Sean Clark's Blog

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Thu, 15 Mar 2012
Two Queens in Leicester

I visited the new Two Queens Gallery and Studios in Leicester today to have a look at their first exhibition. The space (located appropriately at 2 Queens St, Leicester, in the Cultural Quarter) looked great, consisting of a large exhibition space downstairs with artists' studios upstairs.

The exhibition itself contains various mixed-media pieces that make use of light, water, projections and screens. There are some interesting ideas on show and it's a good statement of intent I think. It certainly places the gallery in a clear contemporary art context.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the artist-led groups behind the space (CUSP and Vanilla Galleries) do with it. I'm sure it will become a valuable addition to the Leicester arts scene. You can find out more about the gallery at their website http://2queens.com/ and follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/twoqueensleicester.

Wed, 14 Mar 2012
Summer Sundae 2012

I've been involved personally in Leicester's annual Summer Sundae festival since 2004 - initially working with Bathysphere on their stage and then being involved in the Summer Sundae Fringe festival (now known as the Leicester Fringe Festival) for five years.

In 2010 Cuttlefish got involved and produced an iPhone app for the festival. Last year we took over the festival website and produced an Android as well as iPhone app. I also ran an Interact Gallery off-site exhibition of Memory Mirror at the 2011 event.

This year we will have a similar level of involvement, with the website already being updated regularly with new announcements and a new version of the iPhone app appearing in the Apple App store a couple of weeks ago.

We've also added a few extra things to the festival's web infrastructure for 2012: there's now a Podcast series showcasing music from last and this year's line-up; we've also added a custom page/App to the Facebook site to promote ticket sales; and we plan to make a mobile web version of the line-up available to people who don't have iPhones or Android phones at the festival.

It's always interesting coming up with new ideas for how we can use the internet to help promote the festival. Technology is constantly developing and you sometimes have to make a real effort to keep pace with it. The big bonus with Summer Sundae, though, is that after the work's done you get to relax and have fun at the festival itself!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012
Jacktrip Workshop @ The Interact Gallery

The Interact Gallery held its first event as part of the Network Migrations project today in the form of a Jacktrip training session with the group in Mexico. As part of a three-way Skype connection between ourselves in Leicester, partners in Mexico and the Jacktrip tutor in Chile we learnt how the Jacktrip software works.

During the workshop we successfully used the software to make an audio connection with Columbia and are feeling quite confident that it will deliver what we need in the future. The plan is to use Jacktrip to create a high quality audio session between Leicester and Mexico for the Networked Migrations performance later in the month.

Mon, 05 Mar 2012
It's Raspberry Pi Time

It's not often something comes along that causes more fuss on the internet than Apple's latest offering but despite the imminent arrival of the iPad 3 the new Raspberry Pi computer is definitely grabbing the limelight at the moment. So why all the interest in this little computer?

Well, the first thing you notice is that it's cheap - very cheap. For just £25 it aims to provide you with a fully-fedged computer that will run a real operating system.

Part of this cost saving is down to the fact that you can plug it in to your TV instead of buying a monitor. You'll also need to provide your own USB keyboard and mouse since these are not included. What's more it doesn't come with a hard drive - instead you'll need to use a cheap SD card to give the computer some storage. RAM is limited to 256Mb and the processor is more like the one you find in your smartphone rather than a desktop PC. In fact, the whole device has more in common with mobile phone hardware than the typical home computer.

You may be thinking that the device sounds is rather limited. Well yes it is (remember, it only costs £25!), but Smartphone level computers are actually pretty powerful devices these days. If you run a efficient operating system on them (such as Raspberry Pi's Debian Linux) and include a decent graphics chip (like the Raspberry Pi has) you will indeed have a computer that will do most of the things we use current desktop computers for - web browsing, email, document editing and - within reason - gaming.

However, despite being capable enough, the Raspberry Pi is not really intended to be a cheap way of doing these sorts of things. Instead, the goal of the project is to ignite interest in computer programming and computer hardware development.

People my age who became interested in computers did so using the equivalent of stripped-down simple computers like the Raspberry Pi. The Acorn and Sinclair computers of my youth had only a fraction of the power of 'professional' computers of the time, but there were relatively cheap and most important of all they were straightforward to program. They were also very hackable. I remember soldering wires directly on the the board of my beloved ZX80 and building my own hardware voice synthesiser!

With the industry focus on ever increasing processing power to support ever larger operating systems and games, and young people being taught how to use applications rather than programming, the makers of the Raspberry Pi believe computing has lost something since those days.

Raspberry Pi hope that their device will get people doing real computing again. It's priced at the level of a textbook and hopefully every school pupil will one day have access to one.

A community is already starting to develop around the device and there seems to be a huge demand for the hardware. I've been lucky enough to get my order in and when it arrives I look forward to getting coding on it. I'll no doubt report back here once I have.

