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Watch: Austin Unveils the World's Nosiest Lamp Posts

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
A text from a thing.

Think of a time you’ve talked to an object that can’t talk back. Maybe you’ve yelled at your car when it wouldn’t start, or screamed at the leg of a table after stubbing your toe on it.

While Austinites have always had the option to talk to inanimate objects while walking down the street, now the objects will talk – or rather, text – back.

That’s the aim of a city art interactive opening today called “Hello Lamp Post,” and it works like this:

1. Roll up to a parking meter, or a bench, any permanent street object.

2. Dial the number found at (that number will be released to the public later today).

3. If the object you're trying to reach is a fire hydrant, say, then type “hello fire hydrant."

4. Add a hashtag with the reference number found on that object.

5. Send.

Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
Ben Barker and Sam Hill, co-creaters of the project.

The object will text back with questions, or it might pass along texts others have sent.

The city of Austin commissioned the project from British art collective Pan Studio, who first set it up in the U.K.

Ben Barker is one of the artists who conceived “Hello Lamp Post.” He says the idea is that these objects speak as if they were alive. 

The lamp post, for instance: “So, it talks about its role lighting the city, its fears about getting 'weed' on by dogs," Barker says.

In the video below, Barker breaks it down.

Barker says the project is also about seeing what people before you have said to the objects about their specific locations around Austin.

"By talking to it, people are leaving messages that then become the personality of that object, cause that’s what it tells other people. It tells them that people are weird around there. Or it tells them that buses run on time around there. You know, whatever it is," he says.

UT Austin junior Kevin Vela tried it out Wednesday as part of a demo – listen below.

And thus a reciprocal conversation between a man and a lamp was born.

Although the city’s unveiling “Hello Lamp Post” today, it’ll have another launch during South by Southwest in March. And while the objects – those benches, parking meters and lampposts – will stick around for awhile, the art interactive won’t. “Hello Lamp Post” will only be active for two months, a decision the artist says heightens the experience.

The public is invited to a free kick-off event today, 4-6 p.m. at Republic Square Park, 422 Guadalupe Street.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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