I never post calls for projects* for two reasons: i'm too lazy to keep up with them and nettime-ann and networked_performance already do a great job at informing artists about residency and exhibition opportunities.

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Waymarkr, bagels and You Are Not Here

I do one exception for the Conflux festival because i had such a fantastic time there last year, it is THE most stimulating, fun and smart people-infested event i attended in 2006. Conflux takes place in Brooklyn and invites visual and sound artists, writers, urban adventurers and the public to explore the physical and psychological landscape of the city.

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Clusterings and Air

Conflux by definition is interactive, presenting projects that require a participatory audience. Festival events are free and open to the public and include lectures and panels, street games, public walking tours, workshops, tech-enabled expeditions, interactive performance, temporary public art installations and interventions, audio/video projects and more.

Please, please, join the fun in September. Christina Ray has just posted a call for proposals.

And be fast, the deadline is April 17.

* there's a free and lazily updated "website/call of the moment" banner dedicated to that on the hompage.

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0saraandmarc.jpgSometimes you'd go to a conference to listen to someone whose work you admire and the experience turns out to be quite disappointing.

But once in a blue moon, you listen to someone else's words and feel like you're falling in love. That's what i experienced a week ago when i heard Sara and Marc Schiller from Wooster Collective talk at the Conflux festival in Brooklyn. I've been following their blog for two years now and it was great to finally get to know who and what's behind one of the best site that documents and celebrates ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world.

The title of their talk was "What is it about street art that inspires us?" What inspires them has no particular set of rules nor well-defined criteria, it's an "emotional thing." The talk tried to break down the DNA of street art, without pretending to be a dogma or a text book, it's just the gathering of their thinking of two persons who've been following and documenting very closely the street art scene since 2001.

Street art, 3 critical ingredients:

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1. Location, location, location! It has to be illegal. A work of street art reclaims the public space and the best street art has a context, builds a relationship with its environment, dialogs with the city. Most of the artists document their work on the web. It doesn't mean that street art is meant to be seen on the web. The art has to be left in the street where it might stay for months or just half an hour. Most of the pieces are one-off.

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Examples: Italian artist Blu as seen in the image above, a collaboration with JR...

or the awesome graffiti of Ghent-based artists Cum.

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For two days in October, 2005, a group of Belarusians and Germans took a trip to Pripyat, an abandonned city that used to be home to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers. Since Chernobylinterinform was under-staffed that day, the group was accompanied by an inexperienced zone worker. When it was time for lunch, they said they weren't hungry but told their escort that she could go back to the town of Chernobyl to eat. Unaccompanied, they were free to populate the ghost city with their graffiti. The style of the works totally fits the eeriness of the abandonned city.

These works are not about vandalism but about beauty.

2. Surprise and delight: the works tap into our emotions and we get that WTF ??? moment. The web cannot recreate that experience but it's still important to document the works on the internet because not everybody gets the opportunity to see one of Banksy's works. Besides, half of the passersby might walk by the work and totally ignore it. Creating surprise and delight doesn't require a particular skill or training, it's more a matter of ingenuity and brillance.

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Examples: the "Crate Man" in Melbourne.

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or the "embeds" series by tape artist Mark Jenkins.

3. Have something to say: a statement on how you see the world, the best pieces do not necessarily make a strong political statement but they will make you see the city under a different light. Artists let passersby make their own interpretation of the work. Half the people pass by and might never see it though.

Examples: Street urinals from hekon2 in Italy

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A knitted, pink cosy for a tank of the Danish Army. Knitted by Marianne Joergensen plus some 1000 volunteers.

4. Personal and intimate, the pieces are very subjective.

It takes time, commitment and money to craft works (most of the pices are hand-made and one-offs) that might disappear nearly as soon as they have been left in public space, street art can therefore hardly be regarded as vandalism. Once you leave a piece in the streets, you don't own it any more and have no control over it, it belongs to the street. Besides all the pieces change over time, because of the elements and the weather. But that's part of the eco-system!

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Examples: littles bees in a backyard in Amsterdam.

Freestyle SoundKit was another piece i liked at the Conflux festival. It's the latest project by Jessica Thompson whom you might remember for other projects such as the Walking Machine and the Soundbike, a bike that uses motion-based generators to broadcast the sound of laughter as you pedal through the city.

