I chose to watch Sara Hendren’s 2015 Eyeo lecture. To quote her website, She “is an artist, design researcher, and professor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She makes material art and design works, writes, and lectures on adaptive and assistive technologies, prosthetics, inclusive design, accessible architecture, and related ideas.” She designs objects and interventions that question the idea of what is “normal” while providing enlightened solutions to the many problems people face when they bump up against societies restrictive idea of normalcy. She is able to provide both practical solutions that double as poetic gestures, by working with experts on the issue, those effected by it first hand. Whether it is building a podium for someone who does not fit the standard podium size, or designing ramps for skateboarders and wheelchair users, she gathers her research from the source, and works with the people she is designing for. The final product embodies both an elegant design object, and a conceptual work of art, as the expert simplicity of her solutions highlight the serious neglect of otherness in design. I was particularly taken with her ability to talk about her work and act as a surrogate for neglected voices in design. She has expert public speaking skills, and I learned a lot about how to organize a presentation by watching her present.
Rafael Lozano Hemmer is a Mexican-Canadian artist working mainly in large-scale interactive installations. In his 2013 Eyeo presentation, Hemmer covered a plethora of different projects across a very prolific career (even managing to break a rib in the middle of his presentation), which I won’t describe in their entirety, but rather focus on a few key projects, and some underlying principles which I found important and unique among artists dealing with interactivity.
The first project that piqued my interest was Body Movies. Inspired by the long tradition of shadow plays, Lozano Hemmer used a multi-projector setup to project giant 70 foot portraits of local people onto large facades in public plazas(he did iterations of the project in Rotterdam, Wellington, London, and beyond), and then also project people’s shadows onto those sets of portraits. He said that, in his work, it’s important to not tell the audience exactly what to do, but rather create an open space for them to explore, express themselves, and sometimes to communicate with others. I think this notion is very important when working in the field of interactive art. Interactive art can be really drab when the viewer’s experience consists simply of “getting the joke,” and figuring out whatever finite trick the artist had up their sleeve. In Body Movies, Lozano Hemmer’s projectors serve as the medium for the audience’s humor and creativity; viewers act out skits with each other and collaborate to animate the figures. There is a very short period of figuring out how to interact with the piece before the viewer is able to creatively explore its potential.
In making interactive art, it seems important for the artist to “get out of the way,” in a sense, and let the viewer express themselves through the piece. The artist’s job becomes to create a powerful, dynamic platform for the viewer to introduce and manipulate their own content. The piece where Lozano Hemmer most effectively “gets out of the way,” in my opinion is Voz Alta (“Out Loud” or “Loud Voice”). He was commissioned to make a work for the 40th anniversary of the student massacre in Tlatelolco, and decided to install a megaphone in the Plaza De Las Tres Culturas, allowing people to speak freely into it, sharing personal accounts and stories of the massacre. The megaphone was connected to a searchlight pointed at the ministry of foreign affairs which would flash every time someone spoke, along with three other searchlights pointed out across the city. The words spoken into the megaphone were broadcast uncensored over FM radio. I love this piece because Lozano Hemmer does such a good job of amplifying the voices of the participants and creating a warm and powerful platform for others to speak, while simultaneously making a few simple but poetic aesthetic choices, which complement rather than compete with or exploit the people participating.
The video I choose is from an information architect Giorgia Lupi in Eyeo 2014. She talked about her obsession with hand drawing and its role in her life as a design tool and a means of expression. She draws constantly whenever she is thinking, and it helps her so much to understand herself as an artist.
She takes her drawings very seriously and not seriously at all at the same time. She draws whatever is in her mind and does not really try to make sense of them, enjoying the moment of spontaneousness and comfort of expression. Then a lot of times in her work, when she tries to visualize complicated data and information, she can somehow retrieve the once random shapes and images in her drawings and create amazing and out-of-box ideas.
She talked about it like it happened so naturally, which is the most fascinating for me, that for her, working as an artist has become an extension of her inner self therefore is truly enjoyable and adventurous. Just like when she talked about her work visualizing the data of scientific articles and their citations over the years, she is inspired by her love of the music notes. She was fascinated by how music notes can display such compact information with so much elegance and simplicity, and how much they resembles the relationships among many factors in the scientific world, and translated the symbols of music into variables that can accurately reflect the information hidden in the data of 20 years. It appears to be a delightful coincidence, but in fact it takes really deep understanding of the data and imagination to make the connection valid, and create a whole new perspective. It is not only a good example of problem solving in design practice, but also human-centered design thinking, which results in an experience for the readers to engage, explore or even care, therefore delivers the information that is initially obscure and hard to follow through.
