0ain204.jpgArs electronica symposium "Goodbye Privacy" ended yesterday afternoon. I only attended the last day of the talk but from what i've heard both in the room and in bar discussions, this edition, curated by Ina Zwerger and Armin Medosch, was really good. I'll come back with more notes from the talks but in the meantime, here's the torrent of Pirated Copy, a movie directed by He Jianjun and mentioned by Jaromil during his talk.

First a few words about Jaromil. The artist/activist/programmer/hacker gave a presentation about piracy and privacy.

He talked about IP monopoly, piracy of objects and contents, the IPRED2 Intellectual Property EU directive and the rather alarming analysis of it by Italian magistrate Giuseppe Corasaniti, and ended by presenting dyne:bolic, a tool that allows media activists, artists and creatives to manipulate and broadcast sound and video with instruments to record, edit, encode and stream, having automatically recognized most device and peripherals: audio, video, TV, network cards, firewire, usb and more; all using only free software!

Somewhere among all those facts and reflections, Jaromil showed an extract of the movie Pirated Copy.

The docu-like movie follows several characters involved in selling or buying illegal discs. and looks at the pervasive influence pirated DVDs have on these "ordinary" people in Beijing. They are never going to make a dent when the cops themselves aren't busting the dealers -- unless they've got porn. And if He Jianjun's raw DV feature is anything to go by, all these pirated discs have created a remarkably well-educated society of cinephiles.

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Right, another ars electronica. I arrived yesterday and the rain was pouring non stop which was a bit of a bummer not only because i'm wearing sandals and can't find nice boots in Linz but also because many of the art works are scattered throughout the city. No Brucknerhaus thus. The theme of this year's festival being Goodbye Privacy, the organisers figured out that the installations should be exhibited in public space. So downtown you'll find a damp, very damp beach with soaked beach seats and many art installations and projects lined up on a narrow street. Let's start the report on ars electronica nice and easy with one of these works spilled onto the streets: In Your Hands, a performance involving remote control roller skates created by Dash Macdonald.

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For the performance, Macdonald places his fate into the hands of audience members by letting installation visitors remote-control the roller skates strapped to his feet.

Where he skates is determined by the person holding the remote. But the spectacle is meant only to divert attention from what’s actually going on—namely, a subversive social experiment that critically questions how far people are prepared to go in pursuit of their own entertainment.

0amilstanfor.jpgThe work is inspired by the Milgram (1961) and the Stanford Prison experiments (1971). The Stanford prison experiment was a psychological study of human responses to captivity and its behavioral effects on both authorities and inmates in prison. Volunteers played the roles of both guards and prisoners living in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. All of them rapidly adapted to their respective roles, leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized. The Stanley Milgram's experimental found out that people would administer apparently lethal electric shocks to a stranger at the behest of an authority figure. The research remains critical for understanding obedience.

The project comes in fact right from the Royal College of Art’s Design Products department (Carey Young and Noam Toran's platform.) I am always delighted to see a design project landing in an art context. Or maybe i should rather say that i only dig design when it has some arty qualities.

Images of the skates.
Related: Virtual reenactment of the Milgram Obedience Experiments.

Watashi-chan, by Tomoko Ueyama, is a garment that visualizes sounds in a space. The balloons attached to the clothing inflate when there is a sound in the space, even if the wearer does not consciously perceive that sound.

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How it works: Watashi-chan divides the human audio range into six frequency bands and calculates the quantity and frequency of signals entering each frequency band. An electromagnetic valve is assigned to each frequency band. As a quantity of frequency signals is calculat-ed, a signal is sent to an electromagnetic valve to open it. As a result, air is sent to a balloon corresponding to the quantity of frequency signals. After a balloon has been inflated for one second, air is released again, so that the balloon does not inflate too much.

More images.
The work is part of Ima-karada - IAMAS in Tokyo, an exhibition which introduces activities of the IAMAS (Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences / International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences) media school.

Runs on August 24 August and 26, at the Spiral Garden (Spiral 1F) in Tokyo.

More inflatable in fashion: Self-Sustainable Chair, wearable canoe; The Life Dress; the Inflatable Breasts Dress; Fat Suits; Wearable Crisis Management; Modes for Urban Moods and Inflatable wedding dress; SurvivaBall and the Aeolian Ride.

0symbiot9.jpgThe winners of ars electronica are online. There is this new Hybrid Art i was particularly curious about. I feel that its boundaries should be made a bit clearer but I can't think of many art groups who deserved a Golden Nica more than Symbiotica.

