The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on Resonance104.4fm, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.
My guests in the studio will be Anab Jain and Jon Ardern from Superflux. Superflux is an Anglo-Indian design practice: they are based in London, but have roots and contacts in the Gujarati city of Ahmedabad.
Superflux is looking at the ways emerging technologies interface with the environment and everyday life and the result of their research is a rather extraordinary portfolio which explores deviant economies for India's elastic cities, climate change, political engagement, desertification, human enhancement, etc.
The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 26 February at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.
Image on the homepage: 5th Dimensional Camera.
The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired this Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.
My guest will be designer and researcher Suzanne Lee. Suzanne is the Founder of BIOCOUTURE, the first 'living materials' design consultancy. Suzanne is also a TED Senior fellow and a Launch innovator 2013 (Launch being an initiative that supports innovative works likely to contribute to a sustainable future.) For a number of years now, Suzanne has been investigating sustainable bio-materials. The last time i met her, she was cultivating bacteria into sugary green tea and harvesting thick layers of cellulose which, once dried looked like delicate, translucid leather that she then used to make her own garments.
Suzanne's work has now taken an even more ambitious dimension as she is building an open innovation resource to enable collaboration within the global biological materials community.
I just read in a press release that i was one of the 20.000 visitors of the sixth edition of STRP in Eindhoven. The yearly festival is now a biennial but the formula hasn't changed much: 10 days of science&tech-infused art and of electronic music.
The theme of this year's exhibition is City of Cyborgs. Not the city of androids, clunky clones and man/machines contraptions but the city we are already walking through, smartphones in our pockets, implants in our bodies for some and ready to get our hands on Google glasses. City of Cyborgs in STRP speak means animatronics, opera for prehistoric creatures, a forest of interactive lasers, tapas made from edible solar cells, absurd mega machines and lots of dance. The high tech, the low tech, the digital, the organic and everything in between and beyond.
This year, STRP provided me this with a good excuse to catch up with and reflect on today's cyborg scenery and with the opportunity to discover artists and works i had never encountered so far.
I might be late to the party but i've just added the name of Ief Spincemaille to my list of young artists t follow. Sadly, I didn't manage to get my hands on his Reverse Blinking goggles. All i can say is that people kept telling me "Have you tried it? Have you?! it's brilliant! Brilliant!' Since i've missed the fun, i'll just copy/paste the description:
Imagine being caught with your head inside a photo camera. It's completely dark. Only when the shutter opens for a very brief moment, you perceive a flash of the world. You see people as static figures, entire street scenes as moments frozen in time. Everything you lay your eyes on seems to acquire the characteristics of a photograph. The shutter moves so fast that it leaves no space for movement. The plates move up and down causing your eyes to make a reverse blinking movement: the plates are generally shut off, and only open and close quickly and briefly. The spectators can open and close the shutter themselves with a button, allowing them to determine the frequency, but not the speed (shutter time).
I did however, have a go at the other work that the artist was showing: the Chain driven 3D mirror which makes it possible to walk around your own head and view it as if it belonged to somebody else. The most remarkable aspect of the work is that it doesn't involves any digital technology but relies entirely on mechanical components: a chain, sprocket and motor.
I actually found it more interesting to watch visitors trying on the apparatus. They seemed to hover between the fascination to watch their own head under every possible angle and the self-conscious feeling that people around them are watching them. I wish i had a better photo of the installation but i stupidly deleted mine and the ones provided by the festival focus more on the near-orgasmic expressions of the visitors than on the artworks themselves.
Paul Granjon's modified Robotic Perception Kits were available for a test-run in the exhibition space but they were so much in demand that yet again, i didn't manage to get them on. The goggles and ear sets allow users to experience the world as is if you were a robot.
I'm going to hop right into the performances programme. Because you cannot curate a cyborg-themed festival without including Stelarc, one of the opening night performances saw him manipulating his now legendary Exoskeleton. The beastly machine has been touring festivals and exhibition for several years and it still has the power to knock out and turn us into a collectively gasping crowd. I for one was very impressed.
That same night saw a performance by Daito Manabe. The artist has gained fame over the past few years by sitting solemnly in front of a table while the muscles of his face are controlling the tones and rhythms of his musical performances.
Back to the exhibition and to contraptions i wouldn't be seen dead wearing: Guo Cheng's The Mouth Factory is made of drills and lathes designed to be operated with the user's jaw and mouth.
