Blogs Media Lab Conferences

8-Ball (Eyeo Edition): Kim Rees

During the June 3–5 Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly […]

Peroscopic's data exploration tool on US gun violence

Peroscopic’s data exploration tool on US gun violence

During the June 3–5 Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing questions. Three, Hong Kong-based coder/designer Cédric Sam; Giorgia Lupi, founder of the Milan–based information design company Accurat; and–today–Kim Rees, took us up on the offer. The head of Information Visualization at Periscopic, a Portland-based data visualization firm, Rees says she’s particularly excited about a current project, a landmark because it’s the first time she’s used textiles to visualize data: “I’m working on a series of textile pieces that are based on custom and personal data from about 20 people I’ve met recently.”

Here’s our favorite eight responses of the many Rees answered for us:

What technological innovation is going to most dramatically alter our near future?
3D printing and nanotech. (Nanotech is so old, but has so much potential. Someday there will be a renewed interest in nanotech, and I will get self-cleaning clothes and nanobots that will keep my nails perfectly trimmed).

What global issue most excites or angers you?
Human trafficking and modern day slavery. It’s so difficult to combat and goes undetected or unaddressed. It’s very distressing to me and outrages me that it’s not causing a global, public outcry.

Which living person do you most admire?
Somaly Mam. She escaped life as a child sex slave and now works to rescue other girls. She’s an incredibly strong, inspiring, and humbling person.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?
A field fire we drove by in rural Minnesota. I was very young. It seemed like the world was on fire.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Politeness. Kindness is mandatory, but pleases and thank-yous are affectation.

What artists would you like to collaborate with?
I would love to work with Maya Lin on something. I have this dream of obtaining an aircraft carrier and turning it into a floating anachic society. I would love to have her design the landscape.

Is there anybody you’d refuse to shake hands with?
There are lots of people. We’re working on some things about gun violence. In the course of this project I’ve read a lot of stories about child murderers and sexual predators. There are many sickening stories that I will never forget. Those people — I could never shake hands with them or possibly even be in the same room with them.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?
A dollar bill. I’d love to be a fly on the wall, so to speak, to see how people live, see what they value, see their exchanges.

8-Ball (Eyeo Edition): Giorgia Lupi

During last week’s Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing […]

"The real Montalbano," a data visualization from Accurat's La Lettura project

“The real Montalbano,” a data visualization from Accurat’s La Lettura project

During last week’s Eyeo Festival, we opened up the Media Lab blog to the many coders, artists, and web developers speaking at the conference, which took place at the Walker. To give presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing questions. Two, Hong Kong-based coder and designer Cédric Sam and Giorgia Lupi, founder of the Milan–based information design company Accurat, took us up on the offer. Lupi says her company is her most exciting project at the moment. Founded two years ago, Accurat is opening a New York office, where it’ll expand its work in “imagining new ways to tell stories through data.” Our favorite eight replies to our questions:

What is your favourite inanimate object?
My pencil case (even I don’t feel it being inanimate).

If you could pose one question to every person on earth, what would it be?
What (why) do you live for?

What’s your favourite place to people-watch.
The Underground (and Twitter).

What artist turned your world upside-down?
John Cage.

If you own a pet, what characteristics do you share with it?
Getting bored of everything after a little while.

What’s your favourite recording of all time?
Synapscape‘s Act!

What have you been listening to lately?
Battles’ “Wall Street” (Gui Boratto remix)

What is your advice for young people today?
Do a lot and stop complaining about meaningless stuff. Draw, and fight for beauty.

8-Ball (Eyeo Edition): Cédric Sam

With the Eyeo Festival bringing an international array of coders, designers, and artists to the Walker this week, we decided to open the Media Lab blog to conference speakers. To give all presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we’ve sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing […]

With the Eyeo Festival bringing an international array of coders, designers, and artists to the Walker this week, we decided to open the Media Lab blog to conference speakers. To give all presenters a chance to introduce themselves, we’ve sent out our 8-Ball artist questionnaire, in which we pose some of life’s most–and possibly least–pressing issues. The first to take us up on our offer is Cédric Sam, a designer and coder who hails from Montréal but has lived in Hong Kong since 2009. Tomorrow morning he presents on what he’s learned about social media in China and how his experiences there might inform the work of designers, programmers, and journalists into the future.

