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Sean Clark's Blog

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Sat, 20 May 2017
Cyberculture Pt2: ...and the Birth of Cyberculture

The rise of the Internet was not just about technology. For many people it was part of a vision that saw digital technology as having the potential to create a new world without national borders or governments, where all information would be free and where human consciousness would be lifted to a new level. The Internet was a new electronic frontier, a place they called "Cyberspace".

People interested in this vision met online in places such as the The WELL (established in 1985) and at night clubs like Cyberseed and Megatripolis in London (1993). Their ideas mixed with those from previous counter-culture movements and new figureheads emerged. John Perry Barlow from the Grateful Dead formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation (1990) to protect online rights, R U Series published Mondo 2000, essential reading for all would-be cyberpunks. Bruce Sterling wrote about The Hacker Crackdown (1993). Fans of electronic music, computer graphics and Virtual Reality became involved and by 1993 "Cyberculture" was fully formed and ready to make use of the newly-public Internet and World Wide Web.

For me it meant using my Internet skills for more than University research. From running cybercaffs at the Oscillate club in Birmingham, homebrew VR at Megatripolis, websites and live events for The Shamen and other bands, writing for the new Internet press, to touring as a VJ at gigs and festivals.

But almost 25 years later does any of this matter?

http://interactdigitalarts.uk/cyberculture

Fri, 19 May 2017
Cyberculture Pt1: The Rapid Rise of the Internet...

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a researcher at Loughborough University specialising in "co-operative computing". It was interesting work and allowed me to develop expertise in use of "IP networks" well before they became available to the general public in the UK.

Initially, in 1989, my internet (lowercase 'i') was limited to accessing computers on the University campus. It was useful for "Talk", email, file transfer and X Windows, but was not much like the service we have today. It was possible to connect to the global Internet (uppercase 'I'), but this was done via a single 9.6kbps gateway that connected the UK academic network to the US. So, if I wanted to get a document from the 'Net I would first have to search through the index of "anonymous FTP" services for its location, then request the file from the server, the request would be queued, then downloaded from the US to a computer in London, where I would use the UK's X.25 network to transfer it to my own computer.

Then, in 1991, the UK's academic network moved over to using IP (first as well as, then instead of, X.25) and all of the things I had been doing locally could be done globally. The transatlantic link got a boost too and the result was amazing - I could download a document from the US with a single click! IP (which if you don't know stands for "Internet Protocol") glued everything together so seamlessly that the same technology you used to share files, or send messages, between two computers in the research lab could be used to do the same between two computers anywhere in the world. It was also very flexible, and new IP-based services arrived almost weekly and I would experiment with them all - anonymous FTP, Usenet, Gopher, WAIS, CUSeeMe, and so on.

Everything was still something of a well-kept secret though - in fact I remember being mocked by friends for having a "nerdy" email address on my business card. Most Internet users were academics, or people from computer companies or multinationals, and home Internet access was rare. I was able to dial-in to the University from my Mac SE at home, but most people didn't think they were missing anything. This was all about to change with the arrival of two things.

The first in 1992 was tenner-a-month home Internet access using dial-up from Demon Internet. This made home Internet use a reality, and kept it affordable. The second was the release of NCSA Moasic in early 1993. This gave the Internet a simple user interface via the World Wide Web. Plus, Demon gave you some "web space" to host your own documents.

The bits were in place and the Internet was ready to go.

http://interactdigitalarts.uk/cyberculture

Wed, 26 Apr 2017
Steve Ignorant at LCB Depot 18th May 2017

After a great 2016 show as part of The Art of Crass exhibition in Leicester in 2016 Steve Ignorant's Slice of Life are back to to LCB Depot on the 18th May 2017. People will know Steve from seminal punk bands Crass, Conflict, Stratford Mercenaries and more. His current work is no less visceral, but delivers a softer sound with some very talented musicians in tow. Tickets are available at http://www.wegottickets.com/event/391446. Let us know if you're coming on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/1312846472129364/

Sat, 01 Apr 2017
Interanerki Zine Issue 1

Anerki is a multi-disciplinary arts collective that was established in 2011. They hold a monthly event of underground artistic expression in Leicester. Lots of Music, Live Art, Spoken Word, Rap, Dance, Comedy, Film and Free Speech. Always free of charge, it is entertaining, educational and conscious.

