Sean Clark's Blog
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.
Tonight saw the opening of Esther Rolinson's Splinter and Thread exhibition at Phoenix in Leicester. The two light-based artworks are the result of over two years development by Esther.
Both pieces feature animated light sequences. In Splinter LEDs illuminate acrylic panels suspended in the gallery space with thin cables. Patterns move around the panels, changing in speed and introducing subtle colours. The result is a mesmerising sculptural form that really has to be seen to be appreciated.
Thread uses similar lighting technology, but runs the LED light through prepared optical fibres. This leads to more of the sense of an animated 3D 'drawing', with bold stokes of light crossing the gallery space and interacting with each other. Again, it needs to be seen for the effect to be understood.
The realisation of Esther's vision for the artworks required a team of supporting technologists, including myself. We had to design and build the lighting hardware, develop the electronics and then program the sequences to match what Esther wanted. It was a long, but very interesting, process and the results are quite spectacular.
I've shared my photographs of the installation and opening of the exhibition here on Flickr. The two pieces will be on show until the 5th December and will be followed by a third piece called 'Melt' on the 12th December until mid January. Make sure you visit!
I was invited to join Genetic Moo at Kinetic Art Fair this year to show work as part of their Microworld exhibition. I used the opportunity to show two new pieces from my current cycle of systems artworks.
The first was a pair of interacting colour grids of the type I showed at the GV Art exhibition earlier in the year. The difference here being that rather than two systems running on one computer and shown on the same screen, I used two dedicated Raspberry Pi with HDMIPi screens to run the systems. The screens were then placed next to each other on the gallery wall and able to interact with each other via the Raspberry Pis' WiFi connections. I was very pleased with this setup - it was working well and looking good. That was until i managed to crack one of the screens!
The second piece was a pair of framed 8 x 8 LED grids that were able to respond to their environment (and each other) via light sensors. These also worked very well and offered an alternative way to explore the algorithms I have been developing recently. Luckily there were no breakages with this piece and it remained part of the exhibition for the whole show. I like the idea of using LED lights rather than LCD screens, and this is definitely a form I intend to explore further.
There were, of course, plenty of other artworks on display at Kinetica, and it would take many blog posts to describe them all. I have uploaded my pictures from the exhibition here on Flickr and you can find out more on the Kinetica Art Fair website.
After just over two weeks the Interact @ LCB exhibition has come to a close at Lightbox Studios in the LCB Depot. The overall reception of the exhibition has been very good - with a good number of visitors and lots of good feedback. Full documentation (including plenty of pictures) can be found at http://interactdigitalarts.uk/interact-at-lcb-depot. Fingers crossed and we'll be back again next year.