urban_scape [s]

Composed by:

Michael Takeo Magruder [04.2005]

Assisted by:

Emma Puente [cinematography]


PC or Mac system, Internet Browser with Flash 6+ plugin, color display with ≥1024x768 resolution, and Stereo Audio.


The mobile phone has undergone an evolutionary progression from a limited and mundane communication instrument to a multi-functional device augmented with computer and photographic/video capabilities. Indicative of Weiser’s notion of ubiquitous computing, this hybridised technological set continues to permeate the entire social strata of the developed world and has become our primary link to the digital realm. Generating transitory and ephemeral networks, the mobile phone mediates our most intimate of communications and exchanges. It has become our aide-memoire, collecting snapshots and recordings of our lives – at all times and in all places - thus eroding the actual and perceived divisions between public and private space.

Within this technological and sociological framework, there exists the potential to implement this medium as a mechanism to explore, critique and expand the conceptual and aesthetic structures within the classical genre of painting. Embracing the functionality of the mobile phone as an omnipresent collector of imagery, can the inherent characteristics of these devices, ranging from their physical recording limitations to their low-bandwidth data format and consequential compression artefacting, become meaningful creative elements in a formalised artistic product? Does the fusion of these device-level qualities with the innate algorithmic processes afforded by the digital domain, affect the characterisation of the studied ‘picture’ by re-defining fundamental aspects of the creative process such as subject acquisition and artwork distribution?

Within this scenario, does such a representation of the ‘natural’ world attain a greater or different ‘truthfulness’?


Utilising only a SVP c500 smartphone as a recording instrument, a subject was requested to generate cinematic content interpreting the notion of ‘urban landscape’ while travelling on the M6 motorway through Birmingham, UK. From the resulting material a single two minute audio/video stream was extracted and utilised (with only minor editing/manipulation) as the exclusive source material for the artwork.