Blogs Media Lab New Media Art

Catalyzing Conversation and Transcending Technology at INST-INT

INST-INT—an international conference of acclaimed creators exploring the intersection of art, technology, and interaction—returned to the Walker for its second year over the weekend. Organized by the same folks responsible for the Eyeo Festival, the September 25 through 27 gathering focused on installation art, interaction, responsive environments, smart objects, public art, and the challenge of creating engaging experiences.  A series […]

Obscura Digital project illUmiNations: Protecting Our Planet, presented by the United Nations Department of Public Information in partnership with the Oceanic Preservation Society and Insurgent Media, New York, 2014

INST-INT—an international conference of acclaimed creators exploring the intersection of art, technology, and interaction—returned to the Walker for its second year over the weekend. Organized by the same folks responsible for the Eyeo Festival, the September 25 through 27 gathering focused on installation art, interaction, responsive environments, smart objects, public art, and the challenge of creating engaging experiences.  A series of amazingly inspirational presentations covered a wide range of topics, from machines conveying sociopolitical messages to public sculptures made with advanced material studies to the use of technology as an extension of the body. The most interesting were those projects that not only made use of technology in creative ways, but also used it to catalyze conversations about social or political issues and examine ideas beyond the technology itself.

Social and Political Interaction

For example, Japanese artist Sputkino presented her Menstruation Machine,  a wearable device fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and electrodes simulating the lower abdomen that simulates the pain and bleeding of a five-day menstruation process. Sputkino also presented The Moonwalk Machine, a work that reimagines NASA’s Mars Rover to leave female traces on the surface of Mars through the use of new wheel tracks outfitted with high heels. I could not help to draw parallels between these works and a project by Megumi Igarashi (aka Rokudenashi-ko) in which she distributed electronic data that could be used to replicate models of her genitalia using a 3D printer, a project that landed her in jail on charges of obscenity. These projects are inspiring as a form of social activism in the face of the shifting role of women in Japan.

Dan Goods, a visual strategist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, gave the most inspired talk of the weekend, focused on the “million things that could mess up your visionary project.” Dan talked about how bad wires, Congress, holes in the ionosphere, the Vatican, and other unforeseen circumstances can threaten to derail your project, and he discussed ways to plan for disaster. About his work, he said, “I am passionate about creating moments in peoples lives where they can interact with something beautiful, meaningful, and/or possibly profound,” and expanded on this by saying he wants to, “create experiences where people have a moment of awe about the universe.” This passion really became evident during his presentation on the HI JUNO project, where more than 1,400 ham radio operators collaborated to transmit “HI JUNO” in Morse code, in unison, as the spacecraft made its slingshot pass around earth. The work made it clear that some of the best projects are those that give many people a chance to consider the unknown and to imagine the space beyond our physical world. Goods closed his talk by demonstrating a Muon detector and described how these invisible particles are bits of exploded stars that are moving through all matter on earth, equating our bodies with space matter and recalling the temporality of life.

Considering the recent People’s Climate March, I was also extremely inspired by the Obscura Digital project illUmiNations: Protecting Our Planet, organized in partnership with the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) as a lead-up to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit. For this project, many organizations collaborated to create a 30-story architectural projection, which lit up the United Nations Headquarters in New York with images of extinct species and a call to make climate action a reality in every society across the globe. As a prelude to the People’s Climate March, which filled the streets of New York with more than 300,000 people who marched to protest international inaction on climate change, the intent of this project was to inspire citizens to take climate action. This theme of social or political action was evident in many of the projects in various forms. This opened up some larger conversations about the role of art in society, need for many different forms of interaction, and the power of participation in public space.

Architecture, Materiality, and Virtualization

The relationship between built form, public space, and our connection an imagined world were important aspects of many of the projects presented by showing how they pushed material limits, reclaimed public space, or questioned our relationship to digital technology. Jen Lewin’s presentation titled Please Touch the Art detailed her large interactive art installations created to activate and connect community. One question she is interested in is, “How can interactive sculpture be used to transform and change public experience?” Looking at projects like The Pool and her Light and Sound Harps, it becomes clear how she has found a way to bring together her interests in painting, light, architecture, and dance. Using specialized rotational molding of plastic and other fabrication techniques her studio creates interactive public art that has withstood the abuse of more than 4,000 people in one day—an effort that requires significant material research.

