The flickering, multi-colored lights of Shih Chieh Huang’s installation Synthetic Seduction, now on view at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, reminds me of the cellular and molecular models found in biology classrooms. When I was a student, one of the ways in which I learned about organic forms was by placing mitochondria, lysosomes, and nuclei in their correct locations in these models. Huang also re-creates life with synthetic, mundane materials, but with much more technical and mechanical sophistication. While Huang’s forms may not overtly mimic reality, his work serves as an interpretation of structures working in concert. Read the entire write-up here.
There’s nothing like spending a quiet night with a hot cup of tea and reading for pleasure! While the Rushkoff book is directly related to my research, it’s an easy and accessible read on a relatively complicated issue of programming and contemporary culture. I plan on finishing up Saturday afternoon. As for The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone, I’ve eyed this book since it came out and finally picked up with Program or Be Programmed. I’m a huge sucker for graphic novels and perused this one in particular since it is describes the history and current state of media. I’ll let you know how that one turns out. It looks great considering she covers topics from government outreach to journalism to fairness bias to the notion of objectivity. In any case, I wanted to throw something on the blog since I’ve been busy with work, school, and a few freelance projects (which I will be posting soon – hint: Asterisk SF’s next issue is the IDEA issue and a few curatorial contributions in the pipeline for a couple of larger art shows – fun times!).
All right, I should get going. It’s not even Friday, it’s EARLY Saturday morning! Eeeesh. Til next time!!
On San Francisco’s bustling, highly trafficked Market Street, the organization Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), is changing the face of arts and technology in a significant and dramatic way. Seeing a lack of representation in the digital arts movement accompanied by a profound interest in creating a space where such art could be seen, founder and Executive Director Josette Melchor created the nonprofit in 2009 in the midst of a financial crisis. Despite the downturn in the economy, Melchor dedicated her efforts to creating a space for both aspiring and established artists and creative technologists. From interactive artworks and data visualization to creative coding, this organization has become one of the most prominent spaces for arts and technology, fostering change and innovation not only regionally, but also internationally.
At its core, Gray Area works with established artists such as Aaron Koblin and Camille Utterback to expose the public to software-based works that are both interactive and immersive through various tools of technology, such as programming, coding and data visualization. Integrating audio- and sensory-based controls, the works you might experience at a GAFFTA exhibition or event undoubtedly showcase most ingenious and experimental uses of programming technology and how contemporary art is created. Even donations to Gray Area have been made into a work of art. The nationally recognized and award-winning work Seaquence is a virtual art piece intertwined with a participatory aspect where donors are given a gift in return: a musical life form. Resident artists Ryan Alexander, Gabriel Dunne and Daniel Massey co-created this interactive music platform, forming multifaceted art to dynamically and physically enable donors to see their contributions transform within a virtual environment, thus becoming part of an even larger visual- and music-based system. Gray Area artists, technologists and faculty are constantly forging radical new ways to bring the community into the creation and discussion of the work. Although the organization can easily boast its tremendous creative talent, the exceptionally skilled faculty aims to teach novice technologists within the community both technical and artistic skills such as programming and electronics. The goal is to draw different sets of curious minds into the discussion and progression, bridging the gaps between arts and technology.
Gray Area is particularly well known for weekend events called hack-a-thons, which gather creative professionals across multiple disciplines such as art, engineering, education, architecture, journalism and writing. These events facilitate the creation of mobile applications, with objectives such as fostering transparent communication between citizens and government officials. Hack-a-thon participants also produce conceptual artworks that transform public data into visually dynamic pieces. More recently, the nonprofit was awarded a $100,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to put toward the implementation of a National Data Canvas Project. According to Gray Area, “The project will distribute data-driven art in urban environments across the United States and will include a mobile application for public use. Utilizing data.gov, the project will allow the general public an enjoyable and engaging way to discover new information through artistic data visualization and interactivity.” Essentially, the project will allow for artists, designers and developers across the nation to create works in their own region based on creative coding assembled by the San Francisco–based Gray Area team.