Describe a recent dream in 15 words or less.
I was lost in an endless indoor shopping mall in Hong Kong…

What technological innovation is going to most dramatically alter our near future?
I think it‘s going to be affordable mobile broadband Internet. I lived in Hong Kong for three years and fast Internet on the go is relatively affordable and created many new use cases that we don’t yet see in North America.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?
When I was in high school, we participated in an overnight quiz competition. I was so tired by 1 am that I entered and used the girl’s bathroom. And they printed it on the event’s newsletter. So here it is again. :)

Fill in the blank: What the world needs now is _________________.
More delightful data experiences. Or more experiences with delightful data.

If you could have any career, what would you choose?
Dataset tamer.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?
Playing in cornfields in suburban Montreal. They’re now occupied with houses and a Canadian Tire.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
Shepherd’s pie (aka Pâté chinois, in Quebec). And my Chinese comfort food is congee.

What is your advice for young people today?
Avoid bandwagons. Talk to people (not just at your school or in your own country) to figure out what those bandwagons are!

Museums & the Web 2012 Conference Notes

It’s been a couple of years since I attended the annual Museums & the Web conference. A must-stop for professionals working in the field of museums + all things online, this conference celebrated its 16th anniversary under new management with the same great content we’ve come to expect. A few of my conference takeaways: Cultural […]

It’s been a couple of years since I attended the annual Museums & the Web conference. A must-stop for professionals working in the field of museums + all things online, this conference celebrated its 16th anniversary under new management with the same great content we’ve come to expect.

A few of my conference takeaways:

Cultural data sculpting
Sarah Kenderine kicked off the conference, wowing us with her work in immersive environments using panoramic and stereoscopic display systems. I was entranced by recent installations using 3D imagery, high resolution augmented panoramas, and circular screens to recreate cultural heritage sites, performances and narratives (imagine dancers animating images in a cave painting and physical interactions with enormous datasets). From Hampi, India, and the Mogao caves, Dunhuang, China, to adaptions of Beckett narratives, the work of Kenderine’s lab at the City University of Hong Kong demonstrates the amazing possibilities for enhanced exploration, interactive interpretation, and new modalities of human interaction for cultural heritage preservation. Project documentation available here.

Be where the puck is going
In a session on Digital Strategies, Bruce Wyman evoked Wayne Gretsky’s advice to “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Bruce spoke to the permeability of place as the future of interactive media and suggested restrictive digital strategies may run counter to our needs. In a period of fundamental change, we need to evolve the things that we are good at, be nimble, and design not for the device but for the visitor and their engagement. Wyman encouraged us to trust our audiences and serialize the experience by developing content that transcends and crosses platforms.

Like Wyman, Rob Stein is an eloquent technology advocate. In the same session, he advised to make sure your digital strategy reflects the larger museum strategy. And all you technologists who think you have difficulty getting upper management’s ear, work on your communication skills. Learn to write! Despite his claim that writing doesn’t come easy, Stein’s paper is excellent: Blow Up Your Digital Strategy: Changing the Conversation about Museums and Technology.

After Gutenberg
There was much talk in conference sessions and informal meetups about changing publishing models. In the session After Gutenberg, the Whitney’s Sarah Hromack described the evolution of Whitney Stories, a blog wherein the museum is wrestling with questions of authority—what stories do we want to tell, which staff are qualified to speak on behalf of the museum, editorial approval—and issues of sustainability. I haven’t had a chance to read the paper but the presentation was a refreshingly honest assessment of the inherent problems in this work and the reality of making it a part of our daily practice (not in addition to what we do but rethinking how we do our work).

A museum without labels
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is Australia’s largest private museum, a “secular temple” of 6,000 square meters to worship materialism with nary a label on the walls. Visitors use the ‘O’ mobile device to read about art on display and listen to interviews with the artists. The museum’s unique take on audience engagement—including claims to remove the most popular work as evidenced in ‘O’ stats and restricting online collection access to visitors who have actually experienced the artwork—suggest this is indeed a museum visitors are unlikely to forget. I enjoyed this article on MONA’s founder, David Walsh, describing his vision for this “subversive Disneyland.”