Janet Echelman Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks, Vancouver, Canada, 2014

This need to explore and examine the materality of physical form was no more evident than in the work of Janet Echelman, who discussed her largest most interactive sculpture, Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks. In collaboration with artist Aaron Koblin, creative director of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab, Studio Echelman developed a massive suspended sculpture of net and mesh for the TED conference’s 30th anniversary in Vancouver. Pushing material boundaries, this project was made possible through the development of custom 3D modeling software that allowed Echelman to simulate environmental conditions and complex geometries. Using Honeywell Spectra fiber, a lightweight, durable material 15 times stronger than steel, this work spans 745 feet between Fairmont Waterfront and the Vancouver Convention Center, and is equipped with an interactive lighting environment that allows visitors to use their phones to interact with the work.

Klaus Obermaier and Ars Electronica Futurelab, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky, 2006

Taking a different approach to interaction, Klaus Obermaier discussed his staging of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) in his talk titled Interactive Installations vs. Interactive Performing Arts. Recontextualized for contemporary society, this 1913 ballet and orchestral concert work is transformed by Obermaier into a live 3D projection performance, in which the dancer and the orchestra contribute to the form of the work through real time interaction, generating the viewer experience. Amazingly, this work premiered in 2006, when things like Kinect motion tracking did not even exist. Of course, this work is not just about technology, and that’s what makes it so interesting. “The issue of the day is the authenticity of experience in the light of the ongoing virtualization of our habitats,” Obermaier said. “It is the dissolution of our sensuous perception, of the space-time continuum, the fading dividing line between real and virtual, fact and fake, that takes us to the limits of our existence.” Indeed, we find this struggle in our own lives, all to often consumed with social media and digital culture. By reinterpreting a controversial historic work through the lens of technology, Obermaier asks powerful questions about the effects of technology on humanity and significance of being in relationship to the digital world.

Clearly, many themes emerged during the conference, but the real value was in connecting with such inspiring people. As a rich open-source community, almost every person at this gathering was willing to not just share their greatest ideas, but also give you the building blocks of their projects to use and modify as your own. It was an amazing opportunity that offered a chance to see the most cutting-edge interactive, experience-driven, technological work from artists who traveled the globe to have conversations about the direction of new media, find new ways of collaborating, and to develop methods for making work. Thanks to all the people at INST-INT for another fabulous gathering of minds. I was honored to participate. Be sure keep a lookout for the talks to be posted online, and don’t miss it next year.

Digital Karma: Cory Arcangel on the Recovery of Warhol’s Digital Works

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Artist Cory Arcangel (right) with CMU Computer Club member Keith Bare. Still from Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, Part 2 of The Invisible Photograph; © Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

It’s not every day that new works are discovered by one of the most famous artists of all time. Perhaps that’s why the recent recovery of Andy Warhol’s early digital experiments on an Amiga 1000 has been one of the most important art stories of the year. In addition to adding an important new twist to Warhol’s canon, the story of their recovery has become a catalyst to a growing conversation, both about digital conservation and also the nature (and value) of images in a media-saturated world.

It’s incredibly fitting that the driving force behind the recovery was artist Cory Arcangel. One of the first artists to take strategies from conceptual and performance art and apply them to hacking and the digital world, Arcangel’s work has always existed in realms which, by their nature, are constantly facing obsolescence and the need for documentation. In a series of interviews by phone and email, Arcangel discussed—with excitement bordering on total giddiness—ideas of digital conservation, cultural karma, and our disappearing culture.

Nathaniel Smith: Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

Cory Arcangel: I have an opening of my new merch/lifestyle line, Arcangel Surfware on May 17, a pop-up shop titled You Only Live Once. Under the Arcangel Surfware brand, I’m making linens, tees, hoodies, iPhone covers, and a bunch of other stuff. It’s “everything you need to chill in bed all day and surf the internet.” LOL. The pop-up will be half exhibition, half shop. I’m collaborating on the brand and pop-up with the same company that did the Kanye pop-ups, Bravado, so I’m pretty pumped. It’s been a lot of work though, because I’m showing all these new open-edition things, but also showing a ton of new fine art(ish) things. It’s gonna be 40-plus objects—all in a Holiday Inn conference room.

