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2016 Lumen Prize Winner's Gala

CYLAND's Anna Frants interviews Carla Gannis

Anna Frants

Carla Gannis received The Lumen Prize 2016 Founder’s Award for the Selfie Drawings, a collection of 52 digital drawings completed over 52 weeks in which “the self” has been performed through drawing, augmented reality, and sharing on social networks.

Carla spoke to CYLAND MediaArtLab founder Anna Frants about the project, modern communications and her upcoming solo video exhibition in honor of the 10th anniversary of CYFEST.

Using 2D and 3D elements in my work, fragmenting the body, attaching it to, or intertwining it with digital augmentation devices all seem to be about my desire to express the state of existing simultaneously in virtual life and physical space — in symbiotic relationships with digital technology.

Q. How did the Selfie Drawings project begin?

I initially began making selfie drawings in January 2015. I was down South, as in the southern United States, where I’m originally from, visiting my family. One day while there I began making iPad drawings of my 99 year old grandmother, Pansy Mae. At some point, I stopped drawing, took a photo of her, and then took one of myself. I began to analyze her portrait, a “pre-digital” person born before women had the right to vote in the United States. I compared it to my “selfie,” one of a “post-digital” woman in her 40s who’s life had been recently upended by a break up and subsequent move to a new location in New York.

From there I quickly began to draw on my iPad the selfie I had taken. Over the course of a year I completed 52 digitally drawn selfies, a kind of hybridization of selfie photography and more traditional self portraiture. After I completed each drawing I would upload it to several social media platforms — begging the question is it a selfie if it is not uploaded to a network?

Q: How did its initial idea inform your creative process?

The drawings, as well as the expanded videos and AR narratives, are an inventory of how a self, both the physical and virtual body, can be perceived in the Digital Age. Using 2D and 3D elements in my work, fragmenting the body, attaching it to, or intertwining it with digital augmentation devices all seem to be about my desire to express the state of existing simultaneously in virtual life and physical space — in symbiotic relationships with digital technology.

Q. Your artist's statement emphasizes that, first and foremost, you’re a storyteller working with technology. What possibilities within digital narrative do you find so attractive?

I’ll begin with a quote by media theorist Janet Murray. “Not only is the computer the most capacious medium ever invented, but it also allows us to move around the narrative world, shifting from one perspective to another at our own initiative. Perhaps this ability to shift perspectives will lead to the technical innovation that will rival the Shakespearean soliloquy. … All of these story patterns would be ways of enacting the contemporary human struggle to both affirm and transcend our own limited point of view.” Hamlet on the Holodeck (1997)

One of the most compelling (and sometimes daunting) aspects of digital narrative is how it can traverse electronic pathways and physical spaces in more adaptive ways than traditional mono mediums. For instance, in “The Selfie Drawings” project I began with digital drawings that I then translated into videos and interactive augmented reality works — from print to projection to screen. I have shared these works on social networks and in online exhibitions, as well as in physical galleries and media centers. Each iteration and locality provides a different emotional and cerebral context for the subject matter.

It’s no longer IRL vs URL; real world vs “Second Life;” metaverse or meatspace. It’s all “real life” now, and artists and storytellers have always been very good at reflecting on and teasing out the most intriguing parts of life.

Q: What can an artist gain from modern communications and social media?

There are challenges in trying to express oneself amidst a cacophony of media channels. More and more artists, like myself, are learning to use social networks as platforms for transdisciplinary expanded art action. It is important to harness electronic networks, and as critical, human networks, to be active creative participants in our future. It’s no longer IRL vs URL; real world vs “Second Life;” metaverse or meatspace. It’s all “real life” now, and artists and storytellers have always been very good at reflecting on and teasing out the most intriguing parts of life.

Q. It is so true about Shrimp Mermaid Goddess from the Garden of Emoji Delights, your artwork featured at the 9th CYFEST at the Pratt Institute. What was your aspiration of reconstructing Bosch’s iconography with contemporary digital symbols?

The current speed of technological advancements suggest biological organisms and the environment are irrevocably changing. In light of this, it is fascinating to discover how easily the visual vernacular of our day aligns with the symbology of a prescient artist from 500 years ago. “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Hieronymus Bosch's most ambitious work, embodies the conflicts, humor, darkness and absurdity of human, earthly and cosmological conditions.

In “The Garden of Emoji Delights,” I have transcribed the figures, elements and narratives from Bosch’s 500 year old painting into a “hyper mediated emoji phantasmagoria.” I am fascinated with digital semiotics, and the ways in which new modes of communication collide with more historical forms of expression, revealing both constancy and change.

Q. Much of your work is informed by the art of old masters, but as a contemporary artist do you think technology continues the tradition or rather disrupts it?