A couple more works you might or might not have heard about already:
Valerie, My Crystal Sister is a crystal chandelier that hides a moving story: the attempt by designer Lucas Maassen to create an object that would be, genetically speaking, the sister that he never had. The chandelier is not only a visualization of the basic code of life, it also asks whether it is possible to use the biological process that created Maassen as a design process to create an object. The designer first crystallized synthetic DNA fragments taken from his parents and then produced a magnified version of this crystal also out of crystal. Finally, Maassen assembled one thousand such pieces to form the chandelier exhibited at STRP.
Jordi Puig's A-ME is an 'emotional memory recall device.' The installation allows visitors to upload memories to an artificial brain. They can also navigate the brain and listen to the memories that other people have stored in A-ME.
Waterfall Swing. The name says it all.
More images on STRP's flickr set.
For some obscure reason i haven't been able to locate the wikipedia entry about Haus-Rucker-Co. but if you're curious about their work, there is a lot to (re)discover at the retrospective of the Viennese group currently hosted by WORK Gallery, near Kings Cross: inflatables capsules for two, parasitic structures, breathing devices, utopian ideas, helmets and pneumatic prostheses. It's critique of architecture and architecture as critique at its best.
It's almost shocking to see how, 40 years after their inception, Haus-Rucker-Co.'s ideas might still be relevant to anyone interested in art & technology, public interventions, immersive environments and (critical) design.
The exhibition, titled Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992, shows archival drawings and collages, photographs, models and original ephemera spanning Haus-Rucker-Co.'s 25-year collaboration. The show marks the 20-year anniversary of Haus-Rucker-Co.'s dissolution. Haus-Rucker-Co. was founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter, later joined by Manfred Ortner. Already working together as Ortner & Ortner on major building commissions from the mid-1980s, Manfred and Laurids Ortner went on to develop an extensive portfolio of built projects, propelling the preoccupations of Haus-Rucker-Co. into a new realm.
Hasty tour of what you can see in the exhibition:
Oase Nr. 7, a personal oasis with a diameter of 8 metres protruded from the façade of the Museum Fridericianums during the 1972 Documenta.
The Mind Expander allowed two people to isolate themselves from their environment and enter in spiritual communion with each other (maybe?!?)
"The Mind Expanding Programme aimed to explore the inner world, and to improve the psychological capacity of those who took part in the individual elements, as well as those who witnessed them in some way."
Gelbes Herz (Yellow Heart), a "communications space-capsule for two people".
Nike was an installation for the Forum Metall Linz exhibition. The photographic replica of the headless Victory of Samothrace was projected upwards from the rood of the University of the Arts. The works sparked a debate about the work itself and the state of contemporary art. After 27 months of controversy, it was discreetly removed under the cover of the night.
The Inclined Plane was an element of temporary architecture that visually separated Vienna into two halves. The half towards the inner city was bordered by the black surface of the plane, the other half, facing away from the city, by the plane's other, white surface.
Views from the exhibition:
To coincide with the exhibition, WORK has published a special edition of PAPERWORK that includes photos, essays written by members of Haus-Rucker-Co. as well as an interview with Manfred Ortner.
Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992 is at WORK gallery until Saturday 1 September 2012.
One of the many (very many) reasons why i wouldn't want to be a man is because the way they have to dress is so uneventful. Last Summer's most flamboyant sensation was the 'mankle'. Poor lads! On the other hand i wish i were a man so that i could dress head to toe in Walter Van Beirendonck. I do have a lovely paper dress staring a portrait of Van Beirendonck sitting naked on the back of a bear and little grey penises near the hem but nowadays he doesn't design much for women.
I love his work so much i almost made cartwheels a few days ago in an art gallery where i found a leaflet promoting his solo show at the Fashion Museum in Antwerp. I spent 4 hours in public transports to get to Antwerp, walked under the rain until somewhere between the Martin Margiela boutique and the sublime Dries Van Noten store, i found myself in front of transparent doors adorned with the naked red silhouette of WVB.
More than just a showcase of the designer's most extravagant pieces of archive,
But there are also toys everywhere. Vintage, Japanese, Mexican toys, etc.
Masks and ritual objects from Papua New Guinea, Austria, North America.
And works by artists with whom the designer shares concerns and ideas: Ai Weiwei for his political engagement, Robert Mapplethorpe for his documentation of the S&M world, but also the Chapman Brothers, Mike Kelley, Erwin Wurm and Grayson Perry.
Isn't he cute?
The exhibition echoes the main interests of the designer. There's obviously his relentless search for alternative ideas of beauty and representations of the body. This preoccupation is reflected in the models he sends on the catwalk. Some are bodybuilders, others are chubby 'bears' (a characteristic type in the gay community), or they can be thin, fragile boys.
