Sean Clark's Blog
I've just finished two "making" projects.
The first was the assembly of a RigidBot 3D printer kit from Invent-a-part. This was a Kickstarter that I supported around two years ago and has only just come through! The main attraction of the printer was its size - it's 25cm in the X, Y and Z axis - and the fact that you get to built it yourself so you get to really understand how it works. Despite the delay, I'm really pleased with it and it has been doing some excellent prints.
The second project was an Atlas3D Laser Scanner. This was also from Kickstarter and was a kit of electronics to which you added the 3D printed parts in order to construct the scanner. I haven't fully calibrated it yet, but the scanner itself looks great and when set-up it should be able to scan objects at fraction of a millimetre accuracy.
Both of these project are intended to enable me to create a new set of "Connected Digital Artworks" that I hope to be able to exhibit next year. Stay tuned for details.
I'm really pleased to be on the shortlist for a Talk Talk Digital Heroes 2015 award under the 'skills' category. It's for the 'art-meets-technology' work that I've been doing at Phoenix Interact Labs over the last couple of years.
It's great to be recognised for this work, but the really exciting thing is it provides the opportunity to raise the profile for what Internet Labs has been doing in Leicester and potentially win some funds to support the work further.
If we win (and it's up to you to vote) then we would get £5,000 in cash and consideration for the big prize of £10,000. Imagine what we could go with this in terms of supporting artists who want to get involved with technology, and technologists who want to get involved in the arts! I'm thinking more art and technology workshops, better kit for the Lab, a more formal schools programme and even more artists bursaries. Plus it would provide the funds needed to launch my next project - Computer Art Club.
Computer Art Club would be a free-to-use network and ever-growing set of resources for educations, groups and individuals interested in art and technology. It would provide lesson and workshop plans, deconstruct example digital artworks and show their underlying code, present a history of digital art (that's not just about Photoshop) and provide on-line tools to help like-minded people connect. We could even set up a UK-wide digital art prize!
Whenever I explain the concept to people the response is positive. Even my suggestion that art teachers should teach programming and maths teachers should teach generative art has been known to get a few nods. The programme would work with other initiatives (like the amazing Code Club) and be open to people of all ages (with a bit of a focus on younger people, to help inspire the next generation of tech-inspired-artists and art-inspired-technologists).
I'd love to take what we have learnt at Interact Labs and make it available to more people. Computer Art Club would allow me to do this and you can help make it happen by going to http://digitalheroes.talktalk.co.uk, registering and voting for Sean Clark in the Skills category.
I managed to make my first visit to Bletchly Park today. Bletchly is famous as the location of the second world war code-breakers - that included Alan Turing - who cracked the German Enigma machine. The site is is now a museum dedicated to the work done during the war, as well as the RSGB Radio Museum and the National Museum of Computing.
The site is becoming something of the UK's 'tech museum' hub and it makes you realise how important the work done across the UK was in enabling the 'information age'. From the discovery and development of radio, through the theory and creation of the first computers and ultimately the invention of the web, the UK has been at the forefront of technical innovation.
It was also interesting to see the transformation of Alan Turing from obscure mathematician to national hero. When I was a student he was really only known by computer scientists and mathematicians. "On Computable Numbers" was required reading (even though I didn't really understand it!) and the Turning Machine (more understandable, especially without the maths) and Turing Test (that one made sense) were familiar concepts.
To see him venerated at Bletchly was satisfying. I even got to sit at a (his?) desk in his office in Hut 8! Of course, many others were involved in this work, and people like Gordon Welchman are starting to get the recognition they deserve now that Turing's story has raised interest.
At the National Museum of Computing you could see the start of a collection and narrative explaining the history of computing in the UK. They had a fully working rebuilt 1940s Colossus Mark II machine, they are working on a 1950s EDSAC, they have lots of 60s and 70s machines and all the classic home computers from the 1980s. Scarily, one of their biggest exhibits was an ICL 2966 mainframe - a machine I first programmed when it was state-of-the-art in the late 1980s!
As I their collections grows over time I suspect the full story of the UK's involvement in the development of computing will be told at the site.
See my photos from the visit here on Flickr.
As part of his contribution to the Primary Codes exhibition in Rio de Janeiro (see http://wsimag.com/art/14960-primary-codes) I have collaborated with Ernest Edmonds on a reworking of his classic Cities Tango artwork. 'Cities Tango 2' takes the core visual aesthetic of the original and combines it with one of my 'connected' colour grids.
As with the original, the new artwork is installed in multiple locations - in this case Rio de Janeiro and Leicester - and camera-captured images are exchanged between 'nodes' in the network in response to movement detected nearby. This image exchange system runs in parallel to the colour exchange system of my piece. The result is a dynamic canvas at each node that is intimately connected to all others in the network.