They performed during The Art of Crass exhibition last year in June and then my Cybernetic Ecology exhibition at the LCB Depot in December at a couple of cross-over events we called "Interanerki". They are an amazing group of people and I thought it was about time they appeared in print.

Interanerki Zine Issue 1 is the first of our paper collaborations and is filled with work by many of the regular performers on the nights. It's a free download from interanerki.uk and you can pick up a paper copy (while stocks last!) from the monthly Anerki night. This is also free, but a donation to the collective would be great.

Details what we have planned for the next issue will be posted soon.

Sat, 25 Mar 2017
Constructs, Colour, Code: Ernest Edmonds 1967 - 2017

Friday March 25th saw the opening of Ernest Edmonds' "Constructs, Colour, Code" exhibition at the DMU Gallery in Leicester. The location of the exhibition is very significant since DMU - previously Leicester Polytechnic - is when Ernest began his illustrious career as a pioneering HCI researcher and digital artist in the late 1960s. The artwork on display covers the full 50 years of activity and includes paintings, installation pieces, early digital work and his contemporary "Shaping Forms" on state-of-the-art LCD panels.

The retrospective is beautifully presented by The Gallery and brings together the biggest collection of Ernest Edmonds' work that, to my knowledge, has been shown in one place (the closest was probably the "Light Logic" exhibition in Sheffield in 2012).

This quantity of work makes Ernest's long interest in pattern, sequence, systems and - most strikingly - colour patently clear. What's more you can see the rigorous exploration of the researcher beautifully combined with the sensibilities of the artist. It really is a must-see show.

The exhibition runs until 6th May and is free to enter. Details of where to find it can be found here. I have a collection of pictures on my Flickr page and will collecting materials from the exhibition to put up on the Interact website after the show.

** See more documentation, including a video walkthrough, here **

Mon, 27 Feb 2017
Leicester Digital Artists Group

On Monday evening we held the first Leicester Digital Artists Group meeting at Interact Labs. The aim of the group is to provide an artist-led meeting place for people interested in digital arts.

We gave this meeting a Virtual Reality focus and provided an opportunity for those who attended to have a go on the HTC Vive system that we have in the Lab.

I think all of those who came found it a valuable session and we agree to make it a regular "last-Monday" event - happening on the last Monday of each month at 7pm at Phoenix.

If you want to come to the next one then you can book for free here.

There is also now a Leicester Digital Artists Facebook Group.

Sun, 01 Jan 2017
Archive of 2016

At this time of the year I always try to make some time to review the past 12 months and update my online archive. This archive has materials documenting over 20 yeas of my creative activities. While there are plenty of gaps, it's not a bad digital record of a creative career that began just before the invention of the World Wide Web.

Many of this year's activities have involved developments in my artwork and my curated exhibitions. Some of the highlights are listed below:

April/May saw the ArtCHI exhibition in San Jose, CA in which I exhibited two works - one in collaboration with Ernest Edmonds and the other with Esther Rolinson. The Esther Rolinson piece, titled "Flown", won the exhibition prize. See pictures from the exhibition here on Flickr.

In June I curated an exhibition of artwork related to the anarcho-punk band Crass. What started as an exhibition of my own collection of around 20 artworks ended up featuring almost 40 works, plus two live events featuring ex-Crass members Penny Rimbaud, Eve Libertine and Steve Ignorant. This was an amazing experience and I met some great people on the way. The project is documented on The Art of Crass website.

August's big event was Microworld Leicester with Genetic Moo. This was a one-week digital making event hosted by WotSPACE in the Highcross Shopping Centre consisting of workshops and an end-of-week live digital arts event. Support came from Leicester City Council and Arts Council England. Pictures can be found on Flickr and the project webpage. There is also a blog post.

At the end of September at a ceremony in Hackney. London Esther Rolinson and I found out that we had won the Lumen Prize for 3D/Sculpture. This led to the first exhibition in the Lumen Tour, at Caerphilly Castle in November. A blog post about the Lumen award can be found here, together with pictures from the Caerphilly Castle exhibition here on Flickr.