Aside from her amazing projects, the speech really got me thinking about what makes an artist unique, what makes an artist’s personal style, and what I can do to find my own. While it’s difficult that information is overloaded, and everyone has his or her own theory of how to make it to the other side, her insistent self exploration and unprejudiced acceptance of herself and her art is truly inspiring. But most of all, she makes me never afraid of my ugly drawings again.
I feel really basic writing this Looking Outwards assignment about a blockbuster film, but I hadn’t had much exposure to interactive art prior to this course, and my response does reflect one of my sources of information, so screw it, I’ll be basic. When I saw The Jungle Book last spring, I was completely blown away by its unprecedented vfx. I’m too young to remember when Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001, but my hippocampus was firing on all cylinders by 2009, and the release of The Jungle Book inspired a level of CGI hype that hasn’t been reached since Avatar.
The graphics in The Jungle Book are almost realer than life. It’s almost gets so real that it returns back into the realm of the imaginary from which it came. It took 800 computer graphics artists to bring the story to life, utilizing motion capture and compositing, among other techniques. In fact, the only physically real components were Mowgli and the pieces of the set that he immediately interacted with — all of the animals and about 80% of the jungle were computer generated. Since Hollywood isn’t allowed to keep exotic animals for reference, each animal had to be researched extensively.
I assumed that most of the art for The Jungle Book was done using preexisting software, but in researching for this project, I learned that there were some challenges that required software engineering to surmount. For example, the CGI characters didn’t throw shadows onto the live-action Mowgli, so they had to develop software that would project the animals’ shadows.
Gene Kogan is a New York based artist studying machine learning through sound and artworks. He dove into neural networks and the algorithms that allow them to act as artificial intelligence and their ability to create images. Through machine learning these networks can analyze images, handwriting, specific objects, and search for recurring themes and styles. These images often take on abstract and painterly forms naturally, but he also explores purposefully applying these algorithms to transform images and videos as a medium for creative expression. The ability for computers to almost autonomously create visuals that resemble painterly styles is quite stunning (whether it be abstract or combining the Starry Night and Mona Lisa. Kogan breaks down machine learning, such as the way neural networks operate, into simpler and easier to understand lectures for the mass audience. In addition to content he publishes online, he has taught classes at NYU, Bennington College, and SchoolOfMa. He has been a part of international open source projects and writes code for visual and sound performances.
Kyle McDonald is a programmer and artist from Brooklyn, NY, a frequent collaborator with similar creative Lauren McCarthy, and a resident at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon. His work most often challenges, subverts and plays with new technologies and their existing conventions– much of his work provides a new fresh take in addressing online communication & social media, surveillance, and virtual reality. Kyle also describes himself as a public, process-oriented artist who’s work often explores glitches and reverses anything from personal identity to work habits. What I personally most identify with in his work is that the pieces on his website and presented during his lecture are very consistent yet very very broad in their aims. Some of his projects can be categorized as social experiments or commentary on the way technology influences our communication styles (i.e. Going Public, us+, Face Substitution Research) while many other of his projects just seem to be experimentation with new and developing technologies such as artificial intelligence and face/body tracking (DIY 3d scanning, Nandhopper, Shadowplay). As well what I found interesting about his performance was his anecdote of how he came across labelling himself as an “artist”; his entire portfolio of work seems to be very technically based and really experimental with different areas of new media, however he describes the aspect of his projects being interactive which place them more in a category of art than simply technical presentations. He does not speak a lot on what type of social commentary or discussion his pieces may spark, but rather objectively details how they work and how the idea came about. I generally admire Kyle not only for the versatility and wide variety in the projects he works on, but also the humbleness and detachment with which he speaks about his work.
Bio – Mimi Son is an artistic director, storyteller, and designer, with a masters in Digital Media Art and Design from CIID. Elliot Woods is an educator, technologist, and curator from the UK. Together they founded Kimchi and Chips, which is an “experimental art/ design/ technology studio based in Seoul”.
I thought the project Lunar Surface was very interesting – this work has a hanging cloth with light projected onto it where the cloth would intersect an imaginary moon – it adjusts the light based on the position of the cloth due to its swinging, and a long exposure picture shows the moon in its entirety. I liked the way that this particular work brings another dimension into a room without adding any physical matter, just light, but showing a whole structure regardless. They have a lot of works where projections of light form three-dimensional objects, and this isn’t something that I’ve seen before.
