The Blank Slate Monument: a powerful message on a powerful screen
Electronic paper can do much more than communicate bus schedules and train departures. Read how it can be utilized in art to inspire dialogue for a more hopeful future.
We imagine it’s a feeling akin to when a songwriter pens a hit song that finds its way into the hearts of the masses, or when a director releases a movie that instantly becomes a beloved classic – that feeling of utter pride when your work takes on a life of its own and transforms into something more than it was intended to be.
In our case, into an amazing civil rights sculpture that projects a powerful message of equality onto a powerful screen – our very own large-scale electronic paper display!
Electronic paper, “the voice of the people”
Meet the Blank Slate Monument, a moving sculpture by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo that is touring the United States, offering reflection and participation in the civil rights conversation through the medium of art and modern technology.
This is because the artwork features a dynamic protest sign that looks like paper, works in all lighting conditions, and uses minimal power. This interactive Blank Slate screen at the top of the monument is in reality a removable Visionect-powered 32-inch electronic paper display. Its screen changes in line with audience input, with the placard, explains the artist, becoming “not just a symbol, but literally the voice of the people.”
So, how does it work?
The titular “blank slate” incorporated in the monument is powered by a battery pack concealed in the installation that is changed regularly during the sculpture tour. It connects via Wi-Fi using a Raspberry Pi, with content managed through WordPress apps and pushed to the display with the help of Visionect software.
“The interaction of viewers with the e-paper screen was one of the most satisfying experiences of the sculpture tour for me,” excitedly explains Brendan Burke from BB Projects, LLC.
“Countless times I saw someone look at the sign, look away, and then look back and be shocked, asking ‘Did that change?!?!’ Everyone thought it was a static sign made of paper, and the jaw-on-the-floor wow factor when they saw that it was a dynamic display was supremely satisfying for me as an interactivity designer.”
Bringing the wow-factor to life, however, was no easy feat, explains Burke, whose search led him to several distributors of e-paper solutions around the world. Visionect technology proved to be the best fit, he explains, with a robust custom solution to satisfy the project’s fairly unusual needs.
And the result? Says Burke: “A display solution that is, for me, one of the elements that makes the viewer’s experience of the artwork truly magical.”