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The flickering, multi-colored lights of Shih Chieh Huang’s installation Synthetic Seduction, now on view at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, reminds me of the cellular and molecular models found in biology classrooms. When I was a student, one of the ways in which I learned about organic forms was by placing mitochondria, lysosomes, and nuclei in their correct locations in these models. Huang also re-creates life with synthetic, mundane materials, but with much more technical and mechanical sophistication. While Huang’s forms may not overtly mimic reality, his work serves as an interpretation of structures working in concert. Read the entire write-up here.

Friday Night Reading

There’s nothing like spending a quiet night with a hot cup of tea and reading for pleasure! While the Rushkoff book is directly related to my research, it’s an easy and accessible read on a relatively complicated issue of programming and contemporary culture. I plan on finishing up Saturday afternoon. As for The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone, I’ve eyed this book since it came out and finally picked up with Program or Be Programmed. I’m a huge sucker for graphic novels and perused this one in particular since it is describes the history and current state of media. I’ll let you know how that one turns out. It looks great considering she covers topics from government outreach to journalism to fairness bias to the notion of objectivity. In any case, I wanted to throw something on the blog since I’ve been busy with work, school, and a few freelance projects (which I will be posting soon – hint: Asterisk SF’s next issue is the IDEA issue and a few curatorial contributions in the pipeline for a couple of larger art shows – fun times!).

All right, I should get going. It’s not even Friday, it’s EARLY Saturday morning! Eeeesh. Til next time!!

Last year was the inaugural Urban Prototyping (UP) Festival, which is a Gray Area Foundation for the Arts initiative. What exactly is urban prototyping? Easy. Watch the video. Not satisfied or don’t have much time to watch the video? Okay, I’ll try to offer a simple, straightforward answer. Urban Prototyping entails gathering artists, technologists, makers, or anyone interested in creating something useful, fun, and engaging for city dwellers as well as visitors and re-imagining the urban environment. From a heart-shaped device capturing your heartbeat and turning it into a musical composition to a street planter using bio filters (yes, urine in this case) to re-purpose waste material, Urban Prototyping re-envisions urban space, landscape, and experience.

Seventy two hours overlooking the San Francisco cityscape in a mansion atop Twin Peaks sounds like a pretty nice getaway, doesn’t it? For the artists and creative professionals last weekend at The Glint it wasn’t very much time to create a mobile application for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial. But the groups pulled through with some amazing ideas and a network of new friends and potential colleagues. Hackflux participant, web developer, Anna Billstrom, remarked that it was,

“…nice being in a personal space. From the very beginning, from the first pitch, I talked honestly about what inspires me and even when ideas did not make sense, people went along with the them”.

Nika Jones, Cloud Computing and Web Developer shared a similar sentiment,

“I had the chance to collaborate with back-end designers, artists, and developers. It was an interesting space. It helped to bring out a lot of creativity and ideas. The people I’ve met here are people I would want to stay in touch with.”

Danielle Siembieda, ZERO1’s Community Engagement Manager, opened up the final day of the hackathon by introducing jury members and extending gratitude to The Glint co-founders, Alexandros Pagidas and Damian Madray, who were also jurors for the weekend’s event.

As ZERO1’s inaugural hackathon, the team gathered for a weekend of creative thinking and coding in the hopes of creating an application that could be implemented as a useable product for the ZERO1 2012 Biennial. In addition, the application is slated to be open source for other teams interested in creating their own iteration of the winning app. Cultivation of ideas and allowing other to build off of what has been created are only a few elements that help make hackathons successful. With open source coding, these apps and products are developed, reworked, and possibly cast into another format all together. For HackFlux, the jurors were looking for the following criteria:

  • Viability – Is it feasible to create the App with the resources provided? Can it be sustained and maintained?
  • Concept – What is the strength of the idea? Is it creative? Innovative?
  • Does it meet the scope of the App and beyond?

The jury consisted of the following individuals:

The tech advisory committee consisted of the following individuals:

  • Brendan Wypich
  • Dan Zeitman
  • Doniece Sandoval
  • Greg Gopman
  • Michael Shiloh
  • Myles Weissleder, SF New Tech
  • Rajiv Patel
  • Sarah Nahm
  • Sian Morson

PROJECT TEAMS

Team Visitor Information App (VIA): DC Spensley and Nika Jones

Spensley and Jones proposed an application that included three modes: scheduling, event, and mapping. The development of this particular app was based on the previous biennial. The idea was to have the end user experience the biennial with the convenience of planning and mapping out the experience they want! Ideally, the small events screen would take the user to event options with information pulled from the ZERO1 website. A “Share” option would be built so people are able to connect prior to an event. The map suite would be based on iOS mapping but work in conjunction with android and Google Maps. Parking availability pops up and the “Stars” signify where you have been. The user testing has been estimated at 90 days and would require receiving a ‘tickle’ via SMS or audio (for the visually impaired).