Smith: A funny place to follow up your last show in New York, which was at the Whitney [laughs]! Busy times, especially considering the debut screening of the documentary Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments just happened. One of the main things I wanted to speak with you about is the recovery of works Warhol made in 1985 on his Amiga 1000.

Arcangel: Yeah, definitely. It’s been a wild few weeks with all the attention, but fun, of course. What I liked about it was the Kryoflux, the USB-attached drive controller used in the effort to make low level virtual copies of the disks, has gotten so much attention. Also, I’m glad a lot of the coverage really forced a discussion about digital preservation which I think is important and will become more and more important as more of culture gets virtually “lost” due to obsolescence.

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The Kryoflux, used to interface a modern PC to the Amiga floppy drive. Still from Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, Part 2 of The Invisible Photograph; © Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Smith: This kind of conservation is obviously an interest of yours. I immediately recall your Creative Capital Grant to publish the computer source code for your entire body of work…

Arcangel: That’s right! The first four issues of that series are actually finally finished. After eight years! They can be bought at my pop-up store for $19.95 after May 17. They are part of the Arcangel Surfware brand. LOL. They are printed on 300-year archival inks and papers, so yeah, they definitely are an intervention into the “conservation” of my own work. These product shout-outs are striking me as very Warholian. Very on topic. Ha.

Smith: What is it about conservation that is important to you, particularly in a fluid format like web or digital files?

Arcangel: It’s all—and by all, I mean culture—gonna disappear! As long as it is all in the cloud, or something like it, that is. So conservation is essential. Both with stuff that people think is important and stuff they don’t. So, that’s my main angle. Also, of course, I like mucking on old computers. Can’t seem to get away from that. Funny, though, what were new computers in 2000 when I started making fine art(ish) are now really old computers. So there is always lots to work with, even my own work, at this point.

Smith: Do you remember the first time you saw the YouTube clip of Warhol painting Debbie Harry, or the time that you began to wonder if he had worked on other digital works?

Arcangel: I don’t remember the first time I saw the YouTube video, although I’ve seen it several times over the years. Jason Kottke tweeted me, though, and asked if I saw it on his blog for the first time, which is possible. But, I have read Warhol’s diaries, and there is lots of stuff in there about technology. It always had me wondering.

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Andy Warhol (and Debbie Harry) working on the Amiga 1000. Still from Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, Part 2 of The Invisible Photograph; © Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Smith: When you contacted the Warhol Museum about the Amiga equipment, were you aware of the previous two searches?

Arcangel: I was not aware of them. I was aware of all the tech stuff Warhol did, though: recordings, early video, etc. I had been to Pittsburgh so many times over the years—the city has played a big part in my art life—so I knew if I ever went back, I would try to ping the Warhol Museum about his old video tapes and Amiga disks… just out of curiosity.

So, Tina Kukielski, the curator of my 2012 show at the Carnegie Museum, and I set up a meeting at the Warhol Museum when I visited in 2011. For that meeting, I had brought with me—prolly like a nerd—all of these clippings and random articles I had collected about Andy Warhol and the various tech stuff he did. Anyway, in regards to the Amiga stuff, I asked head Warhol archivist Matt Warbican three questions: Did Warhol actually have an Amiga? Do you have any of that stuff? Did he have any floppy disks? It was “yes” to all three!

After that we approached Golan Levin at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, which is an organization that pairs artists outside Carnegie Mellon to resources inside Carnegie Mellon, and that’s how we got hooked up with the legendary and totally amazing Carnegie Mellon Computer Club.

Smith: When you saw all the equipment, what were your expectations? I mean, did you actually expect to find anything in particular?

Arcangel: Initially we didn’t think anything was on the disks; they all looked like commercial software disks. So, yeah, for a few years, the project moved ahead without any expectations, which was fine by me, and I was just interested in the gesture of such a project, not the outcome.

Smith: This may sound strange because it seems so immediately obvious, but: what do you see as the value of the recovered images?

Arcangel: What is their value? [pauses] I don’t know if anyone has asked me that before. Do you mean, like, the cultural karma?

