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At the beginning of the Summer i was in Nottingham to participate to Making Future Work. That day was only the last of a long string of events, conferences, meetings and commissions.

MFW started back in December 2010 when Broadway -a cinema we shall all salute for its programme dedicated to media arts- called for artists, designers and organisations based in East Midlands to submit proposals that would respond to four distinct areas of practice: Co creation / Online Space, Pervasive Gaming / Urban Screens, Re-imaging Redundant Systems and Live Cinema / 3D.

The winning projects were therefore very different from each other. Hopefully, their quality will put East Midlands on the digital art/interaction design map.

One of the winning proposals is Le Cadavre Exquis, a digital re-interpretation of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse and the parlour game Consequences in which participants define parts of an image or text. The next person will add a portion of text or image without having seen the previous one and the process repeats itself until a complete narrative or image is completed.

In the interactive installation designed by Brendan Oliver and Brendan Randall, members of the public are invited to record a short stop-frame animation (with a little help from a custom designed software and gesture interface) as a response piece to a previously recorded submission. The piece is uploaded online within minutes and textual narrative is then created by online participants through a narrative suggestion feature.

Le Cadavre Exquis' aims to explore how notions of co-creation and user-engagement in live/on-line spaces, within the context of digital art or digital interaction, can be used to create an ever-growing visual film generated entirely by participants.

Contemporary sources of inspiration include user-generated content projects such as Aaron Koblin's wonderful The Sheep Market and The Johnny Cash Project, a crowd-sourced music video initiated by Chris Milk. I had never seen it before Brendan Oliver and Brendan Randall screened it in Nottingham so let me copy paste the embedded code over here:

I thought i should catch up with Oliver and Randall to see how the installation had evolved and traveled since we met in Nottingham.

The call for proposals invited artists and designers to respond to "four distinct areas of current practice" in digital innovation. You chose to focus on 'Co creation.' But did you have this particular project of Le Cadavre Exquis in mind well before reading about the commissions or did you start from scratch when you read the commission guidelines? How did the project mature and evolve?

Whilst we have an interest in co-creation and user-generated content the actual concept of Le Cadavre Exquis was generated completely as a response to the call for submissions and wasn't something we were already working on. When we read the briefs we considered them all and potential responses to each before deciding to submit a proposal for "Live Cinema and Co-Creation". It was at this stage the concept of Le Cadavre Exquis was born.

Initially the concept was that participants would respond visually to a textual narrative set by the previous participants and this would serve as the basis for them to act out their own submission. Once they had completed their submission they would then set the textual narrative for the next participants (using a keyboard) and by doing so we would have an entirely user-generated linear visual and textual responsive narrative.

However, through our research and development of the installation, we realised that this approach was very restrictive for participants and by allowing participants to dictate the visual and textual narratives the quality of the final outcome would be less successful than if we allowed participants to be responsive. We came to this conclusion for two main reasons. Firstly, we felt by having participants provide a textual narrative as well as record their visual submission this was too immersive and time consuming for an installation environment. Secondly, there was also the possibility that people would feel they could not respond to the textual narrative for varying reasons such as the narrative being purposefully difficult to respond to or controversial. We also wanted the focus of the installation to be on the creativity and expression in the visual submissions and for the technology to be almost invisible to them. It was always the aim to create tools that empowered the participant in the creative or artistic process and not for them to focus on the technology.

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Le Cadavre Exquis at the V&A's Web Weekend Image credit: Rain Rabbit

Is there any way for the public to check out the archives of the stop frame animations done by other people in the past?

All submissions can can be viewed online on the project website at www.LeCadavreExquis.net as well as textual narratives added to each video created. Visitors to the website can become participants themselves by submitting their own textual narratives to describe scenes filmed within the installation space via the 'Participation' page at www.lecadavreexquis.net/participate/. This also introduces a competitive element where visitors can vote for submitted textual narratives. Where more than one textual narrative has been submitted for a clip the narrative with the most votes then becomes the narrative for that video submission.

"Upon completion of the animation the players provide the next line of the dialogue for future player". How is it done exactly? Do they have to type the scenario on a computer? What is this step like exactly? Does it mean that in the end, if you put the short animations side by side the public has constructed a long collaborative narrative?

