Friction Ridge - CODAworx

Friction Ridge

Submitted by Emilie Crewe

Client: The City of New Westminster

Location: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $40,000

Project Team

Artist

Emilie Crewe

Creative Technologist

Chris Jung

[Partial] Fabricators

Area58 Innovation

Commissioning Party

City of New Westminster

Overview

Real-time, Interactive Silicone LED Installation with Website Application
RGB Silicone LED Light Strips mounted on Six Aluminum Frames (108” x 72”)
Three Exterior Façade/Three Interior-Facing
Raspberry Pi Computer w/ Real-time Interactive Website Application coded in Python Language
Electronics Technician & Code Designer: Christopher Jung | Fabricators: Area58 Innovation

Friction Ridge is an interactive LED light installation featured on New Westminster’s City Hall (511 Royal Avenue, New Westminster, BC). The project aims to connect the local community with their government officials through a real-time messaging system connected to silicone LED light strips that resemble traditional neon signage. The public is invited to visit the project app and communicate with the artwork, sending messages via text that translate directly into cascading colours. Each letter of the alphabet represents a different RGB colour code, chasing through the bands of silicone. Composed to mimic the pattern of fingerprints, the project intends to honour individual views while also bringing awareness to the strength and tenacity of the collective voice.

Goals

Balancing the process of allowing the artwork to develop while planning ahead for fabrication is crucial. As the commissioned artist, my primary goal was to uphold the integrity of the concept, which aimed to provide a platform for community interaction through messages. The vision was for people to send messages and express themselves through light and colour. The venue, being a government building, added an intriguing dynamic that I wanted to ensure could be fully showcased. I knew that as long as the real-time messaging system was working, the visual design layout would fall into place.

Process

Collaborating closely with my friend and colleague, Chris Jung, was pivotal throughout the creation of Friction Ridge. Chris' background in engineering technology and design played a crucial role in the project's success. Creative computation and electronics often require troubleshooting, so having Chris as a collaborative partner was invaluable to me as the commissioned artist.

The fabricators who helped bring the final product to life were exceptionally skilled and experienced, with a rich portfolio that included numerous light-based installations. Area58 Innovation, responsible for crafting the aluminum frames and installing Friction Ridge on New Westminster's City Hall, exhibited professionalism and extensive knowledge in tech-based projects. During the fabrication process, I had the opportunity to work alongside them in their workshop, arranging and affixing the silicone LED strips. Their expertise and support were indispensable to achieving the project's vision.

Additional Information

The title of the artwork referenced the thick layer of skin on our fingertips called the “friction ridge”, while also signifying the location of the building atop a literal ridge that overlooked the city and the Stólō [Fraser] River. Over the last couple of years, the City of New Westminster had seen significant change and turnover in the local government. A municipality’s city hall could be viewed as a place of friction, where town hall meetings convened, councillors assembled, and bills and bylaws came to pass. Friction Ridge was meant to bridge the gap between city officials and the public, forging a place for accountability, prospect, and possibility. The aim of this artwork was to provide a cathartic avenue for community members to metaphorically imprint their thoughts, ideas, and concerns onto the physical location of New Westminster’s City Hall. It was an opportunity for locals to make their mark on the building that served as the city’s headquarters and was home to city council, the mayor’s office, and various service departments. Each message that was typed into the website was ephemeral. There was no log or record of the words entered online. Text was transcribed into vibrant colours, poetically emoting in real-time.