Category Archives: Blog Post

Up the Creek / Under the Cloud Exhibition, University of Sunderland

UP THE CREEK / UNDER THE CLOUD was a participatory exhibition that showcased two new artworks by Victoria Bradbury and Alexia Mellor.  The show was produced by Into Practice member Victoria Bradbury on the 20th and 21st of January at the University of Sunderland Shaun Project Space and Showcase Space.  Bradbury showed her new work, Data Raft, while Newcastle-based artist Alexia Mellor presented Quilting Code, a new work in progress.   Each of these emerging pieces explored ideas of data and code through hand and automated embroidery.  Attendees were invited to contribute to a code-quilt or print custom sails based on their personal and public data.

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Bradbury’s Data Raft explored concepts of data privacy and code performativity through individually constructed stick rafts.  Each raft was paired with a custom sail designed from participant-volunteered metadata, then floated on one of the in-gallery ponds.

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Mellor’s Quilting Code explored cloud data and top search results through the design of embroidered custom codes.  The piece searches for ways to represent and preserve relevant data through an intertwining of the traditional medium of the quilting bee and the Internet. Mellor is a visual artist and Director of Participatory Programming at NewBridge Project Space, Newcastle.
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The artists spoke about their projects and previous works at an artist presentation on Monday the 20th.  The talk was attended by Sunderland students as well as artists and curators based in Newcastle and Sunderland. Students from both Sunderland Uni and Newcastle Uni volunteered as artist assistants during the exhibition period.

Into Practice Inaugural Event Feedback and Reflection

Last week, Into Practice launched our first event at ISIS arts in Newcastle.  The event was an opportunity to share what the emerging group is setting out to accomplish, and to share with local practitioners some of the resources that we encountered while in Sydney in June.

At the event, Suzy launched with her presentation around organisations, curators, and artists that work between commercial and art sectors.  Marialaura followed, discussing her work with Or-bits.com and hybrid contexts online and offline.  Victoria discussed the practicalities of creating work that moves between code and object-making and how these modes inform and shape a final work.  Dominic wrapped up the discussion with historic examples of networked platforms and how Into Practice and similar groups can extend the online dialogue in a hybrid context.

The straightforward mode of sharing with other artists and curators about how we make art happen, through specific examples, was useful to those in attendance, who suggested that this event could be taken further with more sharing of resources of future developing projects.  We received positive feedback from the attendees, who offered a great deal of energy behind the intent of the group: to share practice through practice.  Ideas were exchanged for future events and outlets where various types of initiatives could be tested and implemented.

Into Practice is now planning our next event at Banner Repeater in London on November 16th.  This will be a book sprint in which distributed participants from within and outside the art ecology will be invited to contribute, either at Banner Repeater or remotely, their inside practical knowledge to the book. Taking many forms, from diagrams to diaristic writing and from visuals to code, the book will come together by the closing of the event which will also be open to Banner Repeater’s audience. The book is the event and the event is the book.  More information will be forthcoming as the event approaches…

 

Into Practice_Sharing Session @ ISIS

When: Tuesday,  24 Sept 6 – 7pm
Venue: ISIS Arts, First Floor, 5 Charlotte Square,
 Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4XF

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Into Practice is a collective of UK-based artists, curators and researchers that exists to support professional practice within the field of contemporary art and evolving technology by creating space for informal, open dialogue and critical discussion among practitioners.

We are delighted to invite you to our inaugural Sharing Session, hosted by ISIS Arts on Tuesday 24 September 6 – 7pm, where Victoria Bradbury, Marialaura Ghidini, Suzy O’Hara and Dominic Smith will briefly present Into Practice and key themes related to their personal practice and research.

The presentations will end with an open discussion about the group’s recent trip to ISEA 2013, gaining access to new networks and the possibility of creating a regional support network for contemporary art practitioners who work with new technologies and new distribution platforms.

Ghidini will present her curatorial work online, briefly outlining some key projects she has recently worked on. She will then open the presentation to discussing the idea of hybrid curatorial practices bringing in examples of other curator’s projects as well as encouraging attendees to propose examples from their own experience.

Bradbury will discuss technologies that she uses in her multimedia art practice including code, interactive installation, and handmade objects. She will then broaden the discussion to technologies that other artists employ in various contexts.

