Hello Stranger Welcome to City Hall

Stephen Wilson, Milton Komisar, Donald Day

San Francisco Sculpture Festival, SF City Hall, 1986


Hello Stranger, Welcome to City Hall was an interactive sound/video installation composed of two sculptures that explored the bureaucratic context of city governement.  Visitors could interact with the "robots" by shaking their hands and moving around in front of the surveillance cameras.

The installation was based an anthropological study of people moving through the city hall lobby.  Observed conversatiions focused on the experience of the bureaucracy - the difficulties of getting anything done and the helpfulness of some bureaucrats who facilitated action.

One of the robots simulated a friendly, helpful city worker; the other represented an obstructive, power hungry bureaucrat.

The robots were constructed out of computer monitors, cameras, and "hands".  Each hand had a small speaker inside and used synthesized speech to speake phrases representative of the helpful and negative aspects of bureaucracy.  The images moving through the monitors represented these two faces of government and live images of viewers captured by the surveillance cameras..  Sound was activated by shaking the hands.

The sculptures were located in the main lobby of San Francisco's City Hall.  The area also housed the Security guards who searched everyone entering city Hall. It commented on the sad state of public life that required security guards by periodically creating special security events. If anyone shook one of the hands too long, the sculpture would ask them to let go - gently for the friendly robot and hostilely for the unfriendly one.  If the viewer persisted, the robots would go into a special security alert.  All the monitors would lock onto the image of the person shaking the hand and all speakers wailed with nonsense security "songs" made out of the basic phonemes that made up the speech synthesizer's repertoire.

We feared the security guards would perceive this as mocking their jobs; actually they were happy to have something to break the monotony of their jobs.

- Other installations are available at index page of Stephen Wilson, Professor Conceptual Design/ Inforamtion Arts, SFSU (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson) swilson@sfsu.edu
- More information about the Conceptual Design program is available at (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~infoarts)
The url of this page is (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/art/hello/hellostranger.html)