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Art and Technology arts and technology conceptual art Creative Coding | Programming Culture Criticism Digital Art interactive art Multi Media Observations Social Networking Virtual Art

Interview with John Craig Freeman

I had the great pleasure and opportunity to ask artist, John Craig Freeman, a few questions regarding his art practice and work. Below, you will find some wonderful answers that include his perspective on the trajectory of public art and art as intervention. In addition, Freeman will be doing an artist talk at the SOMArts Cultural Center Thursday, March 29th! Lastly, there are spots left if you are still interested in taking his Augmented Reality Workshop this weekend. Please click here for more information.

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Dorothy Santos (DS): What was the impetus for you intermingling virtual art objects as interventions into physical space? Is there even room for translation to occur? Cognitively, I find it fascinating the way visual information is processed and what occurs when the two (virtual interventions and physical objects) are mixed versus an actual translation (i.e., virtual to physical, physical to virtual).

John Craig Freeman (JCF): My interest in public art as intervention precedes augmented reality technology by more than two decades. In 1990, I created “Operation Greenrun II,” which consisted of eleven 10′ X 40′ bitmap images on billboards along Highway 93 at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. This project demonstrates an early interest in emergent technology as art practice and public art as intervention. Intervention in in both institutions of high culture and intervention in government policy and the institutions of the nation state. Think of the media as a kind of virtual reality, which of course it is, that can be intervened in. The decision to shutdown Rocky Flats was made in 1991, during the media firestorm this project was created, proving that art does have a role to play in tangible political change.

Whereas the public square was once the quintessential place to air grievances, display solidarity, express difference, celebrate similarity, remember, mourn, and reinforce shared values of right and wrong, it is no longer the only anchor for interactions in the public realm. That geography has been relocated to a novel terrain, one that encourages exploration of mobile location based monuments, and virtual memorials. Moreover, public space is now truly open, as artworks can be placed anywhere in the world, without prior permission from government or private authorities – with profound implications for art in the public sphere and the discourse that surrounds it.
In the early 1990s, we witnessed the migration of the public sphere from the physical realm, the town square, to the virtual realm – the Internet. In effect, the location of public discourse and the site of national identity formation has been extended into the virtual world. Augmented reality folds the distributed, placeless network back upon location and brings it crashing back down to place.

Using emergent technologies, including augmented reality, to produce large-scale public work at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities, my work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place.

Much of my work is located in contested places such as borders and ports. I like to explore, and make evident, the edges, if you like. The metaphor of liminal space can also be applied to the boundary between the physical and the virtual. Augmented reality makes this boundary porous, allowing the digital network to spill into the physical.

DS: This issue has been brought up several times in my writings, blog posts, and general conversation about new media and digital arts. I’m curious of your perspective. How do you envision people with very little or no accessibility to technology (i.e., no smartphone or android) to engage in the discourse of Augmented Reality?

JCF: I have had to contend with this question as well, most recently during a talk I gave at the College Art Association conference.

I have to say that the concern over this issue puzzles me in regard to both art and technology. To begin with, art has always been an elitist proposition. Even if people can afford the price of admission to the museum, conceptual access to the meaning of art and its value is carefully controlled by taste-makers and marketers. Incidentally, the Rocky Flats work was a response to the art world’s mission of social class reinforcement. Further, the ubiquity of cell phone technology is our best chance at the collapse of the digital divide. From the favelas of São Paulo to the shantytowns of Kinshasa, cell phones are becoming the rule rather than the exception. It is just a matter of time before these devices will all be internet ready. Less than a decade ago, it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to create a cave environment for viewing virtual reality. Augmented reality is virtual reality in your pocket.

DS: Typically, imagination conjures images from a story or a narrative. What role does the imagination play in Augmented Reality when the images are created and inserted into our visual perception?

