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Yesterday i was hoping to attend Niklas Roy's presentation of his latest project at the UdK (University of the Arts in Berlin) and instead had to stay home and wait for the gas guy to come and check the boiler.

0aavisti.jpgGallerydrive is a completely automated drive-through art exhibition. The system allows curators and artists to control the way single artworks are perceived, and the way, a whole exhibition will be experienced by a gallery or museum visitor. They can determine how the visitors move in relation to their works but also from which perspective, when and how long each work will be noticed. Besides, artists can define the presentation of (meta-) information over the vehicles display and on the sound environment, in which each work is perceived.

The first element of the project is the Gallerydrive car, a modified wheelchair fitted with a series of features:
- line detection which lets the wheelchair drive autonomously on a track of adhesive tape,
- a touch screen display to inform the user about the artworks or to allow them to interact with the artworks,
- an mp3-player with headphones to emit a soundtrack for the ride through the exhibition,
- an RFID reader, to let the wheelchair perform different actions (change of driving speed, the change of display content, the change of the currently played mp3-track,, etc.), when it passes a RFID tag,
- infrared communication to transmit information between car and course (or artwork),
- and infrared distance measurement sensor to let the car be able to queue in a row of Gallerydrive cars.

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Niklas closing the room on his professors

So far so good. What makes the experience sound like one of my worst nightmare is the Robotik Room, a large electro-mechanical sculpture that becomes a white cube, when a Gallerydrive vehicle enters it.

The Room is about 50% finished. "I have to push buttons to operate the mechanism and then, the room descends and the walls flap down and surround the visitor(s)," explains Niklas who is still working on the electronics to let it move automatically.

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The drawing below shows what it should eventually look like. "Inside the room, there'll be four golden frames, one on each wall," adds the artist. "The wall inside each frame will be cut out, so that the visitors will look outside through those frames instead of seeing normal pictures inside them. Outside the room, there are four installations, which might look strange and abstract, if you have a first look at them. But if you are being driven with the vehicle inside the room, and if you stop at the defined positions for watching each of those "pictures" at the walls, they will appear as an image inside these golden frames."
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The alternative title of the Robotik Room is Deus ex Machina, a term which describes a situation in ancient greek theatre plays, where the situation between the figures stalls and a god comes down on the stage, hanging on a big crane, to clear the situation in the play. The Robotik Room will do something similar, coming down from the ceiling and offering a certain perspective onto those abstract surrounding installations, which discloses what the installations are about.

The system itself does not determine contents for an exhibition. But guidelines for the content of exhibitions can be specified for each exhibition.

A project developed together with //////////fur////.

Btw, Niklas' friends at UDK have a very nice Sacral Design exhibition on Karl Marx Allee (images) this week.

Pictures by Arne Fehmel. More images were made by Aram Bartholl during the presentation (i stole one of his as well.) Niklas comments on his piece in a Gizmodo interview.

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udkminirundgang1.jpg In terms of its appearance, Frederic Gmeiner's Table Recorder is slightly remindful of Laurie Anderson's wonderful Handphone Table. But, while Anderson's installation merely functions as a poetic playback device for pre-produced music, this table allows you to actually create your own sounds.

After having built a mechanically actuated musical alarm clock as a prototype for this project, his aim was to "create a playful object which may be completely integrated into everyday life". Besides being a real, usable table, it will echo movements with sound. Below the surface, pressure-sensors feel a user's touch and actuate custom-built solenoids which inside the drawers then bang on arbitrary objects, at the time including a glass, a plate, a xylophone and a saw.

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In one mode, the table acts as a simple sequencer which will loop the recorded sounds in two-second intervals. In the other mode however, it will record movements and play them back with a delay of half an hour. When it is actually being used as a table, it might thus resonate its use, for example to someone who is just coming home. To erase what has been recorded, you simply – wipe it. udkminirundgang4.jpg

What really impressed me during Frederic's demonstration though, was when he lifted the tabletop to adjust the sensors with a screwdriver – it suddenly looked as if he was tuning a piano.

Another fun piece from the same course (Kora Kimpel and Dennis Paul's introductory course to the digital media class at UDK) was Julius von Bismarck's still unnamed but camera-equipped blimp, which allows you to see yourself from above when you put on the accompanying space-age helmet that contains tiny screens. When asked about the idea behind this piece, he told me that he likes the top-down perspective of the original Grand Theft Auto-games and that he just wanted to try that out in everyday life. It really did look like GTA in the same weird augmented-reality way as U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi at SIGGRAPH. Too bad we couldn't take it outside to hijack a couple of cars.

More projects included a moving golf-hole, an enhanced version of tic-tac-toe called Cmatch and another beautiful board game.

More on Flickr.


udkrichard1.jpgMany media art pieces share the approach that they want to turn the urban environment into a playful potential space through some kind of intervention. The Throwies, Greyworld's Bins and Benches or We only come out at night are all prime examples of this notion. Classic examples include the early sprayers and how they used the existing structure of the NYC subway to create mobile artworks that would travel between the city's boroughs, accumulating more audience with every station they pass through.

udkrichard2.jpgRichard The also wants to playfully engage the city dwellers. After some research and sketches in different cities (don't miss the video of his plastic bag-visualization of the Manhattan subway), he decided to focus on playgrounds – other spaces in Foucault's sense within cities that are dedicated to play. Many have plenty of "recreational equipment" such as see-saws, swings and merry-go-rounds but research shows that children spend still 6-12x as much time in the creative openness of the sandbox.