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Freestyle SoundKit generates and broadcasts electronic video game-like beats as you move around. You fix a yellow sticker with sensors under the sole of your shoes and each step you take is broadcast as a single beat. Each SoundKit contains a different beat to enable you to collaborate with other users to create a collaborative performance. It looked incredibly simple and the audience had a lot of fun with it. As Jessica said "Move around. Go freestyle but beware! Moves that look cool might not sound cool!" However, some testers (like the guy on the left picture) were quite good at sounding and looking cool.

My images on flickr.

Conflux was a hell of fun and i'll post more about it over the next few days. There were great talks, nice presentations of networked projects, fun performances, gadgets to play with or wrap around your body and tons of people i was delighted to finally meet. Here and there, while going from one venue to another, i'd meet artists whose projects put a broader smile on participants' faces.

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Gertrude Berg's Waste Carrier project derives from her need to explore the trash disposal behavior in her neighborhood, Bushwick, Brooklyn.

She designed and crafted a dress in tyvek fabric with deep pockets to store different types of waste. During the performance she collected all the personal waste she produced, cleaned it and filled into the respective pockets. During the whole festival she wore this uniform to all occasions, except for sleeping. "My interest lies in the experience of the extra weight on my body accumulated by waste material that normally is put out of ones sight as soon as possible," wrote Berg. I met her in front of Conflux HQ on a very sunny Sunday afternoon and no, the lady wasn't followed by a bad smell.

I found the project particularly relevant here in the US. I know each of us produces way to much daily trash in Europe but it seems that every single item i buy here in New York comes with its own trash accessories. I'd buy a yoghurt and get a plastic spoon (sometimes wrapped in plastic!), a little bag to carry it and a mini napkin. There no question from the cashier whether i need any of those, it just comes with the yoghurt.

This afternoon Brooke Singer was at Conflux to present Preemptive Media's latest work: AIR [Area's Immediate Reading].

AIR is a portable air monitoring devices to explore the urban environments for pollution and fossil fuel burning hotspots. I first thought that the devices were a bit bulky but Brooke Singer explained me that air has to circulate inside it so the openings have to be quite wide. Besides the size and shape of the devices gives them the look of a viewmaster. They are light enough to be carried easily at hip level or around the neck and taken around for people or "carriers" to see in real time pollutant levels in their neighbourhood, as well as measurements from the other AIR devices in the network.

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The devices are equipped with a sensor that contains a gas sensing chips that detects carbon monoxide and another chip that spots nitrogen oxides. An on-board GPS unit and digital compass, combined with a database of known pollution sources such as power plants and heavy industries, allow carriers to see their distance from polluters and other AIR devices.

In addition, the devices regularly transmit data to a central database allowing for real time data visualization online. While AIR is designed to be a tool for individuals and groups to self identify pollution sources, it also serves as a platform to discuss energy politics and their impact on environment, health and social groups in specific regions.

Related: Myriel Milicevic's Neighbourhood Satellites.

Also by Preemptive Media (Beatriz da Costa, Jamie Schulte and Brooke Singer): Tokyo RFID map and Swipe.

This morning Michael DelGaudio and Mike Bukhin presented their Waymarkr project at Conflux HQ.

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Mike Bukhin and Michael DelGaudio

WayMark gives users an alternative perspective on their daily interactions by documenting continuously and effortlessly their life. All you have to do is install the Waymarkr software on your Internet enabled Series 60 mobile phone. Once the software is enabled, your phone will continously take photographs of your events and perspectives. All photographs are sent to a remote server so your phone never runs out of space. You can then login to the Waymarkr web site, annotate and share your photos, see stop motion movies of your captured event and map out where your images were taken. You can also see other user's photos that were taken at the same time and place as yours.

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The idea is to get to see what's in front of us: beautiful things, actions or events to which we haven't paid attention. This constant snapping gives another perspective on our life: is it really me? Do i really spend that much time in front of the computer? Nothing is edited. The camera phone should be worn in a pouch around the neck or at shoulder level to get a better perspective. Users don't have to do anything, they don't even have to decide when to shoot, they should only wear their phonecamera and the system will do the rest. There's the option to set the device on night mode or to decide when a certain set of images should be kept private.

I'm looking forward to be back in Europe and test it. Btw, it's a beta version and DelGaudio and Bukhin still need people to test WayMarkr out of the US.

Inspired by Steve Mann.
Check also Mann's Glogger project, "a web service and program that allows people to instantaneously share content from their camera phones or manually from their digital camera."

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