Flatpack 3 2009

How do you document a moving image festival that happens in the dark with copyrighted material? It’s easy, when it’s an engaged and creative festival like Flatpack 2009 from 7 Inch Cinema.

Assorted bloggers have been helping to fill the gaps in our memory:
> http://www.flatpackfestival.org/blog/flatpack-collective-memory/ and souvenir photos are making their way online:

> http://www.flickr.com/photos/7inchcinema/

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Nick Rothwell: cassiel.com

Nick Rothwell from cassiel.com gave a talk to the MA Media Arts students today, showing a brief roundup of the projects that he has been involved in, over the past few years. Nick introduced himself as being someone who works across many different art forms, creating compositions and interactive spaces for performance in many traditional locations such as stage, as well as site-specific work (like The Public, for example).

The discussion was wide ranging, from the difficulties of being involved with large projects involving funding from various sources, to how best to incorporate technology into dance performance. Where many producers want to see their dollars worth up there on the stage, letting the audience see what all the fuss is about, there’s often a balance between finding a mid-point. I personally, offered the suggestion that perhaps any stage-bound technology should be thought of in terms of stage design, and placed/dressed accordingly.

Nick’s creative practise moves beyond the performative/dance and includes work like, the intelligent lamppost that dreams and remembers events from the local pub nearby. Soon to be moved the Irish Museum of  Modern Art. A technically, complex piece of work that required the involvement of the council to install the work (digging and slicing the pavement, all in a day’s work for the council worker, less so for the media artist!).

Nick’s website is worth spending time on, and not just as a documentation of the projects he has been involved in. Digging down a bit you can uncover articles about everything from Max/MSP to the Roland D-50.

What’s valuable in Nick’s work, apart from the pleasure of the works themselves, is his obvious commitment to the documentation process. Always a good way of taking care of ‘housekeeping’ for an artists own practise, it’s also a good way to share things in the community more.

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A Video Blog (Vlog) example

This is a brief example of how to record, edit and upload some video to a blog. It’s all very low-fi, but that’s okay, there’s an acceptable aesthetic with web-based video that we’ve become used to. Most of what we watch on the web is low-fi, we just barely notice it these days.

Also important is the fact that it was captured without much preparation. I could have just as easily have used my mobile phone and Bluetooth to transfer it to my computer. The point is, there will be times when it’s worth capturing something without having brought along hi-tech equipment, but it’s still valid as documentation of an event.

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Johannes Birringer at ICE

johannesbirringer

Last week at ICE, we had a visit from Johannes Birringer, who, amongst his other roles, is artistic director of AlienNation Co. Johannes leads projects involving a hybrid of dance and technology and came along to talk about some of the projects he has both researched, and been directly involved in. He’s also currently flogging a book (Performance, Technology, & Science), so there was a chance to find out more about the things he was showing us.

Some of his projects he talked about involved wearable media: that is, technology mixed into clothing. Having worked with fashion designers, the results were much more exciting and interesting to look at than the idea might at first appear (those fearing a Cyberman style suit, need not worry). The clothing was more along the lines of Alexander McQueen than the BBC props department.

One of the projects he dealt with in some depth was the 9Evenings events, in New York in the 1960s. From the blurb:

The idea of collaborating with technicians, not only initiated by Robert Rauschenberg and Billy Klüver but also organized and largely promoted by them, lead to the performances suggested by the festival title: Nine Evenings with performances by John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Merce Cunningham, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor, and Robert Whitman. Billy Klüver was again the driving force. The main technical element of the performances was the electronic modulation system TEEM, composed of portable, electronic units which functioned without cables by remote control. Cage used this system to activate and deactivate loud speakers that consistently reacted to movement by way of photo-cells. For not always being technically and artistically successful, these performances exhausted for the first time the full range of the live-aspect of electronics, taking advantage of its artistic potential in all of its diversity.

The people attending the talk were a mix of dance/performance and media folks from ICE and beyond. Despite the small crowd, it was a crowd that wanted to hear and respond to the works shown.

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ICA Feedback

James Harkin, the Director of Talks at the ICA, in London, and the man who has spearheaded the Feedback sessions there, has published a piece (I think it’s an excerpt actually) from/based on his new book, Cyburbia, called Our new home Cyburbia.

