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Alexandre Burton, Impacts, 2012. Interactive Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

The Winter Sparks show at FACT Liverpool is small and efficient. Three large-scale installations that experiment with scientific phenomena and pay homage to Nikola Tesla. The works can be experienced without mediation but each of them also conveys several layers of meanings and readings, whether you're intrigued by the technical description or by the sheer beauty of the sparks, lightening bolts, and sonic properties of the works. Each piece in the exhibition also functions as both an art installation and a musical instrument that the artists played during the opening night of Winter Sparks.

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Alexandre Burton, Impacts, 2012

I already told you about the Evolving Spark Network installation yesterday so let's move on to Alexandre Burton's Impacts, a work that demonstrates convincingly that you can still stun and amaze the crowd using a technology that was invented around 1891. The installation uses Tesla coil and a quick look at its wikipedia entry taught me that the electrical resonant transformer circuit is so popular that its enthusiasts show off their home-made Tesla coils at "coiling" conventions, that Björk used a Tesla coil as the main instrument in the song Thunderbolt, and that others use coils to play Mario Bros theme song.

Right before we approach the installation, we are advised that it's better not to go too close to the work -actually "Do not to touch!" is a better way to describe the warning, not to enter the room with a pacemaker, nor to let unaccompanied children in. Even mobile phones are not invited to the party as "there is a chance that the electromagnetic field emitted by the tesla coils could corrupt the flash or damage the memory of your mobile device or crash running programs."

The Tesla coils are activate by the presence of the visitors. As you go near, arcs of electricity of variable intensities come crashing against a glass pane. The violent flashes of light and sound are dramatic and fascinating, because of the lightning bolt patterns formed of course but also because you have the feeling of being in close proximity to danger.

Impacts from artificiel on Vimeo.

With this new work, Alexandre Burton proposes the use of plasma (loosely defined as an electrically neutral medium of positive and negative particles) as matter and medium itself, circumscribed by a defined frame and articulated through unique programming. In this way, IMPACTS serves as a reminder of the danger and muscle of this marvel while capturing its sublime beauty and rhythmic potential.

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Alexandre Burton, Impacts, 2012. Interactive Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

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Alexandre Burton, Impacts, 2012. Interactive Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

The last work in the exhibition, Wilberforces, is the outcome of Bosch & Simons's research into unpredictable systems.

Part physics experiment and part art work, the installation takes its cue from the Wilberforce pendulum, a spring hung on the ceiling with central and eccentric weights that alternate between two oscillation modes. Once calibrated, vertical and circular movements alternate even without additional external energy. It is an example of a coupled mechanical oscillator.

Bosch & Simons equipped the springs with audiovisual equipment that documents everything around the FACT Atrium. The video camera, microphone and loudspeakers capture sounds in the environment and in turn, generate visual and audio data that visitors can experience on a screen located in a dark room nearby.

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Peter Bosch & Simone Simons, Wilberforces, 2012. Interactive Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

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Peter Bosch & Simone Simons, Wilberforces, 2012. Interactive Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

Winter Sparks remains open at FACT in Liverpool until 24 February 2013.
Related story: GAKONA at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

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This weekend, i'd like to send you to Liverpool. There's a good show -as usual- at the Open Eye Gallery and a couple of exhibitions at Tate Liverpool and Bluecoat (i haven't seen those but they sound promising). Plus, some one told me that i had just missed David Hasselhoff the other day. What more would you want? Maybe a few large-scale installations showing the work of artists who use scientific experiments as a raw material?

That's what the exhibition Winter Sparks at the FACT gallery is all about. The figure at the core of the work exhibited is the one of the engineer whose inventions and ingenuity almost single-handedly shaped the 20th century technology: Nikola Tesla. There are only three installations in the show, each of them large-scale, impressive and attempting to make scientific processes visible. I'm going to single out Evolving Spark Network and write about the others in my next post.

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Edwin van der Heide, Evolving Spark Network, 2012. Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

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Edwin van der Heide, Evolving Spark Network, 2012. Installation at FACT. Photographer: Brian Slater

There's something direct and almost visceral in each of the works exhibited but Edwin van der Heide's installation is particularly powerful in the way it hypnotizes you.