Tue, 28 Feb 2012
An Ecology of Mind London Premiere

I went to the London premiere of Nora Bateson's An Ecology of Mind film last night. I wrote about this film a couple of blog posts ago and thought that the London screening would be a good opportunity to see it on the big screen. Plus, Nora was there herself and there was a discussion panel after.

The film made even more sense second time around around, but the highlight was hearing Nora Bateson talking about her father's ideas and the making of the film. Her enthusiasm was infectious. The panel was less interesting for me - basically a series of monologues rather than a discussion.

More screenings are planned (check the website for details) and there was even talk of a sequel to the film. I hope this was a serious suggestion!

Thu, 16 Feb 2012
Pictures on the Radio

I bought a little Chinese shortwave radio last week and by tuning in to a fax broadcast on 2618KHz last night and holding my iPhone near it while running an app called HF Fax I was able to receive this weather map. I was quite impressed. Radio has always fascinated me. Despite knowing broadly how it works (I have a radio license which I took an exam for ages ago), I still consider it to be basically magic.

All radio frequencies exist in the same place simultaneously, their waves travel around our world almost instantly and we can't see or touch them. Yet we not only managed to not only discover them in the first place, but are able to control them in such a way that within decades of discovery their use became essential to the modern world.

For a while I've been thinking about a project that would look to visualise the radio spectrum around you in a creative way - letting you see, hear and 'feel' the waves around you. Making the invisible, visible. I'll report back when I've made some progress.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012
Gregory Bateson's Ecology of Mind

I've been interested in the ideas and writings of Gregory Bateson for a while. He was a pioneering systems thinker who contributed to many disciplines from anthropology, through cybernetics to cognitive science and semiotics (although I imagine he wouldn't think of these as different "disciplines" as such).

In this film, named "An Ecology of Mind" after one of Gregory Bateson's best known books, Bateson's daughter Nora presents a portrait of the man and his work. It contains many interviews with people influenced by his ideas, plus plenty of archive footage of Gregory Bateson from his lectures, as well as home movies. Fritjof Capra, who I have spent time with at Schumacher College, makes a number of insightful contributions.

It makes for fascinating viewing. It certainly helps you understand what Gregory Bateson's ideas were about, but just as interesting is the backdrop of his relationship with daughter Nora Bateson. She clearly adored him, although he was aged 64 at the time of her birth and died when she was only 12.

Gregory Bateson's writings can be hard to make sense of (at least by me!) and this film makes for a great introduction to his work. The film is currently on tour around the UK, although I purchased it from Amazon in Germany. See www.anecologyofmind.com for more information.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012
Stephan Harding's Animate Earth Film

I watched Stephan Harding's Animate Earth film last night. For those unfamiliar with Stephan and his work, he is the resident ecologist at Schumacher College in Totnes and is a highly inspirational and engaging expert on Gaia Theory and ecological thinking. I've attended a number of his talks whilst at the college and this film does a great job of capturing his enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject.

In the film he presents many of the ideas that can be found in his book of the same name. He introduces the nature of the ecological crisis we are currently experiencing, discusses Goethe's approach to science (which is very much the basis for his teaching at Schumacher), explains Gaia Theory and illustrates it all with a detailed look at the long-term carbon cycle (albeit without the amusing personifications of the elements involved that I have heard him use before!).

The film is an impassioned plea for a more holistic view of the world around us in order to come up with long-term solutions to ecological problems. It's a film that needs to be seen and I encourage you to try and see it.

See www.animateearth.com for more information about the film. You can find the book on Amazon here or simply search for "Animate Earth".

Sat, 04 Feb 2012
v.01 at Derby QUAD

Derby QUAD are running an interesting programme of digital arts events at the moment. v.01 was launched tonight with the opening of an exhibition of interactive artworks which runs for a week. There will also be workshops, demonstrations and talks over the coming week. More information can be found at the website here. I've popped a few pictures from the launch event on my Flickr page.

Wed, 25 Jan 2012
Eduardo Kac Talks About Waldemar Cordeiro

I attended a very interesting lecture by Eduardo Kac on Tuesday evening at the Royal College of Art. He was talking about the life and work of Brazillian-based artist Waldemar Cordeiro. Cordeiro was born in 1925 and died in 1973, and in his relatively short life worked in many creative fields, being particularly known for his work with the Concrete Art movement in Brazil.

He was also a pioneering computer artist, spending the last five years of his life producing computer-based artworks using the technology available at the time - dot-matrix printers and plotters.

Eduardo's talk was very engaging, demonstrating a high degree of knowledge of the subject, but also a clear admiration of the artist. Eduardo Kac is known for his artworks that use technology and biology in new ways - perhaps most famously in the creation of a fluorescent rabbit called Alba that contained a jellyfish gene (the ethics of doing this are clearly a major part of the piece).

The talk was organised by the Computer Arts Society.

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