This was the original idea and the collaborative narrative is still at the heart of the final installation but we decided to allow participants to respond to the previous visual narrative rather than have them respond to a dictated textual narrative.

The original concept meant that only visitors to the physical installation would be able to take part and to view the output. However, our research-based conclusions, helped us to consider opening up the installation to an online audience.

In the final installation we separated the visual and textual narrative submissions to make it easier for participants to be creative with the visual story and to include an online audience by asking them to add a textual narrative via the website developed for the project. Animations created at the installation were compiled into video files and automatically uploaded to the website where they can be viewed by visitors and textual narratives submitted online. The textual narratives were then pulled back down from the website and displayed as subtitles when the visual narrative is projected in the installation space as a playback aspect.

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The gesture interface

You probably spent a great deal of time and energy on LCE so are you not ever tempted to influence the public? To ask them to perform in a certain way? Is it not frustrating to let everything in the hands of the strangers?

We did spend a lot of time developing the installation and website, much more than we initially envisioned and was originally considered for the commission. It was always our aim to create something where the final outcome was created solely by the audience and participants. We empowered participants to do this through the technology and the concept of Le Cadavre Exquis. We very much see the installation as a tool for creativity rather than prescribing the creative aspect itself. We are very much interested in how participants respond and in particular how we can enable people who wouldn't ordinarily consider themselves creative to lose their inhibitions, get excited, have fun, enjoy the experience and become the artist. Due to these ideals its not been frustrating for us to let participants create whatever they like.

I'm quite curious about the way people use LCE. Do they feel immediately at ease with the installation? Do they find it easy to engage with it? Do they reflect a lot before using it? Are they bold? But also did they surprise you along the way? Did they find ways of using the installation you had not thought about before?

Whilst we had introduced the installation at The Nottingham Contemporary for the final commission presentation we were thrown in at the deep end to a certain degree with being invited to install the piece at the V&A some two days later. We had naturally tested the technology and had also experimented was a local Dance company but the V&A would be the first public acid test. So naturally we, whilst confident, were a little nervous as to how the installation would be received. We needn't have worried though as from the first person to the last seemed to have no problems at all interacting straight away. We had worked very hard to ensure that the technology was very easy to use and understand and this was proved to be the case. With the event being at the V&A there was lots of people from various countries all over the world attending. Even those with little or no English seemed to have no problem understanding how the installation worked and how they could be creative.

As far as installations go this is quite an immersive experience for people to be involved with as we're asking them to be creative on the spot and to try and lower their inhibitions. Some people have been reflective, a few declined but the overwhelming majority have been excited and more than happy to be involved in something creative and user-generated. Having the playback projection aspect where people entering the space could see all the previously recorded scenes definitely helped in this respect. We think feeling they are part of a larger whole, part of the creative process has been a great incentive and we have been really surprised at the variation and quality of the stories told within the ten frames of the animations they create. You'd be surprised what can be done. We even had a meeting of a couple, courting, engagement, marriage and finally the birth of a baby - all in ten frames.

The beauty of the installation is that because we haven't sought to control the output it can be used in various ways. For instance The Nottingham Contemporary, who hosted the installation after the V&A, provided a number of props and accessories for participants. This has been great for creative submissions but also influenced the public towards certain narratives by the style of the props themselves and the fact they had tied it into the on-going Jean Genet exhibition at the gallery.

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Brendan Oliver & Brendan Randall presenting Le Cadavre Exquis at Making Future Work in Nottingham. Image credit: Melissa Gueneau, courtesy MFW

The work has traveled to V&A in London and other venue since we met in Nottingham in June. Do you have plans to show it elsewhere?
Do you plan to develop or modify the piece in the near future?

It's been quite non-stop for Le Cadavre Exquis being in the V&A two days after completion and directly following that it has been running permanently in The Nottingham Contemporary over the summer. It's due to finish there on the 4th of September. Our vision is that this is an installation that, in theory at least, can keep running and running. If we can keep installing and generating submissions there's no reason this can't be the case. We've already had enquiries for installing in various other environments and alternative uses. We are very much open to propositions or proposals from anywhere & anyone.

By the very nature of how the installation is conceived we can adapt the system in many ways to different uses and environments from performance to education uses. We also have plans to develop the project using the generated content itself. One area we're looking into is a 'Director' tool aspect where online users will be able to access all the videos and textual narratives (or indeed write their own) to create their own self-directed movie. We're currently looking into funding opportunities to develop this aspect. This notion of 'Directing' has routes into performance and writing within the arts and education - all of which is very exciting for us and for the project in the future.