I studied quite a bit of art history, so many works of the Canon are laser printed on my brain. I remember when I was younger, I was always looking for female artist role models throughout the history of art, and I found few until the 20th century. Most of the classical works I reference resonate with me deeply as capital A art, but the exclusive “old master” system, extending into contemporary new media art, is deeply troubling to me. In the selfie work, their is a disruption occurring, by digital inserting myself, as Object/Subject/Author, into these canonized works.

Q. In December of 2016 A Subject Self-Defined, your solo video exhibition, will be presented at the 10th CYFEST in New York. How did this new body of work vary from the Selfie Drawings?

In “A Subject Self-Defined” I have translated the selfie drawings into a collage of moving image works. The title of the exhibition takes its title from Joseph Kosuth’s 1966 neon sculpture that spells out and is eponymously titled “A Subject Self-Defined.” He belonged to a group of artists involved in stripping down the art object, reducing it to ideas and information that were detached from personal meaning. Fifty years later, when we find art in the age of networked identity and digital dematerialization, I am perplexed by subjecthood and self-definition in relationship to the “personal” when performed publicly.

In the video works, I have heightened, via an animated gif-like looping timeline, my emphasis on identity performance, in relation to our constant uploads of “self” via social media platforms. Each mise en scène is more developed than in the drawings, providing broader depth to the storylines.

Q. As a professor at Pratt Institute’s Department of Digital Arts, how do you help other artists to orientate in the world of cutting-edge technologies?

2016 marks ten years for me as an educator in the Department of Digital Arts. Over that time I have taught technologies that have evolved and radically transformed the discipline.

Today young artists have immense opportunities in the multiple ways they can communicate and collaborate via and with technology. Guiding students in criticality and conceptual thinking is as important as teaching them the specifics of a single computer aided skill set. I encourage my students, as I remind myself, to remain elastic, empathetic and informed as they contribute to the future of art produced with and in response to 21st century technologies.

Founded by CYLAND Media Art Lab in 2007, CYBERFEST was held annually for six years across St Petersburg’s top art institutions (The State Hermitage Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, Kuryokhin Modern Art Centre, Creative Space TKACHI, Borey Gallery, Gallery of Experimental Sound and Art re. FLEX gallery), earning a reputation as the original and the most significant New Media event in Russia.

Making a pivotal leap in 2013 — CYBERFEST’s 7th edition expanded for the first time outside Russia to Berlin, attracting over 10,000 visitors over 5 days. In 2014/2015, CYLAND & CYBERFEST reached even father by branching to innovative cities (St Petersburg, Moscow, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Bogota, London) on the Art & Tech frontier, strengthening the cultural exchange among innovators.

#LumenInFocus: Hyperplanes of Simultaneity

Charlotte Lee

Fabio Giampietro, alongside Alessio de Vecchi, took the 2016 Lumen Gold Award for the vertigo inducing artwork Hyperplanes of Simultaneity. Superbly navigating the worlds of art and technology, Hyperplanes brings the boundary between the voyeur and the work of art tumbling down.

Fabio spoke to Lumen’s Assistant Director, Charlotte Lee about his collaboration with Alessio, his inspiration for the piece and his decision to delve into the world of virtual reality.

Hyperplanes was never meant to be an ultra-interactive experience in a fictitious dimension, rather a hypertrophic glance into the canvas itself - a process of identification with the painter.

So, you’re a painter by trade – tell me a little bit about how Hyperplanes of Simultaneity came about; what was your creative process?

I have been painting well over a decade. I get to my atelier in the morning and I start chain-smoking. Between one cigarette and another I start landing some strokes on the canvas. By that time, Alessio - who now lives in Tokyo and sleeps VERY late - also wakes up. He usually calls me up and we start talking ideas, but mostly nonsense. I stand in front of the canvas sipping beer while he turns on his workstation and drinks green tea. I send him pictures of what I am working on and he sends me screenshots. Through this daily routine we got to conceptualize and execute Hyperplanes. Each of us incarnates his respective dimension, physical and virtual. 

And these dimensions become accessible through Hyperplanes?

Yes, Hyperplanes is a project about the three temporal planes and their paradoxical simultaneity through the combination of a traditional exhibition and a virtual reality experience. 

The inspiration for this came from the block universe theory in which these three temporal planes coincide. The plane of the past is represented by my artistic production of the last decade and the VR side allows a glimpse into the future. 

So, Hyperplanes is in a sense foretelling what viewing an artwork will be like in the future? With that in mind, do you think that technology has the ability to break down the barrier that exists between the work of art and the voyeur?

My whole artistic production hinges on the concepts of 'vertigo' and 'immersion'. Vertigo isn't meant as acrophobia, but rather as a research into the voids, and I think Hyperplanes somehow fills this void, building a bridge between traditional fine art and digital art.

Immersion in this project, and in others I have previously worked on, was meant to take the spectator inside and beyond the painting. I believe, and here I quote Umberto Boccioni from his Futurism Manifesto, that through new technologies we'll be able to create the illusion of being immersed in the artwork. And this is what Hyperplanes is all about.

