The interviews from the Metal DEC lab are now online at the youtube page
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 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.
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.
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, 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.
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 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.
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.
I finished building the first prototype: a device that allows me to navigate the “lightscape” while feeling with my skin where the brightest direction is. This simple media system allows me to be affected by the Sun (and by light in general) through a different pathway. The idea is to experiment with the possibility of enabling a new sense, opening new channels of transmission between bodies.
These days at Metal I’m trying to explore the idea of Infraverbal Communication among bodies of radically different nature. I am very interested in how bodies communicate outside language and symbols. I am interested in all those signals that connect bodies that lie beneath consciousness, outside the discursive space, beyond rationality: deep media.
I am interested in the idea of modes of perception that exceed the realm of the five senses. Through exploring other modes of connection we can begin to understand the level of entanglement among bodies (human and nonhuman). At present I am working on a relationship between three very precise bodies:
- The Sun
- A Human Body
- A Machine (a media system)
What I want to do to start with is to build small prototypes that provide the human body with a new sense that allows the Sun to affect it in a different way. In doing so my aim is to see whether infraverbal communication can be expanded, opened up, allowed to flourish. Further than that there can’t be a particular aim since it will be the communication itself that will have to take us to the next step. I don’t want to enter this experiment with an idea of what that communication needs to do, I’ll just work at the level of the architecture of the channels of communication.
TEST: How can we sense light on a particular range of the visible spectrum?
Certainly one of the most accurate sensors for such a thing is the human eye. Equipped with highly refined photosensitive cells the eye is capable of discerning between frequencies which are just a few nanometers apart. That’s why we say we have colour vision.
One of the things I am interested in though is in being able to detect the presence of blue light in an environment. In the last years a lot of work has been put into finding the photoreceptors in the retina that mediate non-visual responses to light. Regulation of circadian rhythms, mood alteration, concentration capacity, all fall under the label of “non-visual responses to light”. It seems like this could be an interesting entry point for our process of experimentation.
The cells that are held responsible for such a task are Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells and the photoreceptor with which they carry that task is Melanopsin. Apparently Melanopsin is sensitive to a light frequency of approximetely 480 nanometers. 480nm correspond to light in the blue range of the visible spectrum as shown in the diagram below.
If these cells can be responsible for such a broad range of “responses” they are probably a good starting point to look into new modes of communication with the sun.
What I am trying to do is to use an LDR to sense blue light. But LDR have a spectral sensitivity very similar to the human eye (since they are build to respond to “visible light”). This means they are more sensitive to frequencies in the middle range of the visible spectrum and less sensitive towards the fringes of it.
All this requires some calculation and experimentation. So the first thing I did was to set up an LDR inside a box and light up a superbright led in front of it. I did this with a blue, green, red and yellow LEDs. Then I repeated the experiment with a blue filter covering the LDR and wrote down the measurements again. The results are:
BLUE LED WITHOUT FILTER: 400 ———— WITH FILTER: 151/180
GREEN LED WITHOUT FILTER: 720 ———— WITH FILTER: 15/20
YELLOW LED WITHOUT FILTER: 710 ———— WITH FILTER: 5
RED LED WITHOUT FILTER: 720/780 ———— WITH FILTER: 5/6
So, blue light gives us lower values from the start (which makes sense if we take into account the LDR’s spectrum sensitivity. And also blue light is the one that is decreased in a smaller percentage when passed through a blue filter.
Percentage of light intensity reduction with blue filter depending on colour light:
Blue light was reduced in: 62.5% – 55%
Green light: 98%
Red light: 91% – 99%
Yellow light: 99%
So clearly the light that was less reduced through the blue filter is blue light as we could expect. Now the second thing we tried is to set up two LDRs and read their values. They were both giving similar values (although never exact). See values below.
Then we covered one of them with the blue filter and tried moving it around different sources of light. This is the setup:
I plugged it into processing to be able to quickly analyse the result as I was moving around the room with my computer and the arduino plugged in. The red line in the graph corresponds to the LDR without filter and the blue light corresponds to the LDR with the blue filter (and therefore more sensitive to blue light). What the graph shows is that the differences between indoors and outdoors are more extreme for the blue light sensor.