Team Parque Art: Romy Ilano, Athena Chow, and Timothy Evans

The Parque Art team presented a product feature to work in conjunction with another fully developed app. Essentially, the team envisioned (re)making the journey to biennial events as a basis for their work. They started their presentation with the idea that “parking is never a pleasant experience” and team member, Romy Ilano noted during the introduction, “Disneyland cleverly turns the trip from the parking lot to the entrance into a wonderful adventure (i.e., tram ride, fairy, etc.)”, which was the impetus for creating the Parque Art app feature. Since attendees spend approximately 10-15 minutes between their car or public transportation and the final destination, Parque Art, ideally, would help ‘set the tone’ for the overall biennial experience. The app would include soundscapes, simple mp3 audio (i.e., audio art, spoken word poetry, music, etc.) of participating biennial artists. Geo-location through a mobile web API would be embedded into the primary mobile website.

Team ZERO1 IN: Allison Holt and Lisa Benham

The ZERO1 IN team developed an idea that is a location based app/module that could serve as the foundation for a fully developed app. The ZERO1 IN app would include an interactive festival map and guide along with a “Printed Map” for individuals that do not have a smartphone but want to participate in the gaming experience. Overall, the app is an interactive scavenger hunt. The three levels of complexity included: 1) Feeling Clever, 2) Middle Path, 3) Where am I? The breakdown of level is listed below:

  • Feeling Clever: Ability to choose a language to explore the biennial (64 language via Google translate)! Very few dots and cryptic clues leading to artworks and exhibitions.
  • Middle Path: Less ‘dots’ on middle path (UNLESS you unlock), technologically, the experience would rely on human cleverness!! Artist’s text and cryptic photograph included on this level.
  • Where am I? Complete guide and details to the biennial! No guesswork!!

With enough development time, the team was hoping to develop features that would allow users to filter artists (i.e., music, LED-based, visual, etc.), take pictures, and create a mosaic of the biennial experience.

THE WINNING TEAM

Team REACTOR – The Reaction Trader: Anna Billstrom, Kelsey Innis, and Helen Mair

The Reaction Trader app idea by Anna Billstrom, Kelsey Innis, and Helen Mair would allow users to react to artworks with geo-location as a way to connect with other users. The app would allow crowdsourced reactions to artworks through drawing, speech, or texting. With every reaction, the user will receive two anonymous comments in return of the same artwork, which serves as an incentive to truly engage and interact with other biennial goers! The team stated there would be notifications based on location, log-ins to other social networking sites (i.e., Facebook, Four Square, etc.), and the ability to rate and flag reactions. The higher rating a comment receives, that comment would be placed into a public gallery for all users to see!! With the gamification of comments, the Reaction Trader is definitely a promising tool to promote interactivity. One of the impressive aspects of the Reactor Team’s weekend was an actual working demo to showcase on the final day! In the future, visualizations of reactions may be built into a living map of the biennial!! As the winning idea, the REACTOR team will work with the Core Team towards the development and launch (September 2012) of the application to approximately 100,000 end users! ZERO1 will market and be accessible beyond Biennial dates to work with the winning team!

ABOUT THE ZERO1 APP LAB

The objective is to create a seamless visitor experience through mobile technology for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial. This year’s theme is “Seeking Silicon Valley”. Our goal is to create a collaborative social science experiment exploring how an app can create community, interaction, and navigation in a clear and interesting format. We plan to utilize a variety of techniques and practitioners that will include, but is not limited to: alternate reality, geo location and mapping, mobile technology, storytelling, and augmented reality. Secondly, we plan to develop a ZERO1 API that can be built upon and used by ZERO1 artists, fellows and used for future ZERO1 Marketing, Programming and Garage.

Check out photos from HackFlux on Flickr here

Originally posted to ZERO1 blog, please click here

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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.

With a multitude of writing projects going on simultaneously, I didn’t want this one to get left on the virtual stack under the virtual paperweight. I’m hoping to perhaps lengthen this piece and bring in some research. For now, I’ll share it with the world and for anyone interested in reading it. It’s about the work of Nik Hanselmann now based in New York. He graduated with his MFA in Digital and New Media Studies from UC Santa Cruz and received his BA from UC Berkeley in Art History. In any case, he’s one of the artists I would like to include in future research projects and writing. For now, gnaw on this text and let me know what you think. I’m curious how you feel about the body within new media arts. What role does the body play? Or, with technology capturing organic forms and life, does it matter whether or not what you see is a simulation or not? Heady stuff. I know but would love to hear what you think…Enjoy!