I think that their work is presented very effectively. They create a unique atmosphere that enhances the work by providing an atmosphere that brings intrigue to the work but does not detract from it
Rajat Bhatnagar’s Website:
Rajat Bhatnagar is an interactive and sound artist based in New York. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, he became interested in sound at a young age, listening to weird late night programs on the 94.1 KPFA radio station. Eventually he got his BA from U.C. Berkeley and an MS from the University of Pennsylvania.
Many of Bhatnagar’s projects caught my interest, and his lecture in particular because I have played the clarinet for 8 years now, and have come to really appreciate the amazing ability to make sound. I’ve always thought that sound, or the lack of it, adds crucial points to any experience, and that incorporating sound into art very much enhances it. In one commissioned project, Bhatnagar set up a light sensor to capture and interpret sound from the wavering of the smoke of burning incense. The sound produced was calming and in perfect harmony with the imagery of the burning incense, creating an intense and compact quiet, meditative environment. I am interested in environments and their ability to provoke certain reactions in people. Another of Bhatnagar’s projects involved the experience of creating an instrument, and the relationship of that to the sound it produced. Every February, every year, each day he would make a new, small handheld instrument. Many of these were surprisingly successful, and Bhatnagar found hundreds of unique ways to produce sound from his environment over the course of almost 10 years. I admire his dedication to fully exploring sound in every way, and his willingness to learn new techniques such as 3D printing and laser cutting in order to further his exploration of sound.
Overall his lecture was very interesting, more about just relaying his experiences with sound art than anything else. The important message he left behind was to really experiment. To push and not be afraid of producing something that sounded bad. As a speaker, he could be smoother. What shone through in the end was his sense of fun and exploration. You could hear the excitement in his voice as he talked about his projects, and that in itself was wonderful.
So I looked at a lecture by Gene Kogan. He is an artist that looks at generative systems and software as fuel for creativity. What intrigued me is that he’s writing a book called Machine Learning for Artists. Seeing that I’m finding it difficult to figure out how to merge ML and art, his lecture seemed like the way to go.
This piece is called Deepdream prototypes , it uses Google’s inceptionism code and artificial neural networks. in his own words, “The code accepts images as inputs and iteratively evolves the pixel values towards some coherent resemblance to the image classes it knows, producing wild images of “pig-snails,” “camel-birds,” “dog-fish,” and the famous “puppy slugs,” among many other categories.” I really liked it’s piece because it requires a sort of technical mastery with ML techniques as well as an aesthetic sense to produce the kinds of images you want to create. In my opinion it also lies in the uncanny valley because the resulting pieces resemble human art so much that it’s very awkward seeing the computational modification.
My favorite quote: He compared style transfers with machine learning to “Like if you rewrote the book of Genesis, Edgar Allen Poe style”
This short film, Interim Camp, by the new media studio Field, explores an entirely computer generated landscape made in Processing. The terrain is shifty and constantly vibrating, almost like the rocky planet is some sort of giant living organism.
I was first drawn to this piece because some of the stills generated by the program looked fascinating and with the shifting surreal colors, the planet looked totally alien. It reminded me of a video game I had played called MirrorMoon, a low poly puzzle game I played through it mostly for the visuals. This being just a video I was left wishing that it was more interactive and allowed me to explore the world more on my own sense it gave off such an exploratory impression.
In some of the studio’s more recent work, they have added a great deal of interactivity. Most similar to Interim Camp though, is an interactive piece called City of Drones where the user can navigate through an infinite cityscape.
Kyle McDonald is a media artist who’s based in Brooklyn, New York. Kyle attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for AI and started a career in Philosophy/Computer Science. Kyle’s work has a lot to do with experimentation with visuals and how it affects the world. As a video artist, this resonates with me. Among my favorite works of art are Kyle’s “Exhausting a Crowd” and, more recently, “pplkpr”. Both deal with creating new visual statements and helping others develop different perspectives from these statements.
Something Kyle said that really stuck with me was, “If Ella Fitzgerald never sang a single song, and a bot synthesized her tomorrow, would it feel the same?…I think it might and that’s kind of scary.” Although this is a response to a question he gave himself, it still holds a lot of weight. It shows his internal struggle to aid in the advancement of AI at the expense of losing the humanity (basis of art). As artists living in an era of technology, I think we all should ask similar questions to ourselves in order to determine whether we’re guiding the tech for our artistic purposes, or if the tech is guiding us.
Kyle McDonald Website – kylemcdonald.net
For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll be talking about both Giorgia and Stefanie.
