A show of hands
Is there anything more satisfying than sticking your hand in some paint and popping a print on a piece of paper? Imagine how amazing it would be to do that on an immense scale, putting your handprint on the side of one of Manchester’s tallest towers.
Handprint on City Tower
That’s just what Handprint, an interactive public art installation in Piccadilly Gardens, allows you to do, letting anyone who fancies it to pop their palm print on the side of the City Tower.
And while it uses a complex combination of technologies behind the scenes to make it happen, according to Handprint's designer Alastair Eilbeck, the experience for the person who is making the print is as uncomplicated as the more traditional hand-in-paint version.
"Simply, we have a kiosk with a touch screen and a hand scanner. Once you have scanned your hand, you'll see it on the touch screen where you can rotate and position it on a graphic of the City Tower. As you do this, the image of your hand moving and rotating is projected onto the building itself.
"When you are happy, you click 'go' and it joins the scanned hands which have been previously 'printed' onto the building. You will also receive a unique number which allows you to visit the website and view your handprint.
"After about 11pm, the kiosk is removed and we will project an animation of all the hands collected."
Enjoyable as that sounds, the thing which really marks Handprint out is the massive 'canvas' – City Tower is 107 metres tall – and it is that size that which made Alastair chose it for the piece.
"Scale is a marvellous thing; it takes the ordinary and gives it impact. Also, the idea of your hand movement being replicated at this scale really enhances the interactive feeling.
"Taking a piece of architecture and making it into a giant canvas is a way of affecting a large urban space."
That said, Alastair admits that while the scale is significant to the effect of the piece, equally essential is the subject matter and the fact that people are personally involved with it.
"The idea is very simple. It is about involving the participant in a direct and personal way. The interaction is key; those few seconds that the user spends interacting are the pay off.
"Also important is the idea of bringing the art into the fabric of the city. It’s visiting you, rather than you visiting it.
How Handprint will look from Oldham Street
"Hands are very similar but yet also unique, so beyond the direct interaction, the projected image creates a uniform but very human texture on the building. I hope by using handprints, people will make more of a visceral connection to the piece."
The chance to hand print City Tower isn’t around for long. The kiosk and the projection will only be in Piccadilly Gardens for one weekend, but there's plenty of chances to have a go.
Alastair says the more people are involved, the better it will be, and he's particularly interested in getting people into the kiosk who didn't even know that the artwork was happening.
"For me, my ideal participant is someone that is spontaneously distracted from their normal routine - commuting, shopping or whatever - and decides to take five minutes to scan their hand and view the projection.
"Hopefully, they get to view and appreciate their surroundings with a new perspective."
It's pretty much guaranteed that Alastair will succeed in that aim. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see a massive print of your palm waving down at you from the side of a building.
The Handprint kiosk is open in Piccadilly Gardens (next to Kro Piccadilly) from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 December between 4pm and 11pm.
last updated: 10/12/2008 at 11:51