Evolving Spark Network hangs from the ceiling in a grid of small modules that produces sudden bursts of light and sound. Electric sparks are flashing, crackling and exploding above your head. It's loud, the sound seems to physically hit your body, and it's a bit scary. Yet, you can't peel your eyes off them.

The artist explains that he sees the installation as a large, amplified neurosystem. Each spark is like a neuron which pulses and communicates information to other neurons.
The sparks in the installation are interconnected and they communicate with each other through patterns controlled by an algorithm. Sometimes, the sparks flow around slowly. Sometimes, they move in fast outbursts

An electric spark is one of the most elementary forms of light generation, while the impulse produced produces the shortest imaginable sound. Composing with these impulses can therefore be seen as one of the most fundamental forms of composition in time and space.

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Edwin van der Heide, Evolving Spark Network, 2012. portrait of the artist. Photographer: Brian Slater

Winter Sparks remains open at FACT in Liverpool until 24 February 2013.

If i were a man i'd want to be either Idris Elba or Garnet Hertz. You know Elba, he was gangster Stringer Bell in The Wire and a detective in Luther. Now Garnet Hertz is neither of that (to my knowledge) but he's the guy everybody wants to talk to at media art, tech or design conferences because his works play with several levels of engagement: from instant entertainment to deep reflection on DIY culture, design processes and technological progress. Hertz makes robots controlled by cockroaches, video game systems that you can literally drive around, he gives talks about Zombie Media and has just crafted a magazine about critical technical practice and critically-engaged maker culture that puts us all (us being media people) to shame.

And now for a more rigorous bio of the artist:

Doctor Garnet Hertz is a Fulbright Scholar and contemporary artist whose work explores themes of technological progress, innovation, do-it-yourself culture and interdisciplinarity. His work often involves building real-world technologies that are designed to take his audience into a speculative future gone humorously astray. In the process, Hertz's work inverts the idea that technology needs to be faster, more efficient or higher resolution: innovation is born out of human emotion, historical tradition, and creative obsession.

Hertz is Co-Director of the Values in Design Lab at UC Irvine, is Artist in Residence / Research Scientist in Informatics at UC Irvine and is Faculty in the Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design.

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Garnet Hertz, Outrun, Denmark, 2011

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Garnet Hertz, Cockroach-controlled mobile robot. Photo by Sharmanka

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Garnet Hertz, Videodome

Hi Garnet! I'm very intrigued by Videodome. Can you explain us what the experience of using it will be like? Can the person whose head is inside the big helmet move around? What will he or she perceive and how? And is what they see broadcast in any way to a broader audience?

Videodome is a project that I'm developing that explores different types of virtual reality without the use of a computer. Instead of a computer, I'm using a large number of miniature "spy" videocameras connected to many televisions. At this point, the project has two main physical structures: a helmet-like globe containing the cameras and a two meter diameter geodesic dome covered in televisions. These two components will be configured in different ways -with inner-and-outer facing cameras and screens, for example- to creatively explore the process of mediated sensation, perception and reality.

The initial configuration simulates being inside of someone else's head. To do this, I've constructed a wearable panopticon-style helmet - a clear plastic globe with a diameter of 45cm that has 48 cameras that face inward toward the person's head. Each camera is connected with cables to a flat panel television, and the group of televisions are arranged in a dome with screens facing inward. The screens form a low-tech VR-style cave that show the person's face turned inside-out.

At this point, this project is local and live with no transmission or recording - it's goal is to be analog. If I was going to do recordings of the camera array, it might be fun to try to do it with a mountain of VHS VCRs.

A major theme in my work is the exploration of inefficiencies and intentionally doing things the wrong way, and I have a recurring interest in poking fun at virtual reality. I love graceful kludges, rural folk machinery, and chindogu, and building Videodome is like trying to build a realtime immersive imaging system with parts that don't cost more than $10.

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Project Sketch for Videodome

From a technical perspective, the project is a RAID - a redundant array of inexpensive devices - and is easy to reconfigure. It's just a $10 camera, a cable, and an old television multiplied many times. The cameras can be positioned to face outward on the helmet, or the camera cluster can be put on a dog or a tree - or the televisions can be arranged on a floor, in different shapes or on the side of a building. For me, it's a return to the spirit of video installation artists like Dan Graham or Nam June Paik when the format of video still had a sense of technological magic.

