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MADA3 Exhibitions

Sean Clark
June 2008

The experiential nature of my work means that I have to experiment and try out new ideas in a ‘live’ setting in order to move forward. Interactive work will always throw up surprises and the best way for me to generate these is to exhibit is to present my work wherever possible. Therefore, during the second year of my MA I consciously made a decision to try to exhibit the work coming out of my research - even through I felt I it was early days. I tried to fully document these projects and reflect on their results.

Trampoline - Nottingham, November 2007

In the piece ‘I See You’, a video camera is used to capture images of viewers, these images are then layered to produce a video collage that is used to attract new viewers. As images are added the collage remains in a constant state of change, and without new viewers the image fades away.

I submitted ‘I See You’ for the 10th Anniversary ‘Trampoline’ event in Nottingham. It was exhibited and installed in the foyer of the Broadway Cinema on the 29th November 2007. The piece worked well, attracting the audience it needs to operate, and gained positive comments from attendees. With it’s feedback loop, using faces to attract new faces, I think ‘I See You’ is a very good first attempt at creating a digital art-system. It embodies the core principles of what I am trying to achieve - a digital artwork that only ‘exists’ when it is being interacted with. Thanks to Trampoline (www.trampoline.org.uk) for the exhibition opportunity.

Flickr Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seancuttlefish/2074445028/
YouTube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DtRNwqboGU

Phoenix Digital - Leicester, March 2008

The paid commission for ‘Phoenix Digital’ in Leicester was a significant exhibition opportunity for me. As part of the build up to the opening of Leicester’s new Digital Media Centre, Phoenix Arts (www.phoenix.org.uk) is commissioning a series of exhibitions, of which this event in March was the first of 2008. Despite making my life slightly more stressful, I decided to produce three pieces of work - all of which were interactive and would allow me to experiment with ‘digital art-systems’.

‘We Are Not Alone’ was designed specifically for the large screen and overlays six delayed video loops of from a camera pointed at the viewer/participants. In the darkened cinema a single spotlight was pointed on the stage in front of the projection screen. People walking in to the spotlight would be added to the time-delayed video collage, creating a highly interactive video image. Since old loops would fade away, the video image would start to disappear if the piece was not interacted with and hence it encouraged ongoing interaction. A second installation also took place in a less-controlled space. The effect worked, but not as well as in the cinema.

‘Anonymising Webcam’ was a variation on ‘I See You’ in which the faces of the viewer/participants were actively obscured in the image shown on the video screen. The effect was intended to be similar to the way the non-guilty are hidden on crime programmes such as ‘Crimewatch’. Of course, the effect needs faces to work, without it all that can seen is a video image of the space in which it is installed.

Finally, ‘ArtScanner’ was a piece I had been thinking about for a while. Barcodes have the property of being both part of the ‘real’ world, yet a product of the computer’s domain. I used them to allow user-uploaded images on the Internet to be retrieved in a physical space. I was interested in the act of scanning, which is something that almost everyone is familiar with through day-to-day consumer activities, and the - literally - symbolic relationship with the barcode and the ‘product’ (in this case an uploaded image). The flow of information/images around this system is also quite sophisticated and I need to analyse the dynamics of it further post-MA. I can see ArtScanner being a project that I develop and revisit over time. As with all digital art-systems, the work requires interaction in order for the visual-aesthetic properties to emerge.

Thanks to Chris Tyrer at Phoenix Arts.

Web Page: www.cuttlefish.org/phoenixdigital.html
Flickr Pictures: www.flickr.com/photos/seancuttlefish/sets/72157604065912872/
YouTube Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbpQm9uPrqs

‘Balance’ - Multiple Locations, 2007/2008

Being asked to produce a video for The Buoys’ (www.bathysphere.co.uk/thebuoys.html) track ‘Balance’ was an early opportunity to experiment with the visual style that I wanted to achieve for the piece ‘Autopoiesis’. It mixes two video streams of footage I filmed in Leicester city centre. The footage is blurred and running in slow-motion and then “mixed” very subtly in response to the music. I found that this visual style allows the viewer to be aware of the origin of the source materials, but focus on the interaction between the video streams.

It is a visual style that I plan to continue to experiment with and expect it to be characteristic of my work over the next few years. It also has the advantage that it is scale independent. I can zoom in and out of the footage, apply the blur (be is through live processing in Max/MSP/Jitter, or via a video editing program) and the resulting image looks consistent with material produced at different scales.

There is also an element to this style that resonates with what I call my ‘systems-aesthetic’, in that what we might call the ‘individual elements’ of a system are effectively the result of a subjective ‘act of distinction’ that takes place within the mind of the viewer. If I take away the obvious visual cues that facilitate this act then the viewer may see the video image as an interacting and dynamic whole and not simply in terms of the elements they are familiar with.

The video for ‘Balance’ has been shown in many locations in Bathysphere’s ‘Nanoplex’ mobile cinema as well as a number of live events. Stills from the video were exhibited as part of the Artober Festival in Leicester in October 2007.

Flickr Pictures: www.flickr.com/photos/seancuttlefish/sets/72157602175791428/
YouTube Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNjGBCV8Mnw

‘Autopoiesis’ Private Show - Loughborough, May/June 2008

My latest piece, and effectively the ‘product’ of my MA research is the artwork ‘Autopoiesis’. It combines the lessons learnt through previous exhibitions and brings together both the interactive elements explored in ‘I See You’, with the visual material and visual style used in the ‘Balance’ video.

Two recorded video and audio streams of the Leicester city footage are mixed interactively with a third video stream generated by a video camera focused on the viewer/participants. As the viewer/participant moves in front of the camera they see themselves as part of the mix and cause the two recorded streams to change intensity.

The state of the artwork is represented as a triptych, with the left-hand image showing one video stream, the right-hand image showing the other and the centre image showing the resulting ‘mix’ containing viewer/participant. The ‘rules’ contained within the system are quite simple, if there is more movement on the left side of the video camera image then the right video image is stronger in the mix, and vice versa. If there is no movement then the image fades away, since without interactivity the system does not function. There are four time-delayed video images the viewer/participant, making a total of six video layers.

I have found that some of my artworks, like ‘I See You’, work better in public, uncontrolled, spaces and others, like ‘We Are Not Alone’ work better in a space in which I have full control over the lighting and ambience. ‘Autopoiesis’ falls in to the latter category, and for this reason I decided to exhibit it in my studio to a limited audience and present documentation about it at the Final Year Show. I have identified a number of suitable public venues for what I hope will be an autumn showing of the artwork.

Web Page: www.autopoiesis.org.uk