Sean Clark's Blog
On Saturday, as an activity connected to Julian Oliver's exhibition at Phoenix in Leicester, I hosted a crystal radio making workshop at Interact Labs. The crystal radio (or crystal set) is a wonderful little device. It is the simplest possible radio receiver and despite being over one hundred years old it still has a magical quality to it.
Like many other people I first made a crystal set when I was a child. I remember being amazed how a bundle of wire, a couple of electrical components and an earpiece could be transformed in to something you could use to listen to radio stations from thousands of miles away. The whole thing was even more miraculous given the fact that it didn't require any external electrical power.
When I got my new crystal set working a couple of nights ago I had the exact same sense of wonder as I had as a child. Perhaps appropriately (since I live near Leicester) the first station I tuned in to was an Anglo-Indian channel with Indian music and English spoken word. The Bollywood tunes were literally "crystal clear" as they danced around the little earpiece.
As suggested by Julian Oliver's artwork, it can be argued that the crystal radio marked the beginning of the modern world. The invention of the telegraph (only half a century or so earlier) was itself a huge leap forward in communications. But voice and music? Transmitted wirelessly to millions of people in their homes and received on a device that could be made with a handful of parts. The impact of radio technology was world-changing.
The rate at which radio was developed was as impressive as the technology itself. The first audio radio transmission was in 1900, the BBC began broadcasting to the nation just 20 years later in 1920, and they were experimenting with broadcasting images over radio waves by 1932.
It's a timeline that was to be mirrored at the end of the century by the rise of the World Wide Web, another world-changing communication technology. I recall creating my first website in 1993. Just 22 years later and it's impossible to imagine a modern world without the web, and other Internet technologies.
I have a few crystal radio kits left over, so contact me if you would like to buy one. Or why not have a search on the internet and find out how to make one yourself? Julian Oliver's exhibition runs at Phoenix until 30th March. See my pictures from the workshop here.
A new exhibition in Phoenix's Cube Gallery opened on Friday. Julian Oliver's The Crystal Line makes use of a modern reproduction of a classic "Crystal Set" radio to receive audio transmitted by a computer that scours the World Wide Web for the latest developments in warfare.
Due to rather a lot of interference in the gallery space, it was not possible to actually hear the sound coming through the radio. However, Julian gave a very interested introduction to the ideas behind the project and the radio itself was fascinating to look at.
The radio should be fully functioning this week so you will now go to the Phoenix Cube Gallery and fully experience the installation. It will be operating until the 30th March.
There will be an opportunity to make your own Crystal Set radio at my workshop in Interact Labs on Saturday 14th March. You can book a place here at the Phoenix site.
My pictures from the opening can be found on Flickr.
I was involved in Honest Dave's second The Image Is The Servant event at Hansom Hall in Leicester on Friday.
TIITS2 was a follow up to last year's event and contained a similar combination live music and live multiscreen visuals. My involvement was to contribute to the live visuals using my wireless video system.
It was the first outing for the system, which features four wireless analogue video cameras and a multichannel video receiver. The output of the receiver is then fed in to a Mac running a version of my Memory Mirror Max patch. Just like the original Memory Mirror, the patch then builds up a dynamic collage of the incoming video material. For this event, two of the cameras were fixed on the stage and two were given to people to point at whatever interested them.
The results were pretty good. The glitchy video from the cameras was nicely mashed up by Memory Mirror and ended up resembling a combination of VHS video and security footage - in a good way!
The event itself was excellent with some great music and lots of interesting images being shown on the multiple video screens. It was good to be involved. See my pictures of the event up on Flickr. I'll be producing some video of the camera footage soon.
Today I attended the launch of the Spark Pop Up Play "mixed reality digital play" platform. This exciting project is the result of a one-year collaboration between The Spark Arts, researchers at De Montfort University and technology company Dotlib and was supported with funding from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.
The platform is based around a computer system that allows children and educations to create rich multimedia environments and then interact with them via a tracking system that places the user literally in the centre of the action.
