DOTDOT 5 Digital Buskers

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Chris White, Jacques Foottit, Kate Stevenson
  • Pou Rautaki / Strategic Leads
    Nolwenn Lacire, Aaron Cleland
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Chris Andersen, Cornelius Blank
  • Kaituhi Matua / Copywriter Lead
    Liam Newth
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Gyan (aka Gary Buyn), Erwin Hessing, Nathan Foottit, Chris Liu, Lyn Collie, Clare Woodford-Robinson, Angelika Aduna, Jimi Friel, Yuan Peng, Jeffrey Holdaway, Ben Montgomery, Craig Muirhead
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Geoff Ong, Max Earnshaw, Manubrium Circus, Marmalade, Katie-Lee Webster, Lex Shoemark, Projekt Team, Pedro Ilgenfritz, James Sexton, Samantha McCutchan, Darryn Harkness, Reuben James
  • Client
    Auckland Live

Digital Buskers is an outdoor art installation commissioned by Auckland Live to celebrate local artists for NZ Music Month. It is a participatory screen-based public installation created with the goal of reigniting unexpected and engaging moments with the arts in the public space. With this project Auckland Live sought to explore the relationship between performers and audience members in the public space of Aotea Square.

Passersby in Aotea Square engaged with the Auckland Live Digital Stage by turning a steampunk-style crank in the middle of the square. Turning the crank opened the curtains on the Digital Stage to reveal one of fifteen performances. Spectators could also engage with the content from their phones by sending emojis to the screen or tipping their busker.

The Auckland Live Digital Stage is a video billboard dedicated to drawing the performing arts out from Auckland’s iconic Civic Theater, Town Hall and Aotea Center into the public square. For Digital Buskers we took that core goal and gave passersby some autonomy. The screen was treated as a window into a 3D virtual stage which redefined itself with each performance.

Our design process began by testing multiple interfaces and observing how passersby in Aotea Square engage with each device. We tested an interactive bench that you can sit on to trigger the content, a pressure sensitive pad, and a physical crank to open the virtual curtains. Ultimately we found that the physical crank generated the most user engagement and coupled with an interactive web app that allowed for real-time audience feedback we were confident we had an interaction that the public would enjoy.

For the content we sought to showcase a wide range of artists, each set in a custom 3D world that complemented their work. Between acts a red curtain on the digital screen was illuminated with a physical crank and a call to action. For interested spectators a QR code on the plinth directed them to a dedicated webpage for each artist, with pictures and information about who was currently playing, and links to their social media platforms. The audience was also encouraged to share their appreciation for the performance by sending emojis to the screen, and artists had the option to embed a donation function into their page - echoing the familiar donation mechanic of an in-person busking experience.

Digital Buskers premiered in May 2023 with eight local artists contributing to this first iteration of the project. The current design allows this experience to be adapted to other large-scale screens or be presented as a projection. The collection of pre-recorded performances can be infinitely increased so a community of Digital Buskers can grow over the world and be presented with a reduced carbon footprint. Auckland Live are looking to partner with other cultural institutions operating in the public realm to develop the Digital Buskers bank of performers and enhance cultural exchanges and exposure for the arts.