An award of distinction in that category was given to Wim Delvoye for the ultra-famous Cloaca, an installation that gulps food and mechanically processes and produces what is —even under scientific examination—impossible to differentiate from human excrement (not my favourite work in the lot but it is oh so photogenic.)

The other distinction award went to Biological Habitat: Breeding Spaces Technology, Made in Space, by Zbigniew Oksiuta, which explores possible ways to grow new forms of life in outer space. The project is based on the insight that environment and physical laws determine the respective forms of life to the extent that their “experience? over the course of evolution is implemented in the building blocks of life, the strands of DNA. In the embryonic state, however, life emancipates itself from these guidelines and prescriptions. This is what the biological habitat uses; it provides a biotope that is not determined by gravitation and physical laws on Earth but rather by conditions in outer space. Therefore, biological forms of life also develop differently here and —similar to life on Earth— reproduce themselves over the course of an evolutionary process.


Honorary mentions went to Andrew Gracie (yay! congrarts!) and Brian Lee Yung Rowe of Hostprods for Autoinducer_Ph-1 (cross cultural chemistry); Blast Theory for Day of the Figurines; Masaki Fujihata's Unreflective Mirror; Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand for Camera Lucida; Beatriz da Costa with Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto for Pigeon Blog.

and works i just discovered: Latent Figure Protocol, by Paul Vanouse; Nothing Happens by Nurit Bar-Shai; @c + Lia by Miguel Carvalhais, Pedro Tudela and Lia; Exploding Camera by Julien Maire; public conVENience, by Tabaimo; Five Pieces of Evidence by Raqs Media Collective.

Image on top corner: GeneMusiK, a project developed under the aegis of Symbiotica.

0mebiolo.jpgMy three year long interest for new media art has brought me several time to Barcelona. At some point i even started wondering "Isn't there any other city that supports the world of art and technology in the Iberian peninsula?" There is! Gijon recently opened a very swanky exhibition centre for art, science, technology and advanced visual industries called Laboral (head to Douglas Edric Stanley's place to check out the videos and words) and the Spanish capital is getting increasingly busy showing, promoting and creating works of media art.

One of the main protagonists in the area is Medialab Madrid which aim is to bring art, science, technology, and society together. I got the opportunity to know more about it a few months ago when i met Marcos García during the festival Ars Electronica where MlM was exhibiting several projects developed during a workshop called Interactivos?. Together with Laura Fernández, Marcos is in charge of the activities of Medialab Madrid's educational program which they both started 3 years ago.

MLM is launching a second Interactivos? workshop inspired this time by the strategies of magic and illusion (deadline for applications is 27th April at 24h), which provides me with a very good excuse to ask them a few questions:

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Magic Torch and xsense

I've been following the activities of Medialab Madrid from afar for a couple of years but i don't know its history. How did Medialab Madrid start?

Medialab Madrid started in 2002 as an initiative of the Cultural Center Conde Duque and the director Juan Carrete.

From the beginning it was conceived by directors Karin Ohlenschäger and Luis Rico as a transdisciplinary program focused on the intersection between art, science, technology and society. There were four channels of action: exhibitions, learning, support for artistic practice and research.

Under their guidance, four large international curatorial projects brought to Madrid some of the most outstanding new media art projects and the exhibitions were accompanied by an intense program of activities which included workshops and symposia where scientists, communication theorists, artists and activists discussed the themes of the projects and the day. Cibervision 02 (http://www.cibervision.org/), which explored the topic of fluid dynamics as a metaphor of life and communication processes; Banquete 03_Metabolism and Communication, a coproduction between the ZKM, Palau de la Virreina in Barcelona and Medialab Madrid; and Banquete 05_Communication in Evolution, which presented cultural, technological and biological evolution as inseparable processes.

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Experimental Music Encounter and Programming workshop

How did Medialab Madrid evolve over the years? Did the programme modified its objectives or fields of research?

Between the large events, we programmed workshops, seminars, presentations and smaller exhibitions were came to be quite celebrated. Through this intense education and community program a local group of curious visitors became regulars.

Our focus now is to create a structure to foster this local community. The orientation is towards research and production understood as permeable processes with the participation of anyone who comes. To make that possible we have started different stable lines of work which incorporate different models of participation – the learning should arise from the processes of research and production and the exhibition is tightly linked to the projects that are being developed.