Thanks Brendan and Brendan!

Photo homepage: Le Cadavre Exquis at the V&A's Web Weekend programme Credit: Rain Rabbit.

Sponsored by:





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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

So far the work of Kris Verdonck was mostly a privilege reserved to the aficionados of theater stages but Z33 in Hasselt has invited the theatre-maker and artist to invade its rooms with wonderful machinery, installations, videos and even a metaphorical garden made of some of the most invasive non-native plant and animal species in Belgium. It's the artist's first 'gallery' exhibition. Hence the title of the show.

His works are incredibly invigorating because of their originality and poetry but a few moments spent in their company reveals their dark undertone.

The work of Kris Verdonck (...) focuses on the confusion of man in an estranged world due to technological development. The tension between man and machine, between living species and dead materials creates an atmosphere of Unheimlichkeit or eeriness. This 'current state of the world' - with its environmental problems, ecological disasters and wars - is the central theme through his oeuvre.

In the solo exhibition in Z33, Kris Verdonck focuses on the one hand on the confusion and eeriness of man in his environment. On the other hand, his work is about the confusion of the world itself in which the Apocalypse already took place.

EXHIBITION at #1 is a bold move, the challenge was to prove that Verdonck's pieces, many of which the artist describes as "big installations that are displayed in a theatrical context", were strong enough to stand on their own two feet in a contemporary art gallery. I had never experienced any of his works in theatres before so i had no preconceptions nor expectations. All i saw were absorbing videos, stunning installations and an earnest robot.

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Kris Verdonck, DANCER #3, 2010. Produced for the performance ACTOR #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

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Kris Verdonck, DANCER #3, 2010. Produced for the performance ACTOR #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

DANCER #3 is one node of ACTOR #1 which explores the metamorphosis from chaos to order. One of the starting points for this work was the history of the creation of the 'homunculus', the artificial miniature human that philosophers, alchemists and scientists have sought over the centuries since Greek Antiquity.

DANCER #3 is a robot trying to stand up straight; he always falls down again, but never gives up. His energy and clumsiness display the optimism of a clown who's always tripping over.

In Box, a glass cube contains the strongest possible light source that can be concentrated on such a small surface. As spectators --equipped with protective glasses-- watch the light, they hear the voice of the actor Johan Leysen who speaks, in German, the apocalyptic texts by dramatist Heiner Müller: Verkommenes Ufer Medeamaterial Landschaft mit Argonauten (Despoiled Shore Medea Material Landscape with Argonauts) (1982-1983.)

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Kris Verdonck, BOX. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

Light that normally allows us to see was made so strong by the team of engineers Verdonck collaborated with that it turns us blind. BOX is the second installation in a series of installations that examine "the end of the world" from different points of view. Its light could be the luminous flash of a nuclear explosion, a never ceasing, eye-burning lightning that announces the end of the world.

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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

The most jaw-dropping moment for me was when entered a big room on the first floor of Z33 filled with the appliances and objects developed by the artist for live shows. Most of them would normally be kept behind the scenes. The machines often look like medieval instruments (of torture). At the same time, they are often high-technological objects, that fulfil complex functions. They form a large contrast with the extreme esthetical images that they produce.

The overview of machines by Kris Verdonck addresses the field of tension between man and machine in today's society. What relationship can/must/do people want to enter into with technology? How difficult is the balancing act between human control and submission to machines?

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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

For the IN performance, an actress remains motionless for an hour in a transparent cube filled with water. The distortion to her senses caused by the environment she is in makes her go into a trance. The sounds of her breathing and movement are amplified by microphones.

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Kris Verdonck, Warehouse of machinery, used in performances / installations, 1995 - present. Part of EXHIBITION #1. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

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Kris Verdonck, IN (image from a performance found on the artist's website)

I wish i'd have time to talk about every single work i saw in the show but i'd better wrap up the asap and hit 'publish' before it's too late for you to drive to Hasselt and see the show which closes on Sunday already so i'll end with two of the most stunning video works:

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Kris Verdonck, MOUSE. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

MOUSE shows - enormously magnified and in extreme slow-motion - a mouse walking into a trap. The trap closes, the iron breaks the small body. A camera with super slow motion (10,000 images/sec) was used to unravel the mechanics of a movement, just like Muybridge did. The technique makes us experience an extremely upsetting emergency situation in the slowest possible way.

