The Cruising, Abney Park Cemetery
Thursday 12th April 10am – 7am
Fringe! Film Fest runs from the 12th – 15th April and exists in conversation with, but is independent from, the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival that happened recently (covered by Caroline Guo for Real|Reel). Fringe! is “a confetti burst of queer culture” with an eclectic programme of films and events, you can see the full programme here. As part of the festival Konstantinos Menelaou created The Cruising project which invites users to download a map and visit the infamous cruising spot of Abney Park Cemetery in East London.
Public spaces have identities and uses that are both intended and appropriated. For the public, any space can acquire meaning through personal experiences or by existing information. That meaning differs for each person. The Cruising uses technology to shape an identity for Abney Park: that of the cruising area. Cruising is a practice that appropriates urban public spaces and transforms them into queer geographies.
“Reality is always augmented by a person’s subjectivity; we influence the world around us in accordance with our views, beliefs, aesthetic tastes and so on. ”
The Cruising visual and google map enables visitors of Abney Park Cemetery to have an intimate, guided experience around the area. Once the map is downloaded you’re free to go in search of a personal experience in Abney Park Cemetery.
Menelaou also created an augmented reality app to coincide with the project, but sadly it was rejected for release. They are currently working on this problem and hope to make the app available very soon. The concept behind the app is still relevant though and should be considered alongside the rest of the project. The app is similar to Guardian Street Stories which is a geolocation and audio app. The Guardian used AppFurnace to create an immersive audio experience for users walking around the Kings Cross area in London, where the Guardian offices are located. The Street Stories app triggers audio stories and information as you reach particular parts of the King’s Cross area. It can also be used manually if you want to hear something specific, or if you are not in King’s Cross area.
Both The Guardian’s and Menelaou’s conceptual apps work on developments in augmented reality software, which have been popularised recently with the emergence of QR codes in advertising, and the development of Google Goggles. Augmented Reality is a live view of a real world environment whose elements are augmented by computer generated sensory inputs such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Augmented Reality differs from Virtual Reality, which replaces the real world with a simulated one, whereas Augmented Reality enhances the experience of an existing reality or environment.
“This project is both innovative and controversial, taking new media to the fringes of culture.”
The Cruising project shows us that reality is always augmented by a person’s subjectivity; we influence the world around us in accordance with our views, beliefs, aesthetic tastes and so on. Menelaou’s app uses technology, conventional cartography and storytelling to bring Abney Park Cemetery’s use as a cruising zone to the forefront. Identities shape environments and spaces are appropriated by people for a variety of purposes. Technology can now be used to enhance, shape, and change environments in accordance with virtually any viewpoint, a point that Fringe! Film Fest are pushing in an interesting and unusual direction. Cruising is a sexualised activity that is taboo in heterosexual culture, Menelaou is reappropriating and subverting the uses of emerging technologies to celebrate this controversial cultural practice.
Menelaou explained to me that “The Cruising project is not so much based on the app, but is more of a conceptual project that manifests itself through different media”. The map is available in multiple formats, both digital and analog: “by having the map on a postcard we can make the cruising area look and feel more real. Every media reinforces the idea that the cruising areas are established areas” states Menelaou. Cruising is a controversial activity, and Menelaou has encountered problems selling the concept, “our app was rejected due to the nature of its features” he explains. This project is both innovative and controversial, taking new media to the fringes of culture. The ideas are intriguing, and we look forward to trying them out in person. If you’re in London, give it a whirl.
The Cruising project is an innovative addition to this intriguing festival celebrating queer culture, you can learn more about it here. Fringe! runs from 12th – 15th April 2012. Real|Reel will be at the festival this weekend, so look out for our perspectives over the coming days.