Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP NUMBER: Vallera and Freeman show “Signs of Intelligence”

Art in Odd Places’ (AiOP) 2013 festival is almost here! From October 11-20, artists will be presenting works all along 14th Street, from Avenue C all the way to the Hudson River, based around the theme of NUMBER.  Taking abstract and literal approaches, this year’s artists will be showing how numbers define us, excite us, scare us, make us think, make us feel, and are just ever-present entities in each and every one of our lives.  For this year’s festival, artists Julia Vallera and Samwell Freeman are hoping to open up our eyes by showing us their signs.


“Signs of Intelligence.” Photo courtesy of Martin Munoz.

“Signs of Intelligence” is the latest work produced by this dynamic duo.  Using 14th Street as their inspiration, Vallera and Freeman have created and installed their own street signs along this roadway, each expressing the number 14 in ways that engage the audience and make them think.  For example, one sign might say something like “Days in a Fortnight,” or another will read “(26/2+1)=?”  Each sign will serve as a riddle or puzzle, which the artists hope will “give new meaning to the number 14.”

AiOP was able to talk with these two artists, learning more about who they are and what they hope to accomplish with their project:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the kinds of work that you do?

We (Julia Vallera and Samwell Freeman) collaborate on many projects that include DIY electronics, mobile art installations, plush toys, public engagement projects, Textile printing, robotics, Custom DIY LCD kits and more. Two examples of ongoing projects we run are and Lucid Tronix. We always strive to include some kind of public participation in our work, whether it be via online or in person. As college professors at Parsons School of Design and Hunter College, we also engage with new methods of arts education. We strive to create experiential work that triggers curiosity and exploration. We use buttons, green screens, signs, performance, motors, homemade elliptical machines, art vans and social experiments to do this. More examples of our work are at and


“Vallera and Samwell.” Photo courtesy of Martin Munoz.

What attracted you to this year’s AiOP festival?

We love the mission that AiOP strives for. Creating work in public space is a challenging and unconventional format. AiOP creates a platform and community that encourages artists to expand their ideas into the public realm. They recognize that pushing the boundaries of art to include social interaction is important and essential to the exchange of ideas.

How are you interpreting the theme number?

Our project is called “Signs of Intelligence”. For this project, we have to decided to replace the street signs on 14th street, NYC with poetic, mathematical, historic and symbolic interpretations of the number 14. For example, we replicated the exact size, font and style of the street signs but put phrases on them such as; ” (26/2 + 1) = ?”, “Gil Hodges Hall of Fame Jersey”, ” Number of Days in a Fortnight”, etc. We hope that people see these signs as puzzles or riddles that give new meaning to the number 14.


“Signs of Intelligence.” Photo courtesy of Martin Munoz.

What challenged did the theme present you when creating works for public space?

We were challenged by the location of the space. 14th street in Manhattan is a very busy street with a lot of traffic, people and storefronts. We were challenged by coming up with a project that did not interfere with people passing by on the sidewalk and that we could leave alone without supervision.

What excites you about the prospect of presenting this work?

We are excited about the process of making these signs. They are very fun. We use a laser cutter, saw, paint, drill and hardware to make them. Installing them is also exciting because we have to scout locations and install them in secret. We are also excited about giving people the chance to make signs like this themselves. We will provide a DIY kit for the public to take and make signs of their own.


“Signs of Intelligence.” Photo courtesy of Martin Munoz.

How has adapting your work to 14th street affected your process?

14th street is what gave us the idea for our project in the first place. We love that it is a main artery of Manhattan and that thousands of people commute on it daily. We really didn’t have to adapt our work for 14th street because our work for this event was based on it. We did have to adapt this project to other streets in NYC for the New Ideas Festival, but it was not difficult. We just researched the local history and made signs based on that.

Have you come to learn anything new about 14th street while formulating your work?

YES! We have researched the street and the number to find out what kind of signs we would be making. It turns out there are a lot of interesting facts and details about the number 14 and the history of 14th street…but you will have to come to AiOP to see what they are!


“Signs of Intelligence.” Photo courtesy of Martin Munoz.

Has formulating this work changed any preconceived notions you had about numbers?

Yes, we love to interpret language in alternative forms. Interpreting the number 14 for this project has opened our eyes to many fun possibilities.

Did you take anything from this experience that you plan on applying to future works?

Yes, we hope to continue this project in different locations in the future and hope to add a DIY sign-making workshop to it.

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