JCF: The most profound example I can offer was from my experiences documenting to Border Memorial project in Southern Arizona last January. Each one of the data points represents a very specific location where human remains were recovered. Accordingly, each place I visited represented a very real and tragic story of how an individual person died trying to cross the desert in search of work and a better life. Although I was careful to strip individual names from the data, prior to the project being deployed, the scene was often rich with details. These details, both large and small, evidence of a campfire; fragments of clothes; empty water bottles, as well as the topology of the landscape, a sandy wash indicating the most likely route over the pass on the mountain just beyond, painted a sobering picture.

DS: Lastly, other than a formal intervention, how do you see Augmented Reality making an impact amongst traditional art institutions and patrons? More and more individuals are learning about the impact of new media and digital arts but there still seems to be a very specific following and engagement from the art community.

JCF: ManifestAR, the international artists’ collective with which I often work, formed after the groundbreaking uninvited augmented reality intervention at the MoMA in autumn of 2010. It is now the artist, not the curator, who decides which artworks can be placed where. The group sees this medium as a way of transforming public space and institutions, by responding to and overlaying the configuration of located physical meaning. Utilizing this technology as art is a new proposition that explores all that we know and experience as the mixture the real and the hyper-real. Art world power structures, the nature of art exhibitions and discourse, are all called into question, even the border between art and life itself.

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John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public works at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. John is currently an Associate Professor of New Media at Emerson College (Boston) in the Department of Visual and Media Arts and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at UC San Diego.

Originally posted to ZERO1

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Art and Technology Art Theory and Movements Creative Coding | Programming Culture Criticism Digital Art Observations Perception Performance and Conceptual Social Networking Visual Arts

Augmented Reality Workshop and Public Talk with John Craig Freeman

John Craig Freeman

Upgrade! San Francisco is proud to present two events with Boston-based media artist and activist John Craig Freeman at SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan St. San Francisco

2-day Workshop: “Making Art with Augmented Reality” – Register HERE

Saturday March 31st & Sunday April 1st, 11am–5pm both days

Learn how to place digital 3D objects in real physical space (virtually) forever. Augments can be created in any scale for any location in the world and viewed through the camera and screen of mobile devices. This workshop provides a hands-on and in-depth introduction to AR for participants to make giant artworks, public interventions and personal or historical memorials. This is a beginner to advanced workshop. No previous programming or design experience is required. All participants in John’s workshop will have their finished digital augment and a 17″ x 22″ color print automatically added to the current SOMArts exhibition “I Am Crime: Art On the Edge of Law“.

Free Public Talk: “Emergent Technology as Art Practice and Public Art as Intervention”
Thursday, March 29th, 7-7:30PM meet and greet; 7:30-8:30PM lecture + questions

John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public works at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. John is currently an Associate Professor of New Media, at Emerson College (Boston) in the Department of Visual and Media Arts and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts, at UC San Diego.

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Art and Technology Creative Coding | Programming Culture Criticism Observations Perception Social Networking

Arts Blogger Challenge | Where is the Cultural Capital of America?

Arts Blogger Challenge Question:

New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. Is it still? If not, where?

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Screen shot from the site, Envisioning Technology (ET), which led by emerging technology strategist, Michell Zappa

Please click on the image above to visit Envisioning Technology

The San Francisco Bay Area can easily serve as a contender. Its moniker as the Golden State takes on an entirely different meaning when it comes to both monetary and cultural capital. But New York City boasts of a million more opportunities for those interested in corporate life or a fruitful creative existence. The long withstanding tribal aspect of the New York City art community is, virtually and literally, incomparable. Quite honestly, I don’t believe a culture capital exists in America. Period. Globalization eradicates this concept of one physical place serving as the lone beacon for cultural sustenance. Being a San Francisco native, I was almost fooled into thinking and arguing the point that my home state and city would be the newest place for culture consumption. Then, I started to realize something, much of what we collectively do occurs on screens and mobile devices. Silicon Valley is a great example of this. The name alone refers to physical stretch of the Bay Area landscape where innovation occurs but it’s only a name, a signifier. Bottom line: The cultural capital of America is not a physical place. It is a virtual place where people take part and realize ideas at the intersections of arts and technology and social media, which occur all over the world.