He puts them on stilts, wraps them in latex, has them wear T-shirts with prints of preoperative drawings for plastic surgery, sends them on the runway with gas masks, corsets, prosthetic horns or with the face adorned with stick-on latex interpretations of Maori facial tattoos, etc.
Van Beirendonck's collections might seem whimsical and outlandish but many of them are instilled with controversial themes and political commentaries: AIDS, the burqa debate, censorship, gender issues, mass consumerism, ecology, war, capitalism, etc.
Finally, a spectacular room was entirely left to Walter van Beirendonck's collaboration with fashion photographer Nick Knight/SHOWstudio.com and stylist Simon Foxton. Their photography and video project brings into a new light the most memorable pieces from his archive:
So ladies, you know where to drag your man in need of sartorial inspiration this weekend! Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream the world awake runs at the Fashion Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, until February 19th, 2012.
Niewsblad.be has a photo set on flickr. Mine will come later, when i finally get back to wifi-wonderland.
This weekend, lucky me!, i'm going to Ghent to see ArtBots Gent, the Robot Talent Show. This international art exhibition for robotic art and art-making robots has been created in 2002 by Douglas Repetto of dorkbot fame. I'll tell you more about it as soon as i've seen the show but in the meantime i wanted to highlight one of the participating works. It might not be tremendously robotic but i found it so intriguing that i contacted Alex Braidwood and had him talk about it.
The Noisolation Headphones attempt to correct an oversight of our body: our ears can't blink. We can't block out molesting noise as easily as we can shut off light or disturbing images. In 2004 already, Dr Michael Bull was observing that iPods and other m3 players were used to control their environment, and in particular to shield their users from the sound of the city.
The Noisolation Headphones are a critical investigation that transforms the relationship between a person and the noise in their environment. While worn, exposure to the noise is structured through a sequence designated by a composer which controls the behavior of the sound-prevention valves. The composer also determines what values are adjustable by the listener through the single knob built into the device. The headphones mechanically create a personal listening experience by composing noise from the listener's environment, rendering it differently familiar.
Hi Alex! I'm very curious by the appearance of the Headphones. Why did you make them so attention-grabbing? What would have been lost if the headphones had looked like any other headphones?
I wanted to make an object that would start a conversation. The goal was to make a sort of visual inquiry that would lead a viewer to develop questions of their own about how we listen and our relationship to our sonic environment. As a media designer, I come from a visual background so it was important that the object itself be visually engaging to inspire a dialog. Formally, I wanted the piece to give an indication of what it was going to do but still leave people curious enough to want to listen for themselves. Through the prototyping process, it became a negotiation between the visual appearance and the acoustic qualities of the materials used. The listening experience needed to take on certain transformative characteristics and, as a result, the final selection of materials and form had to be determined by balancing the visual with the acoustic.
My goal was to make people curious enough about the listening experience to want to wear the piece. I don't think this would have happened if they looked like just any pair of headphones. I like that when people approach me about them, they tell me they aren't sure what the experience is going to sound like but by looking at the headphones, they know that they want to find out. It also creates a bit of a spectacle when someone is wearing them which tends to expand the immediate audience and extend the conversation in really great directions. When I, or anyone else for that matter, wear them at an event or out on the street, people will stop and ask about what they are, what do they do, what does it sound like, why did I make them, etc. This aspect of the piece has been a lot fun and it would definitely be missing if it weren't for the visual nature of the piece.
The description of your work states that "The Noisolation Headphones are a critical investigation that transforms the relationship between a person and the noise in their environment." How is their experience transformed? First technically. Is it just a matter of turning the sound on and off or is the way the wearer manipulate sound more complex?
It's actually a little more complex than just on and off. Because of the resonant qualities of the copper pipes, the listener is never as isolated as they would be if they were to wear an unmodified pair of hearing protection earmuffs. The characteristics of the noise that surrounds the wearer also impact the experience a great deal because various frequencies resonate through the pipes differently.
Beyond the acoustic qualities of the pipes, there is also the interaction of the valves which open and close based on a combination of pre-composed sequences and user interaction with the selection knob. As the valves open and close, they do manipulate how much noise is allowed to travel to the listener's ears but they also affect the resonant qualities of the copper pipe. In fact, one unexpected outcome form one of my early prototypes was that even in a relatively noise-free space, there is a still an audible performance for the listener as a result of the sounds from the mechanisms functioning in combination with the "seashell" effect within the headphones. What occurs then for the wearer, no matter what type or level of noise is present, is a listening experience consisting of modified noise from their surroundings, given some form or structure through the compositions assigned to the valves. Issues of noise tend to come down to issues of control of the audio environment. From this perspective, I wanted to explore a way in which control could be something that is developed and then shared with a listener in the form of a composed sequence.