The subject of my paintings always lent itself to some sort of interaction on the spectator's side. Especially the "Vertigo" series. I started noticing that people were constantly attempting to take selfies pretending they were falling in the canvas. At that point I realized this body of work had potential to be broadened and virtual reality would be the way to get the point across. 

Alessio has being working with 3D for over 15 years and, given the long time friendship that unites us and the understanding of mutual artistic sensibilities, collaborating with him was an obvious choice.

When we hear about VR we immediately think of complex algorithms, programming skills, videogame-like worlds: a distinct departure from reality. This wasn't the case with Hyperplanes. We amplified the very nature of the painting.

...through new technologies we'll be able to create the illusion of being immersed in the artwork. And this is what Hyperplanes is all about.

Hyperplanes was never meant to be an ultra-interactive experience in a fictitious dimension, rather a hypertrophic glance into the canvas itself - a process of identification with the painter.

Therefore the challenge was barely technical, but human, emotional. It was all about maintaining the warmth, the haptic component of the original media, conveying the power of the brushstrokes, the vibrancy of the gesture, the integrity of the vision.

For the first time the viewer gets offered not only the point of view of the artist, but the exploration of a broader context of inspiration, that literally puts him in the middle of the experiential journey.

 

Seeking Submissions

Charlotte Lee

If you are interested in the intersections of art and technology and would like your writing featured on our blog please send a note to Charlotte Lee (cglee@lumenprize.com) with an example of your work. This opportunity is open to students as well as those more established in the field. 

The subject doesn't have to be a Lumen event - we are delighted to have your work about the subject of digital art in general, a recent exhibition or some aspect of a current or past Lumen artist which has caught your eye.

 

Digital Art Seminar, Hackney House

Laura Hudson

Laura Hudson gives us her personal take on the Lumen Digital Art Seminar and a few of the thoughts she came away with.

We have a legacy of digital works that were often so focused on the technology that they failed to live up to the expectations of audiences.  One of the themes that permeated the Lumen Digital Art Seminar this year was, as Ed Bateman put it, that “technology should not be put ahead of what you want to say”, technology for its own sake is a dead end - it has to be about the content. What became clear in many of the artist talks, and in the works selected for the shortlist, was that the work was grounded in ideas and the digital technologies employed were simply a means to articulate them.

Technology is only worth using if, and when, it can be played to its strengths. As ubiquitous as it is, there is still scope for artists to create glitches in the system, to capture data whether on the small or large scale in order to illuminate, to reinvent or to represent realities in a way that make us rethink, rediscover and question what we think we know and what we perceive reality to be. 

A series of talks by shortlisted artists and panelists gave insight into diverse practices and wide ranging uses of digital tools. Rachel Ara collected data surrounding the controversial death of artist Ana Mendieta. This data was fed into a computer programme to map the light at the exact location and moment her body was removed from the ground, recreating a scene that was never documented and pointing to the subsequent burial of information in a case of domestic violence/murder versus reputation. In Fifty Sisters Jon McCormack uses algorithms to simulate evolution and creation, splicing together the plants that formed our fossil fuels with the logos of the worlds’ largest oil companies to create pictorial hybrids.

The boredomresearch team of Vicky Isley and Paul Smith put technology to work in changing our time frames and perspectives; from the wonderful Snailmail where participants are invited to use a form of email powered by live snails to the award winning Afterglow where invisible malaria infection is illuminated, mapped through foraging animals to reveal the relationship between disease and its environment. 

Sylvia Grace Borda presented Farm Tableaux, a pioneering series begun in 2004, in which she draws on a legacy of staged tableau to push the boundaries of contemporary art photography. Working in collaboration with farmers and Google Street View, Sylvia gives us access to the raw, humanistic practices of farming and food production in Finland through our computer screens and mobile devices.

Virtual Reality in Contemporary Art

A panel of practitioners including Matteo Zamagni, Tom Szirtes, Ian Nicholls, Nick Lambert and chaired by Michael Takeo Magruder sought to explore the potential of a new wave of VR/AR and what the medium has to offer contemporary art. In the short time frame the panel managed to throw up more questions than it could answer, such as; how do you avoid an artwork becoming just another distraction? For my part I want to question the very idea of designing digital environments that will induce specific outcomes in the viewer. For me, it brings up all those same issues yet to be addressed by previous technologies (industries): context (agenda), power (ownership), control (trust) and authorship (representation). I can't help but ask the question given that the driving force behind developments in VR are the military and porn industries and because today we are again listening to an all male panel. 

