Sean Clark's Blog
Phoenix Leicester will be playing host to pioneering Digital Artist Paul Brown on the 11th June. He will be giving a talk as part of the Computer Arts Society speaker series from 6:30pm. Entry will be free but you may want to book a place in advance via the Phoenix Box Office.
Paul Brown is an artist and writer who has specialised in art, science & technology since the late-1960s and in computational & generative art since the mid 1970s. His early work included creating large-scale lighting works for musicians and performance groups like Meredith Monk, Music Electronica Viva, Pink Floyd, etc… and he has an international exhibition record that includes the creation of both permanent and temporary public artworks dating from the late 1960s. He has participated in shows at major venues like the TATE, Victoria & Albert and ICA in the UK; the Adelaide Festival; ARCO in Spain, the Substation in Singapore and the Venice Biennale and his work is represented in public, corporate and private collections in Australia, Asia, Europe, Russia and the USA. Since 2005 he has been honorary visiting professor and artist-in-residence at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, School of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Sussex.
"During my 40-year career as an artist my principal concern has been the systematic exploration of surface. Since 1974 my main tool has been the computational and generative process. My work is based in a field of computational science called Cellular Automata or CAs. These are simple systems that can propagate themselves over time. CAs are part of the origins of the discipline known as Artificial Life or A-life. In this presentation I will describe my 45-year engagement with computational processing and also discuss the work of my son Daniel Brown, who is also a generative artist and our creative partnership Brown and Son."
Today I visited the IOCT Masters showcase at De Montfort University in Leicester. This annual event provides the IOCT MA and MSc students with an opportunity to demonstrate their current ideas and work in progress.
This year's event was slightly smaller than last year's, but I think the range of projects on display was actually broader. The work included performance and installation artworks, video production, experiments in interactivity and music technology. The technologies used included programming tools such as Max/MSP, Processing and Isadora, as well as various multimedia production tools and hardware devices.
Often the showcase can be quite technologically based, with the students focussing on demonstrating their newly acquired skills rather than exploring deeper ideas. This is perhaps to be expected, since the showcase happens before the students undertake their final projects. However, this year I think the strongest element of the show was the level of conceptual development in the work on display. There were some very well thought out project ideas in the show. This bodes well for the quality of work that will be produced by the end of the course.
For more information about the students and their work visit the showcase website at http://ioct.info. See my photographs of the event on Flickr. The main IOCT website is at http://www.ioct.dmu.ac.uk.
I'm just back from the CHI'2013 conference in Paris where I was demonstrating the Transformations/ColourNet artworks as part of the Interactivity exhibition. The international conference presents the latest thinking and research in Human Computer Interaction and is the place to find out about the latest trends in computing.
The conference is so big that it is impossible to go to every session, so I selected the topics of most interest to me - typically digital arts, new forms of screens and input devices and personal manufacturing.
I saw some fascinating work on interacting with large screens using personal mobile devices and eye, or 'gaze', tracking. At the opposite end of the scale a Japanese research group presented a fingernail mounted display that could effectively turn any surface in to a touchscreen! A number of new personal manufacturing techniques were also on show. One of these used plastics and lasers to generate 3D models much faster than a typical 3D printer. I was also interested to see that 'form' displays are now being developed. These allow shapes to be literally moulded in a solid 3D way, or data to be 'felt' and not just seen.
There were also plenty of live demonstrations of work-in-progress and examples of novel ways to control a computer - such as a platform game that could be controlled by squeezing a teddy bear!
If you visit the chi2013.acm.org web site you will be able to find videos and text from the presentations. The iPhone App is also very useful, containing details of all the sessions that ran during the conference. See my pictures from the event here.
I went to an extraordinary exhibition today. "Dynamo: A Century of Light and Motion in Art, 1913-2013" is a collection of artworks spanning the past 100 years that explores light, movement, perception, interaction, modernism and experimentation in art. It includes work by luminaries such as Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Anish Kapoor, Jean Tinguely, Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, Hans Haacke and many more. It's on at the Grand Palais in Paris until 22nd July 2013. At the moment it's almost impossible for me to reflect on the range of work on display. It's mind blowing. I took over 200 pictures (until my camera battery ran out) which I have put on Flickr, and am in the process of cataloging them. If you are in Paris and get a chance to visit you will not see a better exhibition for many years. In fact, it's worth going to Paris just to see it.
UPDATE 5th May 2013
I have managed to catalogue most of the photographs I took. See the Flickr set for details.
The Leicester Space Apps Challenge took place at the LCB Depot this weekend with over 40 people working in teams on a variety of problems set by NASA. I was very impressed with the level of involvement, and look forward to hearing more about the results of their activities.
I took the opportunity to do a presentation about my Etch-a-Pi project and gauge how much interest there might be in starting a Leicester Pi User Group. I'm pleased to say that the interest was high and I'm now looking to start such a group with the goal of meeting every month or so, either at the LCB Depot or Phoenix. I've created a Facebook page and if you are interested in being involved then please sign up, or contact me directly by email. I think the first meet-up will be in the summer.
This weekend (Friday 19th - Sunday 21st April 2013) Leicester will be holding an event as part of NASA's International Space Apps Challenge programme. It takes the form of a 'hack-a-thon' in which people are invited to meet on on Friday evening and come up with ideas for how they can solve problems provided by NASA. The main event then happens on the Saturday and Sunday at the LCB Depot in Leicester where people work to implement some of their ideas. The hope is that is will be the first in a regular series of hackathon style events in Leicester - perhaps happening monthly.
As part of the event, on the Saturday I will be demonstrating my Raspberry Pi projects, including the Etch-a-Pi with the hope that Raspberry Pi development will be a part of future events.