When my sons (aged 7 and 9) first played with a typewriter, their perception of it is that it was a very fast computer that instantly printed letters as fast as you typed them. And - if you think about it from the perspective of the time it takes between hitting a keystroke and when the letter is rendered on paper - the typewriter beats a supercomputer every time. In a similar way, an analog video camera is like a streaming video server with zero lag - typewriters, analog video cameras and other devices from media history are still very high performance and interactive devices in their own limited ways. The project is aimed at exploiting the high performance component of an old technology - it's a bit of a novelty at a time where digital cameras are thickly layered in technical infrastructure. You just plug an analog camera and it's instantly streaming video, although your network is only as long as your video cable.

The project is influenced by a few projects, especially Michael Maranda's Sphereorama (1991), Kenji Kawakami's 360' Panorama Camera (1995), and Hyungkoo Lee's Objectuals (2002) - and the idea to use a mountain of cheap cameras initially came from my friend Jason Torchinsky. It's scheduled to premiere in San Jose at an exhibition that Madeline Schwartzman is curating related to her book "See Yourself Sensing". The piece is not in the book, but I'm very happy the project is included in the show - in my opinion her book is the most brilliant contemporary art books I've seen in a long time.


Garnet Hertz, OutRun

Judging by the reaction the project OutRun received in gaming, gadget, vehicle blogs and magazines, have you ever thought of modifying the work and giving it a commercial existence, making it something that rich kids could buy?

The original car is actually for sale, but it's priced at $100,000 - so it would take a very rich kid to purchase it. I've floated the idea of purchasing the original car to a few obscenely rich people like Jay Leno but as of right now it's still for sale. There was a glimmer of hope when the billionaire owner of Lego, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, drove the original project in Denmark. He clearly had a lot of fun driving the project - and he had the money to pay to replace anything he crashed into - but I don't think he thought I was serious when I proposed to trade him for one of his Ferraris.

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Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen driving OutRun in Billund, Denmark

I generally don't pursue the monetization or commercialization of my projects - I tend to enjoy focusing on research and the exploratory prototyping phases of technological development. At this point I'm comfortably paid to do my artwork, so I'd rather spend my time focusing on building new projects.

That said, if anybody is interested in the original vehicle or working on porting the concept into a more commercially viable platform, I'm open to ideas.

And more generally, have you ever been tempted to work more closely with the gaming industry or any other industry? Surely they'd welcome creative people like you?

I used to work in the design industry through advertising agencies, film production houses, and by doing product prototyping, and at that time my slogan for much that work was "Making Your Shitty Idea a Reality". There were a few exceptions of situations where you have a blank slate and a blank check that I found enjoyable, but for the most part I've found it uninspiring.

There are significant exceptions to this - I think of Julian Bleecker at Nokia for example - I think there's a lot of room in research positions that might be rewarding. It also may be that most of my experience in industry was in the 1990s when I had a thinner portfolio and CV; maybe there are a lot of places that would be a good fit.

I generally like the quirks of the art world and academia; I usually find my colleagues in these environments to be interesting, intelligent and strange in a fun way. Both of my current appointments - full time at UC Irvine in Informatics and part time at Art Center in Media Design - are great because of the people and the projects they're working on. Paul Dourish, Gillian Hayes, Don Patterson, Geof Bowker, Anne Burdick, Tim Durfee, Ben Hooker, Chris Csikszentmihalyi and everybody else I work with - they're all brilliant and fun to be around. And for now I generally get to do whatever I want, so I can't complain.

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Pixel VGA (Version 1, Banff Floor Cluster)

You wrote in your statement page: "I believe that industry and academia often draw false distinctions between experts and amateurs, hardware and software, mind and body, and science and creativity, and my goal is to meld these polarities in the projects I develop. Many of our greatest social challenges and technological opportunities now lie in these connection points." How can experts / amateurs connection lead to technological opportunities? Also what can experts learn from amateurs?