O’Hara will present current models and approaches for collaborative practice between the Digital, Creative industries and Arts sectors. Drawing examples from her own practice and the wider field, she will encourage participants to share their own experiences and insights.

Smith will talk about networked platforms for dissemination of artwork and their historical precedents. He will be sharing his current research and practice as it relates to how artists can create meaningful work for digital platforms.

The Sharing Session is an opportunity for actively engaged cultural practitioners to participate in an informal, open dialogue centered around learning from each others practice.

This event is free but space is limited. Please RSVP by Friday 20 September to hello@intopractice.com Drinks and nibbles will be available.

intopractice.com
http://www.isisarts.org.uk/

 

ISEA an update

Just to give you a brief update and heads up.

The team managed to get a few good blog posts in before the main conference and then a few things happened. Firstly, we hit the broadband limit in the house we were all staying in, crazy I know. But I suppose thats what happens when you put 5 new media types in one space with laptops, phones and tablets, we used it all up by the second day and were then throttled down to what seemed to be a crazy 2.2 kbps. Which is not enough to even send email. Also, we then hit the main ISEA conference which was followed by openings and meetings etc. I know what you are thinking, poor us right? Well following what seems to have been a months worth of jet lag and other activity (a good part of the team have been at Run Computer Run in Dublin since our return) We are getting our heads together to get some more posts online and plan for some exciting public facing activity in the near future

ISEA 2013 – 10 June – Dominic

Yesterday I caught lectures at the Museum of Modern Art, caught the Jess Wall show and then took in the Rocks Pop-Up exhibitions

Nostalgia of the new

Kate Richards and Ross Gibson spoke about a project Unhomely and  Life after wartime . I caught Unhomely later on that night as part of the pop up shows.

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Unhomely – ISEA 2013

Key words and phrases: Personal Aesthetic, Poetic gaps in knowledge, Location lends traction, Fuzzy logic.

Tom Ellard took an ‘engaging rant’ strategy to say he did not understand at which point things are classed as old.

Key words and phrases: Media Ghosts, Veneration through media containers, Skeuomorphic interfaces.

Lucas Abela titled his talk “Back to the arcade”. He spoke about his projects which looked like crazy amounts of fun to engage with. Vinyl rally in particular. I wold love to bring this work to the Northeast (UK).

Key words and phrases: Aesthetic of play

Vinyl Rally @ Supersonic 2012 – build + noise! from Tinnitus Jukebox on Vimeo.

Distributed Enablers of the new grid

Andrew Burrell Said he was on a ‘Subjective Trajectory’ and he was.

Thea Baumann This had to be the best presentation so far. I need to follow this up with more text than I have time for at present. But go to her site and read up on Metaverse Makeovers. Very impressed.

Keith Armstrong Long time no see 

Key words and phrases: Fast Networks, NBN, Walkshop, Fieldbook

Space and Architecture

Lots to add on this one, but it is probably best to leave a trail of links to the various projects that were discussed:

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Favourite word of the day: Uglify 

Day 2

Day two was spent getting more familiar with the wider city of Sydney, attending the Gesure Sound and Place workshop with Mark Pedersen and Roger Alsop and meeting Judith Doyle.

Image Credit Brigid Burke

Image Credit Brigid Burke

Having spent over an hour pounding the streets of Sydney, I arrived a the workshop late (having gotten off at the wrong bus stop and getting hopelessly lost around University of Sydney’s huge city centre campus) and a little frazzled. So it was an unexpected surprise to enter a room with a large dome and a group of deeply engaged, open (and very welcoming, despite my tardiness) people discussing a new work by Mark. The work primarily explores how people engage with sound trough active engagement with gestures, using a WII connect. While there are images that are projected on the white dome, these were seen as secondary to the artist, being used only to capture the attention long enough to realise they are experiencing a sound experience.  Thinking about how people behave – indeed need to behave in this work (waving arms about etc) led to an interesting conversation around audience expectation and how far, as an artist using interactive tools, you need to direct and prescribe activity in the space. This reminded me of Victoria’s interactive piece, Witch Pricker, being shown in my recently opened exhibition, Dear Angel, at Globe Gallery where we had very similar conversations about how much we needed to walk people through the experience and how much should be left to the audience to figure out through engagement.

