Elgin Talkies is a 110-year old theatre in Shivaji Nagar. This electrical installation, mostly held up with cellotape and binding wire and reconfigured almost every day, was up for 5 evenings at the theatre and on the street outside it.
The principal idea was that "digital" technologies typically involve atleast two states, both equally valuable. For example, on and off, typical states in an electrical system, can mean various things from various user-positions, depending on contextual factors such as who owns the switch, what is assumed about what may be turned on or off, where the result occurs relative to ones body, and so on. One implication even at the simplest electrical level is that one or the other state may be "hidden" at a given time, and may contain potential for revelatory, dangerous, disallowed, or otherwise tranformative acts.
In this work, the default condition was a decorated building. This was also what we had official permission to do. At the same time, multiple switches (sometimes three, at other times four) were placed on the building facade and across the street on lamp-posts. These switches were momentary, on-if-pressed type, and triggered 'changes' or transformations in the decorated building facade, as follows (in one typical scenario):
1. Poster lights go off, overhead tape player comes on.
2. Window lights go off, 'now playing' film poster flies out.
3. Smoke machine plays.
4. Edge lights go off, disco ball comes on.
An audience on the street could thus switch from a light-decorated facade to other, displaced conditions, evoking a cinema 'leaking' its media out onto the street, as well as an architecture of 'special effects'. All of the pieces and lights were sourced from a decorator whose shop was about 50 feet away from the Elgin gate. Many times the arrangements were changed, after discussions with the decorator and owner. At night we would take the switches out, to reduce the chances of the PWD (public works department, which is on the lookout for electrical violations) finding them.
Pressing any of the buttons was technically a crime, because it caused electricity to 'leak' out of the movie house, beyond its property line, to activate the 'changes'. To place a total of four final switches, two non-legal street crossings were made, and one electrical connection was drawn from the corner meat shop (see map).
The illegality of this setup is ultimately trivial, because of the fact that any number of wireless technologies could technically accomplish the same results, and also because such regulations (including the one banning a street crossing) are routinely stretched in outdoor decorations for example. Still, the deliberate use of mains voltage, and the semi-official show of "rewiring", caused both drama and anxiety on the street.