Sunday, 28 September 2008

Mediamatic at PICNIC 2008

Mediamatic is a project partner of PICNIC.
Excellent coders, designers and physical computers participate in this heavy duty camp to explore recent technologies, RFID, interaction design and social processes. The goal of the Camp is to realize multiple interactive installations, wearables and spaces for the visitors of PICNIC to play with.

I went to PICNIC a few days before it actually started. I was taking a walk with my friend to see how the place looks like. It was empty but the huge white dome (E-Art Dome) was already there. In a small room located near the Old Gas Factory a group of people was working hard. My friend introduced me to one of the ‘hackers’ so I had the chance to talk to an ‘insider’, Arjan Sherpenisse.

In order to participate to the Social RFID Games you needed to have an ikTag. With it you could start a running race, or test your alcohol intake or support one of the two DuckRace players etc.
Arjan explained to me how two of the projects work. One was the DuckRace: two players start their race cars with their tags. The race track is based on the personal profile and network of the players. Since it’s a social game, the audience could influence the race car with their ikTags.

Two other ‘mediamatics’ were outside carving some wood, building the platforms. Their work was similar to creating small architecture models. I was impressed that they were working with so much passion. ‘We didn’t sleep for a few days’ Arjan Scherpenisse confessed.
Thirty people from all over the world were there, in the small room, working day and night for the Mediamatic projects.

On Thursday, the second day of PICNIC I was back there. This time I was dissapointed that I couldn’t join the conferences and in fact I couldn’t enter anywhere. It would have been a nice experiment for me if I had at least an ikTag to play around.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Review of a Web 2.0 Application: deviantART

"Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master.That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself.[...] Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos." (Jonathan Lethem - 'Sound Unbound';'The Ecstasy of Influence', p.29)

The previous words encourage everyone who is passionate about art to test their artistic skills. So does deviantART! The Oxford Dictionary explains the term 'deviant' as 'a person who is different in moral or social standards from what is considered normal'. As we all know, everything that is considered out of the normal social standards has a derogatory meaning. But the word 'deviant' linked to 'art' seems to generate a lot of odd posts from weird users and much more peculiar visitors that are drawn here by the unusual association of words. Once you enter the website you are absolutely amazed by the beauty of the digital photography. I have to admit that not everyone that posts pictures on the site is immensely talented, but some of the photos take your breath away. Digitally adjusted or not, interesting portraits or marvelous landscapes, weird drawings or traditional photos, sculptures, abstract forms...Deviant Art carries you through an immense creative universe where imagination breaks the limits of unseen and unknown.

In order to become a deviant you need to create an account. This web 2.0 application allows users to make a profile, to post any kind of digital items or to write pieces of literature. The posts are usually accompanied by the artists' own description on his craft which gives the viewer/reader a better understanding of what the artist wanted to express. Users can create their own gallery, their community of friends -this means they can meet other artists- and add to favorites the photos they like most. As a visitor of the site you can not only admire the pictures or read the writings but also leave comments.
Some other applications on the page make it even more interactive: there's a shop, a chat room, news, a forum. In the section 'today' you can see the community mood bar chart. Here you can also check the number of online users. At this moment there are a total of 33,997 deviants of which 6,102 are artists; 2,106 photographers; 1,429 writers. Back to the main page we have to the left the different categories of art. These are very well structured and easy to browse through. Besides traditional and digital art you can find films and animations, designs and interfaces, artisan crafts and many other categories and subcategories.
I have searched among a few artists and this is what I have found: Mrizalcs has a beautiful gallery with portraits of people from Indonesia and also some fantastic panoramas. If you don't know what to do when there's nothing to do you have some interesting and colorful ideas here.

Deviant Art web 2.0 application is a parallel universe that is worth exploring. Look for a second around you and then escape in this virtual world. Open the gates of digital reality and let your mind frolic through artistic pictures, unbound words and visuals.

