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The Projection Bombing

Of Super Bowl 49

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Local Artist Collective Onomoly Merges Technology And Artistic Statement To Create Free Speech Platform For Phoenix Residents Stifled By The Big Game


By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Feb. 6, 2015 — While all of Phoenix’s advertising space was bought out by Tostitos, Pepsi, and Bud Light during Super Bowl week, Phoenix-metro artist collective Onomoly found a new and creative way to get their message out to the football worshiping masses who had gathered in downtown Phoenix for the big game.

Onomoly used several RGB lasers to project tweets posted with the hashtag #LaserTwitter from a warehouse space on First and Madison streets onto several different high profile locations in downtown Phoenix — The Hotel Palomar and The Verizon Super Bowl Central stage while The Roots were playing their free show on the evening of Jan. 31. They also used a long projection screen that was stationed on top of the warehouse to project some of the tweets, which were easily visible from street level and Super Bowl Central.

Using projectors to communicate en-masse has become increasingly common over the past four years, and is also known as projection bombing, architectural projection or projection mapping. Previous uses — such as the display of the Maine labor mural on that state’s  capitol building in 2011 — displayed pictures and message only. Onomoly’s use of interactive community-based access to the message via Twitter was the first known use of its type.

A representative of Onomoly, who wished to remain nameless because the group is planning future projects and wish to avoid being targeted, described the team as a loosely-structured, collective of artists who want to see the worlds of art, technology, culture, and activism interact more closely.

“We gave the average Joe the opportunity to speak,” said the Onomoly member. “Maybe they had something to say about the NFL or maybe they had something to say about other things. I liked the idea of giving people a voice in a space like that, otherwise dominated by corporate dollars.”

Examples of tweets posted in downtown Phoenix through #Lasertwitter ...

The majority of people who utilized the platform seemed to use it to complain about the line to get into Bud Light’s House of Whatever. Others used it to ‘big up’ their favorite football team, shed light on a social issue, or the old standby ... draw a penis. But what seemed most important to Onomoly was that people said something,

“We were giving people a free uncensored voice in that spot. Every single inch of that whole downtown area was dominated by NFL mandates, if you had a bar down there and billboard on the outside of the building the NFL was given rights to that as part of the Super Bowl agreement with the city,” said the Onomoly’s representative. “The idea of #lasertwiter was to build a cool interactive sounding board that people could use during Super Bowl week.”

According to the Onomoly spokesman, nothing they were doing was illegal but they still had  a run in with the Phoenix police officers during their outing on Friday, Jan. 30.

“It was looking good and working well but our doors happened to be open and police showed up. They said ‘you aren’t breaking any laws that we know of but Bud Light is aggravated. They are upset because they had tried to procure the rights to project onto the building but the Palomar said no to Budweiser’,” said the Onomoly spokesman. “We decided to put it up on our own ground, kind of doing it guerilla-style just because we could.”

Onomoly continued to project on Friday but kept their tweets off of The Hotel Palomar for the rest of the evening. They however would not be stopped altogether.

“On Saturday (Jan. 31) we locked our doors and kept projecting on to The Palomar for all of Saturday night,” said the spokesman. “The police came back again but couldn't get in so we kept projecting.”

Sgt. Jonathan Howard of the Phoenix police said the department could not confirm whether or not contact was made and that such activities are not a violation of any city statutes as far as he is aware.

According to the Onolmoly spokesman, the group didn’t even utilize the full potential of #LaserTwitter on this first go-round. He said future uses will likely include hashtags to change the color of the letters. For instance, an Arizona Cardinals fan could tweet “Go Cardinals #LaserTwitter #Red,” and it could change the colors of the letters to Cardinal red.

He also described a game that could potentially happen where a boxing match between two laser boxers could be decided by which one receives more hashtag encouragement on Twitter.

But for Onomoly, the potential uses of #lasertwitter go far beyond supporting football teams and playing Twitter games.

“We don’t have any specific plans but I do think we are going to use that kind of technology again, probably many times. This was the very first run there is a lot of potential and a lot of possibilities,” he said.

The overall goals of the group are progress, enlightenment, engagement, and encouraging normal people in the global population to get more involved in their governance.

“We really do passionately believe that a lot of our governmental systems are deeply flawed at a foundational level, corrupt. We so strongly believe in the power of people and the power democracy and the information age. The internet can still have its biggest reach and impact if it allows people to take back some of the power thats been hoarded by the elite. It all sounds pretty grandiose, I don't know if its coming out exactly how it should,” said the Onomoly representative.

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at
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