I'm interested in leveraging DIY, hackerspace and amateur cultures for a number of reasons. I believe that innovation and breakthroughs happen when individuals go beyond their standard frames of reference and discipline to learn new skills on their own: breakthroughs often require us to become amateurs in a new field, in other words. During the process of learning new things, we often cobble together materials, figure things out informally, and explore things on our own. For this reason, DIY culture and doing things in nonstandard or non-expert ways are useful models for how innovation is done.

I've also seen a significant cultural surge toward DIY electronics, physical computing, and hands-on "making" over the last decade. The turn toward physical making is partly due to people being tired of mass produced consumer Walmart culture - they're tired of having disposable, spiritless and generic junk. DIY electronics is also partially in response against the trend of conceiving information and knowledge as virtual things. Platforms like the Arduino - which started out filling a niche within the physical computing community - has grown to be quite widely implemented in multiple fields of design.

I also think that higher education has become increasingly detached from physical objects. I think that this is a mistake: I believe that innovation and education needs to be engaged with the real world, get dirt under its fingernails, and learn the skill of working hard at problems that are often ambiguous. Universities needs to combine hands-on construction and skill with advanced knowledge and concepts in order to effectively innovate in research - and for workforce development.

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Critical Making

If i understood correctly, the hand-made zine on critically-engaged making were printed in only 300 copies and given out for free. i do suspect that far more than 300 people would love to get their hands on it. Most would even be happy to pay for it. The content is brilliant, so is the format. Are you planning to change the distribution model?

Yes - the project is called Critical Making and I the documentation for the project is at http://conceptlab.com/criticalmaking/. There's been an outpouring of interest in expanding this project and there are clearly a lot of people involved in DIY or maker communities that don't fit into the "family-friendly kit-based weekend-project" focus of Make Magazine. The initial idea was to do an actual photocopied zine with a bunch of people I admire and to give it away for free - although this has become a much bigger project with almost 350 pages of content from about 60 contributors. It's nicely grown into a pack of zines, a little like Ginko Press's "McLuhan Unbound" project.

I'm still going to give the 300 copies away for free - and I'm making a special edition for the contributors - but I haven't yet determined what to do after my initial run. I'm currently talking to some different people and presses, and I'm open to ideas.

At this point, I'm not inclined to just slap an open source license on the content and put a PDF of it online. I'd ideally like the project as only available as a photocopied object that somebody hand produced - but I realize that this may not be practical. I'd consider an academic or art press, distributing it through the contributors, or returning to a zine model of people sending cash in an envelope to an address.

There's an interesting push against electronic books happening - instead of the format of physical books dying, there's a fresh crop of bookmaking work that fetishizes the physical page. I wouldn't term it as a "zombification" of books, but a useful opportunity to rethink what physical components of a book are valuable.

For my Critical Making project, if people want copies or are interested in this as a publishing/distribution project, let me know. I'll send you a copy too, Régine - but the contents of this collection of zines is a whole other conversation... we should talk about it after I've shipped them off.

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Circuit Bending Workshop, 24 Jan 2010, Art Center

One of my favourite projects on your homepage must be the customized taco (food) truck that would go around communities and give D.I.Y. laboratory for circuit bending. Is it going to happen soon?

This project, with an official title of Repurposing Obsolescence: Teaching DIY Science, Technology and Engineering Practices to Adolescents in Underserved Communities, will design, develop and test Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hands-on workshops to introduce and teach middle school kids in underserved communities technology and design by customizing and repurposing e-waste technology, like old electronic toys. Right now the major outcome of the project will be the creation of a workshop kit that covers the processes of learning DIY electronics for distribution to after school programs and other informal educational venues.

My team has implemented a number of pilot projects over the last three years that demonstrate the ability of hands-on DIY electronics curricula to motivate and encourage students and to enable them to acquire a deeper understanding of core engineering, mathematics and science concepts by introducing creative and artistic use of circuit bending,ì the creative short circuiting of electronic devices that make sound.

I'm interested in extending maker culture into different environments, and I think the approach is useful in getting kids interested in learning about how things work. In this project, I'm particularly interested in reaching out to communities that normally wouldn't have the resources in their schools to explore art or electronics. Sadly, California has a growing list of schools that have slashed art or any items that aren't part of the standardized test structure. Hands-on education - with shop, woodworking and art classes - have been removed from most schools. This is doing an incredible disservice to kids, and it's especially bad in communities that don't have a lot of resources. It's not teaching people how to think, be creative or holistic problem solving - it's teaching people how to memorize things to get a high score on a test.