The conversation continued with Judith Doyle talking about her work Gesture Cloud (http://vimeo.com/67425782) which is also exploring the Wii connect as a tool for exploring gesture. We moved into the realm of digital performativity in art and art history with great references made to people like Stelarc (whose talk I missed to come to this workshop) and Vera Frankel

Opening Party was a fun affair kicked off with a performance by Mark Hosler from Negativland. I

Victoria checking out Eric Siu's new work

Victoria checking out Eric Siu’s new work

spoke to some good folk but key highlights include Victoria checking out the work of Eric Siu and his work Touchy I also had a great chat with Dave Colangelo from Yeates School of Graduate Studies in Toronto, about audience development and delivering projects for a suburban audience. Need to find out more about what he’s up to. And finally Tara Morelo, Director of d/Lux/Media Art who I have hopefully convinced to come to the UK and visit the North East! We talked a lot about how communities engage with digital media artists and the current ‘portforlio’ approaches of arts organizations in Australia to loosing their funding (d/Lux recently lost their regular Arts Council grant)…a conversation being had the world over it seems.

Sydney Opera House, Vivid Festival 13

Sydney Opera House, Vivid Festival 13

The rest of the evening was spent on waiting for the ferry to bring us back to Balmain and checking out the impressive projects onto the Harbour for one of the final nights of Vivid, an international light festival that has delighted audiences for the past 20 days. The artist talks programme that has run throughout this first weekend were part of this festival.

 

Victoria – Sunday June 9

Installation with face detection by Isobel Knowles

I was taken aback when I first spotted Isobel Knowles installation in the George Street gallery because this form, with the head-hole peep-holes, Victorian influenced construction and push-button interface was resonant not only with installations I have done before,

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Instructions inside the box.

(see Midway Projections for example), but with countless sketchbook scrawlings considering the idea of faces being swapped and inserted into animations in a similar format, and dreams of building more filigreed boxes in which people can stick their heads.

Knowles piece is beautifully constructed as an object, with laser-cut overlaid panels, attention to detail from the bench upholstery, height of the interface, distance of the participants, and location of the headphones. 

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My face in the animation

The inside is considered with side-mounted lights, instructions on the bottom inside of the box, and angled holes at the sides that allow others from outside to see in and even photograph the two screens in front of the participants’ faces. When two people are seated at the bench, their faces are placed behind masks of animated figures as they move through an animated world.

I have to admit that my patience for sitting with the animation to determine if the narrative played out was limited. The most memorable scene is of the two figures on a bus ride, a man and a woman, with the participants faces, irrespective of gender, placed on the animations. It can be quite comical if the genders are switched or other gender-play combinations take place. In my own participatory work,

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Participants looking into the box

I try to create a fairly clear-cut moment that can be experienced, then moved away from for another participant to watch or get involved. Perhaps Knowles was doing the same here, though how long someone “should” sit with the piece, whether there was a beginning or end, was unclear.  But again, this could either reflect the intention of the piece, or my lack of interest/patience with linear story-telling reflected back.

Lucas Abela’s – Temple of Din (Audio Arcade Project) in the Nostalgia of the New panel, MCA

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Lucas Abela’s Vinyl Rally

Abela’s presentation helped me to continue a train of thought I have been having about clarity of interface in participatory works.

Abella, who has a noise music background, talked about his pieceVinyl Rally, which is set up with an arcade driving game interface, and his work, Pinball Piano, which uses a pinball/piano interface.  All of these are things that people already know how to approach, already know what to do with, and the artist seems to see this as a useful way to immediately bring people in to the work and keep them engaged.  There is no learning curve with the objects.

In many of my own works, the interface isn’t something that people are accustomed to encountering in games or in computing.  In Witch Pricker, there is a pin, with a series of sculptural strawberries to poke.  This is unlike keyboards, screens levers, buttons, or mice that people are accustomed to using when they approach an interactive experience.

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Witch Pricker strawberry poke, participatory work by Victoria Bradbury, Globe Gallery, 2013

Is clarity of interface important? What do readers think? Can an interface be unique, something never approached before, and still be clear enough for a user to have a valuable experience?