We eat meat every day but we don't want to be remembered that animals have to be killed before they land on our plates, and we definitely don't want to be confronted with it visually. MOUSE is an image of our daily hypocrisy turned into a slow motion opera that fills a whole room.

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Kris Verdonck, FRIEZE, 2010. Produced for the 'circuit performance' K, a Society. Photo: Kristof Vrancken / Z33

The figures in the large-scale projection FRIEZE look like your typical posh office workers. Neatly dressed, impassible and modern. After a few minutes however, their sharpness starts to crack. No matter how hard they try, the businessmen loose their decorum as their bodies slip, tumble and move awkwardly around the claustrophobic space they are confined to.

The characters in FRIEZE could be considered to be a modern version of the majestuous Greek caryatids. These sculpted female figure were functional as well as ornamental and emanated gravitas. The caryatids in FRIEZE on the other hand, display their vulnerability in the extreme.

The catalogue of the exhibition is available online.

Kris Verdonck - EXIBITION #1 closes this week at Z33 House for Contemporary Art in Hasselt, Belgium.

Previously: EXOTE, an indoor garden for invasive alien species.

The competition for Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award (DA4GA) invites artists and designers to team up with the Netherlands most prestigious Genomics Centres and produce new artworks in the field of sustainability, food, health, bio-informatics, agriculture, and safety. So far the competition was only open to people living, studying or working in The Netherlands.

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Jalila Essaidi, 2.6 g 329 m/s (image Jalila Essaidi)

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Maurizio Montalti, System Synthetics (image Maurizio Montalti)

But the good news is that the first edition was so successful that The Netherlands Genomics Initiative, the Centre for Society and Genomics and Waag Society have decided to open up their second call for application to artists and designers from any country. Three projects will be selected and awarded € 25.000 for the realization of the final piece. The only condition is for you to have graduated in the past five years. Application form and other info, this way please!

A few weeks ago, i was in The Netherlands to see the result of the first competition. You might remember that i had interviewed the 3 winning artists/designers just as they were about to start developing their projects (The Miscroscopic Opera, 2.6g 329m/s, aka the 'bulletproof skin' and System Synthetics) so i was curious to see whether the final pieces lived up to their (and my!) expectations. The show is up until January 8th at Naturalis, the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity which is located in Leiden, a short train ride from Amsterdam.

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Matthijs Munnik, Microscopic Opera (detail)

The best surprise for me was definitely the Microscopic Opera, developed by Matthijs Munnik in collaboration with Richard de Boer from the Netherlands Consortium for Systems Biology. In this installation, the fluid movements of the humble lab worms C.elegans are turned into sounds and images. This tiny worm is used routinely as a model organism in research laboratories around the world. Its 'participation' to the artwork is particularly relevant to genomics since C.elegans is the first multicellular organism to have its genome completely sequenced.

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Matthijs Munnik, Microscopic Opera (de_buurman has much better images)

A software tracks and converts the movements of the worms into various sounds that range from abstract opera singing to dynamic soundtrack of background sounds. The public can follow the activity of the creatures on a series of screens, they display the images magnified by the microscopes installed above the petri dishes containing each from 100 to 1000 worms.

Microscopic Opera could have been yet another 'new media art' installation controlled by a living being but, somehow, the modesty of the performers, the pleasant sounds they generate and the control and dignity they gain in the process made for a surprisingly moving experience.

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Bulletproof skin stopping the bullet (image Jalila Essaidi)

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Bulletproof skin being pierced (image Jalila Essaidi)

The project that got most headlines in newspapers and blogs is 2.6g 329m/s, developed by Jalila Essaidi with the help of Forensic Genomics Consortium Netherlands. The objective of her project was to create a a bulletproof human skin, the kind DARPA would pay fortunes to get their hands on. Except that the project is first and foremost the trigger for a reflection about the many social, political, ethical and cultural issues concerning safety.

