Hans Verhaegen

Metal DEC Lab Interviews

The interviews from the Metal DEC lab are now online at the youtube page



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Goldbloggers talk with the artists

On Friday the 25th we spent our day at Metal and had the chance to talk with the artists about their work during the residency. Here’s the result:


- Hans

Hans feels like an antenna here at Chalkwell Hall, he’s getting lots of inputs and inspiration from working side to side with other artists. At first, he found it difficult to free himself from business dynamics he’s usually subject to by working in a company, clients demand results, finished products, and don’t seem to care about the importance of the process, which is what the residency here is focused on. Being in between the art and business world, Hans tries to mix the idea of “uniqueness” related to the former with the one of “reproduction” on which the latter is based on. Using code (Action Script and Processing), he generates slight variations of the same piece, resulting in a series of reproduced but still unique images. Also, he is concerned with the role of hardware in digital art as often this is only thought of as art if delivered together with a physical medium. Particularly, digital art is expressed through screens, i.e. artificial light. Hans is here researching the possibility to exhibit digital art through other media such as E-paper or more viable QR codes techniques.



Other surfaces for digital art


- John

John was looking into two different areas and projects, one of which he had already started working on some time before Metal, and the other one set by him as a consequence to a theft within the building. Such system consisted in a small camera filming the building entrance, and a system that would perform face recognition, which was partially working – for example, it would struggle to recognize Graham’s beard.
The first project on the other hand, was involving one out of four swan pedalos that were used for the Liverpool Biennale and then sold on Ebay and that John decided to buy. His purpose was to try and create an “open source” swan pedalo: understanding the unconventional combination of the two expressions, and especially how open source implies that the source has to be available, the idea was to actually expore new methods of collective and maybe modifying use of such pedalo, through people’s interventions and suggestions. In fact, the object could maybe be modified by its ‘users’ as ong as it is still usable.
John’s view of his work is that all of it is continuous, and is not made for a sole and specific purpose, which can in fact be seend in the swan pedalo and the ongoing research about it.



Computers do not recognize Graham


- Stephen

Stephen is investigating the predictive power hidden in data. Data sets can reveal recurring patterns if analyzed over time and such patterns can show tendencies on which a possible model of future things to happen can be drawn. Data mining, a practice increasingly adopted by business to profile users and target marketing accordingly, does that by using algorithms to find informational patterns in databases and produce knowledge out of them (KDD). Various forms of divination such as tasseomancy, a method for reading tea leaves, also use data patterns to forsee the future; Stephen is developing a system that juxtaposes KDD and divination methods: a webcam installed at the bottom of a cup scans the leaves pattern and send the images to the computer that analyzes them through algorithms and store them in a database in which the interpretation of the same pattern given by a human user (divinator) is also stored. In doing so, the parallel human-machine vision of data patterns is merged in the production of knowledge.





- Olga

Olga, who is also a PhD student at Goldsmiths and attended our same course, created a light responsive system made up of four light sensors and three vibrating devices whose connection one to the other and then to the body is meant to explore the interaction between the sun and the body. By the time she showed us her project, in which the sensors were attached to different parts of her clothes, they were all responsive although some of the values (especially the one of sensor n4 on the front) had really low values because of the darkness of the room.
Olga is generally interested in infraverbal communication, i.e. the exchange of informations that happens at a non linguistic and more subtle level such as the one of electromagnetic fields and feromons. She is directing her PHD research towards the connection between sun, humans and machines, while the work she is performing with another student is based on interaction dynamics happening out of consciousness between humans, which she is exploring through the use of sensors.



Wired to the sun


- Rob

Rob is working on a system that captures images at set intervals and are affected by light sensors. The images are automatically stored in a remote server and then played as a sequence creating a time lapse effect; the hardware components of the system are a Make Controller to which light sensors are plugged and a camera connected to a Mac Mini. He is using Max MSP/Jitter with a patch that regulates the system and that he had created before joining Metal and edited in order to adapt it to the surroundings at Chalkwell Hall. He showed us some extracts of what has been captured between 4 pm on Thursday the 24th and this morning, resulting in a video where the shades affected by light intensity implied a visual sensation of movement and evolution of the space.





