Mobile street projections in New York City

Mobile projection vehicle crew members Bassem Nassar and Prerana Reddy bring progressive multimedia advertisments to New York’s Times Square.

Following a successful August 12th projection action on landmarks and in public areas of New York City, a multimedia projection team consisting of Emily Jacir, Bassem Nassar and Prerana Reddy reassembled on August 24th to create a mobile projection vehicle and take a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and multimedia pieces to the streets. Equipment and guidance were provided by the Graffiti Reseach Lab. Photo documentation by Nigel Parry.

Setup of the Mobile Projection Vehicle

A standard U-Haul box truck, which can be rented for $40 a day, plus gas, mileage, and optional insurance. The rear screen is created approximately one foot inside the back door, with two large, expandable curtain rods and a sheet stretched and clamped between them.

Even small projections on the screen are visible during the day. At night, their range increases dramatically. The inset screen is weatherproof, and the projection equipment is safely inside the vehicle, which can be locked securely.

U-Haul trucks do not have any access panels between the driver’s cab and storage area. As multimedia projectors require considerable power, the projector is run from a marine battery, which holds around a 3-hour charge. L-R: Palestinian artist Emily Jacir controls the multimedia projections on the back screen via laptop; the projector is centered in the truck and keystone corrected; on the right, a marine battery and transformer.

Projection crew members Bassem Nassar and Prerana Reddy communicate with the projection team through the opening under the screen, useful for keeping the inside of the truck cool, and for access.

The Checkpoints PSA from Imagine Life, as seen from within the truck. Multimedia projectors have a “reverse image” function to allow for backward projection.

The truck as a protest prop

Activists from the New York Campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions protest outside an Israeli-owned coffee shop, Aroma, in New York’s East Village.

The U-Haul mobile projection vehicle at the Aroma protest. L-R: A passer-by stops to view an Imagine Life Public Service Announcement (PSA), Palestinian artist Emily Jacir, and an Action Wednesday activist from the protest.

Around New York: the East Village, Union Square, and Times Square

An Imagine Life PSA being projected on the rear screen. Multimedia content that worked well in this context included short pieces which did not rely on sound, and images relevant to the projection location. The two Imagine Life PSAs that worked best on the streets of New York included Checkpoints (“Imagine this is your commute”) and Life Under Occupation, which asks viewers to “imagine this is your town” while showing images of Israeli tanks patrolling the streets of a Palestinian city under curfew.

The mobile projection vehicle in the East Village of New York.

While Times Square does indeed have a considerable number of flashing lights and other distractions, projections within the otherwise multimedia-free street space are highly visible and naturally draw attention to themselves due to the incongruity of their message juxtaposed with the surrounding commercial advertising. Visible on the projection screen, Suzy Salamy’s “Beirut 1982/Beirut 2006” multimedia piece.

The activist advertising space of the future? The mobile projection vehicle passes through Times Square.

Nigel Parry is a cofounder of the Electronic Intifada, who is based in New York City.

Related Links

  • Beirut street projections in New York City, Nigel Parry (14 August 2006)
  • Imagine Life - offers a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) relating to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.