I think circuit bending is a great antithesis to a standardized test. It doesn't have one right answer. It uses your hands. It makes noise and can be dangerous. It can be very simple or incredibly complicated. It involves genuine exploration and discovery. In a nutshell, I think it's a better model for how life works than a test on paper, and I think the United States would be a better place and have a more skilled and creative workforce (and more interesting artwork) if more kids were taught things like circuit bending at an early age. The scientific hypothesis of the project is that this approach will lower barriers to experimenting with custom-built electronic instruments and lead to greater participation and success of people pursuing secondary education.

So, my challenge in this project is to develop hands-on workshops, kits and curriculum that work within the educational system of the United States, or at least Southern California. I also want it to work for people with English as a second language, and as a result have translated prototypes of the curriculum into Spanish, Chinese, Korean and French - but within Southern California, Spanish is my main focus.

My vision is to extend this work through the development of a mobile D.I.Y. laboratory to more easily bring our specialized infrastructure to underserved communities. In other words, have a vehicle that acts as a "bookmobile" to bring specialized resources to groups and communities that lack educational infrastructure. The initial idea for this "makermobile" would be to have it in the form of a customized taco (food) truck, a common component of Los Angeles and Orange County culture. This vehicle would transport workshop mentors and specialized tools and would serve as a public platform to disseminate the workshop materials. I've envisioned that the vehicle would need to be really cool - with lowrider hydraulic suspension, nice rims, and a cool paint job - as a form of propaganda to get kids excited.

I've recently got funding to develop the curriculum and hardware component of this project, but I don't yet have funding to buy a vehicle. As it turns out, purchasing a vehicle through a university or research funds is usually problematic - it doesn't fit into the standard categories of research equipment, especially a pimped out lowrider taco truck.

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Garnet Hertz, Experiments in Galvanism, 2003. Photo by Bill Eakin, as installed in Ace Art Inc, Winnipeg, Canada

Do you think schools, and education in general, isn't doing enough to make young people 'techno-literate'?

I think kids generally get quite a bit of informal education around technology using computers, mobile phones or iPads at home. What they're missing is the opportunities to open up and learn about the mechanics of what's inside of the black boxes of technology, to go beyond a consumer of the technology. I want kids to move beyond downloading a game off of the Apple App Store - that's not technical literacy, it's just another format of consumption.

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Toy Hacking: Verano After School Program, March 2011. Photo by Silvia Lindtner

You are Co-Director of the Values in Design Lab at UC Irvine with Geof Bowker, Cory Knobel and Judith Gregory. The objective of the lab is to blend "rich social theory with design practice in order to produce information systems and technology imbued with strong social and ethical values." Which kind of works are you developing in the Lab? Do you have some examples of projects that represent particularly well what the students are working on there?

Actually, within the last couple weeks this lab name has changed to "EVOKE" - Emerging Values, Ontologies, and Knowledge Expression - we're working on a number of different things, including a Values in Design workshop for doctoral students.

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At this point we're still getting the lab set up, but we're interested in infrastructure, ontologies, values, big data, making, and how knowledge is formed and communicated. It's an intentionally big mix of topics that doesn't neatly fit into the format of something like a TED talk. I see the lab like a research group or design initiative, perhaps like a smaller version of the MIT Media Lab, that work on investigating complex issues, building prototypes and solving problems built on a foundation of serious social theory.

We have a lot of projects going on, including researching new forms of scholarship that move beyond linear texts, design by youth, and work that encompasses biomedical informatics. The first project that we completed at UC Irvine during summer 2012 was a design workshop for doctoral students, titled "Values in Design". Our mission in this project was to train researchers in a broad range of disciplines - including Informatics, Computer Science, Design and Science and Technology Studies - to produce new forms of information systems and technologies which express strong social and ethical values. It ran over the course of a week, and the format was a little bit like Project Runway - with teams designing technology prototypes - and an academic conference with guest speakers lecturing on design-oriented topics. It was a lot of fun.

