explores the union of text messaging and art and its implications.
TXTual healing is a user-driven project that, as described on its webpage, is an "ongoing exploration in how mobile technology can transform public action into theater." It takes advantage of the public's curiosity and desire to engage, encouraging participants to engage with and shape the art by sending text messages.
The project engages participants with the familiarity of their own devices, letting them text a phone number offered on TXTual healing displays. Text messages are automatically collected and displayed, often by a projector on a screen or wall or other available space. When text message submissions are received in high volume, they are automatically placed in a queue.
Text messages from participants can serve numerous functions in TXTual healing pop-ups, both technological and traditional. In some displays, text messages can cause digital events like animation or video. Text messages can also shape the content of live performances. This is not the end of the project's artistic range--displays can also include visual art, dynamic and permanent, coupled with SMS text, text messages written as graffiti, as well as a range of mixed-media pieces.
With TXTual healing, Notzold explores what happens when a means of communication that is typically enjoyed as something quite private is made public and informed by the public. The project also encourages the building of community and engagement between others in public space by means of texting, a medium that is often billed as keeping people disengaged from each other and from public space.
Notzold's project is gripping because it is such an active and current look at SMS and the way it affects us, due to the fact that it is driven by users' own texts. As a consequence of this, the resulting art reflects the ways people think to use technology and the way we relate to text messaging.
TXTual healing is also compelling because it allows anyone with a cell phone to contribute to the art. Since the majority of the population has access to a mobile phone, and many people own their own devices and text quite regularly, this model is a fairly robust way to engage as many people as possible and therefore not only to fairly represent the experiences of cell phone users, but of the modern populace at large.
Notzold's text message art displays have been housed temporarily across the country in pop-ups at museums, art shows, festivals, and other venues. In all these places they have done service both to the tradition and future of art as well as our technology and its important implications. Perhaps they have left inspiration and hope for the harmonious existence of our ubiquitous technology and our higher pursuits. .
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.