From forums to blogs to open source systems such as Processing, one of the clear manifestations of arts and technology occurs through a constant exchange of programming language on a global scale. Recently, The Creators Project organized an arts and technology festival in San Francisco showcasing the work of artist-technologists based in the Bay Area. The highlight of the weekend was sitting in on artist talk and drawing workshop led by UCLA professor Casey Reas, co-creator of Processing. His talk included a brief history of artists that, similarly to Reas, took language and created art through innovation and unorthodox methods. The drawing workshop was especially eye-opening. The exercises included a set of instructions that asked the participants to draw what they read (totally reminded me of Sol LeWitt whom Reas mentioned during his artist talk AND John Balderssari’s teaching methods). The hybrid artist-technologist innovates and affects change at a rapid rate. With open source programming playing an integral role into the way people are using tools of technology for function, critical thinking, and art creation, virtual spaces like github and Processing forums serve as the new cultural capitals.

If arts and technology serves as the intersection of a culture capital, social media is the seemingly colossal skyscraper where rapid information exchange occurs. Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Google+, and the like all allow for copious information and data consumption. It is where we find out about our world (whether we like it or not). People are more likely to find out about a high magnitude earthquake (or a friend’s bagel preferences) than on syndicated news channels and sites. Social media culls, most if not, all the information that interests us. The need to know has quite the narcotic effect. Nevertheless, it’s one of the, if not the primary, ways we stay connected. Again, there is no one place where a cultural capital exists. Although places like New York and San Francisco captivate the minds and hearts of many business folks, entrepreneurs, and creative types, it becomes clear that the existence of a physical culture capital is diminishing with our lives driven so heavily by what we witness on screens and what is, literally, at our fingertips.

Please visit the 2012 Great Arts Blogger Challenge and vote for ‘Dorothy Santos’ here.

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Art and Technology Creative Coding | Programming Culture Criticism Graphic Design Observations Social Networking

Thoughts on Interactive Guessing Game, Filipino or Not?

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Imagine a game “African-American or not”? What about “Irish or not”? These game titles sound a bit strange, don’t they? I’ll share a story with you. It’ll be short. One of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard said to me was at my first corporate job at a real estate firm (right out of college). One of the engineering managers said, “Hey Louisa”. I turned around and said, “It’s Dorothy”. He replied, “Oh, whatever, you all look the same”.

Really?

That incident was 12 years ago and as much as I would like to think things have changed. They haven’t. I’m not upset (anymore). Rather, it makes me wonder how I perceive my culture and ethnicity. Or, how do I see other people of color? Last weekend, my dear friend and her partner took me to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) showing of XXX Shorts, which is not what you think (X=10. X + X + X = 30. 2012 commemorates 30 years of SFIAAFF!). Each film included thoughtful and provocative interpretations and meditations on various traditions and issues across various Asian cultures.

Subsequently, I perused the Center for Asian American Media site and had to look through the Interactive projects (I’m always looking at what designers have created to supplement an event). It’s rather common for festivals and art fairs to create interactive apps for patrons and supporters. Typically, the governing or founding organization develop these tools for android and iPhones so the viewer is connected to the entire event regardless of the end user’s location. Theoretically, these projects serve as a way to build consciousness and awareness around race and gender. I ended up downloading the game application, “Filipino or Not“. Initially, I had mixed emotions (only because I had never played a guessing game regarding this specific issue – guessing someone’s ethnicity!).  Playing the game, I learned a few facts about Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the media. The goal of the game is stated clearly within the application. Despite my initial feelings of ignorance (my first score was 8/10, apparently, the average score is 7/10) after my first game, I’m sure the game designers’ intention was merely to enhance our knowledge and awareness. However, a friend’s thought was that it increases racial profiling and stereotypes, which can be true depending on one’s experiences. I’d like to think, at the end of the game, that the player is reminded to NOT judge people based on their appearances. Or, does the game actually do more harm than good?

