While urban happiness and sadness are often measured by think-tanks and research companies, two artists from New Zealand recognize that the spectrum of human emotions is far from simply black and white. “Governments and businesses have come to see the value in finding out how happy we are, but we are interested in complex and contradictory moods. Sometimes we feel grumpy, rushed and excited at the same time,” reads MoodBank’s official website. The brainchild of Victoria University lecturer Sarah Elsie Baker and artist Vanessa Crowe, MoodBank lets New Zealanders take a moment to reflect and deposit their mood into a roaming MoodMachine ATM, contributing to the mapping and visualization of urban emotions across the country. Described as a reaction to standard discourse on urban development, measured through economic means, the MoodBank concept deals in wellbeing rather than currency.
With over a 1000 moods to choose from, the MoodMachine ATM has already visited four cities across New Zealand, amassing thousands of deposits at each stop from to the suburb of Aoeta to the capital Wellington – where a physical MoodBank Branch was set up as part of the public art project in mid-2014. Today, the ATM is in Whangarei, brought in by local organization Together Tahi – a collective focused on civic engagement and public wellbeing.
“The MoodMachine ATM is designed for users to deposit their moods and in exchange find out how other city dwellers feel…The MoodBank wishes to acknowledge and make visible people’s feelings while providing an opportunity for pause and reflection,” continues the website. Meanwhile, in the physical branch, passersby deposit drawings alongside a description of their mood instead of cash and checks. Alternatively, New Zealanders can engage in some online banking on MoodBank’s website where visual data analysis presents trends based on time, date, location and moods.
Watch the project’s initiators describe the public art movement below: