Airport Images

Having returned to New York from my trip, I figured I could offer two airport observations…

While waiting for my flight at the Lousiville International Airport, I had a good view of a pari of video panels set up by the Standiford Art Foundation as part of their “Video Art Project.” The three pieces each had their merits, but I found myself mildly intrigued by Thomas C. deLisle’s “Transition” (2005), which consisted entirely of Earth imagery from orbit.

I should first note that the screens were situated slightly off the beaten path (albeit on the way to restrooms, which is often a good thing), so no more than fifty or sixty people passed by in the hour or so I sat nearby. Of those, only five or six stopped to look, and highly subjectively, I’d say that the terrestrial imagery held their attention longer than the other pieces—one a somewhat abstract view of reflections on water, the other a continuous drive-by of suburbia. But people didn’t linger very long, usually only fifteen or twenty seconds and only once more than a minute.

The problem I had with the piece was the rapidity with which images cut from one to the next, leaving little time to absorb anything within the frame. Plus, the physical set-up consisted of two screens with separate content on both, making the transitions feel even faster-paced. I kept looking for some connection between sequential frames or paired images, but none struck me. Between the speed of cuts and the randomness of the images, the net effect was a bit like watching a screen saver with poor settings. But the Earth stuff seemed to have a slight allure for passers-by… Perhaps if it had offered more time to absorb the visuals?

On a related airport topic, I also took a look at Accenture’s interactive video wall at O’Hare International Airport. This has nothing to do with science, per se, but in fact, it would be nice if it did! When you step up to the screen, you’re given options for “Weather,” “News,” “Sports,” “Entertainment,” and “Tiger Woods.” Why not “Science”? Given the degree to which science and technology affects our lives, it seems like a no-brainer. Then we could implore Accenture for data on how often people select the “Science” option relative to others.

I’ve read some rather critical appraisals of the technology, but in fact, people spent a bit of time interacting with the thing (more than looked at the video art in Louisville, that’s for sure), and its interface felt completely transparent to basically everybody who stepped up to the screen. That strikes me as successful. I mean, the Windows-like grassy field and blue sky kinda creeps me out, but even I won’t hold that against ’em. Too much.