Spreading an analytics culture
There were a number of good sessions addressing the importance of continuous evaluation and building a culture of analytics. The panel on the Culture24 research project focused on the key findings in their recently published report. Among them, be clear what you are trying to do online and who it is for. Revise the whole suite of metrics you care about and the tools used to measure them. Google Analytics is only part of a multi-tool solution that begins with a good problem definition.

One of the participants in the Culture24 project, the Tate went into more detail on its efforts in a subsequent session and paper Making Sense of Numbers: A Journey of Spreading the Analytics Culture at Tate. Using the Tate Liverpool Alice in Wonderland exhibition as a test case, they described the analytics tools used (including Hootsuite, Adwords, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, ticketing system, and YouTube analytics), matrices, and reports built in response to the exhibitions communication plan and areas of activity, both on and offline. While the exhibition reporting was awe-inspiring in its quality and thoroughness, Tijana Tasich, Tate’s senior digital producer, admitted that more work, training, and resources are required to implement similar evaluations across the organization and its programs.

Epic fail
There’s much to learn from failed projects in our field and #MW2012 used this as a topic for its closing session. Hats off to the project cases studies that took the stage to reveal what didn’t work and why. Each project report included a round of bingo, with categories for failure occupying spaces on the card. Among them: poor organizational fit, must-be-invented-here syndrome, feature creep, tech in search of a problem, no user research, pleasing donors and funders, no local context, no backup plan, and not knowing when to say goodbye. Wifi was off during the session, forcing all of us to listen, learn, and not tweet specifics. Everyone should feel good after their time in the chair with therapist Wyman and his Labrador. We appreciate your honesty and hope we’re brave enough to take the stage at future conferences.

Best of Web Awards
The Walker was lucky enough to walk away with two awards for the redesign of our website (best in the category of Innovation/Experimental and best Overall). We are honored to receive the recognition of our peers and humbled to be in the company of so many excellent projects. The full slate of winners is available here.

Museums and the Web 2011 recap

I shared a ride to the airport with some colleagues who had very different takeaways from the conference than I did, so it’s clear there wasn’t a universal message. Everyone picks and chooses the ideas that might apply to what they’re working on.  Here’s what stood out to me: Cast wider nets: organize, filter, present. […]

I shared a ride to the airport with some colleagues who had very different takeaways from the conference than I did, so it’s clear there wasn’t a universal message. Everyone picks and chooses the ideas that might apply to what they’re working on.  Here’s what stood out to me:

Open Graph ProtocolCast wider nets: organize, filter, present.

Just as we’re getting good at putting our content online and connected internally, we’re starting to realize that’s not good enough. We need to connect more dots for our visitors: show related content not just from our institution, and not just from other institutions in the sector, but the entire web. We’re still a trusted source dealing with authoritative information, but we’re now expected to use that authority to interpret and present more than just our own content.

Part of this includes opening up our content in return so that we can be part of someone else’s related content. This includes OpenGraph markup (FaceBook, etc), simple machine readable versions, and above all: sort out our licensing and make it easy to understand what can be shared and how!

Standardize access, not content.

There was some of the usual hand-wringing over metadata formats and authorities, but also some new ideas on skirting that hurdle rather than jumping it. While everyone agrees we need to continue to work towards clean, linked, open data using shared authorities, there are a number of steps we can take right now that can potentially have a great impact.

Namely, what if we standardize the access to the data, rather than the data itself? Rather than building another API (although we’re still going to), we can provide similar and simpler functionality right now. (In an afternoon, if my impassioned rant is to be believed!  :)  Details to follow.)

Stop inventing. Iterate.

A great demo (early beta here: http://trope.com/miami/) was given in the unfortunate timeslot of 8am on Saturday morning. The Art in Public Places project by Miami-Dade County is, to quote @minxmertzmomo: “a great example of doing the obvious thing excellently”. There is a tendency to try to solve our shared problems in a unique way with a special and clever twist (guilty!), when instead we should be choosing best-practices from working solutions and applying them in an un-complicated way. To reach higher we need to stand on others’ shoulders instead of building our own stepladders.

Tate Collection OnlineDon’t finish building the wrong site.

