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Be Nice, MIMMI is Listening!

The nature of Twitter is ephemeral: a shout into the digital void that quickly fades away. This summer in Minneapolis, however, your tweets may have physical impact on the environment — or, a very small microclimate, at least. Meet MIMMI: MIMMI is a large, air-pressurized sculpture suspended from a slender structure located at the Minneapolis Convention […]

The nature of Twitter is ephemeral: a shout into the digital void that quickly fades away. This summer in Minneapolis, however, your tweets may have physical impact on the environment — or, a very small microclimate, at least. Meet MIMMI:

MIMMI is a large, air-pressurized sculpture suspended from a slender structure located at the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza. Cloud-like in concept, the sculpture hovers 30 feet above the ground, gathering emotive information online from Minneapolis residents and visitors to the plaza. MIMMI analyzes this information in real-time, creating abstracted light displays and triggering misting in response to this input, creating light shows at nighttime and cooling microclimates during the daytime. Whether the city is elated following a Minnesota Twins win or frustrated from the afternoon commute, MIMMI responds, changing behavior throughout the day and night.

DSCF4431

Allen Sayegh (left) with Nate Solas

In other words, MIMMI displays Minneapolis emotional temperature in light — in real time.

Last week Paul and I took a walk across Loring Park and found our way to the convention center’s sunny plaza to catch a glimpse of the installation just hours before the official launch. We were lucky enough to chat briefly with Allen Sayegh, the founder of the global design research and user experience consultancy behind the project.

“I call these types of projects Highly Evolved Useless Things that are beautiful to look at and have an evocative power,” wrote Sayegh in a followup email. “Because it is a large structure in the city that has to withstand all the elements and engage the public on many levels, the team at INVIVIA (which is an interdisciplinary team composed of architects, engineers, programmers, landscape architects, robotics experts, psychologists) had to do many rapid iterations and prototypes with custom written software to come up with the installation that at the end we hope everyone agrees is beautiful to look at and experience.”

DSCF4424

Sayegh described the work in terms very familiar and dear to the Walker’s New Media Initiatives department: “At the end of the day this is a research project for us. We had to use many open source tools/ technologies such as Arduino, actuators, special lighting, and different sensors along with complex physical manufacturing in a very tight schedule to achieve a level of design that works for this city.”

On the software side I was curious how they were extracting the mood from Twitter. “In this project we are reading social media feeds and do basic language analysis to detect what people are feeling. Although by no means is this supposed to be scientifically accurate, we did base our software on a recent scientific paper that was published on this topic.” Here’s a screenshot of the mood-informing keywords from the live site:

mimmi_mood

I have yet to see MIMMI properly lit at night, but I’ve been following the live webcam feeds. Sayegh included a final picture along with this note:

Formally speaking MIMMI is a cloud or an abstraction of a cloud. The aesthetic choices of form, color, and lighting were driven by a general interest of the hybrid perceptual state of digital and physical.

There was a very conscious decision to make MIMMI look as if it was digitally rendered in its built form.

mimmi

This project appeals to me personally on a number of levels: art, interactivity, technology, space-making, and also because the city was able to get it installed in such a public place. More like this, please.

 

New Media kills in the Walker’s pumpkin carving contest

Every year, the Walker has a staff halloween party, which includes a departmental pumpkin carving contest. And this isn’t just a carve a grocery store pumpkin contest, it’s a creative, conceptual, re-imagine an artist or artwork pumpkin contest. Invariably, our carpentry shop and registration departments usually blow everyone else out of the water. Those of […]

Every year, the Walker has a staff halloween party, which includes a departmental pumpkin carving contest. And this isn’t just a carve a grocery store pumpkin contest, it’s a creative, conceptual, re-imagine an artist or artwork pumpkin contest. Invariably, our carpentry shop and registration departments usually blow everyone else out of the water. Those of us that are a little less hands-on with the art work tend to be outclassed every year (exhibits 1, 2, and 3). New Media Initiatives never wins.

But not this year.

This year, we had a plan.

Actually, we came up with the plan after our no-show defeat last year, but we smartly held onto it for this year (thank you, iCal). On the day of the contest, we replaced every image of artwork on the Walker website with an image of a pumpkin.

walker homepage with pumpkins

And the rest of the pages (click to embiggen):

Calendar

Calendar

Collections and Resources

Collections and Resources

Artists-in-Residence

Artists-in-Residence

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Design Blog

Design Blog



We ended up winning in the “Funniest Pumpkin” category.