Abela also considers viewer competition in his works, thinking about how much and if the participants competing.  He said that people weren’t that interested when the installations were set up as a competition  He thought they would be interested In competition but they were not.  This is useful information and could also be considered in the context of my Witch Pricker installation because there could be a competitive element among participants or among oneself to see how many witches are found (or how many chocolates are obtained)!

…And I saw Stelarc (x2)

Stelarc x 2

Stelarc x 2

Day 1 Saturday 9 June

After 24 hours of travelling, we arrive in Sydney! We are staying at a really lovely family home in the trendy Balmain, found through a site called Air BnB

Having taken the ferry across the harbour and taking in the first sights of the Oprah House, day 1 was spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art for a programme of talks that are part of the Vivid Festival 

The first talk of the day was ‘Mapping Culture – Fee Plumley, Kate Chapman, Brenda L Croft & Cheryl L’Hirondelle’

Fee Plumley hosted the panel that explored the notion of mapping culture and presented three different female presenters engaged in different approaches to mapping.

Kate Chapman shared her international work around Open Street Map an open source, wiki based international mapping project where the creators work with local communities to map local emergency amenities and facilities to assist with disaster planning. She raised some really interesting issues relating to trying to creating recognizable symbols and icons that would work on maps and be understood internationally. The upshot being its really very difficult as there are so many different images and understandings across different cultures. Thus the importance to work locally and empower the local communities to make, update and upkeep the map, giving them ownership. ‘Giving maps back to everyone’ is a key mission of the project.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle talked about her sonic, song based approach to mapping the homeless culture she experienced in Vancouver. The project was called Vancouver Song Lines and an online element in terms of an interactive website and a live element – where she paid participants (who were homeless) to hear her sing.

This was a ‘life time project’ a term coined by Brenda L Croft is a Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra artist whose practice is engaged with exploring Aboriginal heritage in contemporary Australia. She talked passionately about her projects that involved her family as collaborators and participants.

The Aboriginal Heritage was a key theme to run throughout the day, with a fantastic live performance at Carraigeworks where the launch of ISEA featured a welcome ceremony that established the cultural protocols required for being on Aboriginal land.  The strength of law, ritual and customs were enacted in a corroberee of custodians to the greater Sydney region and Torres Strait Islander visitors.

Next up was Genevieve Bell, an Australian anthropologist and researcher and the director of Intel Corporation‘s Interaction and Experience Research. Her talk was an inspiring and informative exploration and unpacking of the phrase Big Data and how data is only made interesting by the stories that contextualize it. Having asked us to accept that Data can be something with needs, she laid out 10 top things it would want, with quirky and witty titles…

  • Data keeps it Real – that not all data is digital and does not need to be. That Data can function best when physical.
  • Data loves a good relationship – that when viewed in isolation. a data set can be difficult to understand.
  • Data would like a better network than it currently has. The current network being generally unstable and the quality is not always dependable. The variation of both of these factors varying widely from country to country.
  • Data is feral – or would like to be. Data produces data which will produce more data that might want to break free of imposed constraints and reproduce of its own accord.
  • Data has responsibilities – that certain data is ‘deeply inside social obligations’ and bears the weight of having to be used appropriately, within the context of justice and honor.
  • Data keeps it messy – that data implies a sense of order that may be misleading (she name checked Lee Star here)
  • Data likes to look good – that data can be one of two things – what we are doing and what we would like people to think we are doing. Often these two things are not the same.
  • Data does not last forever – more and more apps and tools are coming onto the market such as Snap Chat – that only last for a limited period of time and creates and then destroys data once the experience has been had and its usefulness is over. Disintegration of data.
  • There is always new data – through the rapid rise of both people and civic infrastructure (traffic lights, cameras etc) in everyday life, new data is constantly being produced.

Highlighting an important issue around the perception that if you have more data you have more truth, Bell questioned what was so compelling about this idea of a single monolithic truth with a capital T. Truth that has a perception of being stable, controllable and regulateable, when there has been over 40 years of social humanity research that has unpacked this truth and come to the conclusion that there are many truths.

She talked about the way organisations and governments are trying to make sense of big data sets using algorithms that embed assumptions about collated data that can mask true readings.