The rather unappealing result is a hybrid between spider's silk produced by transgenic silkworm and human skin cells:

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In an interview with Neva Lukic, the artist explained why her project explores the concept, relativity and borderlines of safety: Safety is relative. You can use multiple layers of this skin but there will always be something else that can harm you. A nice example is made by Lucas Evers, the initiator of this project, who told me that before there were no safety belts in the car, the child was protected only with his father's hand and that was enough for the child to feel safe... The question of this work is also about the border. Scientists are also thinking about that. So it has to become accessible to the whole society. Just as safety is relative, so is the word bulletproof. For example, I have recorded two impacts of a slower bullet, the same caliber but with a lower speed. The bullets didn't pierce the skin, but in both situations they showed very different results. One of them got embedded in the ballistic gel, wrapped in the silk-skin, much like an arrow in the silk vest of a warrior during the time of Genghis Kahn would have done. The other one was on a piece of skin with more spider silk layers and the bullet got embedded in the skin itself and not all the way inside the ballistic gel. Two entirely different results, both being bulletproof.

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Ballistic gel, used to simulate the density and viscosity of human muscle tissue (image Jalila Essaidi)

Jalila has recently posted on her blog, the extract of Sam Gaty & George Costakis' upcoming A Documentary Film about Synthetic Biology. The short video below gives a quick overview of the work being done in a farm in Laramie, WY whereby spider silk is being spun from goat milk.

The third project is System Synthetics, by designer Maurizio Montalti in cooperation with the Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation. The ambitious work attempts to study the possibilities of production of the bio fuel out of the degradation process of the plastic waste using two fungal organisms. A first type of fungi would break down plastic waste, a yeast would then take over and produce bio-ethanol out of it.

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Scanning Electron Micrographs (SEM), showing the interaction between fungus, yeast and plastic material

The final installation doesn't showcase the successful outcome of the project (the whole process would take years to complete) but it documents the intention, the experiments and points to the ecological burden that plastic imposes on our planet. There is a series of objects in a window that deconstruct the process from the moment plastic is broken down by men into smaller particles to phase when plastic waste would finally be transformed in an alternative energy source.

You might get a better idea of the whole project by watching this film:

The three works are on show at Naturalis, Leiden until January 8th 2012. The center has also uploaded videos that present the winning projects.

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Inside the Naturalis

Previously: The Miscroscopic Opera, 2.6g 329m/s, aka the 'bulletproof skin' and System Synthetics.

Belated postcard from Sao Paulo.

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Image courtesy of FILE festival

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If you happen to be in or around Sao Paulo this Summer (or Winter, i was told it is Winter over here but super sunny and 25 degrees Celsius is no credible Winter to me) don't miss FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival that takes place at the FIESP Cultural Center and all over the Avenida Paulista till late August. And because FILE makes it its duty to attract the general public and not just the art&tech aficionados, the event is not only free but also packed with surprising installations, games, videos and events.

Here's a quick look at what the festival has in store! Part one, the installations!

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Hye Yeon Nam, Please Smile. Photo Julia Moraes

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Joon Y. Moon, Augmented Shadow. Photo Julia Moraes

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Kimchi & Chips, Journey Seoul. Photo Julia Moraes

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Lars Lundehave Hansen, Spiderbytes. Photo Julia Moraes

A new addition to the festival programme, FILE Tablet allows visitors to test and play with artistic applications on iPads:

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Photo Julia Moraes

And if ever you were wondering which works i found the most interesting (or downright disquieting):

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Lars Lundehave Hansen, Spiderbytes. Image courtesy of FILE festival

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Lars Lundehave Hansen, Spiderbytes (detail)

Spiderbytes, by Lars Lundehave Hansen, uses small clunky creatures to visualize sound. The spiders, made of speaker units mounted with graphite sticks and animated by low frequencies from 5 Hz to 50 Hz, imprint their marks on a white surface depending on the sound fed to them.
A smart twist on the classic drawing robots.

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Ryoichi Kurokawa, Rheo: 5 horizons. Installation view. Photo by JMAF

The most mind-blowing work for me was Ryoichi Kurokawa's Rheo: 5 horizons, a 5 screen audiovisual installation in which each vertically long imagery pairs with each mono channel sound, and each video is synchronized to each audio. These juxtaposed resonances have an impact on sensory perception, which develops a similar synesthetic experience.