What did the people who tried the headphones on had to say about the way the device had changed the way they experienced the noise that surrounds them in the city?
There are a few different ways that people respond once they have tried on the headphones.
Some people find it calming and have described it as peaceful, tranquil, or almost meditative in nature. They find it interesting that the it is somewhat isolating but in a way that they have not completely lost connection with what is happening around them. Some have even reacted this way to the headphones in places that are incredibly noisy and chaotic.
People also will talk about what they heard and discuss how, when not using the headphones, they hadn't noticed a particular noise. Because of the materials, certain frequencies resonant differently and this filtration causes their listening focus to shift. I've talked with people who really enjoy this and begin discussing what it was within the space they felt made the most interesting tones or textures when heard through the headphones.
There have even been times when other people waiting to wear the piece have started making different kinds of noise for the wearer to hear. I've had a couple of events where a half dozen people standing in line waiting their turn are suddenly giving a collective, cacophonous performance of noise for a single listener.
Others have gone a step further and gotten curious about what different things sound like with the headphones on and will begin to explore the space while wearing the device. Seeing the headphones inspire people to take an active roll in the way they hear the city, or any space for that matter, has been really interesting. There's a great deal of listening that we don't do when we are audibly-concealed within a headphone+mobile device space. There is space between being completely imposed upon by noise (i.e. the naked ear) and entirely cut-off from the sound around us (i.e. noise cancellation headphones). I think these types of reactions are an indicator that the headphones are operating in this in-between space to some extend but it also provides some indicators of new directions for my research and explorations.
Your work explores the relationships that people have with noise. Can you tell us more about this relationship? For example, do people in cities still pay attention to the noise that surrounds them?
My interest with this relationship between people and the noise surrounding them began when I was attempting to get a handle on what the word "noise" meant in different contexts and to different people. I developed a lot of investigations as well as various probes in order to begin to dig into this and what I found to be of the most interest was that a sound getting labeled as a "noise" in many cases comes down to an issue of control. This led me to look into how people attempt to maintain a level of control over their audio space and as a result, I became interested in the pervasive use of the mobile devices and headphones in public spaces. Which led me to start asking questions about this blocking out and covering up of surrounding noise.
Biologists give a great deal of credit to hearing for our ability to stay alive and evolve over the last couple million years. But over the last couple centuries, we've started loosing portions of this that has served very well through time. For example, if you watch an animal like a deer, when it hears a noise that it isn't expecting, it looks in the direction of the noise and then stands perfectly still in order to assess the risk presented by the source of the noise. As humans living in populated, modern industrial environments, we aren't really doing this anymore. We have the luxury of assuming things to be relatively safe.
With the increase in "quality" and affordability of noise cancelation technology, one can see noise not only be ignored but go completely unheard no matter what the potential risk might be. We tend not to look in the direction of a noise and asses it for risk any longer. This is true when we are ears-deep in a great album while racing to the train but I also think that this is a good metaphor for what is happening in terms of sound design when introducing new noise into our environment. For example, researchers are starting to find negative effects on hearing and communication from people who, as babies and small children, were highly exposed to white noise machines in order to reduce crying and maintain a sense of calm.
Have you noticed that the way people relate to urban noise in Los Angeles is different from the way they experience noise in other cities?
From what I've observed, there are a lot of similarities in places of similar size and with similar resources. For my work, it is more about the fact that it is a shared, populated space more so than a differentiation of one city to another. Part of my personal interest in urban spaces as a type of location for study is that originally, many many years ago now, I am from a very small town in the Midwestern United States. It was, and still is, farm country. There was one traffic light. The crosswalk signs don't beep or talk. There is no public transportation and people aren't walking down the three blocks of main street wearing headphones. "Noise" in this environment is a very different thing when compared to a metropolitan area looking to keep its residents safe, moving and informed.
While clicking around your website, i thought that it would be great if your work could be shown more widely in Europe. Do you have any plan to come back to Europe after ArtBots?
Thank you for checking out the rest of my site and I appreciate the nice words. Currently, I do not have any definite plans for showing again in Europe. I am, however, in the process of pursuing a couple opportunities that would bring me back and am very open to any possibilities where my work and interests might be a good fit.