Where artists seek to create an ‘immersive’ experience, as Matteo Zamagni describes, in which “the audience is not passive but becomes part of the artwork’, I could argue that VR may provide less possibility for participation than other art forms. If you think about the amount of conjuring and active visualisation that goes on in your own mind when reading a book or listening to music, and compare it to the suspended reality in which your perspective and perceptive space is taken over by wearing a headset through which the visuals and audio are conjured for you. It struck me that in reading a book I have the space to participate in the narrative by creating my own pictures for what is described or conjuring the sound of a voice in my head. In the world of VR we are processing incoming material from unknown sources and as Zamagni pointed out our “sensors are only built to measure what is around us not to measure truth”.  These conjured realities may require a measure of caution and concern about the nature of the virtual environments we place ourselves in.

Collecting and Curating in the Digital Age

A panel including Victoria al-Din, Ed Bateman, Carla Gannis, Poppy Simpson and chaired by Rachel Falconer, grappled with some of the issues thrown up by the preservation of immaterial and file based works. The fast pace of changing platforms, ownership and hardware make this issue more pressing for art that relies on external technologies or platforms for existence or storage. Practitioners like Carla Gannis suggest we should lighten up and embrace the ephemeral and the transience of the copy. Better still think creatively about how works can exist across platforms and in more than one context or form. Collectors and museums need to document the information required to run an artwork, a user manual or specification so that works can be repaired or recreated if necessary. Some works may simply be, of their time, and if taken out of context would cease to have any meaning.  

The issue of preserving artworks is not new. The Happenings in the 60’s and performance works in the 70’s and 80’s often went unrecorded and exist today only in the memories of those that were present and the odd piece of documentation in periodicals and personal archives. Artists and collectors may have to accept that some works are responding to a very particular window in time in our technological evolution. From a historical perspective Ed Bateman drew from the long history of the magic lantern and made surprising parallels with the early use of uncanny images and today’s iconography in the digital world “Devils and fairy worlds have become robots and alien planets”.  Perhaps we could learn something from the film industry, which hit Its “digital dilemma” some years ago. While studios prefer digital for exhibition, distribution and shooting, archivists prefer film stock, a far cheaper and more stable option to store the moving image that will last several centuries without deteriorating.  What we can be sure of is that the built-in obsolescence of much of our manufactured hardware and operating systems will impact on the durability of the digital art that is being produced today.  Other issues may be less predictable. Images on the cave walls of Lascaux lasted 35,0000 years but began to deteriorate as soon as humans changed the ambient atmosphere by their presence. Now closed to the public, the only way to see the paintings is through documentary films, photographs and replica caves, throwing up a whole new dilemma about authenticity.

 Digital Art in the Public Sphere

A panel including Sylvia Grace Borda, Sean Clark, Phil Dawson and chaired by Rachel Falconer examined how the nature of public art is changing. Digital technologies open up new possibilities to develop large scale projects in public spaces allowing artists and commissioners to think less about screens and more about manifestations in space. Versatile, entertaining, playful, technology gives us scope to develop modern day participatory spectacles where audiences can become part of the artwork.

Art always has an unknown future. There are plenty of examples of artworks, sculptures or memorials in the public realm that to subsequent generations came to be viewed as irrelevant or politically unacceptable - murals are covered over, and sculptures or statues removed  while new material inventions were later discovered to be toxic or became brittle and disintegrated - it is all part of the changing fabric of the world we live in. 

For artworks that interact, require power sources or external inputs, it is impossible to know if they will be able to function in the same way or for how long into the future. Artists, and those who commission and invest in public works of art, need to plan for this. Commissioned works that are intended as long term public works will need to factor in maintenance and support contracts with responsibilities defined and embedded in the plans or accept the cyclical nature of change. These are exciting times and the digital does open up real possibilities for large numbers of people to collaborate on a single project capable of reflecting a moment in time, society and its environment.

In summary, the seminar was a much needed and enjoyable event bringing together artists, theorists, educators, curators and technologists. Speaking to the winner of the main prize, Fabio Giampietro, it was interesting to see how his work as a painter had been expanded and made so much more powerful in the Virtual Reality piece Hyperplanes of Simultaneity. It made clear how powerful VR can be. Transference of fear from mother to artist became something that could be transferred to us. Is fear in our DNA or can it be transferred culturally; can we be made sensitive to or desensitised to such a thing as vertigo by proximity, shared experience or by putting on a head-set?

It is the shared experience that made this event such a delight: free, lively and in a great venue at Hackney. It gave a context to the prize and to the selection of works that will now go on tour as well as stimulate debate and situate current ideas and histories around what is happening in the digital arts internationally. It was above all inspiring to see so many different disciplines and voices finding a digital path.  

If contemporary art has a cutting edge then surely it is the one where we are able to use the right tools, as we discover them, to enhance or unpick our experience of the world we live in. As artists our job is to draw attention to the unfamiliar, the invisible and the hidden and to communicate in the best way we can.