Within the different projects through EVOKE, I'm primarily interested in making physical prototypes of complex concepts: I'm focused on what art can do to actually extend and add to research and science.

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Garnet Hertz, Doom at Catalyst Arts (Belfast, UK), 2012

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Garnet Hertz, Doom at Catalyst Arts (Belfast, UK), 2012

I hope you won't mind if i say this but you're an established artist. You're also teaching and holding academic positions. Could you point us to young, emerging artists whose work we should be paying more attention to? Either students or yours or just people whose work you stumbled upon online or at a Dorkbot meeting?

I have some student work that I'm very proud of, especially my graduate students coming out of Media Design Practices at Art Center. My favorite projects over the last little while are:

- Chiao Wei Ho, Slow Letter (2012). "The design of Slow Letter is based on the concept of Process-based Interaction which focuses on the process instead of the task itself. It is my challenge to the instantaneous interaction of user-centered design. It questions the essentiality of instantaneity and convenience in current digital service. What would the interaction be like when time and space are being elongated? We all have experienced the satisfaction of these digital devices around us, it can take us from point A to point B within no time. However, Slow Letter tends to discover alternative values outside of task-orientated interactions. The project reevaluates the weight of our words in the digital communication by elongates the process between point A to point B. It transforms instantaneity into emotional values and inject unconventional perspectives into the numbed daily routine."


Chiao Wei Ho, Slow Letter

- Alex Braidwood: Noisolation Headphones (2011). You've written about these at http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2011/10/the-noisolation-headphones.php - since you wrote that article an updated video of the project is here:


Noisolation Headphones. Video by Mae Ryan

- Hyun Ju Yang: Measurement of Existence (2010). "This hypothetical device informs your quantum state within innumerable versions of our universe in the quantum state of the universe. The main idea is inspired by an equation, the measurement of existence from the relative quantum mechanics created by physicist, Everett who invented Many-World theory."

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Hyun Ju Yang, Measurement of Existence

Thanks Garnet!

A new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present ResonanceFM, will be broadcast today Tuesday 27th November at 4:00 pm. There will be a repeat on Thursday 29th November 10:30 pm. You can catch it online if you don't live in London.

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Fearful Symmetry. Photography by Simon Kennedy

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Fearful Symmetry. Photography by Simon Kennedy

This week, i'm talking with Ruairi Glynn, architect, artist, curator, ex-fantastic blogger and if that were not enough he is also a lecturer in Interactive Architecture at Bartlett. His interactive kinetic installations have earned him awards and exhibitions across the world, from the Centre Pompidou in Paris to the National Art Museum in Beijing. Ruairi Glynn was one of the first artists invited to fill in the Tank space at Tate Modern where he installed Fearful Symmetry, a glowing tetrahedron that glided above visitors' heads, danced and encouraged the public to become an active part of the performance.

It's been a fascinating conversation with a pleasant guy. We talked cybernetics, interactivity, puppetry and machines with a mind of their own. I hope you like the programme!

This year, even GAMERZ, an art&tech festival with a name that promises its visitors much joy and entertainment, didn't want to turn its back to the times of fear and uncertainty we are living. The festival was as playful as ever but with a slightly darker tone and with a selection of artists whose works question the worrying changes at work in society.

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Night view of the Fondation Vasarely. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

The opening of the festival took place at the gloriously Op-Art Fondation Vasarely, a museum designed by Victor Vasarely and containing some spectacular works of his. Sadly, the space is now equally famous for the state of disrepair of the artworks and of the building itself.

I've mentioned two of the works exhibited there already: Cécile Babiole's Bzzz! The sound of electricity and Benjamin Gaulon's Printball and i'm still working on a post focusing on the work of two young and ridiculously talented artists from Paris. Which means that i haven't much left to say about the exhibition at the Fondation. I must however mention the stunning Salamander:

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Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Pascual Sisto, Salamander, 2006

Pascual Sisto used stock images of explosions from the movie industry as "digital ready-made" and collaged them with the After Effects software. The potentially deadly explosions are turned into sublime, hypnotizing fire works.

I can't find a way to embed the video on the blog so do me a favour and click over here to see the film.

