A worn out armchair, an old telephone and a small desk. This, at first glance random collection of old furniture is UM2010, an interactive robot that I presented during the art installation Universal Meeting at several popular meeting places in the city centre of Sofia from 9th to 11th of September 2010.
Popa, Telefonite and Tsarevets, the names have turned into codes that spare people long explanations, arguments and a risk of missing each other. The evening leisure time starts at these places and here you can unexpectedly meet old, forgotten friends. Every day, dozens of people spend ten, twenty minutes or more waiting for their dates. The author of the installations uses the almost instinctive reaction to a ringing telephone to break the ice between the public and the robot. When someone picks up the receiver, one of ten contemporary urban stories is told.
The city is alive and the meeting places are its organs for communication. As if by pure chance, some points in the city's geography develop into meeting spots that become fixed part of the common mind map shared by its inhabitants. The interactive installation Universal Meeting aims to give these places a voice, it tries to disclose their social importance and make them more comfortable and homely. Despite the changes of the urban environment and modern means of communication, people still need physical contact and so it is necessary to maintain these meeting places.
The armchair contrasts with the urban environment that surrounds it. The street is strained and exposed to different weather conditions. It is polluted, broken and changes constantly. The furniture, on the other hand, is supposed to be used indoors. It is normally sheltered from violence and vandalism. By taking it outside, the author points our attention at the fragility of the public space.