So the main goal is to attend to the needs of the many different kinds of medialabmadrid users: from professionals to amateurs, from recognized experts to unkown experts, from regulars to first time visitors, and being able to integrate them into the research and production processes.

At the heart, we'd like to foster the figure of the collaborator. To make that possible it's very important to us the role of the cultural mediator, researchers that are always present here, studying the contents and welcoming the visitors, introducing them to the projects and giving them information depending on their demands.

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During the last edition of Ars Electronica Medialab Madrid exhibited some of the projects developed over the Interactivos workshop. I heard that you are working on a new workshop. Can you tell us what it will be about, who will be leading it, what typically happens in those workshops and what you'd like to achieve with it?

Interactivos is an advanced workshop for the collaborative development of projects which are selected through an international open call. The topic for this year edition is "Magic and Technology", and deadline to present projects is 27th April. Once the projects are selected, we will issue a second call for people who want to participate in the development team of one of the selected proposals.

The workshop will be led by Daniel Canogar, Simone Jones and Zachary Lieberman.

We did the workshop last year, and in those two weeks, an intense work atmosphere is created. Artists, engineers, hackers, designers, musicians (and wizards in this case) work hand in hand to get the proposals developed with the help of the three teachers. And the whole process is open to the public, which can come into the working space, ask questions, talk to the developers or even join a team.

After these two weeks, the participants themselves set up their results in a full fledged exhibition here at the Conde Duque center. Last year’s was a very popular success with visitors.

arduino_workshop.jpgAnother fundamental part of Interactivos? is the social interaction. Participants work together, exchange knowldge and ideas, and at night we take over Madrid as a huge group.

Additionally, the open source approach is an important focus. The workshop revolves around open software and open hardware tools like Arduino, PD and Processing. This year we will also be using openFrameworks, a c++ library that is available in pre-release, but will be released publically to coincide with this year’s workshop.

Medialab Madrid is onto new adventures with upcoming new lines of work like a platform for research and production in data visualization. Why did you choose to focus on that particular field?

This platform is entitled “Visualizar? and it is directed by Jose Luis de Vicente, who has very interesting ideas about the social and communicative implications of data visualization. Data visualization is an area of work that tends to be collaborative. It’s easy to see how one project might gather many different fields of knowledge together. It’s also very clear that we live in a world that is generating a huge amount of data constantly.

This November there will be a symposium and a production oriented workshop where the participants will propose projects that explore ideas, data sets, design and visualization tools, and coding techniques in order to find new ways to represent and clarify complex systems.

Now there's also a net-culture platform and a Commons Lab in the pipeline. What are the objectives of these two projects?

The net-culture platform is called “Inclusiva-net? and it is run by Juan Martín Prada. It responds to the lack of theoritcal websites in both Spanish and English, and to the idea of creating a meeting point for the theoretic production at the medialab. It will be presented next week and like the other lines of work, functions with an open call for participation.

The “Commons Lab,? organized by Antonio LaFuente, consists of a group of twelve researchers from different fields such as biology, ecology, medicine, pharmacy, philosophy, law, activism, urbanism, economy, and technology, that will gather once a month in an open round table to discuss the commons, those resources that belong to all but also to no one like the air, the water, and the radio spectrum. One key objective of this project is to develop strategies to visualize these commons.

The overlaps between these projects are interesting. For example, this month we are celebrating a workshop of OpenStreetMap and cartography is a part of “Visualizar?, but also brings some questions about geodata’s uses, property and licenses. Could the geographical information be considered as a common as well? These overlap are an important part of our programming.

How does Medialab Madrid function (how many people work there permanently or not, how do you get the fundings, etc.)?

Medialab Madrid is financed by Madrid`s City Council. There are seven people working permanently, in planning, administration, graphic design, audiovisual communication and technology. Also, we have two full time cultural mediators, who interface with the public, as well as a dedicated staff of interns and volunteers. In addition, for each line of work that we start, we collaborate with outside experts.

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Dorkbot Madrid: Circuit Bending (image by Carlos Alarcón) and Hans C. Steiner + Javier Candeira

Are there other programmes, events, institutions or organizations in Madrid that do works similar to Medialab Madrid or is your programme unique in the Spanish capital? How does Medialab Madrid fit into the cultural panorama of the city?

Over the last years you can see that a very strong community is growing in Madrid, and it’s clear that it’s now a very exciting moment where a local community of makers, theorists and acivists are coming together.