The title quite fittingly derives from the expression of Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus "panta rhei", which means "everything is in a state of flux". If you want to know more about it, the blurb is over here but i didn't need it to be won over by the piece. Not sure the video will convey much of its

But somehow, i felt that the winners of this edition of FILE were the works showing little or no technology. I already mentioned ADA - analog interactive installation but there were more surprises in store. Such as Shrink, Lawrence Malstaf's dependable crowd-pleaser...

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Lawrence Malstaf, Shrink. Image courtesy of FILE festival

Or the irresistible Máquina/brinquedo. A pinball machine made by the Collective COLETORES using discarded materials: wood, rubber and some human propulsion.

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Collective COLETORES, Máquina/brinquedo. Image Collective COLETORES

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Collective COLETORES, Máquina/brinquedo (detail)

Other works which might be of interest:

The Happy Cube, by Julian Jaramillo, is happy because it doesn't need any wire nor connection to a laptop to play music. Flipping the cube on one if its sides triggers a musical generative process which mixes both random tunes and sound material previously composed.

Ijiro "the robot which expresses emotions reacting to a user's actions" made me rather uncomfortable. Ijiro isn't able to move itself because it doesn't have any actuators. It's just the face of a man stuck inside what looks like a tiny version of a can of Pringle's. It does look alive and its/his face starts smiling, sulking or displays other types of emotions as someone who doesn't have the misfortune of being trapped inside a can of potato chips touches it, or makes the tube lie, stand, swings it, if you make it roll or hang it. He can even talk but I felt sorry for him/it, really.

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Kazushi Mukaiyama and Yujiro Kabutoya, IjiroPhoto Julia Moraes

Its creators, Kazushi Mukaiyama and Yujiro Kabutoya, developed Ijiro as a physical pet to entertain people.

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Ben Jack, Elucidating Feedback. Photo Julia Moraes

Elucidating Feedback, by young media artist Ben Jack, is a brain-controlled installation. The brain-computer interface reads your brainwaves and this alters how the installation creates form from static. The more attention is paid, the more pattern is formed; as less attention is paid, the pattern breaks back into static.

And a last one for the road...

Yoshi Akai's Heart 'n' Beat is a musical instrument for three players. Insert the index inside a small leather ring and the instrumnet will take your pulse and use it as the basis for a tune. You can then add sound samples and play along to your own heart.

Seemed to work like a charm for everyone. Alas for me, i appeared to have no heart beat.

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Yoshi Akai, Heart 'n' Beat

Also part of the exhibition: ADA - analog interactive installation.
More images on my flickr set.

FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival remains open through August 21, 2011, at the FIESP Cultural Center - Ruth Cardoso, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Entrance is free.

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Quick introduction words about the FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival that takes place in São Paulo this Summer. As usual, the event mixes and matches immersive installations, animations movies, performances, machinimas, besides works of web art, documentary, and other goodies you expect from this ambitious new media art festival. This year, however, i've been particularly blown away by the least techy works in the exhibition.

I'll come back to them in the coming days in a more generous report but i'd like to kick off my reports from the festival with a short post about ADA - analog interactive installation, by Karina Smigla-Bobinski.

ADA is a huge helium-filled ball trapped inside a room. Its surface is spiked with charcoals that leave marks on the white surface of the walls, ceilings and floors as it bounced from one side of the room to the other.

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Visitors might want to put the ball in action by pushing it into one direction or the other but after that, the way the ball sketches on the white surface is mostly autonomous, no matter how hard you strive at controlling its movements.

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As art critic Arnd Wesemann wrote: It is a movement experienced visually, which like a computer make an unforeseeable output after entering a command. Not in vain « ADA» reminds of Ada Lovelace, who in 19th century together with Charles Babbage developed the very first prototype of a computer. Babbage provided the preliminary computing machine, Lovelace the first software. A symbiosis of mathematics with the romantic legacy of her father Lord Byron emerged there. Ada Lovelace intended to create a machine that would be able to create works of art, such as poetry, music, or pictures, like an artist does. «ADA» by Karina Smigla-Bobinski stands in this very tradition, as well as in the one of Vannevar Bush, who build a Memex Maschine (Memory Index) in 1930 ("We wanted the memex to behave like the intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain"), or the Jacquard's loom, that in order to weave flowers and leaves needed a punch card; or the "analytic machine" of Babbage which extracted algorithmic paterns.

