Blog archive, 03-2007 to 11-2007
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November 25th

Showed Reflections and constructions of a button pusher
twice in Brut, a new organisation based in Vienna, Austria. The show was part of the Roboexotica festival of cocktail robotics. My show went well. For those of you who know about my quest for fire, I managed to light up twice, in presence of an Austrian firefighter.

The Roboexotica show comprised several alcohol mixing machines. When I visited the robots were off, as a lecture about humans and robots was delivered in German by a ponytailed man less lively than most of the robots surrounding him (I must admit I do not speak German). I also saw good looking remote-controlled robots by Austrian group Gold Extra performing a version of Hamlet in German.

October 24th to 31st

Robotics workshop in Mejan labs, with students from Stockholm Arts Academy.

The small group of students was taught the basics of microcontroller techniques using basic Stamp 2s.

Work developed included a two-wheeled drawing bot, the original design of which included a flexible foam body, a servo-motor powered skeleton, a robot bouncing ball and a herd of skinned motorized animals.

As often I did not have much time to discover the town, but of interest were a video piece by Matti Kallioinen in Magasin 3, about a feeling robot whose surroundings feature lots of foil survival
blankets, and an amateur wrestling night in the students bar at the Music Academy. I did not fight.

October 19th

Davida Hewlett and myself ran the Mind Sniffer product test last friday as part of the Experimentica festival in Cardiff, UK. Davida was the original disco dancer in my Solid State No Logic performance. She asked me if I could help her bring to life an idea she has carried with her since childhood: that of a machine which could read people's minds and answer their deepest existential question. Despite the dauting difficulty of the task I agreed to help as best as I could, and we decided to test our prototype in Experimentica.

The volonteers filled in a questionaire, then were put through a series of tests. Each test focused on one of their senses, starting with touch and ending with the sixth.

After a difficult start, the mind sniffing operations went smoothly. We tested 8 volonteers in about 4 hours. Future developments might be considered once we finish evaluating this first prototype session.

October 11th

Completed the Mash Media project with first years fine art students in UWIC, Cardiff. The brief was to collect discarded technological items and to organise an event where the kit was to be destroyed with hand tools. A special booth was built, safety wear put together, appropriate tools found, posters and flyers printed and distributed. On the given day, tables were lined up in the yard and students could choose the piece of kit they wanted to mash, their tool, and a musical track.

The event went well, with 20+ items reduced to crumbs and much anger released. The broken kit will be sent to recycling with 30 other tons of equipment put aside by the university.

Mash media was inspired from an event that took place in Battersea Arts Centre in 2005.

September 24th

Spent the weekend in Luxemburg where I was running a Robotic birds workshop in MUDAM with my friend Ralf Schreiber. We got three groups of Luxemburgese kids aged 9 to 15 to build small solar robots based on BEAM designs.

Ralf has developed a strong expertise in running such workshops so that children with no experience of soldering or electronics can assemble a module in under two hours.

Top: the workshop took place in a room otherwise occupied by modular furniture designed by Sancho Silva. As a MUDAM guide put it on the sunday after the third workshop was finished: "It looks like a bomb went off in this corner of the room!"

Middle: Ralf Schreiber and a kid who loved the workshop so much he attended two sessions, and built a double engine solar mover.

Below: one of the sun-eater robots built on sunday afternoon, when the kids discovered a bag of feathers to decorate robots with.

September 13th

Just back from Sète, mediterranean coast of France, where the 3rd Infr'actions performance art festival took place. The festival's slogan is "Avant-garde and popular".

Instigated by a Swedish expatriate, run by a crew of volunteers the festival invited more than 20 international performance artists to show their work in the city, with an emphasis placed on actions taking place in popular areas such as markets and city centre streets.

Established artists such as Alastair McLennan from Belfast (pictured, below), and other members of the Black Market group, were programmed alongside less known artists. Among these, Carole Douillard (pictured, centre) performed in a bag with only her head showing among used items on a stall at the flea market.

I showed Reflections and constructions of a button pusher, that was well received despite my failing to light a fire (I got an ember though).

The festival was well run with an outstanding hospitality, and attracted a fair amount of interest from the locals.

The full programme including artists' bios is available from the festival's website

July 18th

A couple more weeks to go and see the excellent installation Dawn Chorus by Marcus Coates in Picture This gallery, Bristol, UK.

Marcus Coates recorded a collection of british bird songs, which he slowed down so that they can be produced by a human voice. He invited several volonteers to sing the slowed down songs, and filmed them in their natural habitats. He then speeded up the video footage so that the song returns to its original pitch. The singers twitch like birds, taking in breath as if their hearts were beating 500 times/second, and the songs produced are genuinely bird-like. The films are presented on 7 video screens hung at various heights and angles in the brand new Picture This gallery. The exhibition finishes on August 4th.

Footage of of a singer performing the yellow hammer song can be found here, together with the non speeded mp3.

June 19th

French version of the website now available.

June 10th

Finally got hold of the footage shot during Solid State No Logic perfomance in Cardiff Art in Time Festival, 14th march 2007.

The best part is the disco song and dance, check the video
(Lyrics and music © Patrick Hernandez)

May 17 th

On my way back from France where I presented Réflexions et constructions d'un pousseur de boutons at the Bandits-Mages Festival. Bandits-Mages was a key festival for video and new media art in the 1990's, but for various reasons almost disappeared. The 2007 edition is the first to be run by a new team, and it looks like the festival, now on a biennal rhythm, has found a new breath and energy.

