Uptown Underground in Time Space Existence

Uptown Underground in Time Space Existence

European Cultural Centre

Deployment installation view, Uptown Underground, New York City subway, 2023. 

May 17, 2023
Studio Ian Callender
Uptown Underground
May 20–November 26, 2023
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Palazzo Mora
Strada Nova, 3659
30121 Venice

Studio Ian Callender shares news of its invitation to exhibit Uptown Underground at the European Cultural Centre’s exhibition Time Space Existence at Palazzo Mora within the context of this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture. The installation, a transposition of a project first deployed in the New York City subway, is rooted in the studio’s area of focus: concept-driven explorations of new media/digital technologies embedded within and as mediators of the architectural and urban.

Uptown Underground projects a geographically accurate view of the cityscape above a subway car onto its ceiling as it moves under New York City.

The project takes inspiration from the glass-bottom boat, where access is granted to the reeds, fish, and dark depths normally inaccessible. Conversely, the experience of the subway is marked by detachment: in the moments between stations, all urban context is stripped away and replaced with darkness, save the occasional flash of a passing floodlight. Therefore, in a literal reversal, here access is granted upwards, to skyscrapers, trees, and occasional flock of pigeons. Imagining seeing through the ceiling to the street and becoming aware of such a dynamic perspective offers restored connection with and newfound dynamic contextualization within the city.

The intervention has been installed, without permission, on a series of moving subways from Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall to 96th Street stations, a roughly 10-km/25-minute loop along the East Side of Manhattan. The project is implemented with four projectors connected to Raspberry Pi microcomputers, synchronized with offsets through a project-specific nodejs server over a peer-to-peer WiFi network, informed by geolocation and acceleration data from a smartphone, all on battery power. As the window of opportunity lasts only 75 seconds as the subway transitions from the downtown to uptown tracks, all aspects of the project were designed for expedience and fluidity of installation. Four units cover the entire ceiling of a train wagon, two to a single clamp arm attached to a stanchion pole. Once switched on, the installation runs itself, adjusting in concert with the movements of the train in order to remain in synchronization with the world above. Within the context of the European Cultural Centre, designed elements are meant to recall the stark metals of the subway train within the darkness of subterranean New York, and console-based sequencing technology originally meant for music production stands in for GPS, while the deployment units remain the same.

Uptown Underground situates itself intentionally within discourse on digital technologies in the urban environment: it aims to create a techno-critical interaction with the sole intention of augmenting the urban experience. Those on the train tend to put down their cell phones and, with excitement and curiosity, look up.

Please join for the exhibition’s opening this Thursday and Friday, May 18 and 19, 6–9pm.
Palazzo Mora hours: Monday–Sunday, 10am–6pm. Closed Tuesdays. 

Studio Ian Callender is a New York City-based art and design practice exploring the intersection of the built environment and digital technologies. Its work has been recognized by, among others, the Architizer A+ Awards, the SEGD Global Design Awards, and the ADC Awards; presented at conferences such as ISEA and the Media Architecture Biennale; published in ArchDaily, Hyperallergic, and MIT’s Thresholds; and exhibited internationally.

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European Cultural Centre
May 17, 2023

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