Smith: Do they have value as actual images, in a way a painting does, or are they given value through the story of their rediscovery?

Arcangel: I would say three things about their value. One, it’s cool to show that he was fluid and super sick in a medium which most didn’t know he worked on. Two, they raise people’s awareness about the digital conversation. And three, they are valuable because people can learn about clubs like the CMU Computer Club, which was incredible to work with. There is nothing cooler than a retro-computing hacking club in my mind! Especially at a place like Carnegie Mellon.

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Arcangel (right) with Matt Wrbican, chief archivist at the Andy Warhol Museum. Still from Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, Part 2 of The Invisible Photograph; © Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Smith: You mentioned over the phone that Warhol was not the first major fine artist using a computer to make work and that in his diary he mentions that young people, artists like Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, were using computers. What was different about the equipment that Warhol was using, both from an art historical perspective and from a tech-history view?

Arcangel: At the time Haring and Basquiat were probably using Macs, thus working on black and white. So, Warhol had a jump on them, because he got his Amiga so early and it was in color. His Amiga was so early, in fact, it had stickers on it which said the FCC hadn’t approved it for sale yet.

Art historically, I’m not exactly sure, but, you know, computer arts go back quite some time, but that said, Warhol was definitely on the earlier end of things. Also, just from an art perspective, it’s worth pointing out, he was pretty sick with the paint bucket tool, so he definitely saw 30 years ahead on that one. I’m still trying to catch up.

Smith: Can you take me through the technical details of rendering an image from the Amiga 1000 to be viewable on a modern computer, but also perhaps the philosophical differences of altering an image to modernize it? What changes in this transformation?

Arcangel: Well, as you know, with digital born material, this is no “is.” Every manifestation of the work is a real-time expression of code. Even an image on your cell phone is code executing. So, it’s not helpful to think in terms of original or master. It’s more helpful to think of this real-time expression of code being like a live music performance. After all, instruments are technology designed to execute code—aka notes and silence. So the same way a band tours playing the same song every night, an image will appear in different contexts, on cell phones, browsers, newspapers—each performance slightly different, none “realer” than the others.

For the Warhol project, the Amiga images were rendered for modern computers. The files themselves can’t be shown as-is because of their obsolete format, but even with this out of the way, another snag is they were made on the Amiga, which had non-square pixels, meaning, they look squished on modern computers. So they had to be “rendered,” aka stretched for modern machines which have square pixels. Not to mention CRT monitors and LCD are not similar.

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CMU Computer Club member Keith Bare, and the first recovered Warhol image. Still from Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, Part 2 of The Invisible Photograph; © Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Smith: Your work has always blended the two aspects of this recovery project, basically breaking down any separation between the art world and the digital hacker world. Can you tell me a bit how these overlap so cleanly sometimes—or about your term “ghosting”?

Arcangel: Well, in the project my role was as a translator. I was able to both speak the language of the Warhol Museum and CMU Computer Club. Or, maybe “glue” is another way to put it. Also, I’m lucky to be an artist. Artists have the ability to “ghost,” or float through walls and different disciplines, in a way most other professions are not allowed. In this case, the Warhol Museum was generous to let me and the club in for a visit/project. They were incredibly welcoming! Shout out to them!

Smith: An important aspect of the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry’s summary is the possibility of further exploration of Warhol’s equipment. How involved might you be in such an effort? What is most exciting to you about these continued explorations?

Arcangel: Oh man, this project that has taken three years. So, I just haven’t thought about what happens next. I need a break first!

Smith: Before you go, are there any last things you would like to say about the project?

Arcangel: This project was really the combined effort of four groups: the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and of course, the awesome CMU Computer Club. It was really just a crazy coincidence that Warhol’s Amiga stuff was only miles away from one of the best retro-computing clubs in the world. And again, one last thing I wanted to say is that the CMU Computer Club, they were, amazing.

Smith: Since we talked on the phone the first time and this wasn’t possible, this time could you sign off with some of your signature emoticons?

Arcangel: Had no idea they were my signature. :/

The documentary Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments can be viewed for free at nowseethis.org, Hillman Photography Initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art as Part II of their Invisible Photograph series.

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.

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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.”

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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:

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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 […]

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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.

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