a project by Zain Burgess


Add Noise is an investigation of the subtle organizers of urban space--the everyday artifacts that inhabit our shared environment. Nearly all of the space within a city is shared, outside of the few square meters of our own private rooms. In this potentially chaotic, public-use wasteland, simple objects unconsciously signal order--and mayhem is avoided.

We have very little control over the variety of variables attached to public space, though many are bureaucratically intended to promote safety, efficiency, and order. When walking down the street we don’t need to think about where it’s safest to walk, how to cross the street, or what to do if construction suddenly blocks our desired path. We stopped considering these motions long ago—now our thoughts wander while we move on autopilot towards our destination.

But how strict are these objects and signs? And how actively does the average person perceive these symbols? Does tampering with the structure lead to miscommunication, or does it make us reconsider how our bodies move through space?

With the above questions I started a process of manipulating objects in public space; using sculptural methodologies to test how art can infect signs, objects or even garbage to communicate altered messages. My experimentations in public space began with this idea, as well as the unique process of working with materials outside of the safety of the studio. There is something to be said about the vulnerability of public space.

While changing things around, some people assumed that what I was doing was commissioned--others stared at me as if ready to blow the proverbial whistle. I ran into a group of teenage taggers who admitted to perceiving urban space as a blank canvas to draw on, without recognizing it as three-dimensional environment in which loose debris can also function as an extension of ideas.

I hoped that my modifications would create some slippage in the regular, everyday rhythmic motion of people—by either challenging their acceptance of symbols or suggesting a different way to access the city.

Zain Burgess, Berlin, August 2008

Zain Burgess is finishing his studies in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.
He dearly misses his alternative life as a warrior ninja in Berlin. He is currently
searching for a millionairess with her own yacht and underground business
dealing club-mate and schnitzel. Email Zain with comments and ideas.