Giorgia and Stefanie are both ‘data visualizers’ by trade, but in contrast to many others in similar roles, they are not hybrid creatives/artists who have a computer science angle. They are both traditionally trained in the design & architecture disciplines and do not program or develop digital artifacts directly. Both of them are also public figures who have spoken at many conferences and festivals.
Both Giorgia and Stefanie have produced impressive results in their efforts to focus on the human quality and material reality of quantitive information and data, especially in traditionally technical contexts. Stefanie worked at Facebook as an artist in residence communicating the behaviour in through people’s relationship statuses. Similarly, Giorgia has spoken about the human meaning of data, and how the numbers are only a proxy for people and their actions: “[we both] work with data in a handcrafted way, trying to add a human touch to the world of computing and algorithms.”
Something I found especially resonant about their work was how they clearly positioned themselves as differentiated and unlike others in the business of dataviz. I believe it’s a particularly good example of embracing one’s areas of passion instead of following the trends of the mainstream alone.
Speaking to their presentation style, they both present real ‘in the moment’ documentation of what happened instead of process-fictions or overbuilt case studies. This is something I’d like to begin to incorporate more into my own work.
“Google to buy Syria in $3.2 Billion Deal”
“Selena Gomez: There’s a Big Difference Between Yasser Arafat and Me”
Those are just a few of the headlines generated by Darius Kazemi’s “Two Headlines” twitter bot, which pulls real headlines from the news and splices them together to get rarely accurate and often funny “headlines,” which it then tweets. Kazemi makes what he calls “Weird Internet Stuff,” small coding projects that usually take less than 5 hours to complete, and often generate fairly useless images, phrases, and information.
In his 2014 Eyeo talk, Kazemi discussed making art with code, and what it takes to be successful in this. He displayed a mathematical formula and called it elegant, but then warned that the things that make equations elegant–compactness, infinite expressiveness–are a red flag for procedurally generated art, and “the computer art equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade.” He showed a few fractal landscapes generated by a computer, and declared that while they were impressive, they were boring: very little was different between the landscapes, and a viewer could quickly spot the patterns going on. According to Kazemi, making good computer generated art takes more than just spitting out some image or phrase based on a randomly generated number; it takes Templated Authorship, Random Input, and Context.
Templated Authorship means not just displaying random information, but rather interpreting it in some way, like letting a random number be the x coordinate of a shape, or having a random word be searched in Google. This is simple enough, and something most creators of digital art already make use of. Filtering or finding the Random Input in a unique way is a great way to make one’s art more relevant. Like the “Two Headlines” bot, which takes its input from real news headlines, you should get your “randomness” from the world itself if you want your artwork to be a reflection of something meaningful rather than a series of random numbers. Finally, Context is what makes art mean something to viewers. Sure, you can make a bot that can randomly generate a word and then display its definition. But who would want to look at that? But if you put that information in the context of a Ryan Reynolds saying “Hey girl, you must be a
As a speaker, Kazemi made excellent use of examples, both by showing the audience pictures of what he was talking about and by actually running some of the random-generator programs he spoke of right in front of them. He spoke about video games and tweets, things many young people today can relate to, but what really stuck out to me was the way he talked about elegance, coherence, and even general quality: these things must be considered undesirable when trying to make procedural art. Despite the fact that these are often considered positive traits of an individual work, striving for them when writing your code will yield results that are constrained, unoriginal, and boring–everything art shouldn’t be. I know I’ll have to fight my basic instinct as an artist in order to follow Kazemi’s advice, but hopefully my work is all the better for it.
Here is a link to Kazemi’s website, which contains many examples of his “Weird Internet Stuff”.
And here is the video I watched of his presentation:
Nicky Case is an artist that chose video games as a medium. In their own words: “They make interactive explanations, to help people understand the world, and interactive stories, to help people understand themselves.” Nicky Case created “Coming Out Simulator”, a short game, or virtual social experience, which tackled hard themes like public sexuality, religion, and mental illness.
Case impressed me on many levels, one way was in his understanding of the strengths of video games as a medium, which he explained during an interview about “Coming Out Simulator”: “One thing I do think games are particularly better at is getting across the sense of decision. Like, a heavy decision, a choice. Games are probably the best-suited medium for that. Like, the way text is best-suited for getting across abstract ideas; … You can get players to actually feel the weight of their decision-making.”
After Coming Out Simulator, they made “Parable of the Polygons” and “How a Terrorist is Made”. They asked themselves: “One: why do normal people do bad things, two: how can we make the world better, and three: where can a single person fit in all of this.” In all of these works, these incredibly complex problems involving social interaction, and social grouping/flocking/schisms were quickly dissolved with simple but eye-opening gamey interactive animations.
