July 24, 2008
Network related works recently exhibited in Amsterdam

Recently had a quick break in Amsterdam to relax and try to see a few exhibitions. Our timing wasn’t great as some of the most interesting spaces seemed to between exhibitions (e.g. Netherlands Media Art Institute).

Deep Screen – Art in Digital Culture at the Stedelijk Museum (temporarily located on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the former Post CS-building) annoyed me quite a bit to be honest. The Stedelijk is expensive (9 Euros), I expected it to be, but I also expected it to be immense (as it was in the former building) with the permanent collection on exhibition. You’ll pay about the same as you would to go see an exhibition at Beaubourg or the ZKM but where as these could take a weekend to explore you’ll do the Stedelijk space in about half an hour. It’s not big, it isn’t even those two floors of the building that are mentioned on the site as many of the rooms are closed or open with nothing in them. The exhibition we saw was very badly laid out with huge gaps between exhibits, having to double back on yourself to get to parts of the exhibition and to be frank seemed very 1990′s in theme (it reminded me of an exhibition at ISEA 2000, Au dela de l’écran / Beyond the Screen), the choice of work and on occasion choice of artists. Added to this was our disappointment at Mediamatic being in the middle of a relocation to new premises (they were in the same building as the Stedelijk) and so they had nothing on – really bad timing on our part.

If you do go to Amsterdam soon however here’s what you could do with that 9 Euro’s!

Rent a bike for a day and cycle around to the much more interesting galleries a little bit further out from the centre. The Netherlands Media Art Institute is well worth checking out however Field Work – part 2 at Smart Project Space was the first show we saw. The gallery is located in what looks like a residential area and is similar to the Stedelijk Museum CS is that it’s using a former industrial / office space. The exhibitions here seem to be free and while the space is small, choice of works seems much more considered.

Beneath the floorboards of the forest, empty space

Two works that stood out were by Juneau Projects (Philip Duckworth and Ben Sadler), Beneath the floorboards of the forest, empty space (image above) and Sewn to the Sky (image below). Beneath the floorboards of the forest, empty space is a text based computer game:

Juneau Projects resurrected an Atari typeface to visualize written passages describing a series of interlocking environments gradually moving from the countryside to the city. Within the gaming format of the work, users encounter various network points in the floorboards that make up the theatrical ground, and during their journey are invited to collect computer parts – a wooden keyboard, a ‘mouse’ made of fur and bones – fashioned from natural elements. Users navigate a fictional narrative and landscape akin to the actual installation and city in which they sit and also have the option to listen to the texts via the inbuilt computerized speech of the Windows software reader, a further conflation of the ‘natural’ and man-made via technological advances…For SMART Project Space, Juneau Projects has worked in references to locations in Amsterdam where a collision between nature and culture plays a key role. They have also realized adapted versions of the hobbyist landscaped work stations, which will be overgrown with moss (a good indicator of air pollution).

Sewn to the Sky

Sewn to the Sky is a multimedia performance installation employing music (or sound at least) as an interface to a video game. The work:

connects the process of playing a musical instrument and the structures of composition within visual experience and new technologies as particular sounds and instruments interact differently with the animation. ’Sewn to the Sky’ favours the cooperative nature of performance where the better a band plays together the better they succeed at the game…the owl that is the protagonist of the game cannot die – there is a conspicuous lack of blood, guts and gore in the game. As little owl seeks to evade predators (and flying into trees) he or she tumbles, picks him/herself up and continues on the way. Success is rewarded through graduation to a new habitat – failure through trying again another way…After the performance at SMART Project Space the game will remain as an installation in the exhibition space, to be played by visitors.

On seeing this installation we did not hesitate to start playing the instruments (very loudly), we thought we were lucky nobody was around to hear us but apparently it’s encouraged so jump right in.

Checking Reality (flyers above) at Platform21 (located here) was without a doubt the highlight of our visit and we only saw excerpts as it was only setting up! Works of note include, Lightweeds (image below) by Simon Heijdens. These are digital weeds which:

react to the number of people in the room, while the flowers sway to the wind as it is measured outside and turn with the position of the sun…Nature outside is thus felt inside….Simon Heijdens’ objects and installations respond to the nature immediately surrounding them. He gives them the specific characteristics of nature. Thus the objects’ colour and shape, and therefore the character of the room, change over time. Through sensors, living digital organisms allow us to feel the changing nature outside, thereby restoring a natural timeline to the space.


Doodle Earth (image below) by Serge Seidlitz is a collaborative architectural visions of the future which presents itself as a interactive drawing workshop.

Squint/Opera and Serge Seidlitz invited artists to contribute to phase one of Doodlearth. Each artist was asked to submit 20 illustrated elements making up a city. These elements were then collaged together in a random way to create a 40-minute animation, which will be projected onto long rolls of paper. The public will be invited to get involved and contribute to the film’s evolution.

