How big can you make an inch?
Several months ago, I was commissioned by PROBOSCIS to create an installation on 27 cubes: "Transformation: How We Become Who We Are." While working on the cubes (some of which are shown above) I first heard about the LOVELAND project in Detroit.
Perhaps because I was working daily with cubes and my imagination, the idea of a city of a million square inches that fits in a warehouse in Detroit and yet relies on technology and creativity to amplify the size of each inch made perfect sense.
The installation was immediately influenced by the LOVELAND project. "Transformation" (which will launch soon) expanded first into virtual and augmented realities and then evolved into the first developed parcel in a project called 1000 INCHES IN LOVELAND.
What is 1000 INCHES IN LOVELAND?
Stories have a tendency to get lost if they aren't shared right away, so here's how the 1000 INCHES IN LOVELAND deal went down:
CHELSEA (on a rainy night during the height of NYC's new monsoon season)---
My collaborator, Joshua Fouts, wears round black glasses. We’d been invited to the event by David Green and Liz Dreyer with a pink lotus and two shining orange fish inked on her calf. We’d met at White Oak Plantation near Jacksonville, Florida, where we drove past rhinos and zebras on the way to the lodge to meet in groups and discuss the consequences of the economic downturn on the arts and how this might be overcome through meaningful participation in the digital culture. We promised we’d meet again in New York. I invited GG, who now stands in front of me, having run late from Brooklyn but committed to keeping his word.
There he is, all six-feet-six-and change of him, wearing a shirt that says, “I’ve got twelve inches in Detroit,” in neat capital letters that could only have been ironed in place by the man himself. He goes by Jerry because he’s not crazy about George Gerald Paffendorf III, but he doesn't seem like a Jerry to me, so I call him GG.
“What’s going on in Detroit?” I ask. GG lifts his eyebrows because the answer to that question is going to take some time, but he's excited for the chance to tell, and I can't wait to hear.
The room has been set up as a bar for the night, so people come and go. Josh, GG and I sequester ourselves in a corner overlooking the amber rectangles of light spangling the wet slate street-scape. Josh had met GG in Singapore in 2007. I met them both on the same day in San Jose a few months later.
GG won Josh's undying affection when, less than 24 hours after they met in Singapore, this GG-magic image with (GG, left and Josh right) appeared among Josh's copious electronic correspondence.
GG is 27 years old and he’s already an admired futurist, which may explain why he has an air of time travel about him, as if you could set the dial to any time or place in which humans have interacted and he would find a way to improve life through his imagination and capacity for catalyzing collaboration. For over two years I’ve been waiting for his Big Idea, but I had no idea it would end up being so tiny.
“Detroit,” he says. “Okay. Loveland, is what the project is called--a million square inches that I’m going to sell for $1 each. Anyone from around the world can buy one, or more than one, and be a part of the community. The inches are just a jumping point for people, and they can be as big as the minds of the community. Loveland is a platform to connect people. People will come together to build this new land. Every inch will exist in the physical world and in the digital realm at the same time. What’s going to happen? There’s no way to know in advance, and that’s the fun of it. But you know something will happen. Reality will...be...augmented!”
He stopped to eat a cheese cracker and a few grapes and then went on to explain why he’d chosen to tie a virtual project with the physical world by placing it in Detroit, a story I know all too well from my work in the Gulf Coast: economic decline, mass exodus of the jobless population, widespread systemic change and the absence of a clear path for transformation.
“Detroit was the most futuristic city that existed for a time,” he says, “an engineer’s dream of tinkering coming together with a possible vision of reality, like the automobile moving at sixty miles in an hour move a person to another place. The universe is like a seed. So it’s just how big can you make your inches? What can you do with an inch if the only thing stopping you from making it as big as you can imagine is your ability to imagine it? Think about all the things people can do with it.”
To GG, confusion isn’t an obstacle. If some people don’t get it, that won’t stop him from reaching those who do. Around us, people listen and gather, and someone asks for more information on the Loveland project. What can people do with an inch, really? Is this a real inch, or an imaginary inch that some guy from New Jersey will sell you for $1 because he has a million of them?
“The inch markers are just something that give a human feeling,” GG said. “They act as a connector for the sense of ownership. An inch sounds stupid until suddenly you have something that can be connected to other people, and then you see how big and important that is. I know it’s funny. I know it makes people smile. It’s game-like, but it’s a city that will fit into a warehouse.”
The population of Loveland, if all million inches are sold, might end up being higher than the current population of Detroit: 800,000.
“Dancing Ink Productions will take 1000 INCHES IN LOVELAND,” I say. “For economic and cultural development. Loveland is a new city and I'm going to create a neighborhood and document its development. The neighborhood will be known as the Imagination Age.”
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” said GG. “Right on.”
I grab a stack of paper and start to sketch out the grid.
“You already know where you want your inches to be?” he asks. “Look at that! It’s real!”
It *is* real. Starting next week, space within 1000 INCHES IN LOVELAND: The Imagination Age," will be available.
Follow on Twitter: @1000Inches.