Nicky Case accomplished something that I often struggle with: making their audience, their players, understand and empathise with a complex issue or emotion through decisions and gameplay.
Coming Out Simulator: https://ncase.itch.io/coming-out-simulator-2014
– Gene Kogan. He is a programmer and artist interested in generative systems, artificial intelligence, and software enabling self-expression and creativity. The talk is mainly about machine learning and neural networks. He teaches a course called ml4a(machine learning for artists) that helps artist utilize machine learning in their artwork.
– I most admire his work on teaching people about machine learning. It really helps bringing more people into this wonderful realm, and opens up possibilities for non scientists. Also his algorithm of creating handwritten characters is very interesting to me.
– One sentence that struck me is when he said “If you’re ever in a hurry to learn something, sign up to teach it”. I found it insightful and makes me think about how learning really works.
– He presents by showcasing and explaining projects he made. The images and videos he shows are really impressive, but I still do not fully understand the technology behind them after listening to his explanation. Maybe he does this deliberately to lure listeners to his full-length courses.
– Link: http://www.genekogan.com/about.html
See more on her website.
Anouk Wipprecht is a fashion designer who incorporates technology, electronics, and modern designs into her clothing (often dresses). For example, creating an Audi-inspired, headlight-infused, parking-sensitive dress. I really enjoyed seeing how she used her skills, her views and her method of thinking outside the box to send a message, or create a vision, that is more striking and memorable than, say, generic models for events like car shows or concerts. Going back to the Audi example, how she “hacked” a car into a dress. Or how she repurposed football shoulder pads for a (female) singer in a halftime show at the Super Bowl.
She presents her work very straightforward, almost too quickly, but effectively (with plenty of documentation and little stories to keep us interested). I love her wording sometimes, like “Hacking a car”.
“For me, this is the poetics of technology,” she said, which I’ve never heard someone talk about technology like that. I like how she uses all kinds of technology, from interactive (sensors) to constructive (3D printing, mechanical parts) to sensory (sounds, lights, atmosphere). She combines them or uses them individually to make powerful pieces. I’d love to see her works (in action) in person! It’s a shame all of her works are temporary (since they are to be worn once).
- Briefly summarize the person’s bio, perhaps with a bit of supplemental Googling. Who are they? where are they based? What did they study? How do they describe themselves and what they do?
Anouk is a Dutch designer who travels a lot, so I would only tentatively call her ‘based’ in Amsterdam, LA, and SF. Her personal website boldly declares “What does fashion lack?” and answers it with “Microcontrollers.” In her lecture she calls herself an interaction designer (interesting, interaction designer first or a fashion designer? She doesn’t elaborate). On her website she is a designer, engineer, curator and lecturer – in that order.
One of her biggest commercial projects was an audi Dress collection that utilized new Audi car tech.
Her Audi dress collection doesn’t seem to offer anything entirely insightful or new in intelligent environment and wearable interaction design. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop…but while I really loved the abstract concepts she was talking about, I feel the transition from that to the concrete products lost a lot of the insight in translation. In the audi project on a different article she had mentioned that she believed ‘the notion of virtual reality is to limited to screens” and not enough with everyday objects and the environment…..that’s great! I love the idea she’s getting at – but her audi dress had no virtual reality component! The car did! So if that’s what she was trying to achieve….I’m afraid her dresses are just really futuristic in medium – not interaction.
When she said ‘biomimicry’ I was really hyped up – I wanted to see how she’d use biotech to make intelligent ‘dresses’ or as she considers it, the “environment”. Maybe even a bio-machine-learning-augmented-generative-adaptable dresses. The summary said “Her designs move, breath, and react to the world around them. She is interested in new ways we can interface — and builds micro-controlled garments to provoke her generation,” but I found that claim to be only superficially true on a lot of her bigger sponsored projects (especially the advertsing car show dress line for audi)
She cuts all the designs close to the body because it shouldn’t be the machine in control, or the person, but rather a symbiosis. She does so through “wireless biosignals” that will allow the dress to react to changes and environments.
2 years ago, she worked with Intel and medical ED with a camera and phone to record what the user was paying attention to. The dress became a ‘research entity’.
Some of the soundbytes/phrases and concepts she brought up that caught my attention:
She wants to help the process of “Gamifying fashion” to make wearables fun and accessible. I think she definitely achieved it in one particular project wherein she makes a ‘Unicorn horn’ fashion accessory for ADHD studies – allows the child to be a child not a subject to be studied. The fashion medical wearable with a camera allows for discrete monitoring whenever brain activities spike for when children’s attentions get caught. The video records get sent to the lab for later review.
