Night\Shift Festival, 2015Beat the System is an interactive installation commissioned by the Night\Shift Festival. The piece was created by Stephen Trothen and Paisley Cozzarin.
The piece is a historical investigation which attempts to connect the past and present use of the building at 44 Gaukel Street - a former Canada Post office that now plays host to digital media labs for Conestoga College and University of Waterloo students.
Since the movement of data no longer materializes as manual human labour, the work was an attempt to re-visualize this data flow and have users apply human labour to now automated processes, inspired by a 1960s news clipping from The K-W Record that explained how mail sorters coped with boredom during the mechanical and repetitive task of sorting mail. This boredom lead to the invention of a game in which employees sought to gain points for wasting time.
Drawing on this, the installation had participants manually sorting 1024 pieces of mail that were shattered on the floor between an 8X8 cubby and a computer kiosk. Each piece of mail corresponded to a single pixel of a digital image that was projected above the cubby. When the postal codes were entered into the computer, a single pixel was either turned off (black) or turned on (white). Through this process, the digital image ultimately revealed a message.