The Lumen Prize Digital Art Seminar, Hackney House, September 29th 2016

Laura Hudson is a London based artist with a background in film and media curation. www.laurahudson.co.uk

Image source

1. Image taken at the Lumen Prize - audience in head-sets taken by 

2. thanks to Ed Bateman whose research suggests was by Gustave Moreau - a redrawn version of the engraving appeared in the French publication: Magasin Pittoresque, 1849 crediting him.  It appears that variations of the image appeared widely in the 1800s. https://mediartinnovation.com/2014/08/15/total-cinema-and-the-phantasmagoria/

 

A Short Guide to the 2016 Lumen Shortlist, Part 3

Charlotte Lee

With the Winners' announcement only days away, here's the final installment of our short guide to the Lumen Shortlist: 

Cacophony AiHsuan(Melody)Shih (US)

Cacophony is a 2D animation and motion graphics video that combines illustrations, abstract textures and colour to create patterns that visualise unseen daily sounds. Through the eyes and ears of a young girl, the viewer can escape the harsh sounds of the urban environment and find solace in a serene inner world.

The And Yael Toren (Israel)

In this 3D animation the imagined, unending entangling of time, history and space is visualised. The And captures the disintegration and dispersion of the human body as isolated fragments, floundering and intersecting with each other, illuminating the darkness.

The silence is violated only by the resonance of a human voice, which appears disconnected from the screened image.

Untitled Cinématographe, 1907 Edward Bateman (US)

Using a recently discovered 1907 film by an unknown amateur, this project situates its digital technology in a guise of the early 20th century Lumière Brothers Cinématographe to ask the viewer to focus on the magic of imagery rather than the tricks of technology.

In this video Bateman sets out to challenge the illusion presented by cinema. Today, many instances of digital art are presented in an immaculate, clearly digital language that divorces it from the tangible and physical world. For Bateman “the computer is a black box from which possibilities may emerge.”

Passaddhi Harvey Goldman & Jing Wang (US)

Passahhdi is an abstract experimental animation. It is a melding of sound and image that explores both the emotional relationships and the commonality of their formal language.

The work explores how the elemental components of line, shape, colour and form alongside the principals of harmony, balance and rhythm, translate into an auditory and visual experience.

Hyperplanes of Simultaneity Fabio Giampietro and Alessio De Vecchi (Italy)

The barriers between art and technology come tumbling down in Hyperplanes; a dialogue and a comparison between the painted canvas and the digital illusion.  The relationship of continuity and simultaneity, between the three spatial dimensions and time become tangible in the viewer’s eyes, yet remain imponderable. Melding the tradition of painting with the most innovative technologies, Hyperplanes uses virtual reality to annihilate the contemplative distance between the voyeur and the work of art. Removing the painting from the confines of its frame, the painting on canvas is exploded into three dimensions allowing the spectator to step inside and voyage across the mind of the artist.

Nature Abstraction Matteo Zamagni, Daniel Ben Hur and David Li (UK)

Nature Abstraction is an immersive sensory experience that explores the arcane forms of fractals, mathematical visual representation of natural and biological forms. The project gives an insight of their aspects through virtual reality, where they appear as three planets: Birth, Communion and Aether. Each planet is accompanied with musical scores designed to facilitate a meditative state and promote relaxation. The fractals have been processed through Google’s Deep Dream, transforming the landscapes into morphing psychedelic patterns that the eye will recognise as very familiar shapes, but the way the images are created only aims to produce a variety of random patterns on the canvas. The audience is guided to explore these planets and dive into their vast complexities.

The Selfie Drawings Book Carla Gannis (US)

Carla Gannis is a dynamic force in international New Media art and in the year long project The Selfie Drawings Gannis embraces and explores the significance of the selfie. A collection of 52 digital drawings completed over 52 weeks and shared via social media channels; this artwork highlights the performative nature of the selfie. For Gannis ‘selfies involve a kind of online performance, where we act out our lives through a device, and, more importantly, where we are in control of framing how we want to be perceived.’ From her drawings Gannis has produced a serialised augmented reality ‘book’ using Blippar AR technology. Using the Blippar App, readers are able to hover over a static drawing and ‘blip’ it into life.

Another Shift Sarah Pearce (Canada)

Addressing copyright in the age of the Internet and digital technologies, Another Shift borrows images from Manet’s Peonies in a Vase to question our ideas of originality, authorship and value. Today Manet's painting is in the public domain and can be copied freely.  However contemporary artists are having their copyrights strained by the Internet.  While the Internet provides easy access to images of art, there are benefits and drawbacks. In the accompanying video, the strokes used to re-create the painting are traced, revealing every aspect of the artist’s expression.

D.O.A.M IV (The Death of Ana Mendieta) Rachel Ara (UK)

The Death of Ana Mendieta is a CAD rendering of the death scene of the artist Ana Mendieta. On September 8th 1985 Ana Mendieta fell 34 floors to her death. The drawing recreates the light and shadow marking the spot one hour after the removal of her body. Using witness accounts and other collated data, the work depicts a scene that was never documented. The work distills a huge amount of data into a minimal form.