James Davis from the Tate presented a great paper describing the process they’ve taken to launch the new (also beta) version of their Collections site: http://beta.tate.org.uk/art/explorer. The paper is a lovely narrative exploring the issues we face when development takes years and we must constantly remind ourselves to not finish building what we started building, but instead what it’s become along the way.

Summary

For me the conference provided a great summary of the latest innovations and thinking of museums online, and affirmed for me many of the choices and directions we’re taking in our current relaunch project. It was fantastic to see old friends and make new ones, and hopefully set the stage for future collaborations. I’ve also got a growing list of stuff to steal (er, shoulders to stand on.. :). Fantastic stuff all around!

 

Do one thing in April…

… blog about it in May! Museums and the Web 2009 wrapped up with a challenge to all the inspired delegates: use the energy and ideas generated here to get one thing done in April.  (The idea being that many small steps build momentum, and it’s too easy to ignore the small upgrades we should […]

… blog about it in May!

onview

Museums and the Web 2009 wrapped up with a challenge to all the inspired delegates: use the energy and ideas generated here to get one thing done in April.  (The idea being that many small steps build momentum, and it’s too easy to ignore the small upgrades we should constantly be pushing out.)

Yesterday I pushed out a few small upgrades to our aging collection site:

You can now limit your search to objects that are On View

What works by Dan Flavin can you come see right now?

browser_searchOpenSearch capable

Can’t get enough of our collection?  Add it to your browser’s built-in search box!  When you’re on the Collection site, you should be able to pull down your browser’s search field and add “Walker Art Center”.

Developers (Piotr!): you can now use the Walker collection in your Yahoo Pipes tool without having to scrape the results!  Not an API (yet), but a good step.  Check out the XML for ideas.

Bring it all together:

You’re a busy person.  You’d love to come see Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait, and you know the Walker’s got it in their collection, but you see it’s not on view.  You don’t have time to check our website every day, so how will you ever know when it goes on display?  Easy:  build a search that finds Big Self-Portrait, then turn on the “On View” flag.  The object disappears (not on view), but you can subscribe to the OpenSearch RSS feed for this query (click the rss icon).  Now, when Big Self-Portrait is available to see in the galleries, the object will show up in your RSS reader!  (note: I picked this painting randomly.  I make no guarantee about seeing it in the galleries any time soon.  :)

So, baby steps.  Get one things done that opens more doors.

#didonethinginapril (I tag Andrew at the MIA to get one thing done in May!)

#MW2009 Postmortem

Jennifer Trant and David Bearman know how to stage a good conference. Museums and the Web 2009 continued the tradition of inspiring a community of museum professionals to do more, stay connected, and advocate principles of openness, sharing, and participation within and among our institutions. In no particular order, here are some of my takeaways: […]

Museums and th Web 2009Jennifer Trant and David Bearman know how to stage a good conference. Museums and the Web 2009 continued the tradition of inspiring a community of museum professionals to do more, stay connected, and advocate principles of openness, sharing, and participation within and among our institutions. In no particular order, here are some of my takeaways:

Gotta do a game
I’d read about but didn’t understand SAAM’s “Ghosts of a Chance” until now. Can’t say that we’ll do an ARG but Georgina Goodlander’s enthusiasm is infectious and the programming that’s happening as a result of goac is something to emulate. Group activities, family and school programs, sms combined with looking at art = serious time spent at museums, fun, and engagement. “Fancy a cuppa?” Read her paper and play a sample game by sending the text message ‘goac black’ to 95495.

I never liked evaluation until there was WolfQuest
WolfQuest is a 3D wildlife simulation game developed by Eduweb and the Minnesota Zoo. Dave Schaller and Kate Haley Goldman reported on the evaluation, incomplete but three-fourths baked. The great thing about this evaluation is the sheer volume of data, no statistically insignificant results here. This is one of those rare instances where follow-up interviews with surveyed users reveals whether they actually did what they said they would as a result playing the game (e.g., lookup info about wolves on the Internet, make art related to wolves, visit a zoo). An unfortunate truth is we only do evaluation where funding requires it, and we rarely get the information needed to truly inform new versions or future initiatives. This project proves otherwise.

