A physical/web art installation by Stephen Wilson

Introduction:  CrimeZyLand is an art installation that will be installed in the San Francisco Arts Commission City Site Exploration Lot.  It will provide a visually engaging, humorous multi-sensual window on crime statistics that deconstructs the atmosphere of media-drive crime hysteria in urban life.  The City Site Lot is located across from San Francisco's City Hall. CrimeZyland will take place from March, 98 to June, 98.

Conceptual Issues: This installation will appeal on an immediate sensual level and raise underlying conceptual issues such as the following. 1. Media Frenzy: Using the strategy of absurd extension, this installation asks viewers to question the media circus created around crime. Are TV crime reports or this humorous "Disneyland of Crime" appropriate events? 2. Deconstructing the Concept of Crime: What's a crime? Who defines it? Are street crimes really worthy of more attention that other crimes against the community? For example, is the corporation that pollutes the Bay for generations to come not worse than the car thief? The installation will include sites of environmental and white collar crime on the map in addition to street crime. 3. Access to Statistics: In researching this installation, I found very few people (including the Police department's public affairs office) aware that these statistics exist. The installation will use the tools of public sculpture to give viewers intuitive access to this provocative information about urban life. 4. Real vs. Virtual Presence The installation asks viewers to think about the difference between physical and internet participation in public events. Some analysts note that because of crime, urban dwellers increasing engage in "cocooning", fearing to go out into the cities. The internet is seen as encouraging this. This installation will offer enhanced control options to viewers who venture out to be physically present.

Physical Description: The installation will transform the City Site lot into a living "map" that creates light, motion, and sound in correspondence to the level of crimes being committed in various San Francisco districts at various times of day. Using the CABLE Police Department crime statistics which break down crimes by type, city location, and time of day, a computer will control toy police cars, small flipping flags, speakers, and lights to activate in real time at levels indicated by the statistics. Crimeyland will use yellow crime marker plastic strips to draw an abstract map of San Francisco on the ground of the lot. Clusters of lights, speakers, and flags will be placed at the highest crime spots on the map. A viewer watching the installation will experience the current "pulse" of the city - flipping flags, lights, and sounds will indicate when crimes are happening (statistically). The installation will be interactive - allowing viewers to digitally record their spoken reflections on crime and to use the "dial-a-crime" feature to change the focus of the lot from general crime levels to specific kinds of crimes - murders, robbery, car thefts, white collar crimes, etc.
World Wide Web: A WWW site connected to the control computer will allow viewers elsewhere in the city (or the world) to view the lot via a web camera and to control events via a remote Web interface. They will also be able to navigate digital video quicktimeVR panoramas of the crime sites.

Site Specific: The inspiration for this installation derives from the Civic Center location: in the heart of the city, in proximity with some high crime spots, and near the seat of government - in the laps of people charged with dealing with the problem of crime.


For more information contact:  Stephen Wilson, Professor, Conceptual/Information Arts, San Francisco State University

415 338-2291   swilson@sfsu.edu