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GALLERY 2010/2011





Description of campaign/project

As a follow-up of the spreadgun performance in 2008, SMSlingshot is an extension of VR/Urban's digital intervention activism. The installation features a handheld digital slingshot device for spreading information on public screens.

Because of the increased commercial interest of paving public space with digital advertising screens the need for accessible intervention devices seemed obvious and necessary. The wish and habit to comment (tag) the surrounding world is also an ancient and still vivant phenomena we try to preserve. VR/Urban’s ambition aims for claiming back urban space and give the inhabitants a tool for occupying urban screens. People shall not only remain as a passive audience, they must obtain the privilege and beside that the right tools to create their own multimedia content in the streets. The more and more mushrooming media façades, LED augmented walls and huge projections are interesting and worthy technical innovations for the people, but in contrast to the old fashioned posters in the streets, it is nearly impossible to create own content for these facades or even hang up your digital video.

We argue and also experienced that SMSlingshot changes the way of how people deal with image in urban space. Going back to our 2008 installation spread.gun (a canon that shot messages on public walls), we felt that the "behind-the-pc-screen" communication lacks of truth. One can type insulting and strange stuff from this position, hiding behind avatars and nicknames. This can be ok sometimes, but in general its results are a bit scary. So we took the way of communicating with 140 signs known from twitter and brought it back on the streets. What we got then was a different way of communication. The people were able to link shooting person with shot message. So the whole communication process was real and social norms inherent in urban space applied. There are no censor-bots running in the program. The co-presence of other people, the social realm in front of the screen was regulating everything. No advertising, no stupid jokes (but intelligent ones) or inappropriate paroles. Everything was just playfully serious. Bringing the sender’s identity back in person to the scene is changing a lot! Another important point is that the mediated way of communication is too slow. Talking face-to-face is much more efficient and personal. So we made people talk to each other, standing in front of a screen following a shot statement and discussing it. This is always the best part. For example in Eindhoven we projected the face of racist asshole Geert Wilders in the background and people were “telling” him their thoughts on politics. But even more people not just the person that shot the message, passive bystanders were discussing it too. In this way we provide a one-to-many communication channel for the man on the street – and this makes the difference.

We learned that typing messages can take longer than expected. We learned that batteries can freeze and lose power when temperature drops below zero degrees, we learned that interaction with urban space is very challenging because there is no defined peer or target group. We learned again that the team is boss. We learned that it is important to be understood right. So many marketing agencies went for it thinking it would be the perfect thing for guerilla marketing. They obviously did not get it. And there are a lot more insights we try to digest in talks and discourse.

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

This is a well conceived and executed project, that in its functioning bridges the physical/virtual divide in very interesting and original ways, and in its conception (and intended uses) draws attention to the battle over public space.

On aesthetic levels, I really like the metaphor of the slingshot, creating a very literal david vs. goliath. The visualisation of the paint splatters is also well considered creating quite a beautiful effect and a visceral reaction to the act of "tagging". I think these details really bring the project to life.

I also very much appreciate the thinking of creating specifc targets/triggers for commentary. This is often what projects like this lack, where voice is "given" to the public, but without clear dialogue starters.

Unfortunately, from the documentation provided, it seems that the infrastructure required for a successful "performance" is a little bit cumbersome. It would be great to see this operating outside of festival contexts and as real guerrilla/grafitti initiatives, with urban targets that could be selected and hit based on the current issues of the time.

Also, perhaps because of the aesthetic qualities, the danger of cooption by ad agencies that you bring up, is a very real concern. How can this project be really put into the hands of "the people"?

View other works commented by Kevin Yuen-Kit Lo  ››

On many levels this is a very interesting project. I’d like to analyze it using memetic theory, as it engages all three of the necessary qualities of successful memes – fecundity, fidelity and longevity.

As you write in your statement: “The wish and habit to comment (tag) the surrounding world is… an ancient and still [vibrant] phenomena we try to preserve." The tag is arguably the longest lasting meme in existence, fulfilling primary human needs of identity, territory and public expression. The slingshot, a form of primitive weaponry relies for its -longevity- not only the human propensity for violence, but also on the righteous biblical meme of the story of David and Goliath. One of our contemporary worlds’ most -fecund- meme forms is the sms tweet, which is at the heart of your SMSlingshot. The activity of “spreading information on “mushrooming… facades” is a memetic replay of David battling Goliath, in the form of our gargantuan corporate media conglomerates. Lastly, the memetic quality of -fidelity- is represented, though perhaps not in as powerful form as longevity and fecundity. Of course, anything digital has perfectly reproducible fidelity, but this doesn’t seem to be a primary component in this intervention. It seems more as if you are just playing with fidelity – the dominating fidelity of corporate communications mashing with the imperfectly projected digital message on urban wall, in an act of playful sabotage.

Is the SMSlingshot destined, then, to become the weapon of choice in today’s struggles to reclaim the public arena? It would be nice to think so, but likely not, in my opinion. You wisely point to the interest of marketing companies in finding new tools for guerilla marketing. What is possibly more fruitful is to understand what forms the SMSlingshot might or could mutate into, in an attempt to further social communication.

View other works commented by John Calvelli  ››

I believe this proposal one of the most interesting that we can find in the Beyond category. Its intention to think about media interventions, extends beyond overflow as a reflection on architecture in an expanded field. The public space becomes a kind of surface to be intervened plastically.

Each of the projections becomes a joint work, with multiple readings that may give us an extensive input from the context and the users who approach it.
The visual proposal then becomes a posterior heir of demonstrations in public space as graffiti or the arising of mass marches where student movements threw paint bombs at the large institutions against the witch they marched for several hours against.

It is so as the tours engaged by their participants can be tracked in the contents of the texts.
As an innocent child's game of the after pop era, with a slingshot made of thousands of citizens whom demand for their space, their identity and citizenship.

Behind were left intentions of hunting any bird: now the event was apparently resulted in a set of immense digital spots that can mutate in different parts of the world… starting in Europe and extending even to Latin America. It seems that with this proposal we are even reviving past moments directly to the masses, just as it done by the artistic "avant-garde" in the twentieth century, where a promise is based again in a new manifesto: "Hybrid estates".

View other works commented by Sandra Rengifo  ››

Your tool is contemporary and very sophisticated, you learned a lot from the study and in creative process; idea of work reminded me on the ’80 graffiti ‘primitive’ material interventions – txt and paint – written or throwing on city walls. The idea to address the message, pointing to the broader society is very old (Romans graffiti, “everyone is willing to say something”) except, in your case, like is written in explanation, you produce, create new tool to do it in/on new media screen. I like the brightness and glowing of your work, easily can be mixed with high tech commercial products, although the temporality and expensiveness of tool limited its use. So the SMSlingshot tool is almost certainly not possible to exercise in horizontal, wider, more democratic way, or is so?

View other works commented by Alen Ožbolt  ››

"Our ultimate goal is nothing short of a personal and singular Billboard for each citizen. Until that glorious day for global communications when every man, woman and child can scream at or sing to the world in 100Pt. type from their very own rooftop; until that day we will continue to do all in our power to encourage the masses to use any means possible to commandeer the existing media and to alter it to their own design", wrote the Billboard Liberation Front in their Manifesto a long time ago (http://www.billboardliberation.com/manifesto.html). Its great to see the idea of screaming your message in 100Pt. realized with modern technologies. And i really love the symbol of a sling shot - David killed Goliath with a sling shot and a sling shot is also the weapon of a "naughty boy". The only disadvantage is that "SMSlingshot" needs a lot of heavy equipment to work: projector, laptop, modem. As an installation work in a gallery space (or in front of a gallery) for media art its the perfect interactive and fun work - but as a real weapon for urban warfare is more or less useless. For me the perfect item would be a sort of "sling shot" that everybody can put on their mobiles (mobile laser to project SMS) and use it without extra-tech-knowledge or extra-hardware. But nevertheless: The idea is fantastic! And i could image nice "SMS Shots" during political speeches and demonstrations - like Julius von Bismarck did with his "Image Fulgurator (http://www.juliusvonbismarck.com/fulgurator/fertig.html).

View other works commented by Alain Bieber  ››

Other comments

12 years, 2 months ago

thank you for these critics. we really appreciate it and keep going to put them to reality!

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 5 curator(s):
Kevin Yuen-Kit Lo John Calvelli Sandra Rengifo Alen Ožbolt Alain Bieber go to comments ›

Entry details




reclaim the screens

Concept author(s)

patrick tobias fischer, christian zoellner, thilo hoffmann, sebastian piatza

Concept author year(s) of birth

1980, 1981, 1980, 1985

Concept author(s) contribution

patrick tobias fischer: research, hardware hacking, coding, concept, organisation christian zoellner: design, concept, manufacturing, organisation thilo hoffmann: software development sebastian piatza: design, concept, manufacturing

Competition category


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

We are an artist/research/coding collective based in berlin+dresden/germany and glasgow/scotland. We mainly exhibit international. 2010 we´ve been showing the SMSlingshot at the MIT Boston, File festival Sao Paulo, MediaLab Prado Madrid, Es Baluard Palma de Mallorca, FACT Liverpool, STRP Festival eindhoven. The main base, with the atelier and workshop is in Berlin. Somehow we do not match any of these categories. We see ourselves as activists, artists and try to do this professional. We do NOT work for corporates. They´ve been asking a lot but we stayed upright. No guerilla marketing, promotion advertising branding hipster bullshit. we follow a straight approach of creating awareness! That´s our website sying: VR/Urban is a collective of public media inverntionistas founded in 2008 and since then more or less working together to create public media realtime installations. The aim of all projects is to reclaim urban screen for the public. In tradition of situative art and graffiti culture, VR/Urban augments existing city structures with digital and interactive media-art. The collective strongly believes in embodiement, accessibility and the tangibilty of information, so that each installation has a very performative and challenging character. The core persons behind the VR/Urban group is the media computer scien-/arttist patrick tobias fischer and the designer and design researcher christian zöllner. The team members are fluid elements of partners and friends in the fields of art, music, science, electronics, coding and architecture.