The PDPal Art Project

Years ago, when I was reading up on the Situationist International (a loose confederation of brilliant, pretentious, cranky European avant garde artists/radical-types from the ’60s), I was fascinated by their ideas about urbanism, antic architecture and “psycho-geography” (the personal, emotional, libidinous sides of living space). They were fascinated by maps and the ability to use them to re-map a route (what they called the “Northwest Passage”) to a possible city: a better city, an ideal city. They would cut up maps, creating collages of psycho-geographic landscapes (usually mappings of their drunken wanderings through French cafes and bistros). Years ago, when I ran a culture club in DC, called Cafe Gaga, we experimented with some of these ideas (including the stumbling drunk part) in new urbanism and it was extremely fun and enlightening.

Now a group of artists has combined some of these ideas of emotional urbanism/the “poetry of place” into a PDA-based public art project. Participants download the PDPal software and then use it to create and annotate maps of their experiences of and ideas arising from their urban wanderings. An “urban park ranger” an avatar within the program, prompts you and encourages you to share your maps with others. You can beam to other PDPal users or upload to a “Beaming Box” at kiosks (as shown in the pic). The idea is to remap a “city of grids” into a “city of experiences.” The project will launch at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in summer ’03 and then in NYC where they’ll be ten beaming stations available.

It’s a really cool idea. The website content has that sludgey pomo artspeak I have little patience for these days, but hopefully, one can cut through it to get to the idea, which sounds like fun.

[Thanks to Jim Leftwich]