J.P. Werner
                 This site is an overview of the work of James P. Werner, artist and educator.


The selected works exhibited here represent the variety of perspectives James Werner explores on the topic of new media engagements.

Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Projects

SOS Project 2016

In response to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (June 12th, 2016), Cal Poly Liberal Arts & Engineering Studies and Architecture students worked together to create a national conversation about gun violence in the USA. They call their project SOS for Sense of Safety. The name has multiple meanings, starting with the international call for distress, to various reflections upon public safety.

SOS is a six foot tall arc of plexiglass and wood panels that asks visitors to comment on how safe they feel in their community. Visitors are asked to leave colorful thumbprints on the outer arc of panels, indicating to what degree they feel gun violence has impacted their lives. The rainbow colors represent the age ranges of the visitors, with a different color for each range (15-18, 19-20, etc…). The inner arc asks visitors to reflect upon the number of shootings that occur in the USA, with a focus on school shootings. A sentence along the top of the frame asks: “How many school shootings have there been in American in the last twelve years?” The answer is provided by the number of holes that pierce the panels (back to front) as a statistical display (one hole per shooting) with years marking the bottom of the panels (two years per panel) from 2004 to 2016. A plexiglass box at the center of the inner arc displays an electric drill locked into the box. If another shooting occurs during the run of the project, then at noon the next day the box will be unlocked, the drill used to add one more hole to the panel, then placed back into the box.

To extend this conversation across the country, the panels are connected to a social media conversation asking how safe people feel due to the prevalence of gun violence in the USA, and asking for a response to the number of shootings that have occurred over the years, in schools and elsewhere. The process of building the project, drilling the holes (and additional holes during the run), and visitors marking the walls with thumbprints will be documented and added to the project’s social media conversation. The social media conversation asks visitors to take photos of their thumbs with the ink from making their mark on the panel, accompanied by their statement on gun violence and their sense of safety.

The initial social media responses to these questions (about the number of shootings, and the sense of safety) will be inscribed onto the plexiglass of the SOS project so visitors can read these responses as they put their thumbprints on the panel. As the project runs, and the online conversation spreads, more statements will be added to the panels.

The entire project is designed to be easily replicated around the USA at any campus or small community, using simple digital templates that guide computer-driven cutting systems to cut from plywood and plexiglass the six main parts that comprise the structure. The raw materials for the project can all be purchased at any hardware store in the USA, and should cost no more than $800 total. The digital templates will be accompanied by a short video and one-page direction sheet demonstrating how the panels can be assembled and used for a public presentation.

SOS Arc Diagram:

Escape Room Project 2015

Collaborative efforts between the LAES program and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to develop a new International Escape Room experience, began in Fall 2014 and will continue throughout the 2015-2016 academic year.

An Escape Room experience is a small room designed like a puzzle containing clues on how to unlock itself. Audiences are invited into the room, locked in, and then must work together to decipher the clues in the room to unlock the door and let themselves out. Escape room experiences have been run in London, Paris, and Sydney and more recently in U.S. cities like New York City.

The project requires students on the LAES team to work together with those in the QUT to create a professional-quality experience that runs simultaneously on both the Cal Poly and QUT campuses utilizing a live, internet-enabled link. The goal is to run these rooms as a public theatrical experience in collaboration with Cal Poly's Theatre and Dance program and the Creative Industries division at QUT. To ensure the best, most productive experiences possible, a series of onsite usability tests, theatrical rehearsals and charrette's were conducted prior to the planned public release in Fall 2015.

View more about escape rooms (links open in new windows):

Articles: LAES escape room project: A gamer's dream (MustangNews, February 2015), Escaping, Literally, in Budapest and Beyond (NY Times, July 2014), Escape Rooms, Video Games Meet Real-Life (NY Times, June 2014) Venues: Escape Room LA and The Escape Hunt Experience, Sydney