Making the city playable, fantastic, shimmering, stormy: Poetic Kinetics provide a common joy
It's enough to begin with just to stare at how beautiful it is. The public art merchants Poetic Kinetics have captured the global attention with their shimmering aerial construction over a Los Angeles thoroughfare. It aims to copy the miraculous flocking patterns of birds described as a "murmuration". Another shimmering PK installation in the video is a massive "firebird" in St. Petersburg.
"Bringing a layer of beauty to the urban jungle" is how the video describes their practice. A giant spectacle that unites the citizens as they stare upon it, but maybe also averts their gaze from the street-level challenges of big city life - the congestion, the pollution, the homelessness, the increasing inequality?
When you look at Poetic Kinetics' archive, it's interesting that they seem to have cut their teeth on the bare playas of the Burning Man festivals - where smart engineers and creatives build fantastical, psychedelic structures, then remove them at the festival end without (ideally) any trace of them being there. Are Burning Man's strong ethics of sustainability, creativity and a fusion of nature and tech, being brought to the commercial city-centres of the world by Poetic Kinetics? It would be interesting to hear testimony from citizens about their reactions to such works.
There is another tradition of putting city spaces "into play", which is considerably more explicit and self-conscious about helping citizens, and their municipalities, feel more in possession of the towns and cities they live in. Titled "Playable Cities", and springing from the work Claire Boddington and others at Bristol's Watershed arts centre, their vision statement is very clear:
Playable City puts people and play at the heart of the future city, re-using city infrastructure and re-appropriating smart city technologies to create connections – person to person, person to city.
Through interaction and creative installations it unlocks a social dialogue, bringing the citizens into a city development conversation – one which will vary in each location.
Playable City is active across five continents in cities as diverse as Recife, Bristol, Lagos and Tokyo – in each place it has created a connected innovative community of interest exploring their own city’s issues and opportunities.
Across the globe Playable City is building a networked knowledge bank of local insight, experience and impact, generating a world view of smarter city development conversations and a series of innovative creative / technology driven projects.
One of Playable Cities' most inventive contributors is Tine Bech, the Danish play-artist. Her work is gentler, less countercultural than Poetic Kinetics - see the Aquatic Pathways in Recife, or Catch Me Now, a roaming spot in public spaces.
From Tine's About page:
Despite living in an age which seems to offer unlimited forms of media communication, we still fundamentally crave a human connection, to find expression in community and in dialogue. Tine is interested in how this can be achieved through play, through the creation of a particular environment, and by recognising and exploring the ways that technology has informed our social behaviours.
Tine Bech’s artistic vision is to explore how culture, technology and play intersect to shape the future of our cities. “I believe cities need creative collaborative spaces, in unexpected places, that inspire participation and communication,” says Tine.