In June 2010, I travelled to Shanghai with students and faculty from Parsons Design and Technology MFA program. We stayed at the eARTS Center near the South Railway station where we organized an arts workshop for local college students. My group led a toy-hacking workshop. Using simple sensors and basic electronics we hacked various toys purchased downtown to create new uses and interactions without software or additional microcontrollers.
China floored me. It’s been a long-time goal of mine to travel there and it far exceeded expectations. Our trip coincided with World Cup Soccer and the World Expo. We watched live games at British pubs in the middle of the night and explored some interesting media art installations in and around the Shanghai Bund. We stumbled upon Phil Worthington’s Shadow Monsters in one small gallery. A larger exhibition featured Cao Guo-Qiang’s Peasant Da Vincis, in which he curated amazing contraptions built by outsider artists. The World Expo was exhaustive, but a few of the pavilions were beautifully executed—the UK pavilion in particular. Other highlights included exploring back alleys and side streets, locals arguing over the authenticity of my hair, an insanely massive electronics market, fantastically questionable street food, and a weekend trip south to the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.
A few grads from the department have been invited to present work at SASIC 9 in La Jolla this weekend at the Scripps Oceanic Institute. The 9th annual Surfing, Art, Science, and Issues Conference examines the relationship of science and art through one of its most cogent and unexpected points of contact: surfing. Originally started by Glenn Hening, co-founder of the Surfrider Foundation, this year’s conference was organized by The Modeling Agency.
One of our professors, Peter Lunenfeld, will present “Gidget on the Couch: Freud, Dora (No, Not that Dora), and Surfing’s Secret Austro-Hungarian Roots”; David Wicks will show some sweet new work where he floats an iPhone and an HD camera behind his surfboard; Mark Essen will show off his crazy new game for Adult Swim: PIPEDREAMZ; And I’m going to talk about sand crabs, reef squid, and a game I’m building where you use hypodermic harpoon dolphins, remora bombs, and suicidal dogfish to defend the west coast from nuke-toating elephant seals, leatherback sea turtles, and juvenile white sharks.
The highlight of the weekend is a morning surf session where we get to test ride experimental wave craft. I’m excited about this one.
[update] The conference was amazing, and even more important, I had my first real ride on a long board—not just pushed by whitewater, but actually carving across the face of a large, beautiful wave. Life-changing.
The second year DMA grads had their Fall Opening in the New Wight Gallery at UCLA this month. It’s gave a glimpse of what each of us is currently working on, and also gave us a healthy dose of this-is-what-you-need-to-go-through-to-put-on-a-big-show. It took some work, but thanks to helpful staff and a little luck the show came together nicely. We had a full opening and a long, but useful critique from the faculty the next day.
I ended up showing the Binary Glove since it was never formally shown in the program last year. A few days before the show I decided it was uncool to show only documentation—the best part is interacting with it. Unfortunately, it’s a prototype and not easy to put on or take off without breaking sensors. Next time I’ll build it better.
Instead, I went ahead and built a button interface with the same functionality as the glove. It’s a simple box with laser-cut plexi buttons. It actually uses the guts of the glove, but I swapped the FSRs for simple buttons and dropped a brighter LCD display in as well. It was fun to watch people interact with it. I learned a lot and will make changes the next time I show it. I’m hoping to take it to a local elementary school to see what the kids do with it.
Great work from my colleagues in the program. I’m really fortunate to share space with such talent. A few photos of the show at Flickr: I AM HERE NOW
Online voting has opened for FILE PRIX LUX. There are some pretty cool projects out there—including a nice piece by Eric Parren, an incoming grad to UCLA’s DMA program next year—so the Binary Glove can use all the support it can get. Voting is multi-step: unique email, skewed-letter entry, and confirmation email click… I guess it’s nice to know the contest won’t be spammed easily. VOTE HERE!
David Wicks and I installed our show this last week. Things were strangely relaxed leading up to the opening. We had a few surprises, but in the end everything clicked. We were fortunate to share the evening with a great fine art MFA exhibition across the way, so we got a lot of cross traffic. Trace was reinstalled on the lawn out by the Richard Serra sculpture. The sound was distant enough to create a nice ambience, and it was particularly enjoyable to watch a lot more people interact with it. Some even sat among the plates and relaxed.
I had two other pieces in the show. A small series of altered photos from Havasupai that highlight the impact humans have on the canyon and a projected particle installation with motion and interaction inspired by reef squid. We served dried squid, but had to place it outside because it was smelling up the place. (tasty)
David created a particle projection using Cinder—the latest and greatest open source C++ library. He also had a sculptural piece called Tamerisk that explores the role of salt and fault lines in the desert, his Portable Forest, a jacket that generates natural sounds the more you zip it up, and some amazing work from his site Time Spent Alone.
Many thanks to all who attended and to the department for opening up the space for us to use. It was memorable evening. I’ll post additional photos and documentation of the work soon.
The Binary Glove has been nominated as a final jury selection in FILE PRIX LUX as part of FILE — an international electronic languages festival in Sao Paulo. The glove is one of 23 finalists in the Digital Language category. A jury will award prizes to 7 of the finalists—one of which can be decided by popular vote online starting May 3rd. Check them out, and if you like it better than the others, give a vote!
[update] The glove didn’t win, but many thanks to all who voted. Check out the winners.
I attended the first Los Angeles Unified School District Media Arts Salon this weekend. Dain Olsen organized the event and brought ~40 educators and professionals together to discuss the future of media arts as a new discipline in k-12 education. There were some obvious differences in opinion, but overall a lot of progress was made. I presented a short summary of my own opinions along with a few of my current projects. It seemed well received though I fear the binary glove may have come across as a bit too technical. Hopefully the meeting will lead to future collaborations with LAUSD and the other groups represented at the salon.
It was encouraging to meet so many engaged in preserving the arts as a discipline while at the same time acknowledging the shift in the mediums we use to express them. The way we communicate has changed drastically in the last 10 to 20 years. Education must evolve with it. Our kids are already out-pacing us outside of their school curriculums. Media arts shouldn’t replace existing disciplines but should be more central in the conversation of learning. At their core lies a unique power to engage minds, teach creative problem solving, and create meaning making—thus enhancing the learning process of any discipline.
“We are beginning to realize that the new media aren’t just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression.” –Marshall McLuhan, 1960