Soul by Stanza. 2004-06. An artwork using data in the city and involving the public.

Steve Tanza, StanzaAmber Stanza touching the globe. 2006 Image copyright (c) Stanza This image cannot be used without permission. 2006


Soul is created to represent the 'soul' of the city and captures live data and visualizes the results in a constantly evolving data sculpture. It is presented on a unique display technology, this is a 3 meter globe. Soul is a site specific work placed in urban space. Real time images are fed into a software system to create unique visuals. The images are always on, and always changing evolving around the clock. The changing light and ephemeral qualities of the city urban landscape are morphed (using CCTV cameras set up in the public domain) to create real time blended collages.

- Soul uses CCTV camera networks to re-imagine, to re visualize the urban environment.

- The idea is to capture the soul of the city and represent these images/ data as a piece of sculpture in a constantly evolving visual sculpture.

-This data sculpture is a live real time evolving or generative artwork. It re-contextualizes the way we experience the city and turn up its head the concept of observation.

- The result is a space or installation with unique patterns and output to the displays and online.

- The sculpture utilizes specialized display technologies that will have to be adapted to create this work.

- Soul support a series works that address issues of real time data and what I call the emergent properties of city space. This art work involves embedding data in real time so that the works become dynamic, a real time experience.

Keywords. Live date, emergent city, art experience, unique 3d display, public engagement.


Stanza Image show live data on globe display. Sunderland Winter Gardens 2005.

Image show live data on globe display. Sunderland Winter Gardens Visualisation which was shortlisted then rejected.2005.


The final installation represents real time interactions of the city onto the display. The software can choose for example one image a second, or choose bits of images over and hour or day. The images will be channeled into my software that can be displayed onto the installation in the real space.

Soul by Stanza....2004 -06. An artwork  using data in the city and involving the public. Stanza hangs giant 3 m globe display in the city. The interactive City.Wireless sensor networks. Sensing the soul of the city,  new display technologies . Globe display in the city. Stanza artwork

Image show live data on globe display in city of Sunderland 2006

What does it mean?

As technologies evolve so must the way in which we disseminate them. This stretches the digital arts to also evolve at an equal pace, while also raising the deeper issues which ride beneath the wave of our data driven existence. Through the work I explore another dimension, investigating directly and in real time the dynamic of the social space. The artworks relate to current data flows in the environments being monitored.

My research utilizes systems that can be used to gather information via sensors or CCTV cameras in the field. This data is harnessed to visualize the urban environments and spatial representations as a dynamic real time experience rather than as a recorded 'photograph' of the city space.

The work has moved towards a point where the landscape is a hybridized audio visual representation of the space. ie, an audio visual experience based on the sounds and sights of the city pollution, noise, traffic data , that are captured then re-mediated.

How we understand and value information is of great importance. It seems reasonable to suggest that visual metaphors might simplify our understanding of data in space. By adopting visual and poetic metaphors for gathered data this enables a perspective which Masayuki Fujihata calls a 'parallel reality', a multi point perspective. (Reference: In conversation with Stanza in Tokyo November 2003 as part of his presentation). He achieved this by using multiple participants walking with field devices and recording the outdoor spaces. His result can be compared to a film of an event, a history.This work has become eternally current. It allows a real time multiple perspective of an identified space.

Overview.The audience.

The benefits to the public from this project are many: The project breaks down boundaries between the artist, real space and the public; it enables non-attendees to discover digital art in a more familiar and non-threatening environment; it can improve the environment in which people live; and it can enrich people's lives through raising awareness and appreciation of the arts. The benefits to the artist are predominately around audience development and finding new ways of communicating and reaching out to local audiences who may not otherwise experience digital art. This work is the culmination of four years worth of research.

What does the data represent?

The images represent a remediation of the real time city space. The time-based image can be collected as an abstract or as a full representation of what the camera is pointing at.

In summary: Artwork live public data sculpture

Depending on how I decide to morph the images from the online users I can create more re-contextualized variance at the output level. In other words there is the possibility to have a series of concurrent time based visuals showing in real time over the week. To re-phrase the work evolves to create something unique.

Use of public integral to the piece

I am exploring process, and want to engage the public in a piece of artwork that responds the identity of the city. I also want to create an object that will stay in the memory as something exciting and visually stimulating ie, the project itself . There is also another interesting challenge beyond the experience of the artwork as an object. This challenge lies within the public use of data ie, cameras in the public domain and the ownership of this data.

At this stage, I should state that I understand the legal and ethical parameters of uses CCTV. My work is approved by the AHRC and Goldsmiths college ethics committee.


The artistic process and concept is not reliant on the display; however how things are displayed plays an important part of the impression and overall context of the work. The idea of making a globe has been part of my idea for this work for about four years as is the concepts of placing the live data inside the city space and making something sculptural with it. For this reason I have decided to collaborate with Pufferfish with the output / display.

This is a very costly (over £100k) projector which is being hired for inside the globe which and its being specially made for this project. The display is durable, weatherproof and can also be suspended.

It is untested how the display behaves outside use in very bright sun and the next version will use technology specifically to address this issue. Testing is due to happen from August and into September). The lighting conditions in the park in winter will be sufficiently low (because of the angle of the sun or even cloud cover) for the images to be clear. To aid the clarity of the image in the park one might include a cover to shield the globe under the trees, (which may well be fine in the winter anyway), or to find an indoor venue the arcade or maybe the car park. (Mentioned above) where there will be no problem whatsoever.

The display meets all health and safety standards and a health and safety certificate is currently pending.


Custom Software is developed in director shockwave and pulls images from the sourced CCTV cameras. The data is collected sorted on a MySql database. Stored images created my online users are referred from a PHP page.

Online works timescapes, carves light sculpture out of the images based over time. This example above shows the images taken off three cameras (in London) over ten minutes as a test example. Note it can be set to take the full images or build images from one minute fragments over a day.

The main software collects these images and then presents them to the display, ie the installation. An algorithm creates movement at the images come in. Time scripts add variance to the way the images load and a series of functions add more creative variability. These functions act to buffer the image to ram hold them in ram and merge images together within shockwave.


The use and engagement of the public to set up cameras and the engagement of public to use my software, to almost paint with light from these cctv images and then represent it back in space, is a fantastic realization of public engagement over networks to create social art. The work pushes the boundaries of current research with public audiences, online audiences and urban displays.

The essence of live space and people painting with the light of the city; this is embedded in the work. I have software structures in place, a database to hold images and various front end technologies to manipulate images. I have also recently developed a new piece of software that allows users to choose bits of images from one or all cameras and make there own lightscape from the city and all the gets stored and saved and the results can be morphed into the final results on the screen.

It you want to commission this as a public artwork it can also be shown like this below.

Stanza artwork

Image live data on globe display in shopping centre. 2006


Please email me if you are interested this needs funding to be realised on a larger scale.

© Stanza. 2004 - 6