I think she really sells her work well as “symbiosis of tech, fashion and the environment”
Also well noted, she says “fashion does not equal ‘clothing’… but fashion is too analog” she wants it digital and “to play a part in the social, public, and personal space.”
But my favorite was one saying “I keep everything open source…keeping it private – bullshit!” YEEES – share the knowledge.
What strategies do they use to present their work effectively? What can you learn about how to present your own work?
Good questions. I’m afraid I couldn’t see much of a structure to her presentation. Case in point – a well structured presentation would have informed listeners about what they’re going to hear and why. In this instance, I had no idea where she would go after one project after the other. There was less to teach so much as just her talk about her work in more depth and some of her philosophy that informed decisions.
- Embed their lecture video. If possible, additionally embed a video of one of their projects that you admire.
- Label your blog post with the Category, LookingOutwards-01.
- Title your blog post with the title: nickname-LookingOutwards01, where “nickname” is your login identity on this WordPress website.
Milica Zec (pronounced Milizza like pizza) is a self proclaimed “film and virtual reality director, editor, and screenwriter.” She’s based in New York City although she grew up in a war-torn Serbia. Her experience with the bombings there influence her most well known work, Giant, a virtual reality “movie.” Zec also spend 9 years working with Marina Abramovic as a film-maker and installation designer.
For me, the most compelling aspect of Milica’s work is how she uses the immersive qualities of virtual reality to explore an entire narrative with very deep emotional implications. I’m also interested in evoking an emotional response with the virtual art I create rather than a “wow that’s novel” response. According to reviews of Giant (I haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet), she was quite successful.
Because I want to work with memory and sensual recollections, I think that an immersive experience like virtual reality has more to offer than still images or even video-art. Indeed the natural progression from photographs to videos to vr is apparent with Milica’s work as it straddles the boundary between movie and full immersion.
Theo Watson is an artist, designer, and experimenter who received a BFA from Parsons School of Design in Design and Technology, and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. His works are inspired by the curiosity and excitement of his audience, which leads to the production of impressive interactive art installations in which people can immerse themselves. He founded Design I/O, a creative studio specializing in the design and development of such media, continuing to push the boundaries in the possibilities of an art-and-technology intersection. Having personally been interested in and inspired by the dynamic possibilities of art and technology, Theo engaged me as a listener to his lecture and as a fan to his projects. My goals as an artist have long stemmed from my experiences as an child when I was an avid fan of digital media: cartoons, animations, videogames alike. It is especially encouraging for me to see Theo’s execution of immersive environments that transport viewers to seemingly a wholly different and stimulating and reactive world. Being an environmentalist as well as an aspiring illustrator with more design-leaning aesthetics, I am fond of his works ‘Funky Forest’ and ‘Connected Worlds’, both of which integrate amazing, streamlined graphics with a scientific importance of how humans can affect the earth; the process of creating ‘Connected Worlds’ as detailed in the lecture show the amount of thought, love, and experimentation that went into the installation, as well as the series of troubleshooting involved. It was interesting to hear about how every detail implemented was formulated from an either artistic, practical, or ideological reason. For instance, Theo and Nick discussed how they wanted to steer away from mindless interaction by implementing a rewards-like system to the ecosystems, where the children have to grow trees and put effort into planting seeds and nourishing plants to attract rarer creatures, while learning how to effectively manipulate water flow to sustain different biomes; this reflects the necessary care and effort that citizens should put into caring for their habitats around them in order to coexist with other species. Another notable dialogue from the lecture were the multiple times which he admitted, “–and we never thought this would work but…”, indicating how through the problem-solving that came with the creation process were the innovative, almost impulsive solutions. There is something very human, down-to-earth, and realistic about the presentation and his approach to the project: about how such large-scale, time-committing installation would present troubles along the way, and how one can just try things for the sake of trying things, oftentimes leading to unexpected and beneficial results. ‘Connected Worlds’ seamlessly implements art, technology, environmental worldviews, and the arduous but rewarding journey of bringing a dynamic, interactive space to life.
Maria Scileppi is a the founder of the creative agency 72U, focussing primarily on the crossroads between creating narratives between art and technology. However, her true skill is in being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Scileppi is a fearless experimenter and thrives on multidisciplinary collaborations.
Maria attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, then went on to become an associate professor at Chicago Portfolio School, before venturing to Venice, California where she is now based.
