Ali Momeni was born in Isfahan, Iran, and emigrated to the United States at the age of 12. He currently works as an artist and professor at Carnegie Mellon. His work utilizes many technologies to explore the social lives of objects and their embedded performative qualities. As part of his Creative Capital supported project, Center for Urban Intervention Research, Momeni just released A Manual for Urban Projection, so we caught up with him to find out more about it.
Alex Teplitzky: Tell me how you got the idea for Center for Urban Intervention Research, and how it got underway. Are there political elements to the project as the name seems to suggest?
Ali Momeni: The Center for Urban Intervention Research was born out of an increasing number of collaborative, public projects that I initiated and led in the past few years. Starting with my work with MAW, an urban projection collective I founded in Minneapolis in 2008, I have spent several years creating shared experiences in public spaces that leverage new technologies and bring people together. These works (like The Battle of Everyouth, The Gutless Warrior, Statuevision) shared several features: they occur in public spaces, they are cross-generational, conversational and playful, and they use live-cinema and video projection to create an emotional connection between the work and its participants. After years of practice with this medium, I decided that it was time to create an umbrella organization for this part of my practice, a way to create a community around experiential work in public spaces.
Alex: A Manual for Urban Projection is the first book to come out of this project. Who is it meant for? What do you hope will come out of its publication?
Ali: We wrote A Manual for Urban Projection for a broad range of people. It’s made to be readable in 1-hour, easily photocopiable, and it’s highly pictorial. We think it’ll be useful for artists, activists, community organizers or citizens at large who see potential in sharing images and ideas in public spaces. We really believe that the medium of urban projection is approachable to many more people outside of large-scale spectacle producers and advertisement companies, and the manual is an attempt to open those doorways.
Alex: You’ve pooled together some case studies for urban projection. Do you have any favorites? Any ones that went awry—or ones you’ve truly learned from?
Ali: The case studies reflect real-world performances that occurred in public spaces. They are included in the manual as generalized road-maps for how to create a kind of conversation or interaction with people in public spaces. A couple of scenarios that we’ve returned to again and again over the years are the Drawing and Interview scenarios. The power of live-drawing never ceases to amaze me and the interview format can be very powerful in the public sphere and within the interventionist performance context.
Alex: And also, You have to tell me more about the telepuppet.taxi [watch his CCReteat presentation for more details]! Has this project started with real participants yet?
Ali: Telepuppet.taxi has not yet started! We’re looking for contacts in Uber/Lyft to help sponsor the project. Stay tuned for more on that project!
Check out and purchase Ali’s Manual for Urban Projection on his website here.