Posted on 2015-04-22
This year again, I traveled to Belgrade to attend the Resonate presentations. Since I have been working solely with my technical skills for almost two years now, it felt good to bask in a creative environment again. That event offers way more presentations and content than one can discover, but that is also good. Here are some of the talks that struck a chord with me.
This photographer modified scanner lenses to be able to take photos over time rather than only as a snapshot of one moment. It was quite interesting to hear this guy–who seemed more comfortable behind a camera than on the stage–speak about his experience.
With art, I am usually more interested in the "how" rather than the "why", so Magyar's talk was perfect. He touched on how using the vertical scan lines where all making the people in the pictures go right. In another context, he explained how he created a light sensor to detect the light fluctuations frequencies to correct the photo lighting afterwards.
Stefanie is the perfect example of what we do not do enough in creative technology: create with technology, but not in a way that requires technology to showcase creations. Even though she works with data and data visualization, she works a lot with pen and pencil, writing and illustrating her work by hand. She had what she called "a designer's infographic fatigue", where she said she was tired of the same old dataviz images that we see often in news and blogs.
For one of her works, she analyzed a couple's interaction on Facebook (posts, reactions to posts, likes, mentions, etc.) and used that data to create two-step dance instructions. Those instructions were cut out of vinyl and placed on the floor in Facebook's offices. She even had a cute video of her and her husband going through those steps.
McCarthy started with an interesting premise: while we may be quite good with our coding and maybe even arting–I know it's not a word, but I stand by it–skills, our relationship skills may not be at the same level.
She explained how she went to create some tools and apps to help her meet people, but also as a support for some performance pieces. Although, at some point I was confused about which was real and which was performance. Then again, performance has always had that logic behind it.
In this current period where Facebook experimented with people's emotions, she found a way where users could harness this situation: she created the FB Mood Manipulator, a plugin with which users could choose the type of emotions they want to see published on their Facebook wall.
Playmodes surprised me with their works. Although they come from a techno-ish VJ background–which doesn't reach me much–, they worked on quite interesting projects.
As a previous colleague of mine once said, "Projection mapping is the Coldplay of interactive works." Even though it is quite popular, it can quickly become tacky and repetitive. In this one case though, Playmodes used it in a totally charming way: they set up a permanent projection mapping inside a church to display what art it once showcased.
As their slides went on, I realized I attended one of their live installations at LLUM BCN 2015, while I was living in Barcelona last winter. I was simply walking around the events and installations when I ended up in this dead end behind the Catedral de Barcelona. There were balloons and generated low frequencies. And then a performance of colors and noises started, and you would get lost into the ambiance. When I attended the performance the second day, for some reasons the balloons were free. Somehow it made it even better, since these balloons then acted more as a screen.
Glynn's presentation was a beautiful showcase of his many works in which he explored how machines develop behaviours and personalities when people interact with them. His presentation was dense and filled with beautiful pictures and interesting anecdotes about the works and their creation.
The piece onto which he is currently working made quite an impression on me, because it's simple, complex and also a bit absurd in its hopes. Glynn started using sensors to detect plants' reactions and "behaviour." His plan is to house plants in the middle of a huge geodesic dome, and allow the plants to move about by themselves according to the data obtained from sensors. And it might just work!
Sitraka's work and research totally struck a chord with me: he explores how science-fiction works fuel research and development. He presented some interesting inspiration, here are two that really touched me.
The Heider-Simmel Illusion, in which totally abstract shapes move about on screen. Most if not all watchers tend to anthropomorphize those shapes and their movements as behaviour towards one another.
He also presented an eerily accurate depiction of our contemporary world from a TV report back in the 40s: La télévision, l'oeil de demain. People walk around staring at their portable devices, exactly like what we see today! I guess some people had good foresight. That video is somewhat judgemental at times, because we all know that all this technology is making us antisocial.
He quickly presented us some other outrageous futuristic predictions from old magazines and artists and then moved onto some of his works. Sometimes they were actual functioning mechanical or tech art pieces, while at other times many pieces were make-believe. I think that this is just pure genius! In this world were so many artists are including tech for real in all facets of their work, some good old fakery for the sake of art is just good.
Obviously, there were more talks, some that I saw and some others I missed. For example, only now that I am looking into the programme again, I notice that Yuri Landman, and experimental luthier, was there. As you may know, I am a guitar player, so this is totally something that would have interested me.
There are some things that would have improved my overall experience. First would be to add better wifi access to the venues. Many attendees are foreigners for whom roaming is expensive, so this was somewhat annoying at times. I understand it's also good for us attendees to pay more attention to the presentations, however nowadays it's just normal for events to provide wifi access.
I also believe that Resonate should create a mobile app of their site. The site itself is not light, and if you couple that with the point above, this is an additional annoyance. There are paper programmes, but the description is split from the schedule and you end up missing out some pieces. I would suggest to combine all these in an app, many events do it. I am convinced that with the amount of technologists present at those event, the organisation could easily find a way to build one. At worse if they can't, they should provide a PDF for the printed programme that includes descriptions.
Finally, I think that we ourselves as technologists and/or artists should be careful when we provide as description of our work and our practice, because this is quickly what happens:
"We're exploring the intersection between art and technology" - everyone ever.
— Natalie Sun (@onattyso) April 13, 2015
Overall I loved the event, loved the city and probably would go again!