The conference that Twitter made
Twitter was the talk and technology of the conference. MW2009 was among Twitter’s top 10 trending topics, even claiming #1 on Friday.  I will admit to not liking the Twitterfall on screen during the opening plenary—too much of a distraction—BUT the conference vibe and distillation of what people were thinking, feeling, seeing as evidenced on Twitter was amazing. Reading the topic feed provided entry into sessions that I hadn’t been able to attend and helped me select must-read papers for the flight home.

IMA puts Indy on the map
From Max Anderson’s opening keynote “Moving from Virtual to Visceral” and the generous sharing of information about cloud computing and ArtBabble to the Friday night reception and chance to wander the gardens and galleries, the Indianapolis Museum of Art set a high bar for local hosts. IMA is reason enough to come back to Indy (that and the Children’s Museum which I didn’t get to). Also, must say I loved the airport:  small, clean, pretty with all the amenities (ample Starbucks, free WiFi) and I could check-in with an electronic boarding pass on my phone.

Winning is nice
The Walker’s My Yard Our Message won best of the web in the innovation category. For a team that’s been feeling like it lost the “new” in media during the long ArtsConnectEd development effort, this was nice. But the big winner was Brooklyn, who took top honors for exhibition (Click! A-Crowd Curated Exhibition), on-line community or service (Brooklyn Museum Collection, Posse, and Tag! You are It!), and best overall site (brooklynmuseum.org). Sadly, the award coincided with the museum’s announcement of cost-saving measures in response to economic challenges. Among these actions, a moratorium on staff travel, which meant no one from Brooklyn attended the conference. Instead they sent a video acceptance speech thanking their director, team members + dogs, and above all the audience and participants that made it all possible. I was nearly in tears.

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/4180587[/vimeo]

Resolution
Having been referred to as a “seasoned webster” in the conference Twitter stream, I resolve to stop expressing the feeling of being old. I have yet to figure out the reward for colleagues catching me in the act of “old” behavior but there will be one. Really, I’m not that old, I’ve just been in the game for more years than most M&W participants and … okay, I’m exhibiting old/been there behavior.

Nina Simon
Nina’s mantra—translate those digital experiences into the physical space of the museums—is something we’re trying to do at Walker in the upcoming reinstallation of the collection. She started her mini-workshop with the British comedy sketch “Facebook in Reality” (a must watch if you haven’t already http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrlSkU0TFLs) and then showed examples from Harrah’s gift card to the Bibliotheek Haarlem Oost book return/tagging exchange as examples of integrating technology into the visitor experience. Seemingly simple, great examples (read Nina’s paper), but oh so hard to do (as in coming up with the good idea). I’m still wrestling with her closing observations about the disconnect between IMA’s online and physical presence but her ideas are nonetheless aspirational.

Going home
We got great feedback on ArtsConnectEd, just what we needed going into the May 4th public soft launch. We developed the content submission technology—collection records exported in CDWA Lite XML format and harvested with OAI-PMH—to support the future possibility of including other collections but weren’t prepared for the number of people asking how they could get their stuff into the repository. It all holds great promise but there are a few politics to work out on our end.

MW2009 – Technology Strategies

Charlie Moad (developer at IMA) kicks off the session with a discussion of cloud computing, the advantages and disadvantages.  One of his most compelling arguments in a non-technical sense is the incredible energy efficiency of these large data centers: their cooling system and power use are at levels we can’t approach in our co-located server […]

Charlie Moad (developer at IMA) kicks off the session with a discussion of cloud computing, the advantages and disadvantages.  One of his most compelling arguments in a non-technical sense is the incredible energy efficiency of these large data centers: their cooling system and power use are at levels we can’t approach in our co-located server rack. Google is approaching a 1.1:1 ratio of cooling to power consumption. They’ve recently documented their cooling and datacenter practices here.

Other advantages Charlie mentioned for using Cloud computing:

  • Scalability
  • Pay as you go. This is the big benefit. You use what you need when you need it, also helping the efficency.
  • No hardware to administer. No downtime. This makes sysadmins very happy.

Some disadvantages are:

  • Security. (Not sure on this… don’t recall amazon or google having any big issues with security. This is in the hands of us doing their jobs and setting proper permissions.)
  • Portability. AWS and Google App Engine (GAE) are proprietary systems. GAE has more issues in this realm than AWS.