The final talk of the day by Paolo Cirio Alessandro Ludovico was simply put, amazing. They talked about their ‘hack trilogy’ of projects, Face to Facebook, Google will eat itself and Amazon (Amazon Noir)

 

Victoria-SPATIO-TEMPORAL ANOMALIES Workshop

On our first day in Sydney, I attended the Spatio Temporal Anomalies Workshop, held at the University of Technology‘s Bon Marche Building’s digital media lab Studio 2.  The workhop was led by Nick Wishart of Toy Death and artist FMGrande.

In the morning, Nick talked about Toy Death and his history of hacking toys and circuit bending. Toy Death is an “All toy circuit bent band”. The 3 members take a DIY approach to their “Toy Aesthetic”, dress up as toys and play self-bent instruments.

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They have performed in Australia and internationally.  After Nick discussed his work, he demonstrated circuit bending and the participants had the ability to solder together push-button sensors. I decided to delve into hacking a toy, which was a successful experiment all day, until the very end of the day when I fried the device!

There were four other participants in the workshop.  One was Rachael Priddel, an emerging artist from Sydney who has just completed a master in interactive art. She did her undergraduate degree in New Media art at the UTS. Rachel is very knowledgable about all things Sydney New Media. I was able to speak to her more at the evening ISEA opening event.  Also participating in the workshop was a faculty member at Arizona State in Tempe. His work and teaching are in the realm of sound art.  He is originally Norwegian, but I didn’t get his name (must find out as I often visit Arizona!). Another of the workshop participants was studying an “honors” (a form of master’s degree here) program in interactive art. She has a background in textile design and fiber arts and was wearing a garment that she has worn for 10 months straight, embroidering something on it every day!


Circuit Bending at Spatio Temporal Anomolies Workshop, ISEA 2013 from Victoria Bradbury.

In the afternoon, Nick talked with me about what he called a “circuit bender’s tour of the US” that he undertook, visiting circuit benders and hackerspaces in Troy New York, Detroit, and Columbus Ohio. He was most excited about the size of some of the warehouse spaces that the American hackers living in post-industrial cities had access to in order to do their work.  The tour began with a Toy Death performance in a storefront window in Manhattan.

FMGrande

FMGrande

FMGrande discussed his own work, then demonstrated VDMX software in conjunction with iCube_X sensors, an approach to interactivity using a pre-built sensor model rather than creating one’s own sensors with arduino or rasberry pi.  His experience was that these sensors are very robust in an installation context and they stand up to a lot of abuse, but they are quite expensive!  They offer a usb, a wi-fi, and a bluetooth interface, and the sensor kit includes a glove with flex sensors, laser sensors, touch and pressure sensors, light sensors (all of your normal go-to inputs).  The kit seems useful as a time-saving measure over creating/building your own sensors if there is a quick turn-around time on an installation project.

iCube-X Laser sensor

iCube-X Laser sensor

FMGrande mentioned that, during one installation of his, the bluetooth interface gave up after only a few minutes of the opening of the show and he spent four days trying to get the piece working again.  The pitfalls of NMA installation! I think that every artist runs into these snags.  The iCube-X sensors would be something to consider if a project was well-funded and the time frame for production was short, or the scale too large to make the sensors oneself.

The laser sensor interested me the most as I have not worked with lasers before and remember a piece from GH Hovagnym’s artist talk at ISIS arts in Newcastle that used lasers to create a room-scale immersive environment that reminds viewers of being inside of a video game. The piece was early for laser technology in an art context, 2001.

Shooter – G.H. Hovagimyan & Peter Sinclair, 2001 installation view Eyebebeam Atelier. photo: G.H. Hovagimyan

After the workshops, I walked from the UTS to Carriageworks, where the ISEA opening celebration was being held.  There I was able to catch up with Sarah, Marialaura, Dominic and Suzy from CRUMB and meet some of the other delegates to the conference, as well as catch up with old friends and contacts.  I saw Fei Jun, my friend from CAFA in Beijing, who I didn’t expect to meet in Sydney.  I also caught up with Ian Mcarthur and Brad Miller from COFA in Sydney, who I had met in Beijing in the Fall of 2012.  These two artists are presenting the Running the City exhibition at COFA.  I met for the first time Andrea Polli from Sante Fe, Toronto-based artist Peter Fleming, Canadian artist Judith Doyle and Naomi Lamb.