Fifty Sisters Jon McCormack (Australia)

Fifty Sisters is comprised of fifty 1m x 1m images of computer synthesised plant-forms, algorithmically  “grown” from computer code using artificial evolution and generative grammars. Each plant-like form is derived from the primitive graphic elements of oil company logos and by using digital DNA new and exotic species have been developed. 

The title of the work refers to the original “Seven Sisters” – a cartel of seven oil companies that dominated the global petrochemical industry and Middle East oil production from the mid-1940s until the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Klimt's Golden Sphere Kate Henderson (US)

Kate Henderson’s biomorphic images both describe and celebrate the intrinsically beautiful structure of the natural world and the ever-present duality of things.

Part of Henderson’s Bubble Series, Klimt’s Golden Sphere is a painting with cells. Developing from the microscopic images of lymphomas, Henderson invites the viewer to take a closer look at the macro and mirco-elements that are common to us all.

Papilarnie Janusz Jurek (Poland)

An example of generative digital portraiture, Papilarnie captures the trace of the pencil in the air. In Papilarnie bundles of line collide and tangle together to create the human form. By embracing the subject of the human body, the artist reflects its fragility and strength through line.

The TreeEduardo Nava (Mexico)

A golden sun beats down on a perfectly balanced world and perched on a cascade of overlapping geometric forms sits a gilded tree. Silhouettes of birds swarm around the tree, breathing life into this surreal world.

 

 

A Short Guide to the 2016 Lumen Shortlist, Part 2

Charlotte Lee

It’s hard to believe there is less than a week to go before the winners of the 2016 Lumen Prize are announced. Here we continue to take a look at this year’s Shortlist.

Audiograph Nathan Selikoff (US)

Engaging the public space through interactivity and play, Nathan Selikoff’s Audiograph listens to its surroundings and turns sound into light. Real-time audio waves are visualized as the hour and minute hand on a projected clock face.  As the second hand sweeps around, in its wake it leaves a visualtrace of the frequency spectrum. At any one time, the viewer can look at the clock and see not just the time, but what the last minute looked like in the aural environment. The murmur of a human voice, the steady stream of traffic or the drip of water will all resonate differently on the clock face, enabling the viewer to literally ‘see sounds’.  

Laser Light Synths Seb Lee-Delisle (UK)

Laser Light Synths is a large-scale outdoor interactive light installation that gives you the opportunity to perform music live in public. It features 4 custom-made super bright LED emblazoned synths, and powerful lasers projecting visuals that respond to the music and cover the building with shimmering dancing lights. The synths have been designed to use a carefully selected musical scale so that they remain perfectly in harmony with each other – no one can ever play a wrong note!

Touch Me Yiannis Kranidiotis (Greece)

Challenging the conventions of the museum and gallery, Kranidiotis invites you to break the ‘do not touch’ rule that for so long has advised us to keep our distance. With reference to the ancient Cycladic idols, this sculpture stands tall, like an extra-terrestrial visitor, waiting for an encounter. In response to your touch, the sculpture emits cold blue and violet light through hundreds of optical fibres fitted to its surface. At the same time, a soundscape will be generated, tracing the movement of your hand as you touch the sculpture.  

Variant Joshue Ott & Kenneth Kirschner (US)

Variant presents a new system for generative audio-visual art that explores new possibilities in interaction design and generative art. Each work in the Variant series brings together the visualisations of Ott, the indeterminate music of Kirschner and a unique mix of chance to create an ever-evolving audio-visual experience.

Farm Tableaux Sylvia Grace Borda and John M Lynch (Canada)

Farm Tableaux marks the first known and on-going artwork created specifically for Google Street View. Farm Tableaux illustrates food culture in a way that moves us beyond lifestyle magazines and TV reality shows.  The images of Canadian farming and food production captured in Farm Tableaux reflect the on-going realities of farm work from field labour to food processing. Each of the various scenes have been produced collaboratively with food producers and in a unique partnership with Google Trusted Photographer, John M Lynch.

Maratropa Marpi (US)

Maratropa gives visualisation to any twitter account.  Represented as an abstract living, breathing city, Maratropa explores the dataart aspect of the social network, materialising the bits and bytes that define our technological lives.

AfterGlow boredomresearch (UK)

An untypical subject matter lies at the heart of AfterGlow. Giving the malaria infection an aesthetic beauty, a landscape locked in perpetual twilight becomes illuminated by glowing trails evocative of mosquito flight paths. These spiralling forms represent packets of blood infected by a malaria parasite, animating the infection left in the wake of wandering macaques as they search the island for food, AfterGlow reveals the intimate relationship between disease and its environment. Composed of delicate, spiralling, cells of colour, these combine to form a vivid expression of this dangerous disease.

