Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Night & Day" - Roman Hrab - 135 The Commons

Two sources of inspiration / information are the basis for Night & Day. Firstly the Internet, and this website. It is a link to a web cam located on Ithaca Commons, which takes a live shot every 15 seconds of a section of the Commons. It is owned and operated by a local graphic design firm. When I first came across this website, I found it raised many issues regarding the surveillance of the public realm via the web and social networking. The camera page also has a live Twitter feed as well as a link to a ‘best of” web cam photo page on Flickr.

Rather than appropriate images from this Flickr album, I collected images directly from the web cam until I came across a pair of stills that conveyed a sense of solitude and foreboding. One image was taken during the day, the other at night. From these images I made large-scale prints that were manipulated to resemble security camera shots. A final print, an aerial view of the Commons from Google Earth, serves as a pop cultural “You Are Here” marker for this psychogeographical mapping.

Secondly, the name of the store, Night & Day, instantly brings to mind the Cole Porter classic. The song has been recorded by countless artists, from Frank Sinatra to Billie Holiday and many others, and is best known as a song of longing and yearning, of unrequited love. But when taken out of its 1930’s musical context, the lyrics begin to seem a bit more sinister in intent when juxtaposed with the 21st century realm of the Internet, surveillance, web cams, and social networks.

An audio loop plays a recording of artists and musicians reciting, whispering, singing, and playing their own versions of Night and Day, with these issues in mind. Their voices are heard in the vestibule of the store, sometimes solo, sometimes paired in twos or grouped in disharmonic quartets or octets. Together with the images, the audio is an eerie reminder that there is always someone unseen watching the public realm, night and day.

The recordings are performed by:
Yura Adams
Carrie Chalmers
George Hrab
Roman Iwasiwka
Andrew Kowal
James Mongan
Wayne Montecalvo
Jennifer Murray
Kathleen Thum
Tricia Wright

Here is a mix of all performances. At the installation site, this mix and other versions play in random order on a continuous loop 8am-10pm.

Roman Hrab's website


  1. This was installed on Saturday and has yet to have it's "to Let" signage added. It's interesting to watch people walk by, notice the prints, immediately recognize the Commons, look baffled, hear the songs, begin to piece things together.

    Sitting and looking I noticed more and more - the night shot seems brighter overall than the day. Bright lights, like security cameras, are a supposed crime deterrent, but they both have wider consequences.

  2. It was great watching people's reactions while installing the work. Some knew about the web cam but were intrigued by this representation of it, others just thought it was plain creepy. And the audio element caught people off guard. One of the best responses I witnessed was a young man ride by the storefront on his bike. He came to a screeching halt, got off his bike and began to examine each of the prints. He then looked up the Commons toward the direction of the web cam and smiled. As he started walking, he stopped in front of the entrance to the store and listened to the audio loop. He stayed for 3 tracks, his smiling more and more, and then looked up at the sign across the storefront: "Night & Day". He let out a big "Hah!", got on his bike and took off, shaking his head. I think he got it.

  3. I hope the audio's still going. A true test for the Sony Discman.

  4. It's still playing as of yesterday.

  5. I just noticed something new on the Commons webcam. In the upper right hand corner of the screen it now tells you how many people are online watching. Now you know that you are not alone.