Jeffrey Shaw, Dirk Groeneveld

The Legible City


Werk - The Legible City
Artist / Artist group
Jeffrey Shaw, Dirk Groeneveld
The Legible City
Edition / Serial number
Original (SGI / PC)
installation, computer-based
Material / Technique
bicycle interface, computer (SGI Indigo II Maximum Impact), operating system (IRIX), custom software, computer (PC), operating system (Linux), custom software, custom-made electronics, TFT monitor, projector, concave projection surface
Dimensions / Duration
Installation dimensions variable

»The Legible City« is a key work in the history of interactive media art. At a time when interactive 3-D graphics were still in their infancy and computers were controlled exclusively by keyboard, mouse or joystick, Jeffrey Shaw developed an interface that involved not only fingers or hand but the whole body of the viewer: a modified bicycle. On this bicycle, the viewers, who now had to be called 'users', explored three poetic virtual representations of the cities of Amsterdam, Karlsruhe and New York (Manhattan).

In front of a large projection screen is the permanently mounted bicycle with a small screen. Pedalling activates the projection, which shows the simulated representation of a city. A switch button on the bicycle handlebars can be used to select between the cities. The respective ground plans and the location of the riders can be traced on the small monitor for orientation. The riders determine their own speed and direction by pedalling. The streets through which the journey leads do not consist of houses, but of letters. The size and colour of the letters imitate the real architecture of the streets. Depending on the direction chosen, the drivers can recombine words and texts that have a literary or historical reference to the location. The exploration of the city thus also becomes an individual reading experience. The three versions of the installation were created between 1988 and 1991.

Author: Theresa Rößler