I arrived in Linz on Friday and have not had a moment to add to this blog. As you can imagine I’m really enjoying it, my isolated African brain feels very satisfied. Ars Electronica is ever so scene orientated and there is no defined SA scene as yet….so ya I’ve come to expect surprise from most conversations. I really love the men in black though – these are groups of digital artists (you have to presume) some with bald heads and black clothing – it’s totally a guy thing. If it is not MIB it is the beard, what is with the geek beard anyway? Ah well, best to be a bit more serious now.
I spent almost all day yesterday in presentations by MA and Phd students from Toyko, Zurich and Linz Universities at the Hybrid Ego International Conference that forms part of the Ars ‘Campus’ Event. This is an extension of the Hybrid Ego Exhibition of postgraduate student work. The presentations were very interesting and rather eccentric particularly from the Japanese – they really know how to be light hearted and playful when it comes to serious matters, I can’t unfortunately say the same for the Swiss. These presentations were all amazing and I have to thank them all for really opening my eyes to what other universities are up to and how they organize their digital and interactive arts programs. These I will get to in more detail in my next entry – so keep reading. Right now I will try to quickly introduce works from the Cyber Arts exhibition, which is the selection of Prix Ars Electronica Winners and Honorary awards. I wont include all of them but by visiting the Ars Electronica Prix page you can view the ones I’ve left out. I’m really just including my own favourites.
The Award winning work for Interactive Art is Image Fulgurator by Julius von Buismark a beautiful gadget that can only really be referred to as post photography (as in Postmoderm). What the artist has done is turn an analogue camera into a sort of reactive flash projection. He has done this by altering the film in the camera with small motifs such as the Christian cross or a dove. The flash on his camera has a sensor on it which detects when other peoples flashes are going off close by. This then triggers the Image Fulgurator which then enables an image to be projected on the object exactly at the moment when someone else is photographing it. This visual information is surreptitiously smuggled unnoticed into the image and is only revealed once the image is processed. Despite being the award winning work I really enjoy this as a piece of interactive art as it is more about politics than gadgetry for a change and it is very cheeky. The artist premise is that people are far to trusting of photography. And religion it seems as both reproduced photo’s I’ve seen have Christian symbolism in them then of course this does add a ghostly and metaphysical element to the intercepted photos.
On religion I also really enjoyed Salat by Johannes Gees (link ) which received on Honorary mention in the Hybrid Art category. In this guerrilla work made in Switzerland Gees has put together two megaphones that play electronically the sound of the Muslim prayers – this is an object that can be placed anywhere and every hour it plays the prayers. While for South Africans this really would not bother us as it is part of our sonic environment anyway, in Switzerland it caused havoc with the local population. Gees was arrested for disturbing the peace, I say they should arrest those church bells that sound like they are falling down the tower instead.
Gordon Savicic’s Constrain City / the pain of everyday life which is almost fetish like. The artist has designed a corset that tightens when in close proximity to a wireless network. He performed the piece by walking through two cities and the effect on his waist is very extreme.
If you like augmented space and time – you must look at the Augmented Sculpture Series by Pablo Valbuena which is very beautiful but a little difficult to explain briefly – so best to see his documentation.
I’ll move on to the more user oriented and playful interactive work that I enjoyed: The winner of the Digital Music category is reactable developed at the Art University in Linz by Sergi Jorda, Gunter Geiger, Martin Kaltenbrunner and Marcos Alsonso. This visually beautiful piece works through an interactive table (which is very popular at the moment), here the players place four sided cubes on the on the table – each block has a different design on each side and therefore triggers different musical notes or beats. Users can additionally use their fingers and hands to adjust elements such as volume and wavelength by adjusting dials or simply moving the positions of the blocks. It also sounds great! Players can easily make really great sounding digital music very quickly and with as many people willing to play.
On digital music there is also a very simple digital musical interactive piece called Samplingplong by Jorg Neihage that received on honorary mention in Digital Music. This work is very simple and everyday in appearance but fun non the less as the objects in the installation produce the sounds along with samples.
Next is Replenishing Body by Phillp Ross which actually reminds me a lot of what one of my students attempted to achieve earlier this year. Here the user can choose a recording space on a grided screen and then has three seconds to record. It’s a fun way to have all there visitors to the show interact with each other.
A similar simple interaction model that explores tactility, emotion and Japanese Tanka poetry is It’s Fire you can touch it by Yoko Ishii and Hiroshi Homura.
The next great piece though it is complexly analogue was Appeel by Richard The and Gunner Green – the title is a great pun on the action involved. It was (it has since been peeled) a great big wall of pixel stickers that any body can pick off or replace allowing for true public participation – you can find remnants of it all over the city.
levelhead (1) before augmentation
levelHead (2) with augmentation
Last but not least is Julian Olivier’s levelHead which I personally adore and I was lucky enough to meet him for a few minutes in the sandpit playground. I love this work because it looks so good and is a wonderful mixture of 3d, augmented vituality, interactive playing and really good computing.