Ryoji Ikeda with Suzy O'Hara

Ryoji Ikeda with Suzy O’Hara

I had my first in-person experience of a Ryoji Ikeda installation at Carriageworks.

Image - Ryoji Ikeda - Test Pattern [No 5]

ISEA – Saturday 9th – Dominic

Saturday

So, in my currently jet lagged state I am going to try and avoid a long steam of consciousness and share the highlights of my first day at Isea. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I will come back to this post and flesh it out with more context and personal interpretation. But I think it is valuable to share this as it is happening (or as close as I can get to the events).

MAPPING CULTURE

Fee Plumley Chaired a discussion on Mapping Culture which included Kate Chapman, Brenda L Croft and Cheryl L’Hirondelle:

First to speak was Kate chapman from open street map. She spoke about mapping cultures. To Paraphrase:

Maps are abstracts of realities (to state the obvious) and in that abstraction you can choose what to add and importantly also what not to add. When creating a map we chose the symbology for the world. Which leads to interesting questions about how you make a map that has community ownership.

She was followed by Chery L’Hirondelle who spoke about other types of map. Maps that could not be used to disenfranchise people. Cheryl spoke about about how she reflected upon her Cree heritage in relation to her working methods.

She discussed a project she had developed vancouversonglines.ca. One particularly striking thing she did as part of this project was to pay homeless people to listen to her sing.

Back to what not to add to a map. The song lines project constructs a map that does not identify the locations of the people who participated, go to the site, have a go. Chery discussed the risks associated with identifying the location of vulnerable people, particularly those considered undesirable by the state. She discussed songliness as a poetic response to mapping.

The third speaker was Brenda L. Croft who spoke of her heritage and walking along tradition routes had empowered people. (sorry to be so brief on this one, I had to head out early for another event and was still getting my bearings in a new city i.e. I was looking at a map!)

THE MIGRATION OF AURA

I then made tracks across the city to Sydney university for a presentation by Dr Sarah Kenderdine titled “The Migration of Aura: Inhabiting The Caves“.

The first slide was titled Facsimile & Fecundity. Which, is a great opening title for any talk. What she was actually talking about is the fact that digitisation can produce weak copies, asking how an objects aura can be migrated.

This was followed by a number of great examples, the primary one being The installations Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang and Pure Land: Augmented Reality Edition allow visitors to interact with an augmented digital facsimile of Cave 220 at one-to-one scale.

I am conscious that I’m being too brief in this post to do any of this day any justice. But the subject of aura is something that I keep coming back to in my own research. I have worked in museums in the past and maintain an interest in heritage, particularly looking at how we mediate aura and place value upon its shared experience. However, this interest is not limited to heritage, it is something that concerns me in a curatorial capacity. I will come back to this later..

One other thing worth sharing is the iShoU system for gathering audience data. Kenderdine described it as being part of the future of evaluation, a system for gathering quantitative data on qualitative experience. Very interesting.

RUNNING THE CITY

Following this I hightailed it over to the opening for Running the city which I need to go see again whilst in a more lucid state (by this point in the day the conflicting combination of jet lag and expresso was at play), the work was shown in a few spaces around the courtyard at the College Of Fine Arts.

TEST PATTERN [No 5]

I ended my day at Carriageworks for the opening night, catching Ryoji Ikeda’s Test Pattern [No 5] installation in the process. On a purely subjective note, test pattern [no 5] brought back some memories. I often joke that I am one of the worlds first genuine ‘digital natives’ having grown up in the back room of a computer games shop in the 80’s. This was an early moment in micro computing when data was loaded into the computer’s RAM via cassette. In the really early days there were no effective compression algorithms. So, even the simplest of programs could take over 30 minutes to load. Then as we became a bit more sophisticated and the industry grew in complexity we began to compress our code, at this point in time I swear, it began to sound different (when you pressed play on tape). Ikeda’s exquisite use of data was a reminder of this, the squeal of code and the first mass data visualisation, the loading lines. .