Black Moves Carla Chan (Germany)

Black Moves is a spatial drama and a virtual landscape that simulates the forming and deforming of an amorphous black mass. A response to Chan’s obsession with natural transformations and formless shapes, Black Moves reveals the power of natural substances. Water, air, rocks and clouds all produce an infinite amount of forms, appearing simultaneously ordered and random. This 10-minute immersive video loop is a sensorial unfolding that challenges the barriers between the physical and the psychological.

 

A Short Guide to the 2016 Lumen Shortlist, Part 1

Charlotte Lee

Had time to explore this year’s Lumen Prize shortlist yet? These 28 artists are now all eligible for the top prizes worth $11k and will be heading on the 2016/17 Global Tour which is set to kick off in London on September 29th at Hackney House.

Which is your favourite?  Over the next few days, we’ll be highlighting all 28 works on the blog – with an extra post devoted to the People’s Choice Winner who will be announced at the Gala on the 29th.  Here’s a peek at the first seven:

Nick Verstand, onformative & Pufflefish ANIMA 

A visual knock-out that dominates a room, ANIMA is an interactive installation that investigates communication between humans and artificial intelligence. Acting as the sole light source in the space it occupies, the orb communicates with its surroundings by detecting body movements using a Kinect tracking system. Drawing viewers in to react to its presence, the orb portrays different emotions and sounds over its liquid-like surface. Make a quick movement or be in close proximity to the orb and you’ll cause it to spin out of control.

Esther Rolinson & Sean Clark Flown

Commissioned for the 2015 Illuminating York Light Festival, Flown is a sculptural installation that takes on the form of a cloud-like structure. Created from over 800 hand-folded acrylic forms and animated with programmed LEDs, Flown can adapt and fit itself to suit any environment it finds itself in. You’ll be able to find this work at Hackney House from the 29th – 28th September.

Stefan Reiss O.T. 875 

A spatial, site-specific, immersive installation, O.T. 875 brings the immateriality of data into the three dimensional space through video projection. Having reduced digital drawing down to its simplest and engaging with the Constructivist works of El Lissitzky and László Moholy-Naghy, Reiss gives materiality back to the computer file by transforming them into a visual process

Xenorama RADIX | ORGANISM/APPARATUS 

Using augmented projection the audio-visual collective Xenorama bring a wooden sculpture to life as a fictive entity. Playing on light and sound, the object undergoes a transformation from its natural shape towards its technical formation. While both strive for dominance, the organic veins of the wood are continuously dissolved by geometric patterns in a never-ending cycle.

Physical Computing Project (Headed by Josephine Leong) Don’t Touch Red

Developed at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Don’t Touch Red is a game that uses Kinect technology to encourage physical cooperation. Dodging hazards and colliding with collectibles, players become their avatars and move around the game world freely and naturally. 

Wengu Hu Eddy Melody

A student of New York’s School of Visual Art, Wengu Hu has created a video game that highlights the power of music through its narrative and its design. In a world where every creature has its own pitch, the story follows a group of musicians as they travel the world.

Sam Rolfes and Lars Berg Limp Body Beat

Music gets a twist in Limp Body Beat. Rolfes and Berg put forward a new and visceral take on the drum sequencer, giving the player a chance to create tunes by flinging three-dimensional bodily forms across the screen.

 

 

 

cellular forms - andy lomas

#LumenInFocus: Andy Lomas

Charlotte Lee

Andy Lomas won the 2014 Lumen Prize Award with Cellular Forms, an exploration of biological forms that can be produced from a digital growth system. Lomas, a self-confessed code junky, uses his own software to explore the numerous aesthetic possibilities opened up by the code he writes. Charlotte Lee interviews Lomas about his award winning work and what he’s been up to since winning the Lumen Prize.

What was your creative practice up to The Lumen Prize?

I've been working on ideas of creating things through simulating growth for many years, but until recently it was what my friends described as my 'extra-curricular activities' along side working in visual effects and animation. My art practice was my space where I could explore my own work without the demands of clients, but very much something that worked in tandem with my production work where I could learn the craft of working with computer graphics and animation.

What was the inspiration behind Cellular Forms? 

The idea that many of the intricate forms that we see in living things could be the natural types of structure that emerge from growth processes has been one that has intrigued me for many years. Probably the main original inspiration was reading D'Arcy Thompson's book 'On Growth and Form' about 30 years ago, where he looks at commonalities between the forms of many living things as well as how simple repeated rules could create beautiful structures like seashells. Next year is the centenary of the publication of On Growth and Form, which is definitely worth celabrating.

Since winning the 2014 Lumen Prize, what have you been up to?

The big change is that I'm now working full time on my art practice. There have been a lot of things going on, including being invited to give one of the keynote presentations as well as an exhibition of new work (Hybrid Forms) at last year's the European Conference in Artificial Life. I've also recently had my first major solo exhibition in London at Watermans. That exhibition seemed to created a lot of additional interest, including from some major collections.