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Working Title: Body and Imagination: The Work of Nik Hanselmann

I am a big believer that work should perform and be as it is — that whatever phenomena you are trying to describe be embedded in the work itself. But I also think that the somewhat anachronistic attributes of past media have a significant weight on how work can be put into conversations today. ~ Nik Hanselmann, Artist

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With the release of latest touch screen devices, consumers gather in droves as if making a sacred pilgrimage. Not only do these devotees want the privilege of partaking in the latest technology but these very devices are ways to socially engage and entertain. The multi-layer instantaneous retinal stimulation of our youtube-flickr google-able culture makes participation in society highly accessible. Everyone possesses the ability to create. This is where the artist creates distinctions and a much-needed discourse. Video art, specifically, has taken on countless iterations of the relationship between filmmaker and viewer. In recent years, new media artists have used technologies requiring the viewer to become a part of the production. But what happens when the artist intervenes by taking away the right of interaction and inter-connectivity away from the participant and relegates them to mere viewer?

The creative use (programming) of language to design and, sometimes, fabricate a specific reality or experience is when the medium becomes the subject. Similar to the abstract expressionists, some new media artists find ways to repurpose the tools and techniques in an unorthodox fashion. The alternative method of producing film footage featuring organic forms may not be a foreign idea but programming language as the basis for creating a new format for video art is suggestive of how new media artists push the boundaries of defining the art object. Nik Hanselmann’s work uses the body in different ways and piques the imagination as a point of departure for inquiry into the separation between artist, artwork, and observer in his works, bodyfuck and Observations.

In bodyfuck, Hanselmann created a unique programming language involving use of the body as a means of production. In this scenario, the artist becomes the spectacle. The piece entails a short video of the artist jumping and moving side to side within the frame of the screen. Grandiose gestures and exaggerated movements result in a specific character or symbol revealed to the viewer. As the artist moves, another character flashes on the screen. The cause and effect experience is not too dissimilar to a keystroke on a keyboard. Yet, Hanselmann’s breathy smile results in script that produces a short greeting – Hi. The entire body produces the programming language, the symbols, and the text. In speaking with the artist, he states, 

…bodyfuck was comic “virtuosity” or bodily absurdity – something which ended up being a lot more physically punishing than I imagined before I set out to do the project. I think this is really important – and it’s not something that I would wish upon the audience. On a pragmatic level, it wouldn’t really work to have a bunch of non-programmer gallery-goers to be suddenly faced with the challenge or programming. ~ NH

It is the body, in the end, that exerts (maybe even suffers) to some degree, which harks back to the days of experimental video art where the artist performed for the viewer. Yet, bodyfuck serves as a metaphor for the artistic process. Complexity within a process somehow seems to constantly produce something simple that may seem absurd to the viewer but it is the complex set of ideas that lay the foundation for innovation. The serendipitous discoveries lay dormant and only in the artist’s domain. They are revelatory and representative of the way we watch and perceive the existence of the art object. Fictitious forms and organisms in Hanselmann’s piece, Observations, serve as another example of innovative tools used to build a work that reveals something separate and outside of ourselves through abstraction.

For Observations, the decision for non-interaction is to tinge the whole thing with hegemonic mystery. I’m fascinated by the idea of being an agent in science – most of us have little-to-no first-hand experience with most of the concepts that we take for granted. I think the video/screen in this context works like it did on the moon landing or the drop of an atomic bomb. The whole experience is so abstract but told with such authority. That is not to say of course that I think about the fictional phenomena I created on the same level of profundity – I’m merely calling back to this idea that the screen can be a frightening disconnect. In an age of interactivity, I think this gap is widened even further, as most of us can’t wait to get our greasy paws on something to pan, zoom, and eventually hit the home button to go tweet about it. ~ NH

Hanselmann’s works open up the discussion and examination of new media arts multi-faceted and rapidly evolving nature. Definition eludes new media (even though it’s been around for close to 40 years) in large part due to its resistance to fit snuggly into the canon of art history. It remains a vague topic primarily due to its ever rapidly evolving virtual landscape, meaning, and structure. The term new media alone connotes something discovered and innovative but what happens when there is constant flux and change in that very thing we are looking to define. How do we create a taxonomy for this? It becomes a task and a challenge for the artists to look at ways in which the tools can be used differently and perhaps with one another to create abstraction from what is seemingly finite and concrete.