breaking the monoform in the public space

Augmented reality

Open-source camera application

A camera that recognizes commercial brands in the users’ frame while giving them the option to replace logos with whatever they want when capturing an image.

In collaboration with developer Thanos Bantis

2016-2017, Rotterdam (NL), London (UK), Thessaloniki (GR)

What, how, why?

“(Breaking the) Monoform in Public Space” is a work between a visual artist and a data scientist and developer. It is an open license prototype augmented reality camera application for mobile devices. The camera, with the use of real-time image recognition and computer vision techniques, can identify commercial brands in the photographic frame of the user and give them the option to replace them with whatever they intend to. The user can select an image from their archive and use it to replace the selected advertised space. Computer vision and image recognition are used today on the web, to categorize and auto-brand our user-made images. To make the users’ data accessible and available for advertising purposes. Consequently, the user by uploading the image they made on social networks, can not only make a statement about the commercialization of both the virtual and physical public space but also interfere with the process of advertising in social media. In addition, the user can think of the alternative possible use of the physical public space, re-imagine and create its image by replacing the space now occupied by commercial advertisements with whatever they want. creating an image might seem immaterial in the physical world, but if we stop and think that this image is taking physical space in a real structure that is used as storage somewhere and that after its creation it’s containing data have the potential to be used for profit that will eventually be measured in gold, then the act of changing the image of physical space in its virtual representation starts having a very material shape

Monoform?

“Monoform“ is a concept by Peter Watkins that results from his theory about media today and what he calls “the Media Crisis”. Peter Watkins is an English film and television director and one of the pioneers of docudrama. In his book “Media Crisis” he argues, that the role of media today, through popular fiction and documentary film, news media, reality TV, and music video clips, is to create a passive audience. Diminishing the ability of the viewer to reflect and react to the communicated messages of the media.  These messages are often consisted of questionable ethics, promoting stereotypes, nationalism, sexism, and consumerism among others. Monoform is the very fast editing form of the above media, with repetition of images and sounds, short cuts, and a flow of information that gives no time to the viewer to think. It is an attempt to overwhelm the viewer into a passive state of mind. This passivity is then extended to the viewer’s stance towards the society and life itself, thus creating a submissive subject to the state and the current status quo. It’s an idea discussed many times before in the history of art. A similar concept is Guy Debord’s spectacle. In 1967, he made the work “The Society of the Spectacle” in which he conveys that everything is being made in a way to be viewed and not to interact with. The spectacle is the core of non-communication and alienation of people, the opposite of dialogue, creates passivity to the viewer that prevents action towards the viewer’s reality. Albeit from an opposite side of view, Edward Bernays, author of “Propaganda” (1928) expresses the same opinion. He argues that the scientific control of the people is necessary towards the governance of the state and the society. Moreover, he promotes one way of controlling people through controlling their desires. With the use of advertisement, the state can create desires in people’s minds. These desires become then the driving force for the people to leave the important matters of communal life unattended to the power of the few. The same few are the ones consisting of the state but also big private companies collecting eventually the money and the power.

Having the above in mind, we argue that the “monoform” exists not only in popular media but also in the public space, in the center of modern cities, on our screens when Online, inside public transportation, etc. Mainly through advertisement, we can see a successful attempt to guide people’s minds towards individualism, creating competitive social environments. A constant race for jobs, money, looks, and safety against others that want the same products and services. 

Tech?

This is an Android app that allows users to replace a logo with a picture of their choice using Haar Cascade object detection method. At this experimental stage, we’ve only included the logo of Burger King (for no particular reason). You can explore the code in the repository and enrich it, change it, copy it.

The Android app itself is composed of four activity classes:

MainActivity: The introduction window of the app. Tapping the Black Box will navigate to…

SelectActivity: This class allows one to use one of the preloaded pictures for the logo replacement: a majestic forest or a magnificent blue sky. Tapping on the folder icon you can navigate to the phone’s gallery so you can choose any other image you like.

OpenCVCamera: Tapping the blue sky or forest image launches the object detection class. Here is where all the work is happening.

OpenCVCameraGallery: Tapping the folder icon of SelectActivity class launches this class. It is essentially the same as OpenCVCamera but now we are fetching and compressing (as far as possible) the image choice of the user.