One other thing to note about Google App Engine that Charlie didn’t mention is that GAE is a spec, and from what I’ve heard from various python people, Google very much wants it to be implemented by others. There is already an open source implementation of AppEngine called AppScale. And Joyent has an implementation called ReasonablySmart.

IMA is using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for hosting ArtBabble. A simple breakdown of their usage thus:

  • EC2 instances for transcoding video
  • S3 and CloudFront for storing video and media files (images/js/etc)
  • Wowza streaming server running on EC2 for streaming video
Cloud computing structure for ArtBabble

Cloud computing structure for ArtBabble

Charlie had a nice slide I don’t remember being in the paper: a diagram of where these services sit in the cloud (storage vs service) and what the end user’s browser is actually talking to at any time. It sounds like changing the number of wowza instances is still a manual process, but I imagine it could be automated.

The stats are impressive: 40,000 video views since launch 9 days ago, and 3,500 registered users.  They’re cleverly using Google / Yahoo sign-ins to create OpenID accounts, without telling people it involves OpenId.  Uptake is much higher by hiding the technology on this process…  Also impressive is the cost, or lack thereof: they’re able to run ArtBabble for the same cost as their internal website.

Charlie closes by mentioning a few recent advances in Amazon’s hosting that allows essentially pre-paying for a year’s service at a much discounted rate.

I think I’m not the only webmaster in the audience who is thinking “we have to move our sites into the cloud,” but also concerned about finding the time to do so.  This paper and presentation have gone a long way towards answering some questions I haven’t been able to research fully.

Jusitn Heideman also contributed to this post.

More from Zero1: SubZero

Last night was the big SubZero street festival portion of Zero1. South First Street was closed for about four blocks in the SoFA district of San Jose, and many artists showing off their contraptions and work had set up. I took a walk down the street several times and captured some of the work. Graffiti […]

Last night was the big SubZero street festival portion of Zero1. South First Street was closed for about four blocks in the SoFA district of San Jose, and many artists showing off their contraptions and work had set up. I took a walk down the street several times and captured some of the work.

Graffiti Research Lab was visibly present, both with some of their work on display on the street and in the Anno Domani gallery, with a show called “The U.S. Department of Homeland Graffiti Liquidation Sale”. Some of the work was a spoof on the LED sign scare in Boston a year ago, in which GRL was quickly and wrongly implicated. So nice to see Osama Bin Laden and George W Bush giving each other the finger in LED style.

GRL Installation on 1st St GRL Homeland Securtity Going out of Business Sale Show

Inside the gallery DJ Spooky (aka Paul D Miller) gave a talk about his new book and remix culture. He manages to connect the dots between many the history of the remix and how embedded it has become into our culture. I didn’t stick around to buy the book, though I plan to soon, because I was headed down to MACLA for a performance of Flock.

Flock in action Flock in action

Upon entering the performance space for Flock, you’re given a black hat with a glowing white orb on the top and told to walk up to the stage. Just above the stage, there is a projection visualizing all the orbs on-screen, and with enough distinguishing movement, you can figure out which dot represents your orb. After a bit of play, the real performance begins. Four musicians playing saxophones eventually made the way on stage, each outfitted with an iPaq connected to a WiFi network, transmitting an ever-changing score of what they should be playing. Three dancers with white orbs eventually emerged, and began moving around the stage area. Their orbs combined with the movement of the musician’s orbs changed the score dynamically. Over the course of the show the method of generating music changed, from a simple cross-screen wipe, to something akin to radar, and also a connect-the-dots style graph. The audience was pulled in one at a time by the dancers through the performance as well, and were instructed to move around and generate the sound. At one point a conga line formed, and at another several people grabbed hands and began circling one of the musicians, overloading him with notes to play. In this way, the social interaction people engaged in to generate the music was more interesting than the music itself.

There were also low-rider art bikes on display. The display was no Minneapolis Art Car Parade, but still fun to see the weird things people do to their cars. The bikes in particular looked very slick. I’m afraid if I had a bike that nice, I’d never ride it.