It’s important to highlight the role of Dorkbot Madrid in making this possible and the organizers Javier Candeira, a truly important figure in the spanish digital culture, and Juan Carlos Alonso, who has led the Arduino community here in creating an education system for secondary schools.

Intermediae is located at the old madrid slaughterhouse and, while recently opened, there are huge expectations about it.

0afranccc.jpgLast week the project Vida started with a new program of workshops with one given by France Cadet, with the notion of supporting more locally produced projects.

Another important media art figure in Madrid is Vicente Matallana, who has been fundamental for media art initiatives during last years in ARCO, like the Black Box and various symposia on digital art and intellectual property.

Finally, there is an extremely active center called La Casa Encendida, which organizes workshops, events, and an interesting radio laboratory.

Could you recommend us a few artists from Madrid who should get more attention from the public?

I would love to mention some collectives, which is a very popular way of producing work here in Spain. SinAntena is a community tv station based in the active neighborhood of Lavapies. That area also is home to Ladinamo, a very active cultural collective that hosts dorkbot.

La Fiambrera Obrera, a Madrid collective, are responsible for Border Games, a community based videogame production platform developed together with a group of young inmigrants to Madrid.

I would also like to highlight Manifestómetro, a group that has developed a very simple and effective way to calculate the number of participants in a demonstration, a very popular practice in the capital during the last years (image). The creators have just launched a new web project called Lo prometido es deuda: a record of polititians’ promises in order to see if they are realized. And there's also a collective of architects called Basurama, who are working around creative uses of garbage.

Basurama - circuit bending

All of these projects and more make Madrid an exciting and inspiring place to be working.

Thanks Marcos!

Hurry up! The deadline to submit projects for Interactivos: 27th April at 24h.

0everythingishoo.jpgEverything I Do is Art, But Nothing I Do Makes Any Difference is a playable level for Half Life 2 and a performance conceived as a direct response to an installation of his friend Pat Rios.

Rios had filled a Chicago gallery with objects and furniture that suggested his mantra that ‘everything he does is art.’ Chris Reilly replicated the gallery space and its art pieces in a 3D first person shooter game environment by manipulating its architecture. During the performance, Reilly manipulated the character to “interact? with the space. Shooting up the room, blowing up Pat Rios' installation, and graffitiing “CHRIS? on the wall with a machine gun. Reilly was not only paying homage to male adolescents impulses within gaming environments, but also reacting to Rios’ artistic vision.

"After all, if everything you do is art, that's kind of like saying nothing you do is art; everything's on the same level," explained Reilly. "That condition goes along well with a video game, where everything is basically without consequence. If you die, just start over and everything's back to the way it was."

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In a second version of the work, Everything I Do is Art, But Nothing I Do Makes Any Difference, Part II Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gallery, the 3 floors of an art gallery had been modeled, along with some of the artworks from the show.

The Ai systems of the modified Source engine was unleashing attacks of monsters, aliens, robots and zombies (all of them characters from the original game) on unwitting virtual gallery attendants. Health points and extra ammo could be earned by machine-gunning the artwork. Players/performers were also given a vast arsenal of military-grade guns for "expressive destruction" of the gallery walls. They could also pick up cans of spray paint to create their own art works.

The performance reminded me of Ars Doom that Orhan Kipcak and Reinhard Urban developed for the 1995 edition of Ars Electronica as a satire on the art business.

0lesmutants.jpgUsing the Doom engine the artists reproduced in 3D the exhibition space. Equipped with their tools—Georg Baselitz' thumbs, Nam June Paik’s remote control or Arnulf Rainer’s paint brush— the visitor (at the exhibition center or online anywhere in the world) could destroy works of art, other artists and art critics. The favourite victim of players was said to have been exhibition director Peter Weibel.

The work is also said to be the first attempt by an artist to use a computer game as an artistic medium. Other similar game mods followed such as Museum Meltdown (image on the right), by Palle Torsson and Tobias Bernstrup, another first person shooter game mod that allowed museum visitors to wander around a virtual version of the exhibition space killing people and blowing up masterpieces.

Julian also points to Stephen Honegger and Anthony Hunt's Container.

Via the always excellent Videoludica.
Check also Maia Engeli's list of Art Game Mods of a Shooter Game; exibart's story on videogames vs musei (english version), inspired by this page from Media Art Net.
Front's "Representation of Things" that uses computer game as a design tool.

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