During the launch I had plenty of opportunities to play with it and I was very impressed. It was fun and intuitive to use and clearly had the potential to be a powerful learning tool. My favourite environment was probably the pirate ship - partly because I got to wear a tricorn hat whilst interacting with it :-)
The platform is written in Max and the patches are being released as open source. The software and documentation can be downloaded from the Spark website at http://thesparkarts.co.uk/popupplay/. It's free to download and well worth a look.
Pineapster was a music website for Leicester that Cuttlefish ran between 2001 and 2012. The site started off as a simple showcase for local bands to share their music, but over the years grew in to a large, dynamic, community of bands, music fans, promoters, producers and others.
I have just finished a process of archiving the site and have re-uploaded everything to the pineapster.com web address. The archive includes the two main interactions of the site, with complete copies of the forums and profiles pages, and a growing library of music that was uploaded by members.
Visit the archive at pineapster.com and and follow the Twitter or Facebook accounts to keep up-to-date with developments.
Led by John Richards at DMU, Dirty Electronics is an ever-expanding group of musicians and instrument makers who construct electronic sound making machines using home-brew and hacked circuitry. The ensemble has been going for almost 10 years and they were demonstrating some the amazing devices they have built during this time.
The hackspace had never sounded so good, and there was an interesting cross-fertilisation of ideas and interests between the members of both groups. See my pictures from the event here on Flickr. I hope to see more such events in the future.
I decided to have a look through my Flickr picture uploads of 2014 and make an album of pictures from the year. Surprisingly I had over 1,300 pictures to choose from, currently organised in over 60 albums. It must have been one of my busiest years for a while.
Taking a picture or two from each album, and skipping over book cover scans and screen grabs, I selected 100 pictures that provide a pretty good visual overview on my 2014. The album contains photographs from exhibitions, events, gigs, workshops, artworks and more. You'll find the collection here on my Flickr page on my Flickr page. It'll be interesting to see what 2015 ends up producing.
The final piece in Esther Rolinson's exhibition of three new artworks at the Phoenix has been installed in the Cube Gallery. Melt is a much larger piece that the first two - Thread and Splinter - and fills the entire gallery space.
The piece consists of angled fabric columns extend from the floor and are illuminated via a matrix of lights embedded in the ceiling. As the lights switch on and off the fabric columns alternate between appearing solid and translucent. The effect is to animate the space and provide an ever changing structure that can be explored by the visitor.
As with the other pieces in the series, I have been involved in helping to design and configure the lighting system. The solution used here is based around theatrical DMX lights that are controlled via an Arduino micro controller that in turn is controlled by a Processing patch running on a Mac mini.
Pictures from the exhibition can be found here on Flickr. The exhibition runs at Phoenix until the 5th January.
I had forgotten about this website! However, thanks to my 'robust' programming and the fact that we have quite a few web servers at Cuttlefish and tend to leave old sites running unless they become problematic, I've just re-discovered the Click It! Living Photography website.
This was a Charnwood Arts project from the early 2000s that I created to allow people to share their photographs of the Loughborough area. There was no Flickr at the time and I remember having to write it from scratch.
There are over 6,000 photographs on the site and as far as I can tell it still seems to work perfectly. Given how much web technology has changed over the last 10 years, this is quite an achievement in its own right.
Have a look around and let me know what you think. But please, no comments on my use of pink in the design. Now, only if I had thought of creating a site that people anywhere in the world could have used...
I've also found http://thewebworksgallery.co.uk - a sister project from the era.
Tonight saw the launch of the Affective Digital Histories project, and in particular the Hidden Stories and Sounds of the Cultural Quarter apps.
Affective Digital Histories is a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) that involves Cuttlefish, Leicester University, Phoenix and De Montfort University in Leicester. It is looking at ways in which new technologies can be used to help uncover and preserve historic information. Our particular focus is on the 'forgotten' stories of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in Leicester.
It's been an interesting project. A big part of our contribution has been in developing two iOS and Android apps, Hidden Stories and Sounds of the Cultural Quarter, that explore the St Georges area of Leicester using words and sounds. Working with the project partners, I think we we have produced some really innovative 'locative' applications that present the history of the area in a very evocative way.
Download them and see if you agree. Both apps are free and will be getting regular updates over the next few months. For a gallery of pictures from the launch event see my Flickr page here.