Curious? Feel free to download and let me know what you think. Here are some questions for you…

What do you think of these types of games? Have you every played one? What ways have you learned about your culture and ethnicity? How does interactive design and technology help or hinder our understanding of race and gender?

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Art and Technology Creative Coding | Programming Data Visualization Digital Art Internet Art Social Networking Virtual Art

Photos of the #arthacksf weekend | GAFFTA and The Creators Project

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Here are a few pictures I snagged from the #arthacksf event co-facilitated by The Creators Project and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.

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Art and Technology Creative Coding | Programming Data Visualization Digital Art Multi Media Social Networking Video Virtual Art

#arthacksf Weekend | The Creators Project and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Collaboration

GAFFTA Hack Projects for #arthacksf | The Creators Project + GAFFTA

Over the weekend, I volunteered at the Art Hack SF Weekend held at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. There were artists, programmers, art directors, designers, musicians, and other creative types. How àpropos that Soundquake was one of the winners for the weekend (with the 5:33 am 4.0 magnitude morning shaker)! Below, are short impressions while I was sitting in on the presentations. Overall, it was a great group of mega intelligent folks working together to meet at the intersections of art and technology. Great weekend, awesome food, brilliant people, and phenomenal ideas coming to fruition. Please check out The Creators Project and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts to learn more about the collaborative event and upcoming Creators Project exhibition at Fort Mason mid-March!!

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* Please note: The list is organized by order presentation. 

Soundquake – From different vantage points, Soundquake enables the viewer to experience an earthquake through sound and visualization. The project team used about 900 different data points, mapped, and overlaid on a 3D plane.   For each earthquake, the team took into consideration the magnitude and epicenter. Currently, a banjo plays music at varying speeds. As the project team explained during the presentation, the concept entailed looking at something terrifying (Note: SQ created by transplants) and turn the experience into something beautiful with audiovisual effects. Being both a literal and abstract representation of earthquakes, both natives (I fall into this category) and transplants alike will appreciate something beyond themselves. This is a visualization and representation of nature. The 8-bit graphics, banjo recordings (done over the weekend!!) along with low-fi elements that combined cutting-edge technology were impressive. (WINNER) and (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Letter Spacing – With the varying skill sets of designers and artists in the group, the team based their project on their collective interests, both aesthetically and personally. The series of letters rendered in WebGL and ‘spirit lines’ projected and animated based on orientation of shapes also relies on the a displacement map. The interactive component allows the end-user to interact with the piece through an exploration of the alphabet through a webcam feedback functionality that changes the texture of the letter and lines. Someone in the audience commented that it would be great for children learning the alphabet and language. I agree. It would be great to see where this project goes.

Spinny Video – For anyone learning WebGL, this was a unique project. Spinny Video, although vertiginous, shows the viewer a virtual world where they can move 360 degrees in a virtual space. We’re not talking video game play but in a space that is photo realistic and represents real world images. Imagine being in a snowglobe coupled with audio (within a cube or sphere). Cool, right? At the moment, the open format video is available for download and makes a great break from the lackluster workday.

Gabulous – The Gabulous team created an immersive and massive multi-player game based on Twitter. The objective is to allow the user to navigate a 3D virtual world where friends have the ability to walk through a Twitter virtual world accompanied by music and sounds. This team was definitely organized in their approach and accomplished a great deal of work during the weekend. From technical art to 3D modeling to programming, this team used their time well.

