Honorable Mention for Environments
  Prix Ars Electronica 98 Honorable Mention for Interactive Art
  Village Voice
March 31, 1998

A Pocketful of Culture
by Austin Bunn
(c) 1998 VV Publishing Corporation

How do you wear your life? What do the purse, the three-inch-thick wallet, or the cabal of beeper, cell phone, and PalmPilot you carry around say about how you organize yourself? The simple and brilliant "Portable Effects" exhibition, installed through April 17 at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, asks visitors to dump the contents of their pockets onto slick metal trays to prove that we all lug a city of information around with us--and a damn well-planned one at that.

The exhibition, created by West Coast think tank Interval Research and the San Francisco Exploratorium, probes the nomadic nature of our daily lives. It also hopes to show that we're all expert designers. "Design is not some mystical, privileged practice that belongs to architecture or digital design," says the project's director, Rachel Strickland of Interval. "Design is a survival mechanism--it's a fundamental property of human behavior."

The show is a voyeuristic thrill. Who knew loose change and handbags--now rechristened "haptic user-interfaces"--could be so fascinating? The installation consists of three stations: an unloading dock (which photographs you, your bags, and the contents of your pockets), an inspection station, and--the most interesting--a portrait gallery of the previous visitors. The slot machine--like device lets users try to match faces with belongings, clothing, and occupations--more difficult and more telling than you'd think. Since when did lawyers carry backpacks or 15-year-olds leather satchels? The documentary profiles illustrate that "there are two kinds of people," says Strickland: "When you ask about their stuff, some people will tell you that they're compulsively neat, and everybody else will tell you that their life is a mess." But as the exhibition makes clear, "There's really no such thing as disorganization."

San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, March 2, 1997

A Weigh Station for You and Your Baggage
by Leah Garchik
(c) 1997 San Francisco Chronicle

A state-of-the-art exhibit at the Exploratorium, pregnant with possibilities, walks you through the premise that you are what you carry

S.F. Exploratorium
Press Release

April 1, 1997

San Francisco Exploratorium

The Portable Effects Exhibit
(c) 1997 San Francisco Exploratorium

What do you carry in your handbag, pockets, briefcase or backpack? Are you willing to play anthropologist and look at and analyze the decisions you've made and find out how you compare to other people around the world? Without thinking about it, we humans make daily decisions about who we are based on what we carry with us, and how we arrange the things we carry. Portable Effects, on view at the Exploratorium through June 1, is a special interactive exhibition by artist-in-residence Rachel Strickland. It lets you explore the notion that everybody is a designer of what they carry in everyday life. Portable Effects uses interactive multimedia to take you step by step through a personal process that offers glimpses into human mobility and what our mobile nature means in terms of what we need with us as we're moving around. As you unload your pockets and purses, consider your shoes, and group and regroup what you carry, Portable Effects prompts each of us to consider the motives and methods that underlie our own daily transactions with ordinary objects. People's investigation and arrangement of the things they take with them—in handbags, pockets, briefcases, backpacks, etc.—form the context of this interactive anthropological experience. This exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and Interval Research Corporation, Palo Alto.

Portable Effects makes use of interactive computer technology with video cameras, microphones, Las Vegas slot machine arms, sound, scales and other unusual paraphernalia networked together to allow visitors to input the raw data collected. As more and more people share their personal data, the work becomes increasingly interesting in real time.

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