500K Digital Art Installation: Toronto Subway Refuses to Turn On Commissioned Work

Public art can convert everyday spaces into a shared artistic experience. Interactive public spaces have become more and more extravagant and popular. These tremendous public art installations can convert the general feeling or aesthetic of a space into something more positive or more negative. The art world was in shock when the city of Toronto called off a city wide, commissioned, public art project just three days before its launch in fear that the public would upload inappropriate content to the digital art installation.

Lights Out on Digital Art Installation

When the city of Toronto commissioned the interactive digital art, installation called ‘LightSpell they fully intended on turning it on. The installation was planned to allow the public to enter any eight characters on one of the keypads located along the subway platform. The chosen word or character combination would appear in white lights on the ceiling of the metro station. When digital art installation was completed, the Toronto Transit Commission decided there was too much risk in allowing the public the choice in which eight characters would be displayed on the subway station ceiling.

Interactive Public Space

Berlin artists Jan and Tim Edler, creators of LightSpell, argue that any censorship should be avoided and if an offensive word were to be entered it would soon be eliminated when another word was entered any keypad at the station. Each entry supersedes the last regardless of how much time was spent on display. Is the TTC taking their censorship too far? How can we make everything politically correct to everyone? Should the artists compromise their initial concept?

Some critics believe that the project needs to be censored because public spaces should be safe and friendly to all individuals. Others believe that the experience of art is not always predictable and that is how it should be. The recent events in our society directly affect digital and interactive installation art.