Within listening to the first few minutes of Scileppi’s 2015 Eyeo presentation, I was completely hooked. She is a patient, ambitious, and exciting creative – a truly inspirational woman that I know I could learn a great deal from.
During this talk Scileppi I really tried to pay attention to her tone, and I noticed that she crafter her speech very effectively. Her overarching themes were collaboration and experimenting, and she tells the story of how these tools are incredibly powerful by telling smaller stories, similar to chapters. While listening to the talk, it’s clear that she is a seasoned story teller, even from the tone of her voice. She speaks slowly and always explains her vocabulary, even if it may seem self-explanatory.
Her stories about life at 72U shed light on the incredible benefits of working collaboratively, and what it takes to do so. She notes that it may not be applicable to every project or every person. It works best when there’s high emotional intelligence, and an openness to fail and learn. The idea of teamwork will make a lot of people cringe, but Scileppi beautifully explains how much potential there can be (and backs it up with a project about a chef and a sword-swallower).
“When you collaborate with another human, you extend your reach as a create. Because the first thing two collaborators make is this third space, and this third space is where the magic happens.”
She also discusses the idea of process and being human. In design, professors, clients, and recruiters are often far more interested in seeing the process than the final product. Were the creative decisions arbitrary or intentional? Was the road to this product bumpy or successful? What was the first idea and is any part of it in the final product? What did you learn about yourself and about your work? These are the types of questions that can be answered through reflection and process documentation.
“Since then a light went on inside of me. And I switched from being a maker focussed on an object or an end result, to a maker focused on the process of making, and I really like this space because it feels really human.”
Maria Scileppi is a creative that now has a permanent spot on my radar. I’ve already looked into the applications for spending 12 weeks at 72U. Being uncomfortable and vulnerable is hard to do in any circumstance, it can be even harder professionally. In your personal life, you’re putting yourself and your emotions on the line. In the professional world you’re putting not only your reputation, but also the time and money of others. Maria explains that so long as you can learn from your mistakes, grow as a creative, and continue to collaborate and experiment, then there’s nothing to fear.
I chose “Mapping Police Violence,” a project by activist DeRay McKesson (who is also famous for this one blue vest he wears, apparently) and activist, policy analyst, and data scientist Sam Sinyangwe. This project utilizes data visualization to help raise awareness about the problem of police violence, specifically police violence towards African Americans. The pair’s work is based off of two separate online databases of police brutality, which they cross-referenced against each other and supplemented with their own research. They then created info graphics, maps (like the one pictured above), and a police-rating tool based off of the accumulated data, to contribute to what they describe as a “digital Harlem renaissance” that will help people visualize the solutions to and unintended consequences of oppression of blacks in America.
As admirable as their project is, from an artistic perspective, their work isn’t particularly revolutionary. We’ve all seen maps and infographics before. That being said, their work is presented in a clear manner, which is of great importance when presenting data (their color scheme was nice as well.) One thing that DeRay McKesson said that particularly struck me was “the truth is damning enough that it should radicalize people.” Here, he is speaking in the context that he doesn’t have to embellish the facts to portray injustice. However, if art’s purpose is, as many argue, to reveal the truth, one can deduce that based off of this statement, art can be the most direct tool for effecting social change.
I’ve included the link to McKesson’s Twitter feed, as he himself in the video states the extreme importance of Twitter in his activism
See some of Sinyangwe’s visualizations for the project here.
The above links to one of my favorite pieces of their work, where the pair track data from specific police departments. In the lecture, they explain how the purpose of tracking police dept. data is to identify good policy or pinpoint when good policy isn’t being followed.
Moritz Stefaner, who had been part of Data Cuisine, is a German visualization specialist, an independent designer, consultant, and researcher. He has worked with clients like FIFA, Skype, dpa, and has long-term consulting relationships with the OECD, the World Economic Forum, and the Max Planck Research Society- with whom he has worked to analyze large data sets. Stefaner has a background in Cognitive Science and Interface Design. Some of his previous projects include visualization of network security situations in real time, visualization of seasonal wind predictions for the energy sector, a study of the selfie phenomenon, visualization of data on the satisfaction of living in various countries, and visualizations of other scientific findings. Susanne Jaschko, who had worked with Stefaner in Data Cuisine, is a Berlin based independent curator, author, and lecturer. Her work is research-based, and she says that it “centers on an experimental art practice renewing the understanding of art and its social and cultural functions.” Her work is interdisciplinary, as it may sometimes involve things like architecture, design, or science, most significantly placing an emphasis on electronic art and digital culture. She has taught on an academic level in Germany and abroad in institutions such as Universität Leipzig, Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KhiO) or the University of applied sciences FH Potsdam. She also speaks at conferences, and publishes on themes related to her curatorial practice.