Because we serve all of our media from a single server using lighttpd, and our files are all uniformly named, we were able to implement a simple rule set in lighty to replace the images. Instead of the requested file, each image was re-directed to a simple perl script that would grab a random jpg from our pool of pumpkin images, and send it’s contents instead. Part of the plan was that we would only serve these images to people visiting our site from inside our internal network. The rest of the world would see our website just as always. In our department, we all unplugged our ethernet cables and ran off of our firewall’d WiFi, which effectively put us outside the network, seeing nothing different on the site. We had a hard time holding back evil cackles as people came to us wondering how our site was hacked, and watching it slowly dawn on them that this was our pumpkin.

The images we used were all the creative commons licensed flickr images of pumpkins I could find. There were 54 of them. Here they are, for credit:

Art(ists) on the Verge 2: Grants for new media artists in minnesota

Minneapolis-based Northern Lights.mn has announced the second year of Ar(ists) on the Verge: Northern Lights announces a second round of Art(ists) on the Verge commissions (AOV2). AOV2 is an intensive, mentor-based fellowship program for 5 Minnesota-based, emerging artists or artist groups working experimentally at the intersection of art,  technology, and digital culture with a focus […]

Photo by k0a1a.net.

Minneapolis-based Northern Lights.mn has announced the second year of Ar(ists) on the Verge:

Northern Lights announces a second round of Art(ists) on the Verge commissions (AOV2). AOV2 is an intensive, mentor-based fellowship program for 5 Minnesota-based, emerging artists or artist groups working experimentally at the intersection of art,  technology, and digital culture with a focus on network-based practices that are interactive and/or participatory. AOV2 is generously supported by the Jerome Foundation.

Northern Lights was founded by former Walker New Media Curator Steve Dietz. The grants this year will be juried by Dietz, along with Kathleen Forde, Curator for Time-Based Arts at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, NY, and the Walker’s chief curator, Darsie Alexander.

The resulting show  show at the Weisman Art Museum from last years grantees was worth checking out. It is good to see work being done to create our own new media art structures here in Minnesota, rather than watching cool things like Eyebeam happen from afar.

And by the way, Northern Lights’ blog, Public Address, has become one of my favorite reads for neat artwork being made around the world. I confess I find a lot of art blogs rather dry and esoteric, but not Public Address. And, this may seem somewhat mundane and obvious, but near every post has an interesting image, which is nice for an art blog.

Some thoughts on preserving Internet Art

We’re in the process of retiring our last production server running NT and ColdFusion (whew!), and this means we needed to get a few old projects ported to our newer Linux machines.  The main site, http://aen.walkerart.org/, is marginally database-driven: that is, it pulls random links and projects from a database to make the pages different […]

aenWe’re in the process of retiring our last production server running NT and ColdFusion (whew!), and this means we needed to get a few old projects ported to our newer Linux machines.  The main site, http://aen.walkerart.org/, is marginally database-driven: that is, it pulls random links and projects from a database to make the pages different each time you load.  The admin at the time was nice enough to include MDB dump files from the Microsoft Access(!) project database, and the free mdbtools software was able to extract the schema and generate import scripts.  Most of this page works as-is, but I had to tweak the schema by hand.

After the database was ported to MySQL, it was time to convert the ColdFusion to PHP.  (Note: the pages still say .cfm so we don’t break links or search engines – it’s running php on the server)  Luckily the scripts weren’t doing anything terribly complicated, mostly just selects and loops with some “randomness” thrown in.  I added a quick database-abstraction file to handle connections and errors and sanitize input, and things were up and running quickly.

… sort of.  The site is essentially a repository of links to other projects, and was launched in February 2000.  As you might imagine there’s been some serious link rot, and I’m at a bit of loss on how to approach a solution.  Steve Dietz, former New Media curator here at the Walker, has an article discussing this very issue here (ironically mentioning another Walker-commissioned project that’s suffered link rot.  Hmm.).

One strategy Dietz suggests is to update the links by hand as the net evolves.  This seems resource-heavy, even if a link-validating bot could automate the checking — someone would have to curate new links and update the database.  I’m not sure we can make that happen.

