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Sean Clark's Blog

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Sat, 11 Jun 2011
Sparking The Imagination

Sparking The Imagination is a digital arts event for kids running over the weekend of 11th and 12th June at Phoenix Square in Leicester. I was invited to contribute some work to it and used it as an opportunity to try out some of my work in progress.

In Screen 2 I installed a version of my “Active Mirror", which (in this case) overlays multiple live video loops to create a highly engaging and interactive video screen.

In the cafe area I set up a “Picture Wall". This is a version of my Dropsketch project which allows people to share drawings made on iOS devices. Kids were able to use the supplied iPods and iPad to make drawings and then “drop" them on the large screen by shaking the device.

Around the building I set up a QR Trail. Twelve QR codes placed around the downstairs could be scanned and a riddle was displaced. The answer to the riddle provided a clue to the secret word that could be used to get a treat from the Phoenix Square reception.

All three pieces worked well and the chance to test out some of this technology in front of an audience was most welcome. You‘ll see various bits of these pieces in my forthcoming exhibition at Fabrika in the autumn.

See a short video of Active Mirror on my YouTube channel. Pictures from the event on Flickr page. The feed of drawings uploaded by visitors is on blip.im.

Wed, 01 Jun 2011
Visitor by Speakeasy

As part of the build-up to my autumn exhibition I‘ve been looking for opportunities to test my new digital arts technology. For Speakeasy‘s “Visitor" Spark Festival show (with Movers) I set up two interactive pieces based on my current work.

The first was an implementation of one of my “active mirror" systems that allows viewers to interact with their own image via a video feedback loop. The second used face detection to grab video images of viewers and add them to a collage of flower heads. Both systems worked well and got good user feedback. They also performed well technically – although they did remind me of how important it is to get the lighting right in video-based systems like this.

One idea I‘ve been considering to help with this is to develop active control of the brightness/contrast of the incoming video image before I feed it in to my art systems. This would allow the artworks to function better in varied lighting environments.

Sat, 28 May 2011
Artwork | Jackie Calderwood's Gatherer

You may have seen these colour grids popping up in my Twitter and Facebook streams over the past month. They are part of a geoartcache project called "Hunter Gatherer" by my fellow PhD researcher Jackie Calderwood. I've been building an iPhone App and website for Jackie to support he project, which officially launches today. See http://www.gatherer3.com to find out more and to participate in the project.

Fri, 27 May 2011
iPhone | Simon Faithfull's Limbo

Cuttlefish has been working with artist Simon Faithfull to create a custom drawing tool to enable him to create drawings on his iPhone in keeping with his established drawing style. The project launched with Simon doing a one week residency on a cross-channel ferry.

During the residency he produced and uploaded 57 drawings to his website via the drawing tool. Viewers could follow the drawings via Twitter, Facebook and another custom iPhone App called "Limbo" that we produced and uploaded to the Apple App store.

It's been a really interesting project to work on and this is really only the start of it. Simon will continue create and upload drawings as he produces "an expanded atlas of subjectivity". See http://limbo.simonfaithfull.org for more about the project and to download the Limbo iPhone App.

Wed, 25 May 2011
Event | The Spark Festival

The Spark Festival is Leicester's annual Children's Arts Festival. It runs for two weeks from the end of May. Cuttlefish Multimedia has been doing the website for the festival for a couple of years now and this year has produced an iPhone guide to the event.

I'm also involved in doing some digital arts work this year, with a couple of small pieces being shown at Speakeasy's "Visitor" show and three pieces of work at "Sparking The Imagination" on 11th and 12th June at Phoenix Square. I'll post more information about this event soon.

Mon, 23 May 2011
The Divided Brain at Schumacher College

I'm just back from by third visit to Schumacher College in Totnes. The one week course was on the subject of "The Divided Brain" with Iain McGilchrist. As with my previous visits, it was an inspiring time. Iain's book "The Master and His Emissary" deals with the way we see and value the world around us. The core argument is that the two hemispheres of our brains do this quite differently. McGilchrist believes that the interaction between these two "world views" (the left and right hemisphere's) has had profound impact on our psychological and cultural development. It's heady stuff (no pun intended) and he presents a very compelling and well-supported hypothesis. I'll try to write more about it when it's fully sunk in.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011
Event | Stench Featuring Icarus, Myoptik, Dirty Electronics + More

It is time for another killer line-up of mind-bending multimedia electronics at the Leicester Arts Organisation. The full line-up for the event is:

Dirty Electronics Ensemble
Sluef and the Envelope

DJ Support from:

Asmo (Bathysphere.co.uk) and Missaw (TheCentrifuge.co.uk)

Thursday 21st April, Fabrika (The Independent Arts Organisation) 8pm to 1am. Tickets £5 available on the door.

Sun, 30 Jan 2011
Blog | EightFoldYear / Appcelerator Titanium

One of the things about making art with digital technology is that your chosen medium never stands still! It's one of the reasons that digital artists often work with programmers and technicians to help realise their work. In fact, even though I've had both a computing and arts education it's still tough to keep up with the pace of technological development and new platforms often mean a steep learning curve.

