Legible City

1989 Nagoya, Japan
Coauthors: Jeffrey Shaw, Dirk Groeneveld

Software: Gideon May, Lothar Schmitt
Hardware: Charly Jungbauer, Huib Nelissen

The Legible City is a pioneering interactive art installation where the visitor rides a stationary bicycle through a simulated representation of a city that is constituted by computer-generated, three-dimensional letters that form words and sentences along the sides of the streets. Using the ground plans of actual cities—Manhattan, Amsterdam and Karlsruhe—The Legible City completely replaces the existing architecture of these cities with text formations written and compiled by Dirk Groeneveld. Travelling through these cities of words is consequently a journey of reading; choosing the path one takes creates a recombination of these texts, and spontaneous conjunctions of meaning.

The handlebars and pedals of the bicycle interface give the viewer interactive control over direction and speed of travel. The physical effort of cycling in the real world is gratuitously transposed into the virtual environment, creating a kinesthetic conjunction of the active body in the virtual domain. A video projector projects the computer-generated image onto a large screen, and a small LCD monitor in front of the bicycle shows a simple ground plan of each city and the immediate position of the cyclist there.

The Manhattan (1989) version of this work comprises eight separate fictional storylines in the form of monologues by ex-Mayor Koch, Frank Lloyd Wright, Donald Trump, a tour guide, a confidence trickster, an ambassador and a taxi driver. Each storyline has a specific letter colour, so that if the bicyclist wishes, he or she can follow the paths of each narration. In the Amsterdam (1990) and Karlsruhe (1991) versions of The Legible City all the letters are scaled so that they have the same proportion and location as the actual buildings that they replace, resulting in a transformed but fairly exact reproduction of the actual architectural appearance of these cities. The texts for the Amsterdam and Karlsruhe versions are largely derived from archive documents, such as newspapers, which describe prosaic historical events that took place in these cities, and are often positioned in the events’ respective locations.

Related Documents
Exhibition Record

1989/7/15 - 11/26:  Artec '89 - Artec Pavilion, World Design Exposition, the Sirotori site, Nagoya, Japan

1989/7/31 - 8/4:  Siggraph '89, Boston, United States

1989/9/13 - 9/16:  Ars Electronica '89, Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria

1990:  L'Immagine Elettronica, Chiesa di San Romano, Ferrara, Italy

1990/3/18 - 3/25:  Time Space Light, Academie Minerva, Groningen, Netherlands

1990/3/21 - 3/28:  Artware, Kunst und Elektronik, CeBIT, Hannover, Germany

1990/6/15 - 6/22:  Dernieres Visites Avant Travaux, Le Fresnoy, Tourcoing, France

1990/6/18 - 7/15:  De Balie, Amsterdam, Netherlands

1990/10/2 - 1991/1/13:  Vom Verschwinden der Ferne, Telekommunikation und Kunst, Deutsches Postmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

1990/10/4 - 10/31:  Artifices, Place de la Légion d'Honneur, Saint-Denis, France

1990/11/6 - 11/8:  Interface I, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany

1991:  Video Art Festival, Locarno, Switzerland

1991/3/10 - 5/19:  Les Artistes et la Lumiere, Centre National Art et Technologie, Reims, France

1991/4/12 - 4/28:  MuuMedia Festival, Interaktiviisen Mediataiteen Näytteky, Galleria Otso, Espoo, Finland

1991/5/25 - 9/1:  El Art / Exhibition of Electronic Art, Retretti Art Center, Retretti, Finland

1991/5/28 - 7/7:  MultiMediale 2, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

1991/7/25 - 7/27:  Stanford Conference on Design, Stanford Campus, Stanford, United States

1992/3/22 - 5/10:  Virtual World Voyaging: Agnes Hegedüs and Jeffrey Shaw, Art Gallery Artium, Fukuoka, Japan

1992/7/2 - 9/6:  Moving Image - Electronic Art, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain

1992/9/26 - 10/3:  Manifestion for the Unstable Media 4, V2, V2, Aawal 2a, Den Bosch, Netherlands

1992/12/15 - 1993/3/14:  The Boundary Rider, 9th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

1993/9/3 - 10/17:  Die Sprache der Kunst. Die Beziehung von Bild und Text in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria

1995/2/16 - 3/5:  Art and Electronics, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, China

1995/9/30 - 11/5:  Jeffrey Shaw Trigon-Personale 95, Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria

1995/12/20 - 1996/2/18:  3e Biennale d´art contemporain de Lyon, Musèe d´art contemporain, Lyon, France

1996/6/14 - 9/15:  Mediascape, Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York, United States

1999/6/30 - 8/22:  Perspective: International Media Art and Media History Exhibition, Mûcsarnok, Budapest, Hungary

1999/9/10 - 10/23:  Galerie Carol Johnssen, Munich, Germany

2000/5/27 - 6/16:  Schrift und Bild in Bewegung, Gasteig, Munich, Germany

2000/6/20 - 7/12:  Media Art Festival 2000, Central Exhibition Hall, St. Petersburg, Russia

2000/12/15 - 2001/4/15:  Flagship Studio, GPT, Berlin, Germany

2001/10/7 - 11/4:  Im Buchstabenfeld, steirischer herbst, Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria

2002/6/27 - 9/8:  [email protected] Die Faszination virtueller Welten, Automobil Forum Unter den Linden, Berlin, Germany

2003/2/14 - 3/23:  Montevideo/Time Based Arts, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2004/3/14 - 6/6:  FEEL THE NEW, Z33, Hasselt, Belgium

2004/5/21 - 7/18:  Digital Avantgarde, Eyebeam, New York, United States

2004/6/10 - 8/28:  Joyce in Art: Visual Art Inspired by James Joyce, Royal Hibernian Academy, Gallagher Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

2004/9/2 - 10/4:  Digital Avantgarde, Ars Electronica 2004, Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Linz, Austria

2005/2/21 - 3/21:  Art Meets Media: Adventures In Perception, NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo, Japan

2006/6/2 - 6/4:  23rd Festival Art Rock, Museeìe d’Art et d’Histoire, Saint-Brieuc, France

2006/10/25 - 12/31:  Grid Matrix, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St Louis, St Louis, United States

2009/3/21 - 8/16:  Uncharted: User Frames in Media Arts, santralistanbul, Istanbul, Turkey

2011/10/29 - 2012/2/12:  Digital Art Conservation, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

2011/11/18 - 11/27:  STRP Festival 2011, Strijp R Klokgebouw, Eindhoven, Netherlands

2012/2/25 - 4/28:  Digital Art Conservation, Espace Multimédia Gantner, Bourogne, France

2012/6/16 - 9/23:  Digital Art Conservation, CEAAC, Straßburg, France

2013/1/18 - 3/31:  Digital Art Conservation, House of Electronic Arts, Basel, Switzerland

2014/5/9 - 2015/3/1:  Das Fahrrad, Museum der Arbeit, Hamburg, Germany

2014/6/21 - 2015/3/8:  Open Space 2014, NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo, Japan

2015/3/13 - 4/22:  Age of Experience, Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

2016/7/20 - 2017/2/19:  New Gameplay, Nam June Paik Art Center, Yongin, South Korea

2016/12/2 - 12/20:  Age of Experience, Angewandte Innovation Laboratory, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Vienna, Austria

2017/7/5:  Stallwächterparty 2017, Landesvertretung Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Germany

2019/4/19 - 7/7:  Passé Augmenté x Présent Augmenté, Arts Center of Enghien-les-Bains, Enghien-les-Bains, France

2019/11/12 - 2020/6/21:  WYSIWYG, Osage Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China