I appreciate the concept of data visualization because I find that presenting data as sensory stimuli is an exciting way to shape how humans interpret data. It creates a stronger connection between everyday people and the data that they experience, and with this strengthened connection, the data becomes more memorable. I think Stefaner’s idea of creating programs to explore data is effective in allowing an audience to experience this data, as interactivity creates an intimate relationship between the data and the user. The strictly visual aspects in these depictions of data are very complex, and this complexity creates a vocabulary within the work that a viewer can latch onto when interpreting the data. I am intrigued by bringing the concept of data visualization into installation work, which Stefaner does in Emoto. Emoto is a piece which depicts web activity related to the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. Stefaner scoured the internet for tweets relating to the Olympics and categorized the tweets as “happy”, “sad”, “angry”, etc., as well as detected topics of interest. With this, he was able to create a “real-time sentiment profile” for topics relevant to the games. The installation is comprised of 17 plates with a relief heatmap indicating emotional highs and lows of each day. Viewers were able to scroll through individual stories and most retweeted tweets per hour for each story using a control knob.
Data Cuisine, which Stefaner talks about during the 2016 Eyeo Festival, was a method of data visualization that was new to me, as it depicted data using elements of food such as taste, smell, texture, and even origin (origin of the food). In this project, Stefaner and Jaschko worked together with a group of local chefs and data specialists to create dishes that depicted a variety of data. For example, happiness data was collected from various countries and represented as sweetness in a cupcake, where the amount of sugar correlated with the level of happiness in a country (the more sugar, the more happiness). Smog from various cities was condensed and put inside meringues, so that participants in the workshop were able to taste the smog from these cities and gauge which cities had greater amounts of smog. Other interesting parts of the project include depiction of emigration through sectioning of a filet of a fish and giving each section a flavor specific to the place people from Spain moved to, before and after science cuts in Spain being depicted through texture of cake and also the process in which the cake was made (after science cuts cake used older methods of baking to make a statement that without science, society cannot progress), recording the trends in foreigners immigrating to Helsinki through varying levels of different spices from left to right of a slice of lasagna (Stefaner describes that a participant can actually eat their way through time, which I found amusing), and the depiction of poverty in a can of sardines.
Something that I found memorable when Stefaner talks about the project is when he uses the term “real-time foodification” when describing this process of expressing real-time data in food. I also thought it was interesting when Stefaner says that there is no such thing as “just food”. He really brought to my attention that food speaks measures about the origin of certain individuals, their identities, their culture, their health habits, and their lifestyles, which I found very eye opening. I’ve been thinking about food a lot more lately, as I’ve been trying to learn to cook now that I’m off my CMU meal plan, and I’ve been finding that I am more compelled to make dishes that my mom would usually prepare. I find that certain spices, textures, and combinations of food are specific to South Indian cuisine, and I feel like holding onto these recipes allow me to hold onto my roots (which I feel like I’ve started to value more while being away from home and having such control over what I eat). When Stefaner says that certain foods have the ability to take you somewhere, I understood what this meant, as I’ve recently been thinking about how certain combinations of ingredients (even though they might not come together exactly the way my mom put them together) brought me back home.
Kyle McDonald is an artist who works with code. He’s based in Brooklyn, but has shown personal and collaborative work at exhibits and festivals around the world, and was formerly an artist in residence at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. I chose to write about McDonald because I admire him as both an artist and professional and how that carries over into how he presents and embodies his work. While his projects exhibit similarity in their themes, human interactions, artificial intelligence, computer vision, etc., there is an immense fluidity and refreshing inconsistency in the work he produces. The work is not tied to one medium, platform, or coding language which gives each project a sense of technological agnosticism, putting emphasis on the idea being explored. That being said, he also deals with immensely technically complex work, but never overemphasizes the technical aspect of each project. Much of McDonald’s work is presented rather casually, as short video snippets or in a humorous tone that always seems approachable, not arcane or pretentious. Through his work, you can see that he’s passionately curious, and his projects are explorations to develop an understanding of something new. Additionally, he’s a humble and inviting speaker whose energy is visible when he speaks. One project that I’m particularly fond of is Sharing Faces, which was a interactive video installation between two galleries in Korea and Japan. It’s a project that’s incredibly intuitive to interact with, uses a complex technology in a very subtle and downplayed way, and ultimately creates something so human and touching that playfully addresses lingering social tension between the two countries.