Situated in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Gray Area wanted to take part in the overall revitalization of the neighborhood by bringing some the city’s brightest creative talent to the district to assist in affecting change. As this center takes on even more demanding and worthwhile projects, there is one particular initiative that is both notable and eye-opening. The Creative Currency: New Tools for a New Economy is the latest initiative seeking to bring community leaders and organizers, politicians, artists and technology professionals together to affect change within a community with their collective skills.
Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here to view
What if you could physically see and identify a person’s emotions through visible biofeedback? Or gauge a potential mate’s interest? How many times have you wanted to know what someone else was feeling? Growing up, it’s common to wonder what any of us might do with extra-sensory perception or abilities. Although there is no way to implant programs and download directly into our bodies or hardwire our brains (yet), creative technologists are constantly finding ways to work with how we learn and engage through game play. Aside from language, one of the defining features of human nature is the ability to express emotions and feelings. Whether it’s through our facial expressions to the tone and pitch of our voices, advancements in technology allow us to figure out ways to learn more about human interaction. Sensoree’s Galvanic Extimacy Responder (GER) may provide fascinating answers to many of the aforementioned questions. GER designer, Kristin Neidlinger, created a soft wearable device reflecting the mood of the wearer. Although taking the intimacy of emotions and offering up a tangible and experiential connection to others might seem playful and whimsical, it speaks to the human desire of connection. The Sensoree website provides a simple yet robust description of the GER,“The high collar, bowl positioned with LEDs reflects onto the self for instant biofeedback and acts as a tele-display or external blush for the other”.
Last Sunday, a group of eager game testers gathered at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco. Armed with anticipation, the testers included game designers, ZERO1 art ambassadors, developers, engineers, art patrons, avid gamers, artists, and creative technologists. The diverse range of participants resulted in a wide array of feedback for the Sensoree design team. With an affinity towards anything psychologically based, I opted to test Sensoree’s GER, which is defined specifically as the “sensor that detects excitement levels and translates mood into a palette of affective colors”. The game participants wore a large soft fabric ring that resembled a cowl neck scarf. The GER fabric was translucent enough to display soft colors with a corresponding emotion:
- Green = Zen | Peaceful | Placid
- Blue = Calm | Relaxed | Focused
- Purple = Inspired | Alert | Perked
- Pink = Excited | Aroused | Eager
- Red = Nervous | Delirious | In Love
- White = Nirvana | Bliss | Transcendent
Variations of game play included teams of approximately four individuals deciding on a particular emotion and eliciting that particular emotion for the team mate wearing the GER. At first, one of my teammates tried to make my scarf a steady red. Not so surprisingly, he asked me to imagine a very angry editor wanting changes to a work that took me quite some time to finish. Yes, it went straight to red. For the team challenge, I wore the GER and my teammates instructed me to close my eyes and imagine overtly serene landscapes (i.e., babbling brook, a quiet mountain side, etc.) while encouraging me to focus on my breath. Hoping this would translate into green lit GER, it took my team about ten minutes to have the GER emanate green and consistently keep me in a ‘zen, peaceful, and placid’ state. Yet, the GER works differently for each person. For SOMArts Gallery Director and Curator Justin Hoover, the GER was constantly lit at Blue with very seldom color changes. Later, the group learned he studied Martial Arts! Not too entirely sure what that says about me or my sweat glands other than I probably need to meditate a bit more to control my emotions! Either way, Sensoree’s GER had the entire group of testers discussing the overall design and objective of the GER, which seemed to provide Neidlinger and her team some useful information on how the GER might perform within a larger audience.
On our daily commutes, we see faces turned downward to phones and headphones or ear buds blocking out the sounds of the environment. Therein lies the conundrum of how we interact and evolve alongside rapidly changing technology. In looking at the intersections of art and technology, ZERO1’s biennial theme ‘Seeking Silicon Valley’ aims to showcase innovation emerging far beyond the physical region as well as deepen our understanding of cultures and sub-cultures on a global scale. Although the Galvanic Extimacy Responder (GER) may be based in technology, it necessitates and reminds us that human interaction is the catalyst for connection in our search for the meaning and understanding of Silicon Valley.
Originally posted to ZERO1, please view here