I did not see much of the programme because of my gig. I was interested by the locustream tuner an innovative audio/event interface by Locus-Sonus, a research group led by Peter Sinclair, based in Aix-en-Provence and Nice. Moving a ball on two long metal wires, users could tune into audio streams from different locations. The same interface can be used to play samples, or anything plugged into MaxMSP

Communication digital by Cécile Colle and Ralph Nuhn was another good installation, where 8 servo-controlled fingers scratch the surface of 8 3D postcards according to the activity of a chat room.

I also saw Petit pow pow noël, a video by Canadian film-maker Robert Morin, where the director attempts to get even with his elderly, crippled dad. Filmed mostly in the old people's home where his dad is finishing his life, the film is a strong, emotional, hard journey into Morin's family history, with a further reaching relevance.

As for my part, the performance was very well received by the mostly French public, although I did not manage to light a fire. I burnt my hand instead with the heat of the friction at the second attempt.

Two weeks before in Cambridge I produced a nice flame at the first try, audience went mad for 2 seconds.

April 19th

Enter Unknown Territories is a festival and conference on new technology arts taking place in Cambridge from 25th to 29th April in Cambridge, UK.
Programme includes, among many other events, a presentation by Active Ingredient, re-Collector, a generative CCTV film by James Coupe, Sally Jane Norman chairing a session on Open Technologies, Polar Produce premiere of Come Outside featuring a well deserved cup of zero carbon footprint tea. I will show my performance The Heart and the Chip on saturday evening.

The event concludes on sunday with Local Food, a potluck picnic organised by Rainer Prohaska. Register and you will be sent a shopping list of your contribution to the potluck.

If the weather stays as good as it's been for the past weeks, all festival goers will enjoy a laidback yet stimulating weekend on the green lawns of Cambridge.

April 16th

Home-made, contemporary Russian artefacts presents a collection of mostly utilitarian objects built in the ex USSR by people with little money but good practical skills and imagination, recombining parts scavenged from other found objects. The photographs of over 220 things such as tv antennas, exercise machine, boot hanger, hair grip,socks, teapot, harpoon, heat chamber,shelf, coat hanger, bicycle rack, toilet chair, drill brush, and many more, are accompanied by a potrait of the builder and a short comment on how and why the object was created.

A catching read, not least in the light of what can be found in our West European rubbish.

April 15th

Vilém Flusser was a Czech born media critic and philosoper who died in 1991.
The shape of things
is a collection of short essays on various notions around design, and how things are used and made. Flusser talks about tents and walls, pots and wheels, and brings a peculiar light on his subjects.

In an essay called The factory, he describes the four periods of manufacturing that took the civilisation of homo faber (a nomination Flusser prefers to homo sapiens) to its present state: hands, tools, machines and robots. Homo faber's gradual alienation from his physical and natural environment started with the invention of tools and continued with the machine, where the operator became a disposable part of the mechanism. The age of robots could bring a more positive alternative, where human and robot will have to learn how to work with each other, in fact turning the factory into a school-like institution.

In The non-thing 1 and 2, Flusser develops his view on the demise of the object, where information rules and is used to generate cheap disposable goods that soon turn into waste. Homo faber turns into homo ludens, not needing hands anymore, just fingertips for interfacing with keyboards.

April 15th

Pics on the left are of a love cannon shooting love balloons in the sunny sky of Swansea, UK, last saturday. The action was part of Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich's action Siege weapons of love, the latest development of their Friendly frontier piece campaign.

The performance opened Locws3, Art across the city an exhibition taking place in several venues in Swansea, open until May 13th, except mondays.

March 21st

Cardiff art in Time (CAT) festival just finished. A unique opportunity to see in Wales a 4 days full programme of performance art by confirmed international practitioners, accompanied by work from emerging artists and students.
I liked Julie Andrée T's Not waterproof. She improvised with a large collection of red objects for almost an hour, repeatedly asking "What colour is this?" and answering "Red". Simple recipe carried through with brio by the Canadian performer, whom I heard singing for the first time.
Ointment, collective based in South Wales, created Scratch, an activated semi-rural space in the yard of the art college, with 300 hay bales and live hens.
In Happy Japan, Arai Shin Ichi manufactured (or should I say assufactured) an original version of the Japanese flag. There are pics of the festival on his website.

Richard Dedomenici's Superjumbo and Robin Deacon's Stuart Sherman provided quality entertainment with brains.
I presented a singing and dancing number titled Solid state no logic, ending with a cover of Born to be alive, a fast disco song by Patrick Hernandez. Davida Hewlett and Tom Hobson delivered beautifully synchronised dance moves while I did my best to communicate the message.

The whole festival, organised by Trace Gallery, was a very exciting and well attended event, we are looking forward to the next edition!

March 9 th

Only a few days left to go and see Simply Botiful, the awesome installation by Christoph Büchel at Hauser and Wirth gallery, Coppermill, 92 - 108 Cheshire Street, London E2 6EJ.

The installation occupies a large building, totally transformed to look like a shady warehouse and illegal immigrant hotel. The occupiers are gone and the visitors, after checking their bags in a dodgy lobby, are free to explore, and there is lots to see. There are several concealed entrances leading to hidden rooms and exhibits, all suggestive of a complex, claustrophobic, survivalist, plotting microcosm.

Completely recommended, closes on March 18th, open Thursday to Sunday 12 to 7pm.
if you can't make it you can take a photographic walkaround on Hauser and Wirth's website.

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