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Sean Clark's Blog

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Tue, 16 Jun 2015
Looking Back at Make||Sound

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.

Tue, 02 Jun 2015
Make||Sound 6th - 13th June 2015

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.

For more information visit the Make||Sound website at http://makefestival.uk. A gallery of pictures of the event will be hosted on Flickr. Feel free to add your own pictures to the group.

Sat, 30 May 2015
Show Off! with Spark

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.

Mon, 18 May 2015
Brown & Son: Art That Makes Itself - Symposium and Book Launch

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.

Fri, 15 May 2015
Ernest Edmonds' Communication Game

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.

Fri, 24 Apr 2015
Art.CHI 2015 in Korea

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!

Fri, 10 Apr 2015
The Fading Afterglow of Evolution Exhibition

The Fading Afterglow of Evolution is a exhibition by Dave Briggs and Jack Squires in the Cube Gallery at Phoenix. Both Dave and Jack received Interact Labs bursaries last year and this is the first outing of their new work.

The exhibition is based around the idea of a archeological dig (perhaps in the future, or maybe a parallel present?) in which a number mysterious 'artefacts' have been found.

The artefacts include 3D rendered golden statuettes, an obelisk, a door that spews junk mail though a 'letter box', and a 'sensorama' that produces ambient smells based on the predicted weather reports for tomorrow. Collectively, these objects form an environment in which you are encouraged to explore and ponder. Drama is added to the experience through the use of a polythene tunnelled entrance!

To me, the exhibitions explores to main ideas. Firstly, what might future archeologists make of the artefacts they discover from our age? When stripped of their original context how do we make sense of past things? We do our best to understand found objects. But we can never really put ourselves in to the minds of the people who made them. Secondly, how do our imaginings of the future effect the future we actually get? We like to believe that we are in control of our technical and social development, but can any of us say what the world will be like in 50 years? Or a hundred, or let alone a thousand?

It's a thought-provoking show and well worth a visit. The exhibition runs until Friday 8th May at Phoenix and is free to enter. My photographs from the opening event can be found here on Flickr.

Thu, 02 Apr 2015
Digital Kaleidoscope in Abu Dhabi!

I've been working on the digital kaleidoscope project for over a year, but haven't been able to write anything about it until it went live. Well, it is now open to the public so I can share a few details.

The project involves a giant projected kaleidoscope inside a rocket ship structure and has been installed by Engineering Creatives at Yas Mall in Adu Dhabi. My role was to design the kaleidoscope software and create the control system - six iPads that allow users to select the materials to be displayed in the kaleidoscope.

It's come together really well and looks amazing. The screen is around three meters across with large mirrors reflecting the image so it appears to go on forever. With the booming audio and computer controlled lighting is makes quite a show!

See a gallery of pictures and a video of the piece here on Flickr. It has been quite a substantial piece of work. I hope there will be opportunities to show it in the UK sometime, for now, if you're ever in Abu Dhabi then head over to the Yas Mall and look for the Fun Works area. There are plenty of other things to see there too.

Sun, 15 Mar 2015
Crystal Radio Workshop

On Saturday, as an activity connected to Julian Oliver's exhibition at Phoenix in Leicester, I hosted a crystal radio making workshop at Interact Labs. The crystal radio (or crystal set) is a wonderful little device. It is the simplest possible radio receiver and despite being over one hundred years old it still has a magical quality to it.

Like many other people I first made a crystal set when I was a child. I remember being amazed how a bundle of wire, a couple of electrical components and an earpiece could be transformed in to something you could use to listen to radio stations from thousands of miles away. The whole thing was even more miraculous given the fact that it didn't require any external electrical power.

When I got my new crystal set working a couple of nights ago I had the exact same sense of wonder as I had as a child. Perhaps appropriately (since I live near Leicester) the first station I tuned in to was an Anglo-Indian channel with Indian music and English spoken word. The Bollywood tunes were literally "crystal clear" as they danced around the little earpiece.

As suggested by Julian Oliver's artwork, it can be argued that the crystal radio marked the beginning of the modern world. The invention of the telegraph (only half a century or so earlier) was itself a huge leap forward in communications. But voice and music? Transmitted wirelessly to millions of people in their homes and received on a device that could be made with a handful of parts. The impact of radio technology was world-changing.

The rate at which radio was developed was as impressive as the technology itself. The first audio radio transmission was in 1900, the BBC began broadcasting to the nation just 20 years later in 1920, and they were experimenting with broadcasting images over radio waves by 1932.

It's a timeline that was to be mirrored at the end of the century by the rise of the World Wide Web, another world-changing communication technology. I recall creating my first website in 1993. Just 22 years later and it's impossible to imagine a modern world without the web, and other Internet technologies.

I have a few crystal radio kits left over, so contact me if you would like to buy one. Or why not have a search on the internet and find out how to make one yourself? Julian Oliver's exhibition runs at Phoenix until 30th March. See my pictures from the workshop here.

Sun, 08 Mar 2015
Julian Oliver's The Crystal Line

A new exhibition in Phoenix's Cube Gallery opened on Friday. Julian Oliver's The Crystal Line makes use of a modern reproduction of a classic "Crystal Set" radio to receive audio transmitted by a computer that scours the World Wide Web for the latest developments in warfare.

Due to rather a lot of interference in the gallery space, it was not possible to actually hear the sound coming through the radio. However, Julian gave a very interested introduction to the ideas behind the project and the radio itself was fascinating to look at.

The radio should be fully functioning this week so you will now go to the Phoenix Cube Gallery and fully experience the installation. It will be operating until the 30th March.

There will be an opportunity to make your own Crystal Set radio at my workshop in Interact Labs on Saturday 14th March. You can book a place here at the Phoenix site.

My pictures from the opening can be found on Flickr.

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