You’re a self-confessed code junky, but what is it that draws you to the medium? 

What draws me to the medium is the huge potential of computation to do things that wouldn't be achievable by any other method. If you take an algorithmic approach, computers are the ultimate blank canvas. You can definine a process and repeat it hundreds of millions of times. Alan Turing's idea of universal computation, which leads to the idea that a suficiently complex digital machine can simulate any formally describable process to any desired level of approximation, is both humbling and empowering.

Where has your work been heading most recently?Any exciting new developments? 

I've been working on a lot of background work, learning new techniques and refining directions that I've already been working in. In particular I've been exploring the possibilities of digital fabrication (such as 3D printing) as well as augmented and virtual reality. In the exhibition at Watermans I was showing the first 3D printed sculpture of one of my forms, as well as using 3D stereo viewing techniques for the installation that was at the centre piece of the exhibition. I've also been doing quite a lot more work on the tools and techniques that I've been using to find the combinations of values that create the results that I'm looking for when working with systems that are driven by many parameters. I'm using a combination of machine learning and genetic algorithms to explore the space of possibilities. I presented a paper about that work at a conference in July and it appears to be getting quite a lot of interest.

woman without mandolin - fabiano mixo

You Vote, We Listen

Carla Rapoport

Who decides what art is the best? In the art world it’s the auctions, the institutions and the critics. But at Lumen we feel that everyone should have their say. The annual Lumen Prize People’s Choice Vote gives you the opportunity to become the judge. This year, over 400 art lovers have voted for their favourite work from the 2016 Lumen Longlist. The winner - to be announced at the September 29th Winners Gala - will receive US$250 and a place on Lumen's global tour, which will travel the globe.  

Each year, we're pleased to report, the People's Choice winner is a real stunner. Last year, the winner of the 2015 People's Choice Award was Brazilian artist Fabiano Mixo’s Woman without Mandolin. A portrait in motion, Mixo’s engrossing experimental film captured the public's imagination with its embrace and rethinking of Cubism. Since winning the People’s Choice Award Mixo has gone on to win the EMAF Media Arts Award of German Film Critics and the Best Experimental Film Prize at the 29th MEDIAWAVE. Mixo is now developing a new video installation Letters to Lumière which will be showcased at the Museum of Arts and Technology Oi Futuro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this year – we can’t wait to see the finished piece. Nor can we wait to see who the People have selected this year. Be sure to reserve your place at our Winners Gala now. 

 

Art in the City

Carla Rapoport

Partnerships are important to Lumen and one of our first partners, the Financial Conduct Authority in London, has been featuring Lumen work on its video wall for three years. In its annual party this year to celebrate the 2015 winners, we were delighted that two of our guests, Eddie Bacon, a talented light artist, and David Upton, a respected blogger, came along. Eddie contributed these photos while David wrote this incredibly thoughtful blog. For Eddie's reflections on one of the winning works on display at the party, The New Jerusalem, please read on: A New Jerusalem is a revolutionary virtual reality experience that integrates sight, sound and the soul.

An audience member described the experience of “feeling like I was truly part of that world”.

The work was created by Michael Takeo Magruder with Prof. Edward Adams and Drew Baker and won this year's Lumen Prize Immersive Environment Awards. The piece is based upon the narrative of the Book of Revelation to create a heavenly city referred to as the New Jerusalem that arises from the remains of the old world. The installation seeks to embody the spirit the New Jerusalem and manifests into beautify metropolis of light that can be witnessed on the screen and stepped into via a virtual reality set up, the virtual reality is in real time with the screened display so the viewer can choose to look at the world from the outside on the screen or step inside by wearing the virtual reality headset and along side the visual display is a mesmerising soundscape that completes the experience of the New Jerusalem.

The virtual space is situated within the heart of metropolis and if you look up the structures are endless with the walls pulsating with light and reflections, it is a similar limitless view when you look down, an audience member described the experience of “feeling like I was truly part of that world”. The structure of the city is based upon the text of the Book of Revelation being translated into data code form and then rendered into a four dimensional virtual space, the imagined cityscape is then constructed further using Google Maps data of present date Jerusalem and in the words of theologian Professor Edward Adams “a new creation is not a wholly unrecognisable place, even if the new Jerusalem is like no city the world has ever seen”.

The metropolis created is an experience of wonder that interplays ancient text with cutting edge virtual reality to represent one of the finest pieces of I have every had the opportunity to experience. The installation represents not only a truly wonderful piece of art it also shows what can be done with the unique vision technological boundaries of which Michael and his team have gone to in creating the New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is part of the Decoding Shows series other parts of the series focus on the destructive elements of the Book of Revelation, Michael's work can be found at www.takeo.org.

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