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Sean Clark's Unofficial Phoenix Digital Arts Blog

I am a digital artist, a researcher, the director of web/mobile developer Cuttlefish. This is my unofficial blog about The Digital Arts Programme at Phoenix in Leicester. I am not employed by Phoenix and all opinions expressed are my own.

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Fri, 10 Apr 2015
The Fading Afterglow of Evolution Exhibition
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.

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

Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Esther Rolinson's Melt
Esther Rolinson's Melt

The final piece in Esther Rolinson's exhibition of three new artworks at the Phoenix has been installed in the Cube Gallery. Melt is a much larger piece that the first two - Thread and Splinter - and fills the entire gallery space.

The piece consists of angled fabric columns extend from the floor and are illuminated via a matrix of lights embedded in the ceiling. As the lights switch on and off the fabric columns alternate between appearing solid and translucent. The effect is to animate the space and provide an ever changing structure that can be explored by the visitor.

As with the other pieces in the series, I have been involved in helping to design and configure the lighting system. The solution used here is based around theatrical DMX lights that are controlled via an Arduino micro controller that in turn is controlled by a Processing patch running on a Mac mini.

Pictures from the exhibition can be found here on Flickr. The exhibition runs at Phoenix until the 5th January.

Thu, 23 Oct 2014
Esther Rolinson Exhibition
Esther Rolinson Exhibition

Tonight saw the opening of Esther Rolinson's Splinter and Thread exhibition at Phoenix in Leicester. The two light-based artworks are the result of over two years development by Esther.

Both pieces feature animated light sequences. In Splinter LEDs illuminate acrylic panels suspended in the gallery space with thin cables. Patterns move around the panels, changing in speed and introducing subtle colours. The result is a mesmerising sculptural form that really has to be seen to be appreciated.

Thread uses similar lighting technology, but runs the LED light through prepared optical fibres. This leads to more of the sense of an animated 3D 'drawing', with bold stokes of light crossing the gallery space and interacting with each other. Again, it needs to be seen for the effect to be understood.

The realisation of Esther's vision for the artworks required a team of supporting technologists, including myself. We had to design and build the lighting hardware, develop the electronics and then program the sequences to match what Esther wanted. It was a long, but very interesting, process and the results are quite spectacular.

I've shared my photographs of the installation and opening of the exhibition here on Flickr. The two pieces will be on show until the 5th December and will be followed by a third piece called 'Melt' on the 12th December until mid January. Make sure you visit!

Mon, 29 Sep 2014
Sites of Collective Memory

You have until the end of the week to visit the Sites of Collective Memory exhibition at Phoenix. To quote:

"Sites of Collective Memory comprises four new animated works that offer intimate portraits of individuals, witnesses to historic events at places that resonate with individual and shared remembrance.

"Each work takes testimony as its starting point, reflecting on personal experiences of iconic and historic moments – the bombing of Hiroshima, the massacre of Polish Gypsies in WWII, and the 7/7 London bombings – and in contrast, the private experiences passed down through British Romani families. Through these works we may consider how representations of history and culture are shared in our collective consciousness."

I have put some pictures from the exhibition on my Flickr page.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014
Poems, Places and Soundscapes
Poems, Places and Soundscapes

If you haven't yet visited it, then you only have a day or two left to experience the "Poems, Places & Soundscapes" exhibition at Phoenix in Leicester.

The exhibition in the Cube Gallery presents spoken word poetry, sound recordings and images that explore space and soundscape. It takes the form of a number of installations with headphones - some pieces have images, others have buttons allowing you to select from a list of words. As you explore the gallery you can sit down and listen to the poetry and sounds. It was very atmospheric and evocative. The exhibition demands time to fully appreciate it and I could certainly go back and find new things to listen to. I hope I get a chance to revisit before the end of the run.

This exhibition is part of Mark Goodwin's Sound-Enhanced Poetry project, which was awarded an Arts Council England Grants for the arts in 2013.

Fri, 14 Feb 2014
Site Exploration Exhibition at Phoenix
Site Exploration Exhibition at Phoenix

The new exhibition at in the Cube Gallery at Phoenix is an interesting one. It contains work by a number of artists and deals with the subjects of environment, place and time.

The first piece you notice when you enter the gallery is the Subterranean soundscape produced by Semiconductor. This takes seismic data from earthquakes, volcanos and glaciers and makes it audible. It instantly places you in a primal world of grinding rocks and cracking ice.

Next, Benedikt Gross and Bertrand Clerc present Metrography - an apparently distorted map of London based on the underground map. Reminding us that all maps are actually distortions of some sort (Gregory Bateson commented extensively on the relationship between the map and territory, as did and Alfred Korzybski).