A technology that is providing some interesting opportunities for artists is the smartphone - especially iPhone and Android. I really like the personal nature of the mobile device and have got a number of arts projects lined-up that I would like to see on smartphones. But what about the learning curve I needed to get up to speed with development for this technology?

Well, a possible solution here is something called Appcelerator Titanium. This software platform promises to allow me to develop 'native' apps for both iPhone and Android using web-based tools, such as JavaScript.

One project I have in the pipeline at the moment is an Earth-centred calendar smartphone app containing the artwork of Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid. The EightFoldYear app aims to show people their current place in the year in relation to the flow of the seasons. It will display the current lunar phase, current division of the wheel of the year, forthcoming festivals and a new artwork that Jamie has created for every day of the year.

I thought it would be interesting to see how far I could go in developing this app with Appcelerator Titanium. Initially I was really impressed. JavaScript is a pretty easy language to program in and the Appcelerator platform makes it straightforward to invoke standard iPhone controllers and views. Progress was pretty fast and I managed to get quite a few of the features I wanted up in the app and running in just a few days

However, then the problems started. While things worked well in the iPhone simulator, when trying to build the app and download it to my iPhone I kept on getting crashes. Looking through the Appcelerator support pages I saw that I was not the only one. It seems as if the platform is still very much under-construction and does suffer from quite a few bugs. Also, I've now downloaded quite a few apps on the App Store that have been developed using it and can see that some are a bit rough around the edges.

But it's not all bad news. I have managed to produce a fairly decent prototype for EightFoldYear app using Appcelerator which I can now hand over to Cuttlefish's iPhone developer for building "properly". I also think that with a bit more development Appcelerator could become a pretty decent tool for smartphone development. I've looked at a few such tools and this one really does have potential. For now though, it's going to remain for me only as prototyping environment.

As for the EightFoldYear app. It will be available from the App Store later in the year. Follow the Cuttlefish Digital Arts Facebook Group for any announcements about it.

Mon, 10 Jan 2011
News | Cuttlefish is 10 Years Old!

Cuttlefish is 10 years old this week! Yup, it's 10 years since I decided to leave a guaranteed monthly pay packet behind and start working for myself. Looking back the decision made itself. The company I had been working for was leaving me very creatively unfulfilled and I really had take my experience and expertise somewhere else.

I set up the business in 2001 with the simple goal of (as you can see on this screen-grab from the early Cuttlefish site) "exploring the creative uses of technology". This still remains Cuttlefish's core aim to this day (especially on the Cuttlefish Digital Arts side of things) and over the years we have brought our creative approach to the internet and multimedia to a broad range of clients from local authorities to large plcs, business and educational establishments, art organisations and individual artists. We've managed to handle almost anything thrown at us - be it websites, CD-ROMs, web services, e-commerce systems and or, as is increasingly the case, iPhone Apps.

One of the early hopes of working for myself was that I would be able to devote more time to developing my arts practice. This has certainly been the case and in recent years I've even been able to re-enter the world of research by firstly doing a research-led MA at Camberwell College of Arts in 2006 to 2008 and now working towards at PhD in Digital Arts at De Montfort University in Leicester.

So, what do I think are the secrets of running a creative business for 10 years? Well, the first surely has to be getting a good team around you and learning how to delegate (which is tough). The next is believing in what you do and not seeing the business simply as a 'money making machine'. Lastly, I reckon, is knowing how to initiate and manage change. When I think how the web industry has changed in 10 years it's scary. Does anything work the same as it did then? I mean, we didn't even have Facebook.

Wed, 05 Jan 2011
Event | Ernest Edmonds: Art, Interaction and the Active Audience

The Institute of Creative Technologies and the Computer Arts Society have the pleasure of hosting a talk by Ernest Edmonds at 5pm on 19th January at the IOCT Lab at De Montfort University.

Ernest Edmonds was born in London and studied Mathematics and Philosophy at Leicester University. He has a PhD in logic from Nottingham University, is a Fellow of the British Comuter Society, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and a Charted Engineer. He is a practicing artist.

He lives and works in Sydney Australia. His art is in the constructivist tradition and he first used computers in his art practice in 1968. He first showed an interactive work with Stroud Cornock in 1970. He first showed a generative time-based computer work in London in 1985. He has exhibited throughout the world, from Moscow to LA. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is collecting his archives within the National Archive of Computer Based Art and Design.

He has over 200 refereed publications in the fields of human-computer interaction, creativity and art. Artists Bookworks (UK) has recently published his book "On New Constructs in Art". Ernest Edmonds is Professor of Computation and Creative Media at the University of Technology, Sydney where he runs a multi-disciplinary practice-based art and technology research group, the Creativity and Cognition Studios. In Sydney, he is represented by the Conny Dietzschold Gallery.

Ernest Edmonds has held the position of University Dean, has sat on many funding and conference committees and was a pioneer in the development of practice-based PhD programmes. He founded the ACM Creativity and Cognition Conference series and was part of the founding team for the ACM Intelligent User Interface conference series. He has been an invited speaker in, for example, the UK, France, the USA, Australia, Japan and Malaysia.

The talk free is open to all. Contact Sean Clark at seanc@cuttlefish.com for further information. You can find the IOCT Lab at point 21 on the following map. This is the first in what we hope will be a regular programme of CAS talks to be held in the Midlands.


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