For years, people in Pittsburgh have been able to get weather forecasts, holiday displays and occasional sports updates by glancing at the illuminated peak of the city's Gulf Tower building. There will be a change in programming, though, on February 11-13th, when the "Weather Beacon" will be replaced by a virtual mood ring to gauge the positive or negative nature of regional Instagram comments. The museum cooked up the Gulf Tower Project to coincide with artist Antoine Catala's upcoming "Distant Feel" exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It highlights the ways images can provoke emotional responses, even if they're just a Valencia-filtered photo of a cat in a box.
This is all part of the Hillman Photography Initiative's larger "Orphaned Images" project dealing with the impact of photography in contemporary society. If that cat photo makes the city all warm and fuzzy, green light will begin to fill one side of the building's apex to reflect the positive vibes in the area. If people start grumbling about items in the feed, red will climb up the opposing side. A computer program will sift through the text of each Instagram photo in the Pittsburgh area, giving each a score based on the positive and/or negative keywords it contains in comments. These results will be averaged and transmitted to the Tower's lighting system to provide minute-by-minute updates projecting the overall vibe in the Steel City. If you're not a local, you can follow along online for the project's three-day run and join in the conversation at the museum's Instagram page.
Catala's "Distant Feel" exhibit will run from Feb. 14th - May 18th at the Carnegie Museum of Art, by which time you'll be able to rely on the Weather Beacon again to help you decide if it's time to ditch that winter jacket yet.
(Update: The museum has clarified that the Gulf Tower Project was developed in-house to coincide with Catala's exhibit and not by the artist himself.)