The year ended in December with my Arts Council supported exhibition "A Cybernetic Ecology". This represented the culmination of many years of work and involved a three week exhibition of my new artwork, a live event and a workshop. I'm still in the process of writing this work up, but documentation can be found on the exhibition webpage and there are pictures on Flickr.

There were plenty of other activities too, most are either recorded in my blog or through picture albums on Flickr. On Flickr there is also an album of 100 pictures that capture my activities in 2016.

Fingers crossed that the coming year brings just as many interesting things.

Sun, 11 Dec 2016
A Cybernetic Ecology Exhibition Opening

My Arts Council England supported 'A Cybernetic Ecology' exhibition opened on Tuesday with an evening event attended by about around 50 people. The exhibition is a major milestone in the development of my artwork and is the first time I have brought so many interconnected artworks together in one place.

There was some great feedback. People seemed to both get and like the interconnected nature of the exhibition and the presentation of the work was positively commented on. The new collaborative pieces with Esther Rolinson went down well too which bodes well for out plans for next year.

The opening was followed on the Friday evening by 'Interanerki' - a live event curated by the Anerki group from Leicester that took place in the gallery space. The idea for an "Interact meets Anerki" event came out of the Crass exhibition earlier in the year when Anerki provided support for both the Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant events. I love the diverse work they do and mixing their work with digital arts seemed like a natural thing to try.

The exhibition now runs until the 23rd December at the LCB Depot and will be joined by some additional pieces at Phoenix on Wednesday. There is a Saturday opening on the 17th December with some workshop activities for those interested. You can see my pictures from the exhibition and events here on Flickr.

Tue, 22 Nov 2016
Flown at Caerphilly Castle

One of the great things about receiving a Lumen Prize is that you get to exhibit the winning piece as part of a touring exhibition. The first location on this year's tour is Caerphilly Castle.

The castle is an impressive building. The exhibition was installed in the main hall - an equally impressive room dating back to the 1300s. Unlike previous installs, this location lent itself to the artwork being floor-mounted (basically we couldn't make any holes in the walls for the supports!).

Esther produced an underlying structure that was then covered with sheets and the flown lighting and diffusers were placed on top. Since WiFi was not available at the location (I could barely get 3G) I programmed the artwork to run in a generative mode. The result was just right. It looked as good as it ever has.

The exhibition runs until the 28th November 2016. My Pictures from the install can be found here on Flickr.

Mon, 14 Nov 2016
Responsive Lighting at Guangdong University of Technology

I've started doing some work with the School of Art and Design at Guangdong University of Technology in China (just above Hong Kong). It's proving to be a very interesting experience and one that I hope will lead to a longer term working relationship with them. One of our first projects together involves working on some interactive/responsive street lights for the campus.

The main body of the lights has been designed by renowned architect Vesa Honkonen (who is an International Professor in the School) and I have been asked to design a responsive coloured lighting system to accompany the main white lights of the fixture.

Vesa's design is quite unusual, featuring an oval body with up and down "trunks" that will contain white lights to illuminate the footways and trees around the campus. There is a special trunk reserved for sensors and Vesa's suggestion was that RGB lights are placed over the body of the oval.

At first I was a bit worried about the idea of drilling holes in the body to hold the lights, but after spending some time working on the layouts in a CAD package (with some helpful students) we came up with an arrangement of the holes that I think suits the overall structure well (see the picture above).

The next step is install the RGB lights in the fixture and add a control system. Phase 1 (December) will run slow colour fades on the system, Phase 2 (April) will add a custom controller to the fixture that will use sensors located in the body to trigger colour-change sequences in the RGB lights. Additionally, multiple fixtures will be able to communicate with each other in order to synchronise their colour changes.

As well as being an interesting project to get involved in creatively, this project is also getting me used to the Chinese way of working, which seems to oscillate between, "we need it now!" and occasional bureaucratic delays. The results of how they work can impressive though. For example, the initial five lighting fixtures were handmade by a local company out of stainless steel in about a month!

I hope to see the first light installed at GDUT in December. I'll post some pictures when they're up. More pictures showing the work-in-progress can be found on Flickr.

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