The Leicester node is currently running as part of the programme on the main screen in the Phoenix Cafe Bar. It will be joined a second node at DMU shortly. The Primary Codes exhibition, which features work by Ernest Edmonds, Paul Brown, Harold Cohen and Frieder Nake, runs until 16th August 2015.
The Make||Sound exhibition at the Highcross Shopping Centre is over and, together with the workshops and talks at Curve, I think we can say it was a great success. Running the exhibition at Highcross ensure that there was a good sized audience - of over 350 people - and the general feedback was very good.
I ran a couple of Arduino and electronics sessions in which attendees helped construct more of my 'jam jar computers'. This project always seems to go down well and I will be releasing the schematics for it soon. Mu pictures from the exhibition are on Flickr.
Make||Sound is an eight-day festival taking place in Leicester's City Centre - at Highcross and Curve - that will be exploring the possibilities and intricacies of sound as an artform. The event runs from from Saturday 6th June until Saturday 13th June 2015 and will play host to musicians, sound designers and creative coders from around the UK and beyond.
Interact Labs will be running two drop-in workshops at the Highcross Shopping Centre as part of the event - on Saturday 6th and Thursday 11th - that will show participants how to generate sound and control lights with Arduino micro-controllers. Attendees will be able to add their creations to Sean Clark's "Colloquy of Jam Jars" installation that will be installed at Highcross throughout the week.
The annual Spark Children's Arts Festival seems to get better and better every year. On Saturday the 30th May I was involved in one of their new events, the Show Off! children's "making" event. This was held at LCB Depot and organised in collaboration with Phoenix.
The event featured a whole range of making activities for young people, including arts and crafts, Minecraft, animation, photography and - my contribution - electronics and LED lighting.
From the opening of the event at 11am (there was a queue to get in)! right up to the closing at 4pm there was a non-stop flow of youngsters looking to play with the electronic kits available. Some of the more advanced ones even got to have a go with some of the Arduinos we had on offer.
You can see some pictures of the event here on Flickr.
I attended Paul and Danny Brown's Symposium and book launch this weekend. Brown & Son (as they are known!) are a unique father and son duo who are both recognised digital artists. Normally working separately, they have come together to exhibit jointly for the first time at Watermans Art Centre in Brentford. This weekend's symposium was part of the exhibition programme and brought together some of the most respected digital artists and commentators from the past 40 years to help place Brown and Son's work in a broader context.
It was a very interesting event. There was a keynote by Frieder Nake, then talks by Paul and Danny, then panel sessions involving Margaret Bowden (Professor of Cognitive Science at Sussex University), Douglas Dodds (V&A), Nick Lambert (Computer Arts Society), Ernest Edmonds and more.
The symposium was video recorded by Brentford TV and I hope to be able to put it up on the Computer Arts Society website soon. The exhibition subtitled Art That Makes Itself and runs until 31st May. My photographs from the event can be found on Flickr.
I've been working on a project for Ernest Edmonds recently to re-construct one of his "Communication Game" artworks from the 1970s. The original artworks used light bulbs, switches and logic circuits to enable low-bandwidth communication between distributed users in ways that pre-dated computer networks by many years.
For the modern reconstruction I used three Arduino Nanos to implement the logic of the original artwork according to a supplied "truth table". The Arduino's were then embedded in a three-side pyramid structure with lights (LEDs) and switches arranged according to Ernest's plans.
Now that the piece is complete I will be handing it over to Ernest at the weekend ready for transportation to Brazil where it will be part of an (amazing) exhibition of work by him, Frieder Nake, Paul Brown and Harold Cohen. Códigos Primordiais (Primary Codes) opens on 16th June in Rio de Janeiro and runs until 16th August.
Ernest Edmonds can be heard talking about his Communication Games in this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdSDoMBhhnA.
Last weekend saw the Art.CHI 2015 workshop take place at the CHI conference in South Korea. CHI (Computer Human Interaction) has been going for quite a while, but the idea of running arts activities in parallel with the main conference is fairly new.
I was involved in an exhibition of artworks when CHI came to Paris a couple of years ago (I showed a ColourNet piece in collaboration with Ernest Edmonds) and although I couldn't make it to South Korea for this one, I did produce the website for the workshop.
The website (there is a paper catalogue as well) presents 18 artworks that were selected from an open call made early in the year. The works were then presented at the workshop and served as the basis for discussion about how Art.CHI might develop further in the future.
There are some very interesting pieces in the selection and the website makes fascinating reading. May of the artworks have accompanying videos that explain them in more detail. The site can be found at http://art-chi.org.
Next year's CHI conference takes place in San Jose in early May 2016. There will be a full Art.CHI exhibition at the event - fingers crossed I can get to that one!