Sweet Lowrider Bikes A useful honda Radio Flyer Supersized

Another performance on the street that always had a crowed was Drone Machines, operated by “Author & Punisher” Tristan Shone, consisting of several very industrial looking contraptions that as the description notes, “require significant physical interaction from the performer” to operate:

Minneapolis Art on Wheels has also been around the festival, but they were out in force last night at SubZero, at several different locations down First street and side streets. They even had one of MAW’s bikes rigged up with GRL’s L.A.S.E.R. Tag system and a crowd gathered around watching and waiting to tag. Everyone had a good laugh when a squad car drove by with an officer glared out the window at us.

MAW projecting

Zero1 Biennial Exhibition, Superlight

I missed the first day of Zero1 due to an flight scheduling snafu that was totally my fault. From the reports I’ve read and the people I’ve talked with, it sounds like I missed out on some cool stuff. That said, I did make it to San Jose early yesterday morning and visited a few […]

Zero1, San JoseI missed the first day of Zero1 due to an flight scheduling snafu that was totally my fault. From the reports I’ve read and the people I’ve talked with, it sounds like I missed out on some cool stuff. That said, I did make it to San Jose early yesterday morning and visited a few of the exhibitions. Rhizome already has some great coverage so I am not going to duplicate their thoughts.

Having not read much before visiting, I was expecting the exhibition to be very much in the realm of new media and digital technology as the primary focus. The show straddles the fence between technology as a driving factor in the creation of work, vs digital technology as the being only an enabling factor in much of the work. Its a good balance that seems to accurately represent the way many new media artists think; they dabble in many forms.

Tantalum Memorial

I would best describe Tantalum Memorial by Harwood, Richard Wright, Matsuko Yokokoji as a monument to retro computing, but it’s meaning makes it more solemn and morbid. It consists of several strowger switches, which a computer dials into and plays back recorded messages from London’s Congolese community’s circulating conversations. Strowger switches were the mechanical devices invented by Almon Strowger to replace human telephone operators. Strowger switches use Tantalum, as do many modern day electronics, including cell phones. Tantalum is mined in Congo, and is the source of considerable strife there, causing the deaths of many thousands in wars relatively underreported in western media. You can listen to the recording on a set of headphones. The sound of the switches echos through the gallery as if counting the rising death toll.

Rising North

Global warming and climate change are themes that loom large in this exhibit and Zero1 in general. Rising North by Jane Marsching and the two other works by her address global warming more directly than perhaps any other work in the festival I’ve seen so far. The work consists of a almost sci-fi video showing the sea levels around the world rising, the mega-cities of the world shrinking and eventually being encased in some sort of biosphere and floatation device. The encased cities then move and converge at the north and south polls, the places on earth that will remain suitable for human habitation when much of the temperate zones become too warm. Watching the work, I can’t help but be both fascinated by the idea of moving entire land-masses and horrified that rising sea levels and temperatures is a future we are destined to see.

Ways to Wave

Ways to Wave is a virtual and physical sculpture; it exists both in the gallery and in a different form in Second Life. Participants in the gallery move the petals of the flower-like interface in the gallery, which effects a scene in Second Life projected on the screen just behind the sculpture. The movement of the petals also impacts a changing audio composition. There is supposed to be a way to visit the sculpture in Second Life, but I haven’t attempted that. It is an interesting way to bridge the physical and the virtual, and I’m always a big fan of work that encourages you to interact with it.

If/Then

If/Then is Piotr Szyhalski’s contribution to the exhibition and the festival. Installed in the gallery and in changing locations around the festival are dispensers that drop leaflets designed by Szyhalski. The leaflets reference leaflets distributed by the US Military’s Psyops department in the Iraq and Afghanistan War. Visitors are encouraged to take some leaflets of leaflets that drop onto the gallery floor. The set of leaflets I received have the text “ Honor will never be regained, no matter what the cost”, printed in both arabic and english on the back, with pictures of Saddam Hussein and Thomas Jefferson on the front. The dual meanings of this are disturbing if unavoidable; Saddam Hussein will be remembered by many as a disgraced dictator, and the US has lost much of it’s honor and credibility in the world because of the war our government started in Iraq.

I’ve got a few more posts in store about the festival, so stay tuned.

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