It also occurred to me to build a proxy using the wayback machine to try to give the user a view of the internet in early 2000.  There’s no API for pulling pages, but archive.org allows you to build a URL to get the copy of a page closest to a specific date, so it seems possible.  But this is tricky for other reasons – what if the site actually still exists?  Should we go to the live copy or the copy from 2000?  Do we need to pull the header on the url and only go to archive.org if it’s a 404 to 500?  And what if the domain is now owned by a squatter who returns a 200 page of ads?  Also, archive.org respects robots.txt, so a few of our links have apparently never been archived and are gone forever.  Rough.

In the end, the easy part was pulling the code to a new language and server – it works pretty much exactly like it did before, broken links and all.  The hard part is figuring out what to do with the rest of the web…  I do think I’ll try to build that archive.org proxy someday, but for now the fact it’s running on stable hardware is good enough.

Thoughts?  Anyone already built that proxy and want to share?

Northern Lights announces Art(ists) on the Verge, gets new web site and blog

Several months ago I blogged about about a call for new media art proposals for Art(ists) on the Verge, run by Northern Lights. The grant recipients have been announced: AOV Fellows Christopher Baker, Participation Overload – Reconsidering Participative Art Practices The core goal of the proposed project is to create an artistic installation that engages […]

northern_lights.jpg

Several months ago I blogged about about a call for new media art proposals for Art(ists) on the Verge, run by Northern Lights. The grant recipients have been announced:

AOV Fellows

Christopher Baker, Participation Overload – Reconsidering Participative Art Practices

The core goal of the proposed project is to create an artistic installation that engages and questions the state of technologically mediated participation, both in larger democratic contexts and within interactive new media art contexts. I seek to provide an immersive installation environment wherein participants discover opportunities – through conversation and personal contemplation – to consider the ways that new communication technologies both constrain and enable their participation in democratic and social processes.

Andrea Steudel, Mobile Shadow Projection Theater

This project’s key concept is the simultaneous building of a tool, collaborative relationship, and mode of working that effectively bridges an old approach with new technology in the public sphere. I will expand the ancient techniques of silhouette cutouts and shadow puppetry by using video projection technology on urban landscape.

AOV Mentor Program

Avye Alexandres

I propose to build a motion-activated, interactive installation that visually and aurally presents a collage of a home. The aim is to create a space that functions as memory might, shifting and momentary, referencing images of a domestic interior with audio recordings relative to its component memories.

Kevin Obsatz, Video Cyclorama

A four-wall immersive real-time video projection with both live and pre-recorded sourcing from different environments and scenes. The video feed will be created with four small HD cameras shooting simultaneously on a specially built tripod mount, with a 360-degree field of vision.

Pramila Vasudevan, Dowsing the Mirage II

with Jennifer Jurgens, Mark Fox, Michael Westerlund

Aniccha Arts proposes to engage the Twin Cities community with online discussions and workshops that lead up to a three – day performance that illustrates the contention of humans playing god by taking control of the weather.

Krista Kelley Walsh, (Public access WebCam installation/ performance series)

I propose to make site-specific installations and performances for public access webcam locations for public and internet viewing. This project seeks to create 2-4 site specific public web cam projects, while it explores the technology available to expand audience access, extended life of the projects and effective documentation.

This announcement also marks something of an official beginning to Northern Light’s presence on the web. Steve Dietz, Executive Director of Northern Lights and former Walker New Media Curator, has also launched the Public Address blog in conjunction with Forecast Public Art. The blog has only been running a short time, but it has already tipped me off to a few cool things.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I designed and implemented the Northern Lights web site as a side project. The identity was designed by two of my very capable friends, Namdev Hardisty, and J. Zachary Keenan (both of whom were included in Hand Job).

It’s exciting (and about time) to have a New Media focused arts organization in the Twin Cities.

Art(ists) On the Verge: New media grants from Northern Lights

As someone who’s mildly interested in new media art, I’ve always felt like I’ve been watching from afar as cool work is created and tinkered with, usually in Europe, New York, or the Bay Area. Since the demise of New Media Initiatives as a curatorial department in the Walker, the Twin Cities has seemed lacking […]

As someone who’s mildly interested in new media art, I’ve always felt like I’ve been watching from afar as cool work is created and tinkered with, usually in Europe, New York, or the Bay Area. Since the demise of New Media Initiatives as a curatorial department in the Walker, the Twin Cities has seemed lacking in this area of the Arts.

