Digital Natives

Posted on Mar 8, 2012 in Digital Natives, Projects

image of electronic billboard with texts sent to digital natives

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Electronic Billboard

Burrard Street Bridge
Vancouver, BC

April 4 – 30, 2011

Curated by Lorna Brown and Clint Burnham

Located on Skwxwú7mesh territory in the heart of the city, the digital signs, facing north and south, flashed a static advertisement every ten seconds. Their scale, and their proximity to the bridge made for an assertive relationship to the pedestrians, cyclists and motorists entering and departing downtown, and this occupation of visual space has been the subject of considerable controversy.

For Digital Natives, the billboard became a space for exchange between native and non-native communities in an exploration of language in public space. Using the form of tweets, artists and writers from across North America contributed text messages for broadcast during the month of April, coinciding with the 125th Anniversary of the City of Vancouver. Interrupting the flow of advertisements, the brief messages responded to the location and history of the billboard; of digital language and translation, and of the city itself. extends the conversation, featuring a blog that captures the exchange between contributors across the continent. The contested history of the site is chronicled in text and images, and a live Twitter feed continues to track public responses to the project.

Digital Natives is public art that the public not only ‘received’, but also produced. Contributions from First Nations young people were gathered through a series of workshops, and local and remote audiences were invited to tweet their messages to @ diginativ for broadcast.

Public Language Trouble

example of text message

Sixty messages were composed for Digital Natives: two contributions, and one Skwxwú7mesh translation were omitted before broadcast by the corporation that is under contract to manage the billboard’s content, Astral Media Outdoor. We present them here in solidarity with these respected artists:

Contributing Artists and Writers:

Candice Hopkins, cheyanne turions, Chris Bose, Christian Bok, Daina Warren, Edgar Heap of Birds, Emily Fedoruk, Henry Tsang, Jeff Derksen, Larissa Lai, Lisa Robertson, Lori Emerson, Marianne Nicolson, Mercedes Eng, Michael Turner, Peter Morin, Phillip Djwa, Postcommodity, Rachel Zolf, Raymond Boisjoly, Rita Wong, Roger Farr, Sonny Assu, Tania Willard.

Digital Natives was commissioned by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program with the support of Vancouver 125 and the participation of the Government of Canada. We are grateful for the support of The Canada Council for the Arts and the Museum of Anthropology, at the University of British Columbia.

Follow us on Twitter @diginativ