Marcos Zotes is an artist and architect who uses the city as a canvas for his work. Through his design lab, Unstable, he stages urban interventions to get people to engage with their environments and experience them in an unconventional way. These interventions take the form of light projections and take place on derelict or disused buildings and properties, breathing new life into places that have become stagnant or empty.
His work often includes the citizens that live in the urban environment and challenges them to question their relationship to the city, recontextualising the familiar to get people to reevaluate their surroundings. His Your Text Here project involved members of the public who could send an anonymous text message voicing whatever opinion (or expletive) they wanted to, which would then be projected onto a building in midtown Detroit.
Your Text Here
Other pieces look at the surveillance culture prevalent in most modern cities, like his CCTV/Creative Control and [e]mission. The former featured a giant video-projected eye on the bottom of an abandoned water tower in Brooklyn, and the latter created a spotlight on people when they walked past a CCTV, turning the city into a stage and reminding them and the rest of us what these ubiquitous cameras are doing.
We fired off some questions to Zotes to find out a bit more about his work.
What made you choose to use the urban environment as a canvas for your art?
More than a choice, it has been the result of a natural process that started when I was a young skateboarder and graffiti artist in the early 90s. Through these art forms I learned that the urban environment could be experienced beyond the limitations of its intended purpose. The entire city became a playground, an environment to be colonized through a creative process. Today, my work as an architect continues to follow this approach. My interventions seek to challenge the limitations of urban public space by providing opportunities for debate, autonomy, and social interaction.
What do you feel using multi-disciplinary practices adds to your work?
I believe a multidisciplinary approach is necessary when attempting to address the complexity of social and political issues affecting urban public space. Therefore I understand it as an essential aspect of my practice. Whenever I conceive new work, I like to explore new territories and incorporate elements that may be foreign to my field of expertise. It is through the multidisciplinary process of creation that I am able to learn new tools, art techniques, and design methods, allowing me to grow as a creator.
Do you feel the urban environment is often neglected by those that live in it, purely because it becomes so commonplace?
Urban public space has become today a highly controlled environment that is defined by exclusions, where only certain types of users, activities, and behaviors are permitted. Often dominated by the forces of the market, the urban environment is neglected primarily by the oppressive, top-down mechanisms of control that rule it. We, as citizens, need to take the initiative to identify and transform problematic urban conditions in order to create new opportunities to empower our local communities.