FILE, the Electronic Language International Festival remains open through August 21, 2011, at the FIESP Cultural Center - Ruth Cardoso, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Entrance is free.

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Coletivo Gambiologia (Fred Paulino, Ganso and Lucas Mafra), Gambiociclo, 2010 (image Eduardo Berthier)

Gambiarra is the Brazilian practice of makeshifts, the art of resorting to quirky and smart improvisation in order to repair what doesn't work or to create what you need with what you have at your disposal. Gambiologia is the 'science' that studies this form of creative improvisation and celebrates it by combining it with electronic-digital techniques.

Gambiologia is also the name of a collective of artists - Fred Paulino, Lucas Mafra and Paulo Henrique 'Ganso Pessoa' - who mix this art of improvisation with DIY culture & technology to develop electronic artifacts.

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Saulo Policarpo, Prismatic Gambièrre. Image Pedro David

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Mariana Manhães, Isso (Taça Azul) e Isso (Taça de Cristal). Image Pedro David

Last year, Fred Paulino gathered the work of Gambiologia along with the one of over 20 Brazilian and international artists in an exhibition titled "Gambiólogos - Kludging in a Digital Era". The objects, sculptures and installations selected explored the concept of technological gambiarra: they adapt, reinvent recycled and found materials using electronic technologies and much improvisation.

Fred Paulino, who is an artist, designer, gambiologist as well as the curator of the exhibition, was kind enough to send me the catalog of the show a few months ago (you can also download the catalog in its PDF form.) I liked its content so much i thought it was my duty to pester him with my questions:

You translate 'gambiologia' with Kludging. How different is it from hacking?

Gambiologia is something like "The science of gambiarra", which is a Brazilian cultural practice of solving problems creatively in alternative ways with low cost and lots of spontaneity, or giving unusual functions to everyday life objects. There is no exact translation for 'gambiarra' so we initially used kludge which means (from Wikipedia): 'a workaround, a quick-and-dirty solution, a clumsy or inelegant, yet effective, solution to a problem, typically using parts that are cobbled together'. In the US they'd call it makeshift. Gambiologia is the study of 'gambiarra' in a technological context.

We actually stopped translating Gambiologia at all :^)

I 'd say it is a specific kind of hacking - it's the proposal of hacking not only electronics or codes, but objects as well. It's about using things (or bits, maybe) in functions they were not initially proposed to. Modify them or join them in improvised and creative ways so they'll not accomplish the original task anymore. Using parts that were not supposed to be together to create a distressing whole. In our case it's also deeply linked to Brazilian folk culture.

Before we go to the artworks themselves, could you give us a few examples of everyday gambiology in the streets of Belo Horizonte?

It's easy to find many samples of 'gambiarras' if you travel anywhere in Brazil. You can also get many pics if you google it but I attached some I collected myself.
Many Gambiologia's - as we propose artistically - can be found at our group's website www.gambiologia.net or at the collective exhibition I proposed about the theme.
Also in www.thereifixedit.com you'll get it the north-american way.

Samples:

Audio cable fixed with candy wrapper:

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Beer chilled in suspended pail:

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Sound systems:

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Shower in a pet bottle:

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Mobile beer chilling:

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Pet bottle lamp:

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Car mirror:

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Safe plug:

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Simplest way to leave it open:

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Among the works presented in the catalogue i was particularly curious about the following ones:. O Grivo, Polvo, Eles estão vivos, Furadeiras. Can you describe them briefly and tell us what they are about?'

Passo a Passo (Step by Step) is a work by the guys of O Grivo. They propose a random percussion symphony where different notes are played as the shadows of small pieces of wood are detected by sensors connected to a computer. Each of these pieces is attached by the end of a stick which rotates 360º at random speed, so when it gets to 0º, it plays its own note very loud. It proposes an interesting contrast between a very delicate structure and loud music tones in a kind of physically constructed musical timeline.

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O Grivo, Passo A Passo, 2010. Image Pedro David

Polvo (Octopus) from Paulo Nenflidio is a sound machine made by plastic conduits. These are originally used to hold electric cables but Paulo used them to hold compressed air. As the visitor "plays" a keyboard made out of door ring bells, the conduits blow, generating different sounds. The seven bells form a complete tone set. This bizarre octopus-instrument still have an 8th note generated by an water spray on its top.