Doodle Earth

Visitors can contribute to the show through a whole series of works and events throughout the exhibition employing semacodes and 3D scanning (image below) led by Sergio Davilla. If you can’t get there you can also contribute to the exhibition by submitting work to the virtual exhibition on Google Earth.


The premise of this exhibition, the virtual is a tried and tested one but the interesting thing here is the combining / mixing / merging that is going on throughout the exhibition which uses the space well, takes the show outside the space in every way possible (into Beatrix Park and online through the web site and Google Earth) and really questions what “A real show about the virtual” can actually achieve. This in combination with the richness of ideas that runs through the works, the very accessible and interesting workshops and the carefully selected contextual books on sale gives the visitor (real or virtual) a massive amount of things to see / do / participate / think about.

The exhibition runs until 27th of August and is well worth the cycle to the space, getting lost, having to ask for directions, nobody knowing where it is and then finally finding it.

Posted by: Garrett @ 1:12 pm
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July 23, 2008

Today is a visualisation software for mobile phones which illustrates mobile communication (above is a sample visualisation and below the key to understanding the visualisation).

It sits on the periphery of the machine, monitoring our connectivity through the number and type of calls we receive, subtly displaying them back to us, in the form of a generative graphic. Here, the visual result is a figurative and seemingly abstract picture – the story of your day. Some days will be really colourful and wired, others quieter and more reflective, either way the resulting visuals will always be personal, unrepeatable and unique.

I don’t have much interest in software which graphs information in abstract ways simply because I’m unsure what that is trying to achieve. Is it information design (the key suggests this is)? If so does the abstraction of information detract from the communication of the information and the understanding that should enable. Is it art? If so what is it’s purpose as art, how does it present a set of ideas as understood by the artist. Or is it blurring the boundaries between the two and to what end? What’s interesting here is the potential of taking latent information about the use of a mobile phone and then making it do something.

Originally seen on Networked Performance and information aesthetics.

Posted by: Garrett @ 11:14 am
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July 17, 2008
Corporate Suite

corporate suite

Corporate Suite (image above and two images below) by Julien Bouillon is a series of printed images of a new type of spam email which employ images and no text to fool spam blockers. This method of encrypting text in (mainly but not exclusively) images, coined Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart), is the same technology used on most account sign up pages now to verify that a person is creating an account and not a script on a server somewhere. Presented as art these algorithmically created images, created by a computer to foil others, become art exclusively for humans (as the text can only be understood by a human) however could be said to just re-present the originals, with no change of content ether in subject matter or method of presentation, and their purpose as adverts / spam. So this gives (very simplified):

  • Conceived by computer -> Executed by computer -> Understood by humans

corporate suite

captcha paintings

Slightly different, possibly going a step further, are the Captcha paintings (images above) by Rebecca Stern. Here the Captcha images are not just printed directly they are painted becoming representations of the originals, art conceived by a computer, executed by a human for humans.

  • Conceived by computer -> Executed by human -> Understood by humans

Two related articles on Captcha and related issues (in French) are Art brut algorithmique (Algorithmic Raw Art) and Typographie pour humains (Typography for humans). Related work includes Spam paintings by Johannes Wohnseifer.

Corporate Suite sourced from vvork.

Posted by: Garrett @ 9:14 pm
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July 10, 2008

Disorganiser (image above of a disorganised version of this weblog) is another Firefox extension which allows the user to subvert existing websites however unlike Shiftspace this only occurs locally and can not be shared with other users of the extension.

Commissioned by the 27th Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana and created by Slovenian artist Jaka Železnikar, Disorganiser disorganises webpage content to give abstract results in similar ways to Shredder by Mark Napier.

The image of any give Web page (or the visible part of the Web page if it is bigger than the computer screen) is understood as a matrix that reproduces itself. The size, height, and width of the reproduction are transformed depending on the matrix. The reproduction is placed in a selected section of the matrix and becomes part of it. The process repeats several times. The result is an unrepeatable visual structure that is based on manipulations of the particular Web page.

Posted by: Garrett @ 4:18 pm
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July 9, 2008

Shiftspace is a firefox extension which it’s makers call:

An Open Source layer above any webpage

It deserves mention here amongst the last few posts about Art Browsers as it gives users the potential to intervene, modify and subvert existing websites within the spaces used by all Shiftspace users, essentially mashing up content. So it’s a platform which promotes mashups but what’s interesting is that it does not preference any particular type of content such as images and it does not lock the content in as so many of these so called platforms do which are made in Flash or something else which instantly renders them useless.

Shiftspace has already got a lot of attention from artists working in new media with it’s honorory mention in the Prix Ars Electronica in 2006 and Turbulence commissioned artworks in 2007.

Posted by: Garrett @ 6:50 pm
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