REGRETS [Cambridge]

team: Jane Mulfinger, Graham Budgett, Carl Magagnosc
support: MicroSoft Research Cambridge & The University of Westminster, UK REGRETS.ORG.UK - contribute your regrets to the global archive - view contributions to and initial documentation of the localised event REGRETS Cambridge [November 10 - 20, 2005] Regrets: a public conceptual artwork

Six to ten purpose-built mobile computer stations publicly located in and around Cambridge collect anonymously submitted regrets from the public to comprise a sociological database of contemporary regret and remorse. Instant feedback to the individual user based on other contributors' similar concerns is algorithmically generated and calculated to 'share the burden'. Random selections and groupings of the regrets are made public across the city through existing signage and broadcast facilities. By engaging users in revelations of a problematic but constructive nature, we aim to bring specificities of individual lives, in this case personal regrets, into the realm of public debate, shared learning, and community. Background

Regrets are often the conceptual vehicle of self-improving tendencies, but they are rarely communally active in any meaningful way. We propose a self-organising archive of regrets, accessible for contribution and retrieval via public booths. Remorse is posited here as a positive entity, incorporating recall, reflection, 'error correction' and learning. Far from retrograde, remorse promises change for the better. Project Details

Each booth houses a terminal with wireless connection to a central database located on a remote server. Self-organising algorithms use keywords from the submitted text and other self-describing user input to define similarity. [Chance will have a pseudo-poetic and perhaps comedic role to play in output.]

The booth method of submission, as opposed to mobile phones, for example, is intrinsic to the anonymity of the messages. The booths are a hybrid of church confessional and automated teller machines where a user can deposit regrets and/or receive a statement of similar transactions. Signage will provide instructions in usage as well as mapping sites in the city for experiencing the public aspects of the work.

Local venues for public display and broadcast will air sampled results from the archive. These sites and means of distribution will be garnered by negotiating permission of use from local business, community and media sources. Each display will be adjusted to the circumstances at hand [i.e. a listing of the regrets in video display format could be used in the window display of an electronic appliances shop]. The situational aspect of display is considered to be a part of the work and a part of the community outreach in the work.

Vision Statement

We believe that a community's conceptual and aesthetic engagement in art and the culture of new technologies benefits that community, art, culture in general, and those technologies. The public is both relieved and entertained by the anonymously shared burden of remorse. The REGRETS team sees great power in the possibility of collective redemption.

To engage the public in art and alternative use of new technologies
To humanise technology and increase its scope
To contribute to community mental-health and well-being
To blur the distinction between public and private thought

The creation of an archive that is a specific glimpse of a certain population at a certain time
A heightened awareness in the local population of shared concern
A recognition in the local population of a willingness to learn from past error
The alleviation of personal angst

Social and Cultural Relevance

The local public will have the opportunity to commit their personal cares to an archive of community messages, entering a 'common-knowledge' pool of misgivings and good intentions. The resultant comfort may be seen to substitute the church confessional or the psychiatrist's couch.

This project belongs to a growing body of work being produced in the contemporary art world that can be characterised as Information Art. [Implicit in this tendency is the notion that we can learn from existing data and information by reconfiguring it conceptually and looking at the results again in the context of art]. The project also reflects growing assertions of temporary art into the public sphere, at once testing general public assumptions about artwork, and bringing the work beyond the potently elitist history of the gallery/museum paradigm.


©2005 REGRETS team: Jane Mulfinger, Graham Budgett, Carl Magagnosc