Book review: 'Sound Unbound.Sampling Digital Music and Culture'

Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid is the pioneer artist of electronic and experimental hip-hop music. Combining jazz, electronica, reggae and various other musical genres, his work has been labeled illbient or trip-hop. From recording sounds made by melting ice in Antarctica to composing music and producing albums, from mastering the art of turn tabling to writing books about the science of sound, DJ Spooky has become known as a 'world wide expert', an investigator of sound in all its forms. His new book 'Sound Unbound. Sampling Digital Music and Culture', also features writings from other impressive artist like Bryan Eno, Saul Williams and Moby. The book was released this year and it explores the role of sound in the digital media, in an information-based society.
The concept of the book is similar to a big mixtape that meets conversations between 36 authors and about 45 different tracks of collaged, mash up literature and sounds. The sonic mosaic is everything from Aphex Twins to James Joyce, from Bryan Eno to Jean Cocteau and Iggy Pop as well as Sonic Youth, Moby and Chuck D from Public Enemy.
People nowadays are facing the digital media as the creative environment. Thus 'Sound Unbound' does not have too much melodic music focus but to a greater extend a mixed media. Sound and recording are presented as contemporary art but moreover the book is about art in general.
In this book Paul Miller tries to explain the phenomenon of coalition between the African music based mostly on percussion sounds and polyphony and the 18th century European classical music that is more melodious. In other words melody and polyphony collided in the United States creating multiple beats. Breaking the boundaries between African and European music was one of the first steps of electronic music and it allowed everyone to look at it as an art.

Many of the book's contributors talk about the influence and the role of technology in their craft. At this certain point, the tendency is to get rid of the physical objects. Most probably one day, everything will be a wireless weird software. 'Objects' are already considered useless. A good example is the 'community killer' Mac Iphone - the multi-functional device that can be used to listen music, to write on it, to access the Internet, to take pictures, to order anything anywhere by just clicking a button.
DJ Spooky also explains how music software works in sampling. It is the composer's tool just as the pen is for the writer. He adds that the best thing about software is that you can have any kind of sound simulation, even a turntable simulation.
One of the main idea in the book is the mash up. Written as a literary mash up - idea sustained through many different essays and interviews- Sound Unbound dubs the different styles of music: hip-hop, techno, drum&bass, rock and so on, 'the children of the avant-garde'. Creativity is the one that holds it up together.
The joint efforts of the writers gave birth to this marvelous anthology that overlays personal stories and beliefs over one concrete structure, art. Saul Williams wrote an interesting piece about the future of language and compared poetry to a digital code. Jonathan Lethem's essay is about who owns the memory and about what plagiarism means in the era when everybody has access to information all the time. Some of the writings in the book are interesting pieces on their own but put all together they generate this 'crazy mix tape' as Miller likes to say.

As the editor states "I never really think of music as just music. It's much more than that: like information. It's a way of holding a mirror up a side to see what's reflected back." I feel the same way about music. Sound is information in a different form. And since we live in the super-information era when people are simply over flooded with noise, sounds and music, the loop of perception becomes a relentless hall of mirrors spinning in our minds.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Expressing emotions

Why do people sometimes try to hide their emotions? Does control make you stronger, powerful? It's in the human nature to feel and to express emotions. When you're happy you feel like sharing your joy to other people. When you're sad you want to be lonely but yet you need someone to talk to about your problems. In some situations people control their emotions very well. These emotional boundaries appeared with the development of society. For example a teacher is not allowed to scream at the students even if he is very angry at them. A manager or a director has to smile and to be polite to all customers or clients even if sometimes he feels like 'killing' the other person.
Expressing emotions is also a cultural matter. Nations have different ways to display emotions. In my country, in Romania, people use a lot of gestures when they talk as well as different voice tones and touching.

When I arrived in Holland I was surprised that people who are extremely friendly (they smile and they try to help you with everything) are somehow a little 'cold'. It's just a personal impression but it might be a standard dutch way of acting.
The stress from work sometimes makes people control their emotions even in front of their friends. I'm not saying is bad to hide how you feel it's just not natural.
I'm a person that enjoys every moment of life. I love to laugh when I'm happy and I cry when I'm sad. But yet I moved to another country where I'm a stranger. I'd like to care less about what others think about me showing my emotions in public.