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Paulo Nenflídio, Polvo, 2010. Image Pedro David

Eles Estão Vivos (They're Still Alive) was created by Paulo Waisberg. I initially invited him to be the scenographer of the exhibition but he also came with this work. We had all these old displays and keyboards that were donated by the city's council but we didn't know how to use. Paulo created this artwork during the exhibition preparation just a day before the opening, using old footage of blinking eyes in the displays. In my opinion it tells a lot about how re-creating can be much more interesting than recycling. It's also a good demonstration of how a strong sense of improvisation and spontaneity was incorporated all through the exhibition.

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Paulo Waisberg, Eles Estão Vivos. Image Pedro David

Furadeiras (Drills) is one of the simplest exhibited artworks but surely one of the smartest. It's by Guto Lacaz, an experienced artist from Sao Paulo. He proposed an unusual meeting between "different generation" drills - one being analogue and the other electrical. It's an ironic interpretation between planned obsolescence and how technology evolves, sometimes just rotating around itself in an infinite loop. Or how the old (low-tech) and the new (high-tech) can live collaboratively.

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Guto Lacaz, Furadeiras. Image Pedro David

How about Gambiociclo? What made you decide to create this 'mobile unit of multimedia transmission"?
Have you used it outside of the exhibition space? How was the experience and how did people react to it?

The Gambiocycle is inspired on Graffiti Research Lab's mobile broadcast unit. I got to be friend with those guys a few years ago, we made some stuff together, they proposed to me run GRL Brazilian sister cell www.graffitiresearchlab.com.br . We run it in parallel to Gambiologia.

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Sketch of the Gambiociclo (image by angelicasegui)

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Coletivo Gambiologia (Fred Paulino, Ganso and Lucas Mafra), Gambiociclo, 2010

I always wish to have a multimedia vehicle that could project video and digital graffiti in public space. It's terrific how that can be a straight path to a democratic dialogue between people and the city itself. But our MBU should be gambiological - reflecting the logics and aesthetics of 'gambiarra' with this strong Brazilian accent. So we built it inspired by trolleys of salesmen who ride here mostly selling products or doing political advertisement. The idea was to mix performance, happening, electronic art, graffiti and 'gambiarras'.

Yes. People are always surprised as they're not much used to digital graffiti or having electronic art in the streets here. But what impressed me the most is the immediate affinity that the Gambiocycle caused in ordinary people not directly involved to art. I was initially most worried about the vehicle's funcionality or the performances' visual contents, but probably due to the strong local aesthetics it incorporates, people were suddenly feeling more like touching the MBU, taking pictures with it or riding it. I believe it comes from this unconscious feeling of spontainity the work proposes and everybody practice some way since childhood.

And we just got the news that Gambiocycle got an Honorary Mention at Prix Ars Electronica 2011 yeah!

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Alexandre B, O Instante Impossível. Image Pedro David

Is there a conscious art community of gambilogos in Brazil but also beyond it? Or is it more like a natural and widespread way of using technology that doesn't really need a name or a purpose community to exist?

Gambiologia was initially the name our three guys' collective but the word is now being used here to identify a new way of think about technology, hacking and (Brazilian) pop culture. Like a science or a movement... It somehow captured the feeling of many creators, and I believe not only in this country. Many artists worldwide are "gambiólogos" (gambiologists) without knowing that. I recently had been in touch with the work of European artists like Niklas Roy which are pretty much gambiological! That's the feeling that Gambiólogos exhibition proposed to group and show.

It doesn't need a name at all but if it had that should be in Brazilian Portuguese :^) Yes I strongly believe this country is a perfect example of chaotic miscegenation - cultural or technological - that results in a notion of creative spontaneity. As a colonial country we initially didn't have enough resources for solving everyday problems so we had to invent simple and cheap solutions... Gambiologia tries to go beyond this, bring it into the art scene with an aesthetical and political discussion about technology.

Does Gambiologia have any consideration for aesthetics?

Sure! But for us we had enough of Apple-like clean aesthetics, we had enough newly-released electronics. People can't stand so many rubbish and consumption... That's why we love to work and play with recycling, remixing and - why not - reproposing the notion of "old" and "new".

Obrigada Fred!

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