In his thesis project Playful Parasites at the UDK digital media class, Richard uses electronics to enhance the play with swings and such in order to add some narrative possibilities to the experience of play. All of his designs are add-ons which can be velcroed to an existing piece of playground equipment. They communicate via Bluetooth and can be combined in different ways. "A Swinging Spark" extends the swing through a spotlight which illuminates the playground when someone is using it during dusk or summer nights. The light might also leave the playground and touch the surrounding architecture, giving people a sense of activity. "Musical Playground" attaches audio samples to various pieces of playground equipment. udkrichard3.jpg The more kids play and touch the overhead ladders and such, the more sounds get triggered and the playground takes on a whole new function as a musical instrument, giving the kids the possibility to easily create music in a networked environment.

"Virtual Facade" plays on the fact that in Berlin, many playgrounds are adjacent to Firewalls which are basically blank walls. This design proposes to project windows on such walls behind which shadows of people show fragments of their everyday life. These fragments once again get triggered by certain movements on the playground and kids are able to create visual narratives on the wall.

Related: The TonLeiter.

Andre Stubbe likes to program behaviour. Looking at his work during his studies at the digital media class, he always tried to explore how interaction creates narratives and also how blank spots or errors become objects of interpretation or even signs of life to the audience. The reactions to outerspace, which he co-created with Markus Lerner, already were amazingly diverse, ranging from a completely mesmerized little boy at ArtBots to a person who ran away from it screaming.

udkandre1.jpgLooking for a way to emphasize more on this interpretational side of interaction (and how to manipulate it), Andre first looked at marionettes, especially the great work of Lara Greene whose "Ape" achieves to take on a life of itself for the visitors, even though they themselves are who control it. Eventually, he decided to focus even more – on the eye. For his thesis project, he designed two robotic eyes: a blue one in a black case and a red one in a white case. Those eyes are equipped with cameras which track both each other and and human faces. The eyeballs can move, the lids open and close and the whole object can also rotate.

Together, they form an installation which communicates with itself until someone appears and disturbs the "conversation". Then, depending on the movement of the person, the eyeballs might break their contact and focus on him or her – just like at a party where it might be hard to become part of an already existing group and also might lead to unforeseen reactions.

More of Andre's eyes on Flickr.

udkgunnar1.jpgGunnar Green experiments with living matter in order to create slow graphic design.

He went to Humboldt University's applied botanics department and got a place to work with tiny plants (especially the lab rat of botanics, Arabidopsis thaliana) which he wanted to treat as pixels. (Apparently the scientists there were, at least initially, not too impressed by citing art-related reference projects like Biopresence) After different interesting approaches such as a Bio-printer (essentially an inkjet-printer which would put seeds on a flat surface instead of drops of ink), vertical gardens and jackets from Tyvek to sample bio-material during a day in the city and then later cultivate it, he finally decided to focus on the letter (in both of its meanings) as means of communication, especially between individuals with emotional relationships. Four project focus on living letters, letters as signs of life and procedural shapes in different aspects.

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For example a letter that grows flowers – the text is planted inside the letter and will grow as the recipient starts to actively care for it – tiny plants come up from the surface to form words. "Closeness" is a sheet of soap-like material which has a message in the form of E. coli-bacteria. Since those usually live inside us, they are very well adapted to body temperature and also grow best under these conditions. Thus, to be able to read the letter, its recipient will have to keep it warm, preferably close to the body, so the message can grow. udkgunnar3.jpg"Very Alive" is an experiment with using animals for the display of messages – ants use pheromones to create paths which other ants then follow. Gunnar used this to actually draw letters and shapes which the ants then traced and – rudimentary but very visibly – formed a representation of the drawn, in this case the letter A (video). "Spitting Image" plays on the English term, which means "exact likeness". In this Spitting Image, the user is actually asked to spit on a prepared sheet of paper. It then will grow basically everything that has been spat at it and indirectly creates a very intimate representation of the person through what lives in him or her.

More impressions on Flickr.

Related: Aperture, Parasite, Ghosttrain.

This week, many students presented their thesis projects at the Berlin University of the Arts' digital media class. Since all of them were quite good, we will cover them over the next couple days.

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Lisa Rave (also being a student of the experimental media department around Heinz Emigholz) has created a beautiful two-fold project which takes a look at the relationship between performance art and its documentation, strongly referring to works Robert Morris' "Box with the Sound of its Own Making" and performance art of the 60s and 70s and its representation in general.

For the first piece "Oak Frame", Lisa illegally cut down an oak tree (which would have been felled anyway because it stood on the future property of Berlin's BBI super-airport) and photographically documented the tree, the actual deed and a trace that the tree left behind when it was rolled over the grass. These pictures were put into frames which fellow artist Erik Blinderman in Frankfurt crafted from the same tree's wood and put up on the wall, together forming a kind of tryptich. Since the wood is still fresh, the frames will warp as they dry and eventually destroy the panes of glass in front of the photographs, somewhat obscuring the images of the tree.udklisa2.jpg For the presentation, she got a humidifier from Berlin museum Hamburger Bahnhof which was actively working against this process and in a sense stretching the time-span of this part of the performance.

The second piece, "Dokumentation einer Performance; Zaehlen bis 2500 in absoluter Dunkelheit" (Documentation of a performance, to count to 2500 in absolute darkness), plays on a similar idea - it is a photograph of Lisa who was standing still as long as the camera had collected enough light to produce a properly exposed image. The duration of the creation of the performance became the time of the creation of its documentation and vice-versa.

Related: Safari by Lisa Rave.

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