I am a digital artist, a researcher, the director of web/mobile developer Cuttlefish. This is my unofficial blog about The Digital Arts Programme at Phoenix in Leicester. I am not employed by Phoenix and all opinions expressed are my own.
The new exhibition at in the Cube Gallery at Phoenix is an interesting one. It contains work by a number of artists and deals with the subjects of environment, place and time.
The first piece you notice when you enter the gallery is the Subterranean soundscape produced by Semiconductor. This takes seismic data from earthquakes, volcanos and glaciers and makes it audible. It instantly places you in a primal world of grinding rocks and cracking ice.
Next, Benedikt Gross and Bertrand Clerc present Metrography - an apparently distorted map of London based on the underground map. Reminding us that all maps are actually distortions of some sort (Gregory Bateson commented extensively on the relationship between the map and territory, as did and Alfred Korzybski).
Perhaps my favourite piece in the exhibition is the long-running Mesocosm animation by Marina Zurkow of a seated figure (in the style of one of Lucian Freud's paintings of Leigh Bowery) in a Nothumberland landscape. Each day in the landscape is represented by 24 minutes in the gallery. The entire animation lasts for 146 hours, but has a generative element so that no two cycles are the same.
Locally-based artist Eric Rosoman's piece GPS Ducks is an interesting response to the story of the accidental release of nearly 29,000 rubber ducks from a container ship in 1992. This became a really important event in the study of ocean currents since ducks have now turned up all over the world. Eric has released a more modest number of ducks in to the local river system, but this time equipped with solar powered GPS trackers so that we can watch their journeys.
Finally, Charles Danby and Rob Smith's work The Quarry explores the site of the photographer/landscape artist Robert Smithson's artwork Chalk Mirror Displacement. It presents material from the quarry used to create the work as well as a collection of triangulated photographs. I actually need to go back and have another look at this piece since I didn't realise that there were QR codes with the photographs! Scanning these apparently plays video works.
The exhibition is one that deserves time being spent at it and is very rewarding if you allow yourself to take it all in. If runs at Phoenix until 28th February 2014.
See my pictures from the exhibition here.
DMU Masters student Alice Tuppen has just finished a short run of her "Point. Forty" exhibition in the Cube Gallery at Phoenix in Leicester. The installation featured four tables on which were placed objects that when picked up would trigger the playback of videos. Each table contained objects from one of the 40-year-old female participants and the videos explored personal the thoughts and recollections of each participant.
The first thing you noticed about the piece was how completely it transformed the Phoenix Cube Gallery. I have seen many artworks in the space, and exhibited in there myself, and and can honestly say that I have never experienced such a change in the feel of the gallery. This was in part down to the props and objects used, but also the lighting and the engaging nature of the video material.
One measure of the success of a piece of work like this is how long people engage for. Again, the work excelled at this, with some people remaining in the space for up to an hour - going from table to table in order to explore each participant's objects and videos.
While the piece only had a short run, I'm sure that we will see more such work from Alice in the future. You can see my pictures from the show here on Flickr. You can find Alice's web site at http://www.artact.co.uk.
I normally try to write a blog post once a week. But I've been a bit slack recently, not through lack of activity, but through business with a new project - Interact Labs. What's this about I hear you ask? Well, to quote from the new interactlabs.co.uk website:
"Interact Labs is a new programme designed to encourage people to be creative with digital technology. Equipped with everything from DIY hardware kits to a state of the art 3D printer, Interact Labs provides a space at Phoenix in Leicester dedicated to learning, experimentation, creative collaboration and making new things."
Basically, it's a new physical space at Phoenix in Leicester that is going to be focussed on getting more people creative with technology. It's something of a follow-on from The Interact Gallery that I ran at Fabrika in 2011 and 2012, but with a stronger emphasis on making things.
Go to the interactlabs.co.uk website to find out more.
Thomas Dolby came to the Phoenix in Leicester tonight to kick off the UK tour of his film The Invisible Lighthouse. I say 'film', but it was more of a live performance than a typical film showing - with Dolby delivering most of the spoken word and music live from the stage.
The film is centred around the closure of a lighthouse in Suffolk near where Thomas Dolby grew up and has now returned to live with his family. Backed by both documentary and more abstract film sequences, he delivers a narration that reflects on his memories of the lighthouse and the area. On the top of this he adds live music, lighting and the wearing of various hats to produce something quite unique - true live 'multimedia'.
I found it highly absorbing. I liked both the subject of the story and the way it was performed. As a child growing up in Selsey I can remember looking out to the Nab Tower at night and being fascinated by the flashing light (and the booming of the horn in the fog). I realised that this was something I hadn't thought about in years.
As well as performing, Thomas Dolby also filmed most of the video footage himself - sometimes using a camera mounted on a small quadcopter to get aerial shots.
Being the first night of the tour I spotted a few little glitches in the show, but these didn't distract from the performance at all. The film was followed by a Q&A session and then a couple of songs for the fans. The tour continues across the UK and then goes to the US. See thomasdolby.com for details.
There is a nice exhibition on at Phoenix at the moment that lets you go digital kite flying. The idea is that you first visit the web site at digitalkites.indiansummer.org.uk and design your kite. Then you visit the Cube Gallery at Phoenix and use the installation to "fly" your creation. The installation uses a Microsoft Kinect to track your movements in a way that is quite effective at simulating the act of kite flying. As you look over and Indian city skyline tugging on the kite's line every now and then the whole effect is rather relaxing.
I really liked the work, but think it needs a bit more refinement to really make it work well. I enjoyed the kite flying part, but found that the mechanism for selecting the kite designs a bit clunky. It involved using a computer keyboard - which to me is a no-no in an interactive artwork like this. I think some sort of gesture or touch interface would be better. Perhaps the ability to do the kite design on your mobile device would be nice too.
These are by no means major criticisms and I would encourage people to create a kite and go and fly it at the Phoenix. The exhibition runs until the 20th July, so you still have a few days to go. See my pictures of the work on Flickr.
Paul Brown gave a very interesting talk last night a Phoenix in Leicester. He spoke about the background and history of his creative practice and presented some of his latest work - both as an individual artist and in collaboration with his son, Daniel Brown.
One of the things that particularly interests me about Paul's work (and other digital arts pioneers, such as Ernest Edmonds) is that there is a clear creative focus running through his (their) work. In a world of constant 'newness', this is a very important quality. Paul presented some of his ideas from as far back as the 1960s and you can see a direct connection to his work today. I think many contemporary digital artists (including me) can learn from this. Unless your work is about technology (which can be a lazy position to take, and certainly a difficult thing to do well) your ideas should be strong enough to shine through, no matter what technology you use. In fact, if you expect your work to have any long-term relevance this has to be the case.
The talk was over an hour long and was full of insights. A video can be found on the CAS Leicester web page together with some of Paul's recent writings in PDF form. I hope to host some more talks in the autumn. Monitor this blog for further details.
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."
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.
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.
Sally Sheinman's exhibition "What Makes You, You?" opens at Phoenix today. I had a quick peek during the set-up and it looks very interesting. I haven't quite got my head fully around it (it's not complex, but I think there is more to it than meets the eye!), but I like the look of the iPad-created images and the nature of the on-line participation. I'm going to get involved and will be submitting my thoughts as the project develops. Perhaps Sally with use my contribution as the inspiration for an image? You can find out more about it on the Phoenix site, or go direct to the wmyy.co.uk website.