If you want to get involved with the challenge then visit the project website at http://www.spaceappsleicester.org. Participation is free. If you can't make the whole event then you are welcome to pop over just for a part of it. My talk will be on Saturday 20th at 12:30pm.
Extinction Event by Dave Griffiths opened at Phoenix in Leicester last night. The exhibition features a video and microfiche/microfilm works from the artist's Babel Fiche project in the Cube Gallery and film (quite literally) and video materials in the Cafe Bar.
The Babel Fiche video is the centrepiece of the exhibition and imagines a future world where the only surviving information about our present time is in the form of analogue data and images on microfiche. The video is accompanied by the actual microfiche slides that were used by the protagonists in the video. You can explore these using a collection of original microfiche readers.
The film is a powerful piece of work and asks questions about the permanence of our information-rich, but largely digital, age. I have personally wondered if future historians might see the twentieth century as the start of a new 'dark age'. One in which historical records are rare - not in this case because of the fall of the Western Roman Empire - but because the digital records that were kept are not longer readable with future technology, or have simply decayed beyond use.
The other work on display continues the 'film' theme. With looping clips of 'cue dots' from old movies running on the matrix screen (that provide an alternative take on the history of cinema) and film frames on the Cafe Bar window that must be viewed through a magnifying class.
The exhibition runs up until 24th May and is definitely worth visiting. My pictures from the show can be found on my Flickr page as per usual.
Cuttlefish have just finished the programming for Layla Curtis' latest project - Antipodes. The web-based artwork will be running for (at least) a year collecting images from pairs of webcams that Layla has found that are on the opposite sides of the world to each other. These 'antipodal webcams' provide a fascinating insight to the daily rhythms of the planet as it spins on its axis - and as the collection of images grows they will also begin to reveal the seasonal cycles. It's a lovely, well thought out, art work that I think Cuttlefish has done full justice too. We will be tweaking the site over the coming months to enhance it further, and I'm really looking forward to watching the project develop. You can watch it grow yourself at www.antipodes.uk.com. If you see any images you particularly like remember to Tweet them!
This weekend saw the Code Control Max/MSP users' conference at Phoenix in Leicester. The well-attended event involved talks, workshops, demos and three newly commissioned digital artworks.
it was a pretty packed programme and while I wasn't able to catch it all, a number of things jumped out at me and I made sure I got to see them. The first was the talk on Saturday by Sam Tarakajian from Cycling'74 about a new Max technology called Mira. this provides a really elegant way of getting Max interfaces on to your iPad. Basically, it allows you to draw a box around a group of Max interface objects in your Max patch to instantly display them on a wirelessly connected iPad, or iPads. It also provided a toolset for reading data from the iPad's sensors. The technology looks deceptively simple, but the implications of this technology for installation artists and performers are huge. Max now understands your multiscreen world and can benefit from all of the subtleties of multitouch UIs.
The three new digital artworks were also very good. In the cafe bar area Nick Rothwell showed his multiuser
In the cube Stavros Didakis showed a highly interactive audiovisual mixer with projected images and - apparently - EEG aka mind control. I didn't manage to get this going through! In Cinema 3 Gavin Morris showed a large installation in which 512 coloured cubes could be touched to create music sequences. The work could also be controlled by an iPad. In the cafe bar area Nick Rothwell showed is multiplayer game/artwork in which the users manipulated cubes in order to find their opponents and shoot them. It was a full on adrenaline rush, with spacial sound adding to the sense of immersion.
I was in involved in the "science fair" where I demoed the latest version of ColourNet - make in collaboration with Ernest Edmonds - as I get it ready for exhibition at CHI in Paris at the end of April.
I didn't get to attend any of the workshops, by reports are that these were very good too. You can find out more about the event (and future plans at some point) on the Code Control website. My pictures from the event are on my Flickr page.
I managed to catch the members' exhibition at Two Queens in Leicester this week, just before it finished.
Two Queens is an independent, artist-led gallery in Leicester's Cultural Quarter, located just a few minutes walk from Curve and Phoenix. Despite running on a low budget, and being wonderfully rough around the edges, it is starting to carve out its own niche in Leicester and an experimental and contemporary gallery that favours local artists and recent graduates. The latest member show was suitably eclectic, with predominantly installation artworks, plus some video work and paintings on (and a performance on the opening night which I missed).
There is often a criticism of contemporary art (I don't think we call it "modern" anymore) that it can be overly conceptual and often inaccessible. On the surface, the exhibition at Two Queens might appear to be guilty of this - there are video recordings of a camera being raised on ropes, a living room with broken chairs and glitchy TVs, and a dress hung on a wall with an accompanying wig and shoes. However, with a little effort on the part of the viewer it starts to make sense very quickly.
I picked up a strong feeling of "deconstruction" and "reconstruction" among the artworks - with some pieces showing the world around us stripped down to its basic elements, and others recombining the everyday in new and unexpected ways. There was also an amazing "soundtrack" to the exhibition. A number of the pieces made sound, and these ended up combining to produce an engaging artwork in its own right. I don't know if this was intentional. Perhaps it was an "emergent property" of the exhibition as a whole?
It was a well-curated exhibition and one that pays credit to the group of artists involved in the space. Leicester needs a gallery like Two Queens and I hope it goes from strength to strength. I also hope that with ongoing success (and perhaps funding) it doesn't loose it's lo-fi appeal. Not all galleries need perfectly white painted walls, or heating(!). You can see my set of pictures from the show on my Flickr page. Visit the Two Queens web site for details of their future exhibitions.