The rest of the exhibition is spread throughout the center of the city of Aix-en-Provence. Let's start with Paul Destieu's solo show at the Seconde Nature space because, year after year, my first question when arriving at the festival is "What is Paul showing this time?" And as always (see Project NADAL and Fade-Out) his pieces were simple and brilliant.

Révolutions pits against each other two different moments in the history of the audiovisual media: the beginnings of home-made cinema and YouTube. The artist transferred the loading circle of YouTube onto the silver band of a Super8 projector, an object nowadays obsolete. The history of home-made video draws a circle metaphorically and visually.

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Paul Destieu, Révolutions. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Paul Destieu, Révolutions. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

Another work Destieu was showing compiled scenes of duels from the Star Wars saga to create a fight made of light and sound. The dialogues of the duelists can be heard in the room but the only image of the duel is shaped by the light emanating from two video projectors. They face each other at a distance, each at another end of the room. Below, smoke machines give shape and materiality to the projected beams that emerge in the dark and look like the fighting swords of the Star Wars warriors. A moment of violence and anger turned translated in darkness and white mist.

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Paul Destieu, DOJO. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Paul Destieu, DOJO. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

Apart from the screenings, games and installations, the festival also programed a series of performances. I saw a couple of them but the one that impressed me the most was by Feromil, the 'post-apocalyptic one man band'. The artist gave a concert using a metal detector as his main musical instrument. The performance was very raw, and very physical. Try wearing a gas mask while holding and moving around a metal detector for half an hour over a bass amp and you'll get the idea.

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Performance by Feromil. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Performance by Feromil. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

There a video of one of his performance over here but i'm going to embed the one made by Jérôme Fino.

The room where My Computer Just Started to Smoke was exhibited at the Galerie Susini was filled with smoke that the computer was 'enthusiastically' inhaling, depending of the temperature variations of its processors.

The computer runs a software that navigates the internet exclusively through pop-ups that pitch porn, poker, and tricks that will make you rich almost instantly. The more pop-ups the computer encounters and opens, the more its processor heats up and, of course, the faster the fans are spinning. But that's not enough. To further 'calm down' the computer also inhales the smoke of the hookah.

At first sight, the work created by the Dardexcollective might seem to be merely mischievous. But it is actually a comment on computer animism and on the internet, a new world that promises freedom but delivers equal doses of mercantilism.

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Collectif Dardex, My computer just started to smoke, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Collectif Dardex, My computer just started to smoke, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Collectif Dardex, My computer just started to smoke, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

To be honest, i wasn't expecting to see GAMERZ invade the venerable Musée des Tapisseries (museum of tapestry) of AIx-en-Provence but the organizers used the entrance space to display several experimental games people could play with.

Hommage a New York, by Florent Deloison, is one of them. The game was inspired by Breakout, the video game released in 1976 by Atari, and also by the self-destructive sculpture created in 1960 by Jean Tinguely with the help of engineer Billy Klüver.

In Deloison's version, instead of breaking bricks, the player must destroy the computer code behind the game. You can never win and the game inevitably ends when vitals commands stop working. A big red button on the control panel is used to restart the game

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Florent Deloison, Hommage à New York, 2012

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Florent Deloison, Hommage à New York, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

If GAMERZ is for me the best festival to discover new names in art&tech, it is also a space where confirmed names are given 'carte blanche' to invade an exhibition space as they please. This year, Quentin Destieu and Sylvain Huguet, curators and founders of the festival, invited Rafael Rozendaal to spread one of his internet works onto the walls, ceiling and floor of the gallery of the Aix en Provence art school using mirrors and 5 video projectors. The experience of 'walking inside' a web page, moving through it, seeing your shadow cutting through solid chunks of colours is eerie.

Video this way!

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Rafaël Rozendaal, Everything Always Everywhere. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

A couple more images:

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One Life Remains. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Romain Senatore, wAAAr, interactive installation, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Grégoire Lauvin, Landstape, sound installation, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Graffiti Research Lab (France). Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Paul Destieu, Série T. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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John Bock, Vas-Y! (photo MACRO)

Performance art is very much in favour these days. This Summer in London only, The Tanks opened its gigantic space to 'art in action' and the Hayward inaugurated Art of Change, a showcase of installation and performance art in China.

