Beach Augury

Art Basel Miami Beach, 2003
Will Pappenheimer, Greg Ulmer and FRE (the Florida Research Ensemble)

Webcam technologies have often suffered from questions of practical use value and problems of global surveillance. In an attempt to a identify a new form of meaningful panoptics we have employed a beach cam to identify a constellation pattern for a contemporary version of a consultation system. "Beach Augury" refers to the ancient practice of setting out a rectangle, often in the sky, and scrutinizing it for a particular period of time to count the number of stars, birds, etc. that pass through. This information was used to read and give advice for the future. In this case we draw a rectangle in a section of the Edison Hotel webcam in South Beach and watch for beach goers that pass through. We count and account for their attributes. We also call this "Playamancy" from the Spanish”’ Playa" for beach and the suffix "mancy" for the practice of attempting to foretell events or to discover the disposition of a person. In the resulting series of works, these images are marked by poms, blown up into distant pixel pom pictures, and disseminated throughout world in an attempt to become a source for our contemporary version of a "reading".

This project also has an important relationship to the previous work done by FRE in "Miami Miautre." The extended project by members of the FRE from 1998 to present explored(s) the history, geopolitics and inhabitants of the Miami River, as it became the problem site of Haitian refugees, Caribbean culture and shipping. The river was (is) thus the "other" water of Miami, challenging the glossy tourist image of South Beach. In this case, through the mechanisms of augury, the problem zone of the Miami River is conjoined with the image of tourist beach culture as a site for asking questions about the situation, my situation and the situation of the place.

Currently in process, is a software version of Playamancy called Playasoft. Through image recognition and motion detection this program will identify patterns in the Edison Hotel Beach cam which can "read" the users fortunes in an image database.

Installation Works

Beach Divigation Series

Pome Kit

starry duo with red and white T-shirts

a few (starry) personages

The Flight of Birds

Fountain and Miami River Switch with Hotspots

Playamancy Software

Playamancy Online

Praiamancy SP

New York Times disseminating image, Decenber 7, 2003