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Refractive Index

1 - 16 February 2013 ProjectSpace

Refractive Index by Jamie Allen takes the infrastructure of public media screens and turns them into digital camera obscura. The use of these screens as a broadcast system is inverted: We see what they see, standing aloft, peering out into the night sky.

Refractive Index is an art research project that uses specially developed imagery and software to mark the physical effect that media displays have on cities, architecture and space. Public media systems have become a fixture in our city centres, peaking in the UK during the London 2012 Games, and delivering near constant content to the giant living rooms of Manchester, Swansea, and Middlesbrough. What do the screens do to how we perceive city space, and how do we understand their architectural and luminous presences? These are certainly more than just “big tv’s”? Surrounding architectures alight with every pixel these screens project. Looking away from the screen, we see the reflections and shadows, the materials and colorations, that will increasingly become the hallmarks of urban life in a mediatize landscape. Refractive Index inverses traditional functions of media systems, inviting observation of the environment out front of these screens, and see the resonances and vibrations exist here. “What does the screen see?”


RI was in collaboration with London 2012 Creative Programming, BBC Big Screens Programme, Tom Schofield and David Gauthier. 

Jamie Allen likes to make things with his head and hands. These things involve our relationships to creativity, technology and resources – and mostly try and give people new, subversive and fun ways to interact with all of these. Jamie was born in Canada and is currently Head of Research at the Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design. His work has been shown internationally – Eyebeam (NYC), FACT (UK), Korea Foundation (KR), Transitio (MX), Sonic Circuits (DC), Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre (DK), and many more.