Active Presence - Action, Object and Audience which opened last month at LABoral in Gijón has a fairly similar focus: performance and installation art. But with an added focus on audience participation.

Before this intro goes any further, i think i should exemplify the concept of the show with one of the works i found most engaging. Mentally and physically. Well... i slightly moved my head to the beat of the music while watching the aerobic class. Surely, that counts as a bodily experience.

Music, please:

That's right! An aerobic class! Mads Lynnerup has designed a series of gym equipment (my favourite are the weights shaped like jamónes) and invited local fitness instructors to use them as they please during their classes. Right in the middle of the exhibition space. Anyone interested in taking part can register and bring their leg warmers or whatever is suitable for aerobic, zumba or pilates.

In Plastic Gymnastic, the art objects are either hung on the wall or manipulated by sweaty palms. And the people you never get to meet outside art openings, are suddenly there in front of you kettlebell swinging and doing planks.

The work demonstrates Lynnerup's fascination with the similarities of two universes that appear to be very dissimilar. 'I think the two worlds have a lot in common, he explained. They are both obsessive and become fanatic in their own way (as in one thinks only about working out or making art etc.) and I like the idea that, as an artist in my studio, I am working out something.'

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Mads Lynnerup, Plastic Gymnastic, 2012. Photo: Marcos Morilla

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Mads Lynnerup, Plastic Gymnastic, 2012. Image courtesy Laboral

Active Presence - Action, Object and Audience is thus about performance and installation art but they are never dissociated from the role that the public takes in the exhibition space. Implicitly or explicitly. Physically or psychologically.

Or in curators' speak: The aim of the exhibition is the conflation of performance and installation into a diverse landscape of dynamic installations activated by the artists and/or the audience within the museum's gallery walls. There are works in which the audience take a more passive role, while the artists are the activators. Conversely, there are also installations whose existence depends upon the participation of the public. There is work that also functions in both domains. In all is found a unique territory betwixt and between genres where conceptually layered relationships uncommon to the experience of pure performance or installation reside.

Spectators have to be brave to engage with John Bock's Vas-Y! (which i'd translate as 'go on!') though.

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John Bock, Vas-Y!, 2005. Photo: MARCO/Janite

Bock invited members of the audience to step inside a small house, complete with furniture and music instruments. But as soon as the door closes behind you, it starts moving on its axis and you feel like you are inside a washing machine. Or a hamster inside a wheel if you walk at the correct rhythm.

Video of what goes on inside.

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Thom Kubli, Record Attempt. Image courtesy Laboral

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Thom Kubli, Record Attempt. Image courtesy Laboral

Thom Kubli used the exhibition space as the setting for a Guiness Book record. He broke the world record of "The Longest Guitar Solo Ever Played." He managed to stand there --without ever taking a break-- playing the instrument during 17 hours, 21 minutes and 2 seconds.

If you think you can outperform Kubli, feel free to drop a line to produccion @ laboralcentrodeart org. They will give you the space, the guitar, a witness and stream your solo of guitar through their web.

I've no clue what Alastair MacLennan was doing balancing a tree on his head but it was the most exquisite and intriguing spectacle of the opening night.

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Alastair MacLennan, Lain Nail. Image courtesy Laboral

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Alastair MacLennan, Lain Nail. Image courtesy Laboral

Sergio Prego's rubber architecture of tunnels in the entrance of the art center.

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Sergio Prego, Untitled. Photo LABoral/Sergio Redruello

More images from the show:

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La Ribot, Laughing Hole

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La Ribot, Laughing Hole. Image courtesy Laboral

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La Ribot, Laughing Hole. Image courtesy Laboral

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SUE-C + AGF, Infinite Jest. Image courtesy Laboral

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SUE-C + AGF, Infinite Jest. Image courtesy Laboral

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Nerea Santisteban, Revelacion espacial

Active Presence, Action, Object and Audience was curated by Sergio Edelsztein and Kathleen Forde. The exhibition remains open until 25 February 2013 at LABoral Centro de Art y Creación Industrial in Gijón, Spain.

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