In the article, he outlines the notion of cybernetic feedback as being intrinsic to the principle of what the Internet does and how it is affecting us. He cites the early work on cybernetics of Norbert Wiener who developed the notion of cybernetics as a feedback system. To quote from the above link to his biography:

The idea of “cybernetics” came to Wiener at the beginning of the forties, prompted by his work on anti-aircraft defence and by contacts with colleagues in Mexico (“Behavior, purpose and teleology” with A. Rosenblueth and J. Bigelow, Philos.Sci 1943). lt was made known to the world by the book Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, published in l948 after contacts in l946 with M. Freymann of Hermann et Cie (Paris). Coined from the Greek “kubernetike” (the art of the steersman), cybernetics involves the theory of regulation and of signal transmission applied to technical devices, living beings and even societies. It may also concern the art of government, or “cybernétique” as Ampère conceived it in 1843, which Plato, using the already existent Greek word, compared to that of the captain of a ship. Two main ideas play a part in cybernetics: negative feedback with its stabilizing properties, and transmission of information, which helps to make a whole of the many parts of a complex system, whether living or not. The metaphor of the computer, with the role of Boolean logic, is also present in cybernetics. It is of interest to note that Wiener, remembering Leibniz’s “calculus ratiocinator” and his construction, after Pascal, of a mechanical computer, considered him a patron saint of cybernetics, whereas Warren S. McCulloch favoured Descartes.

Harkin feels that the Internet is a product (or a model, at least) of this cybernetic loop system and goes on to discuss how it will change the way we as humans think and behave . I know that others are already talking about this, but more in the negative (I can’t find any links at the mo). But I like the idea and also, I think it’s about time for a cybernetic culture revival again. I haven’t seen Sadie Plant for over a year at any Birmingham events, but it would be great to see her step up to the (cybernetic) plate again and, along with Nick Land (see also Mark K-Punk and Kode-9 et al), return to save us all from the drab Silicon Valley evangelists.

Cybernetics has brought us a long way, but now that its global information loop is fully built, it is in danger of leaving us lost and directionless. Now we need to spend some time thinking about the message – what it does to us to have the new communication technologies around, and how artists, culture-makers and everyone else might harness that new sensibility and turn it to their own advantage. The humble book took off, remember, not because its early evangelists went around waving them in people’s faces or attesting to their incredible power, but because talented authors took the trouble to master this new way of working and write great books.

I’m not sure we have to ‘start’ thinking about the possibilities because, many net.artists have been doing that for a while, and of course, there is a whole genre, if that’s the right word, of e-Literature that explores the networked nature of the web. But perhaps he is referring to the broader cross-section of artists.Incidentally, the ICA caused a ruckus a few months ago, because they shut down funding for media arts activities. Not that Harkin is directly responsible, but it does make you wonder if the different depts. speak to each other?

In his role as Director of Talks at the ICA, James Harkin is trying to make real this feedback loops of growth and development. Maybe ICE:cubes can play a small part in that as well?

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Web 3.0

I guess part of the problem (or let us say, issue) around starting to comment and think about any new developments or memes, is that you immediately begin to be a carrier of that meme/virus yourself. You become part of the hype and the reason that everyone else is talking about it. So it’s with a certain amount of hesitation that I even write this post.

There’s already much talk about web 3.0 and people are mentioning it without necessarily engaging with the broader picture. Trying to find out some more information, the best report I’ve found so far has been this one in the TimesOnline: taking a nice overview and interviewing one of the people involved.Web 3.0 and beyond: the next 20 years of the internet. I have a feeling that as thing progress and the term gets taken over by the corporate sector, it’s meaning will become more wrapped up in marketing values and business speak, as Web 2.0 has done.

In essence, Web 3.0 is going to be about taking the current web (and all of our user-generated content and everything else we’ve been posting) and adding another layer on top of that. Making it more semantic (which many people ahve been talking about for a few years now). So, instead of just having that content there in place and using tools like Google to search, there will be the ability to aggregate content based on what you know and what you might also be interested in. Sounds familiar already? It is a bit like the Amazon function of suggesting that if you liked one thing, you’ll love something else similar that others enjoyed. It is also about ‘knowing’ more about your requests or needs in an intelligent way. As for the Web 3.0 moniker, here’s one of the best explanations of the use of 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 that I’ve heard so far, from Nova Spivack, the founder of Radar Networks:

“We have had the first decade of the web, or Web 1.0,” he says, which was about the development of the basic platform of the internet and the ability to make huge amounts of information widely accessible, “and we’re nearing the end of the second decade – Web 2.0 – which was all about the user interface” and enabling users to connect with one another.

“Now we’re about to enter the third decade – Web 3.0 – which is about making the web much smarter.”

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Art criticism

Charlotte Frost is a media arts critic and PhD student (last I heard, she had just written up her PhD and was getting ready to defend it). She has been researching the way the arts are discussed and contextualised using contemporary technologies (mainly the Internet). She has worked with other writers on a number of projects such as Media Mates.

Although her blog at Furtherfield has a few good posts, it’s difficult to ascertain more about her research in any depth, from the posts.

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