Friday, March 31, 2006

Asia Ward

Like most campuses, we have a small art gallery that shows a wide variety of work, ranging from installation to rock concert posters. I try to make it to as many shows as possible, and I'm usually not disappointed. The recent show, however, is quite good!

Titled Asia Ward - Interactive Sculptures, the exhibit features a collection of hand made stuffed animals, each with internal parts that move and make sound. All of the fabric and parts have been pirated from toys and stuffed animals found at flea markets.

Ward doesn't simply try to recreate stuffed toys that we're familiar with, like My Little Pony for example. Rather, she combines bits and pieces from many different sources to create a new being, one that is given some small amount of life from the simple electronics and mechanical gadgets that she places inside. All of them require some interaction in order for them to come to life, but some react in startling ways with their environments.

One of my favorites was titled "Lonestar" and it consists of a fish-like animal on a felt bed. When activated, Lonestar's chest moves (as if breathing) and it's eyes light up. When lifted slightly off the bed, it begins to flap its tail pretty rapidly, as if it is a fish out of water. This is achieved via a magnetic sensor that has a very small range (a few inches).

Other examples include a four legged creature that walks for a brief time, then stops until it senses a movement, then starts up again, a teddy bear that picks up (and plays through a small speaker) radio signlas when its head is moved backwards, a mole-like creature that honks like a pig and rolls its eyes when placed in bright light, and a turtle that also reacts to light.

Ward nearly fetishises these works, and consequently they are unfortunately displayed in locked boxes. She did demonstrate them to me yesterday, and they are really wonderful! She is aware of the dissonance of locking them away when they demand interaction, so there is a video running in part of the room in which all of the creatures are shown "alive". Ward is concerned about the longevity of the objects, and she mentioned many times that she expects them to outlive her.

Currently, she is working with the Minnesota Science museum to help develop "crickets", which are programmable chips. She has been increasingly frustrated with the limitations of the found electronics in many toys - while she's created chaotic situations for them, she'd like to exert more control over her beings (another theme that she mentioned a numer of times), and eventually she wants to have them interact and especially communicate with one another.

A really interesting exhibit!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Being Not Truthful

Ralph Ammer and Stefan Sagmeister have produced an interesting installation, recently premiered at the Austrian Cultural Forum in NYC called "Being Not Truthful."

A custom software program runs the installation, which features a camera and projector. When someone walks within the camera's vision, the spiderweb "sticks" to them and is torn. It quickly regenerates and waits for the next victim. On the installation website is a collection of stunning images, and a very interesting video. Check it out, as it shows some of the guts of the installation, how the software works, the setup, etc. Very cool!

What I like about this installation is the very neat and tidy interface. It is already an aesthetically pleasing visual image, but then to be able to give it fragility really helps contextualize the text. I wish that the image stayed torn a little longer, and that the rebuilding process took a bit longer (a bit more like a real spider is what I'm suggesting). To me, the fragility would be heightened further this way. Also - as with most interactive setups - it is extremely easy to overload the work! Toward the end of the video a bit of the opening is shown, and there is quite a crowd gathered around, trying to make it "go". The system was dutifully responding, but at a frantic pace!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Voicings 2006 - the Quatsi Trilogy

Tonight marks the first of three days celebrating Godfrey Reggio's Quatsi Trilogy, as part of the Voicings 2006 festival, put on by faculty member Mark Eden. Tonight's movie was Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out of Balance).

It has been a little while since I've seen this film (I must admit to owning all three on DVD). I eagerly anticipated seeing it on the "big screen", and I wasn't terribly dissapointed. The color was not quite as vivid as the DVD transfer, and the sound could have been better, but I really enjoyed the overall experience. The film itself is a bit disorganized, but effectively gets its message of dislocation across. My favorite moments include the 747 sequence (pictured above), the cloud sequence, and the empty apartment buildings. Seeing block after city block of empty apartments is stunning on many levels.

Tomorrow is Powaqatsi, and Wednesday is Naqoyqatsi and a talk by Reggio. I'll keep my loyal readers updated!

ps - updates on the way include SF MOMA, Aphex Twin and Meta Synth, and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics! Oh, and I might sneak in a plug for City Lights (perhaps the best bookstore in the world)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Word Up

No, I'm not referring to the title of Cameo's pop song, but rather an installation by New York artist Ben Rubin, permanently located in the new Minneapolis Public Library. As you can see it, it is comprised of two elevators. The outside wall of these elevators contain thousands of LED's that will project titles of books randomly chosen from the library's database. It could show recent acquisitions, books checked out, etc.

Quicktime Movie

This reminds me a bit of Jenny Holtzer's work (for example at the Guggenheim.

At it's heart, this installation reflects the evolving role of a library as a node in a larger network of information. This isn't the only artwork to be located in the library - there is also an installation built into the floor (but it is much less interesting). You can find out about it by clicking through some of the links on the libraries homepage.
Web Counter