Perhaps my favourite piece in the exhibition is the long-running Mesocosm animation by Marina Zurkow of a seated figure (in the style of one of Lucian Freud's paintings of Leigh Bowery) in a Nothumberland landscape. Each day in the landscape is represented by 24 minutes in the gallery. The entire animation lasts for 146 hours, but has a generative element so that no two cycles are the same.

Locally-based artist Eric Rosoman's piece GPS Ducks is an interesting response to the story of the accidental release of nearly 29,000 rubber ducks from a container ship in 1992. This became a really important event in the study of ocean currents since ducks have now turned up all over the world. Eric has released a more modest number of ducks in to the local river system, but this time equipped with solar powered GPS trackers so that we can watch their journeys.

Finally, Charles Danby and Rob Smith's work The Quarry explores the site of the photographer/landscape artist Robert Smithson's artwork Chalk Mirror Displacement. It presents material from the quarry used to create the work as well as a collection of triangulated photographs. I actually need to go back and have another look at this piece since I didn't realise that there were QR codes with the photographs! Scanning these apparently plays video works.

The exhibition is one that deserves time being spent at it and is very rewarding if you allow yourself to take it all in. If runs at Phoenix until 28th February 2014.

See my pictures from the exhibition here.

Mon, 03 Feb 2014
Alice Tuppen - Point. Forty
Alice Tuppen - Point. Forty

DMU Masters student Alice Tuppen has just finished a short run of her "Point. Forty" exhibition in the Cube Gallery at Phoenix in Leicester. The installation featured four tables on which were placed objects that when picked up would trigger the playback of videos. Each table contained objects from one of the 40-year-old female participants and the videos explored personal the thoughts and recollections of each participant.

The first thing you noticed about the piece was how completely it transformed the Phoenix Cube Gallery. I have seen many artworks in the space, and exhibited in there myself, and and can honestly say that I have never experienced such a change in the feel of the gallery. This was in part down to the props and objects used, but also the lighting and the engaging nature of the video material.

One measure of the success of a piece of work like this is how long people engage for. Again, the work excelled at this, with some people remaining in the space for up to an hour - going from table to table in order to explore each participant's objects and videos.

While the piece only had a short run, I'm sure that we will see more such work from Alice in the future. You can see my pictures from the show here on Flickr. You can find Alice's web site at

Thu, 17 Oct 2013
Here Comes Interact Labs...
Here Comes Interact Labs...

I normally try to write a blog post once a week. But I've been a bit slack recently, not through lack of activity, but through business with a new project - Interact Labs. What's this about I hear you ask? Well, to quote from the new website:

"Interact Labs is a new programme designed to encourage people to be creative with digital technology. Equipped with everything from DIY hardware kits to a state of the art 3D printer, Interact Labs provides a space at Phoenix in Leicester dedicated to learning, experimentation, creative collaboration and making new things."

Basically, it's a new physical space at Phoenix in Leicester that is going to be focussed on getting more people creative with technology. It's something of a follow-on from The Interact Gallery that I ran at Fabrika in 2011 and 2012, but with a stronger emphasis on making things.

Go to the website to find out more.

Wed, 11 Sep 2013
Thomas Dolby's The Invisible Lighthouse
Thomas Dolby's The Invisible Lighthouse

Thomas Dolby came to the Phoenix in Leicester tonight to kick off the UK tour of his film The Invisible Lighthouse. I say 'film', but it was more of a live performance than a typical film showing - with Dolby delivering most of the spoken word and music live from the stage.

The film is centred around the closure of a lighthouse in Suffolk near where Thomas Dolby grew up and has now returned to live with his family. Backed by both documentary and more abstract film sequences, he delivers a narration that reflects on his memories of the lighthouse and the area. On the top of this he adds live music, lighting and the wearing of various hats to produce something quite unique - true live 'multimedia'.

I found it highly absorbing. I liked both the subject of the story and the way it was performed. As a child growing up in Selsey I can remember looking out to the Nab Tower at night and being fascinated by the flashing light (and the booming of the horn in the fog). I realised that this was something I hadn't thought about in years.

As well as performing, Thomas Dolby also filmed most of the video footage himself - sometimes using a camera mounted on a small quadcopter to get aerial shots.

Being the first night of the tour I spotted a few little glitches in the show, but these didn't distract from the performance at all. The film was followed by a Q&A session and then a couple of songs for the fans. The tour continues across the UK and then goes to the US. See for details.

See my pictures from the night here on Flickr, and a video of Thomas Dolby performing "Hyperactive" here on YouTube.

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