Fortunately, this is changing. Steve Dietz, who was once curator of New Media at the Walker, has founded a new organization called Northern Lights. They’ve just announced a new fellowship and mentorship commissions called Art(ists) On the Verge for artists working in New Media:

A total of six commissions will be awarded. Three of the six commissions are outright fellowships for the production of new work and a joint exhibition in the spring/summer of 2009 at a site to be determined. The other three commissions are part of a 9-month, experimental Art(ists) On the Verge for the development, production and exhibition of new work. The Mentorship program begins in September 2008 with an intensive 3-day “ Boot-Up” Camp, October 10-12, co-presented with MCAD. Over the ensuing 9 months, artists will have bi-weekly individual and group mentoring sessions and critical workshops by visiting curators and artists on multiple occasions followed by a joint exhibition in the spring/summer of 2009 at a venue to be determined.

There are informational meetings about the commisions in July and August for those interested. In addition to the fellowship program, Northern Lights has also been one of the partners in The UnConvention, and Steve has been working behind the scenes for a while to give the program shape. The idea of having a twin-cities Rhizome, Creative Time, or EyeBeam is exciting.

Photo by k0a1a.net. It seemed new media-esque.

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.

Minneapolis Art on Wheels is on the road to San Jose

University of Minnesota professor Ali Momeni and his students are on their way to San Jose’s Zero1 Festival later this week with their mobile projection units. The mobile projection units are GRL-inspired work bikes equipped with a computer, projector, generator and all other necessary gear for outdoor projection mayhem, which will be used during The […]

Minneapolis Art on Wheels in the Badlands

University of Minnesota professor Ali Momeni and his students are on their way to San Jose’s Zero1 Festival later this week with their mobile projection units. The mobile projection units are GRL-inspired work bikes equipped with a computer, projector, generator and all other necessary gear for outdoor projection mayhem, which will be used during The UnConvention. The group has set up a new blog, Minneapolis Art on Wheels, to document the exploits of the trip. They’ve loaded up the bikes into a cargo van and are caravanning across the western United States.

Before he left, Momeni told me he was curious to see if they could project onto the face of Mt. Rushmore. I’m not sure if they’ll pull it off, but the latest updates from the Badlands are pretty close; pure projection geek porn.

I’m heading out to Zero1 later this week and will be blogging about the festival and hope to meet up with Momeni and his students for some fun in San Jose.

Web Walker 1.9

Teddy Banks, writing for Design Observer, shares some commentary on Olia Lialina’s newest article: Vernacular Web 2. The article is a great read on it’s own, and as Banks tells us, should be a must read for every web designer. Lialina’s work, My boyfriend came back from the war, was featured in the Walker’s online […]

Starry Night Myspace Remixed Al Gore, Three Big Displays The Impact of Large Scale Integrated Displays on Architecture and Urbanism

  • Teddy Banks, writing for Design Observer, shares some commentary on Olia Lialina’s newest article: Vernacular Web 2. The article is a great read on it’s own, and as Banks tells us, should be a must read for every web designer. Lialina’s work, My boyfriend came back from the war, was featured in the Walker’s online exhibit, Beyond Interface: net art and Art on the Net.

    Lialina touches on the similarties of myspace of today and the web of 10 years ago. Instead of being designed by computer geeks, it’s “designed” by teens and ameteurs, and the music is mp3s and not midi.

  • And speaking of MySpace, Danah Boyd has some new thoughts posted on myspace and remix culture. Seb Chan offers some thoughts on what this means for institutions that offer graphics and resources that can be remixed (legitimately or otherwise).
  • Here’s an interesting article on the paradox of large displays, written by Jeff Attwood. He quotes Dan’s Data:

    Users of 30-inch monitors face the terrible, terrible problem of how to effectively use all of that space. You don’t often want to maximise a folder or document window on a screen this big; either you’ll end up with a lot of white space and important program buttons separated by a vast expanse of nothing, or you’ll get lines of text 300 or more characters long, which are difficult to read.

    I use three displays at work, two on my main computer and one on the laptop. While synergy makes this a very useful setup when doing video work, it can also be extrmely distracting at times. I find it necessary to sleep my laptop so I can focus on important tasks on my main displays.

  • Interactive Architecture had been quiet for a while, but they posted a brief blurb on a conference going on next week that will discuss the many implications of signage in public space. Hopefully some of the papers and presentations from the conference will make it to the web.
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