Flying Toasters – This group took a nostalgic look at the early 90s screen saver – the Flying Toasters. The project was an “homage to screen savers of yesteryear”. The premise of encouraging non-interactivity caught my attention. In a world glut with constant activity, Flying Toasters was a pleasant surprise at an art hack. Most, if not all projects, incorporate interactivity, which is great. However, I’m also a big fan of taking breaks and meditating, which many people cannot imagine in a highly connected world. Yet, this project reminded me that it’s OK to sit back, relax, and enjoy home appliances in flight!! (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Jordan and Jeff – Jordan and Jeff worked with graffiti markup language, GML, that could also be plugged into other software. The visualization is available on GitHub as a series of blocks. The audio/visual web-based music experience has a lot of promise. The original composition was memorable and I’m looking forward to accessing the piece at a later date to view further developments.

Audio Shader – Essentially, Audio Shader is a music visualizer with specific parameters the user can change. Now, before you go thinking, “Doesn’t iTunes visualizer do this?” The answer: No. This is different. Very different. The varying source coding for the shader is the greatest aspect of this project. With a visual artist as part of the group, the code he produced for his visualization was reminiscent of light-based artworks found at new media arts gallery!! The group’s desire to explore how visuals can accompany a DJ’s music set or an artist’s visual work was definitely a commendable effort. Looking forward to seeing the fully developed project at The Creators Project exhibition! (WINNER)

Falling Leaves – What an interesting concept! This team decided they wanted to look at simulation and movement of a population. However, Falling Leaves is based on an interest of dead organisms. As one watches the falling leaves, the viewer is able to see a figure walking through the application. The data (or falling leaves) fall helping to form a figure. Conceptually, a strong project because it can be used to look how history (through historical data and events) effects the figure.

Partyline – The presenter said it best, “…some of the best art is transgressive”. I absolutely agree with this statement. Partyline certainly delivered on the concept of the arts and technology hybrid. Essentially, Partyline is based on true hacking. As multiple phone numbers are dialed before the audience, an increasing cacophony of sound forming a cloud of noise is produced. Partlyline easily made my favorites list. It was a crowd favorite, actually. This piece would make an (insanely) phenomenal performance piece. Aesthetically and conceptually, it’s was one of the brilliant projects at #arthacksf because it looked at the human voice, sound, the post modern audio landscape, and how communication has changed (significantly). I spoke with one of the team members (Casey Rodarmor) and discussed looking at other regions (then again, international numbers would be difficult to dial, logistical nightmare, actually). Fantastic art hack!! Also, this project served as a great reminder of the following: Don’t go leaving your phone number on Craigslist! (HONORABLE MENTION) and (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Graffiti Jam – Graffiti Jam (GJ) was created to serve as a browser plug-in allowing Kinect to come through. The fractal patterns based on hand movements was intriguing. Similar to Audio Shader, it is an interactive music visualizer but the browser for Graffiti Jam is through the Microsoft Kinect. Out of all the projects, Graffiti Jam seems like a great opportunity to build and develop an actual game. Since the GJ responds to the user’s movement, I’d like to see where this particular project goes. Great start and potentially something worth exploring further!

Lone Wolf – LSD (Layer Synthesis Device) – Video DJ + live performances = Awesome but Team Lone Wolf took it a step further. With one of his current jobs as a video artist creating projections for bands, Lone Wolf used the weekend to develop video and audience participation-based application. He was interested in how the audience is affected by music and how they can integrate their own videos onto live projections as a part of the overall music experience. Mr. Wolf even had a QR code available for collaboration but this is still in the works since he was unable to beta test the application with multiple users. The fact that he created a collaborative video experience piqued my interest and fascination. Definitely a favorite. (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Shared Cinema – Activating and enabling public space is something we’ve all seen before (i.e., The Great Wall of Oakland or the SMS Slingshot – both extraordinary projects). But Shared Cinema will serve as a video jukebox available in public space. Ideally, people use their mobile device thus producing a video queue where users could vote on videos they would like to view. The mobile app is in development and really wanting to see the final product. Theoretically, this is something I would love to see (literally). Click here to see the inspiration behind Shared Cinema. ANY hack project that ties back into the arts has my vote!! (Dorothy Santos Favorite)