- Markus

Markus is exploring new possibilities in video expression not necessarily based on speech and dialogues but rather focused on montage and post production techniques. He would like to add interactivity to his work as it is something he has not done yet. On Thursday, he went for a walk on the mud (a “non space” in his words) with Graham and filmed short clips which he then edited in order to create a visual pattern. He often adds his own sounds to the videos based on what he’s trying to express.



Walking on mud


- Caroline

Caroline explained that she has not been practicing for a couple of years, and was now trying to explore new areas of research and get back into arts practice: she mainly researched during her stay at Metal, deciding to take on more different kinds of information without narrowing it down too much, in order to identify a focus.
One of the points she got into, was analysing how different means of everyday life exercise control on the very basic tasks of her life itself, such as work, amongst others.




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A class of old habits

The elegance of coding is a topic that popped up regularly in the conversations between the participants of this lab. Graham Harwood inspired me to think a bit more about coding in general. This phrase on Wikipedia seems to summarize well what elegant code should be:

… a computer program or algorithm is elegant if it uses a small amount of intuitive code to great effect.

I do not consider myself as a pure coder, but I might begin to understand why I am so attracted by the act of coding. There is simply something beautiful about an elegant piece of working code.

During this week I managed to spend some time with Processing. Not much, but still I rewrote some old Actionscript to function in Processing and turned it into an ‘elegant’ class. Then I browsed the available ‘Getting started with Processing‘ examples and in a very basic way plugged in my class. Here is a result of these ‘messing around sessions’:

Processing exercise

Obviously it resembles my previous work in Actionscript since I simple reused my old code. But I have it now in an elegant reusable class. The very traditional wish for visual beauty in art is matched by a very similar ‘feel’ of beauty in writing code.

It think I still need these kinds of visual outputs just to show or communicate to people what I sense while writing ‘elegant’ code.

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A game of QR chess

QR Code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

QR-code look basically like this:

example of a qr code

My interest in these codes was among others a pure visual one. (more…)

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Another Digital Surface

The huge amount of input during the first days of this Media Lab made something very clear. The digital (art) world desperately needs new ways of presenting digital images. Digital screens are outrageously limiting.

Does anybody know of any type of screen that is enjoyable to look at? Even the most expensive designed digital screens on the market are horrible things to look at. This might be a subjective matter, but there is more. (more…)

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Day 0 – Presentations

Right after today’s social activities, the participating artists sat all together with Graham and Simon for one last group session before calling it a night. During that session Caroline Heron, Olga Panades, Markus Soukup and Hans Verhaegen presented to the rest of the artists their work and  elaborated on their present interests.

Caroline Heron is currently involved in the “Art of Digital London”, an urban network for cultural organisations and digital strategy, where she co-organizes events that cover such topics as digital arts, new media, gaming and many more. She is also holding a position at Mute Magazine as project coordinator.

Olga Panades is a media arts researcher with an interest in biotechnology and body communication. Her work has been featured at Mediashed and Furtherfield, where she operates as co-editor and workshops facilitator. She also carries an enthusiasm for physical computing and during the Metal – DEC Labs she will be cooperating with Stephen Fortune for a session on Arduino.

Markus Soukup is new media and sound artist currently living in Liverpool. He was recently shortlisted for the Liverpool Art Prize 2011 for his work at “The Bluecoat” in which he worked in a negotiation between the physical and virtual worlds through video installations and 2D and 3D animations. His time-based media works have been featured in exhibitions all around Europe and he has been involved in many web design projects.

Hans Verhaegen is an artist based in Brussels, where he accommodates his work under the roof of his studio, Hansup. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Ghent and the Free University of Brussels, Verhaegen navigates through different formats of artistic endeavors including oil and wall paintings, prints and digital animations. In 2009 he won with ’128 people‘ the award of the public at the Fotomuseum in Antwerpen.

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