Molly Dilworth, 547 West 27th Street (2009). From the series "Paintings for Satellites."
In the early 2000s, as location-aware devices first became commonplace, there was a lot of hype surrounding their potential creative use by artists. However, over time, this initial enthusiasm for "locative media"--projects that respond to data or communications technologies that refer to particular sites--leveled off, even dissipated. Regardless of this drought, geospatial technologies are widely used, and play an important and often unnoticed role in conditioning many aspects of our existence. Responding to this condition of ubiquity, artists have continued to use locative technologies critically, opening up closed systems, making their effects visible, and reconfiguring our relationship with such systems.
Photo: Andreas Nicolas Fischer.
A kind of cold weather antipode of summer's "Love Parade," the Transmediale 2014 media arts festival was a beacon of light in the long dusk of a Berlin winter. As a twist on the usual curated exhibition, this year's festival opted for an ad-hoc "Art Hack Day" (AHD) approach, where submitting artists were expected to create new and original artworks in the span of two days (and nights). Opening the exhibition with a more down-to-earth feel, AHD ultimately resembled a DIY, garage-style party instead of a highbrow exhibition space.
PXL, Rainer Kohlberger, 2012
As the iPhone just celebrated its fifth year on the market, artists have already made a substantial dent in the commercially lucrative world of Apple’s AppStore. Despite this success, artists are still pushing forward to build apps that further integrate with the device’s sensors and location-based capabilities. Rather than working solely within the context of software art as I have covered in two previous articles on the subject for Rhizome, there is a focus now on artists who are interacting with the physical world by using the device’s internal sensors, location capabilities, constant Internet connectivity, and built-in cameras.
Using the camera as a sensor, “Konfetti” by German based designer Stephan Maximillian Huber visualizes the image of its subject into countless dots. In effect, the camera image is translated into virtual confetti that follows any movement and creates an ever changing images based on which camera is selected. The dot’s movement is correlated to the detected flow captured by the camera and by repelling other dots, which also move as you touch and drag them. Huber explains over email how the app works as a reflection based art tool. “The app started as an iPad-only app, and on an iPad the app acts like a mirror, showing an abstract reflection of yourself. You'll get a clear image of yourself only when you concentrate on the process of the app, and don't move too fast. It's like contemplating about yourself and the image of yourself. And as your thoughts and emotions aren't static the image the app generates is dynamic and adapts to minimal movements and new ...
In the summer of 2009, I wrote an article here at Rhizome about the burgeoning activities of media artists creating new works or updating versions of their older interactive screen-based projects for Apple's iPhone and iTouch mobile devices. As the article made its way throughout the blogosphere, comments surfaced ranging from criticism of the "closed world of Apple's App Store and iPhone devices" to a championing of the availability of inexpensive multi-touch technology now available to artists who had been waiting for a platform that could adequately display and allow for the type of interaction their projects demanded. A year after the article came out, the draw of these devices and their potentially expansive audience has become even more irresistible to artists enough so that several more "apps" have surfaced. The following article catalogs several new iPhone works which have emerged over the past year, works that are pioneering the next generation of portable media art.
Jonah Brucker-Cohen is a researcher, artist, professor and writer. His writing has appeared in numerous international publications including WIRED Magazine, Make Magazine, Neural, Rhizome, Art Asia Pacific, Gizmodo and more, and his work has been shown at events such as DEAF (03,04), Art Futura (04), SIGGRAPH (00,05), UBICOMP (02,03,04), CHI (04,06) Transmediale (02,04,08), NIME (07), ISEA (02,04,06,09), Institute of Contemporary Art in London (04), Whitney Museum of American Art's ArtPort (03), Ars Electronica (02,04,08), Chelsea Art Museum, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art (04-5),Museum of Modern Art (MOMA - NYC)(2008), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (2008). He received his Ph.D. in the Disruptive Design Team of the Networking and Telecommunications Research Group (NTRG), Trinity College Dublin. He is an adjunct assistant professor of communications at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and in the Media, Culture, Communication dept of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development.
2009 was an important year for the Internet as a whole. The advent of web 2.0 and "crowdsourcing" initiatives has enabled a much richer array of content from users who might never have ventured onto the Internet in previous years. My top 10 sites for this year cover a wide range of topics from art made for mobile devices with iPhoneArt.org to evidence of both information saturation with Information Aesthetics and physical and pseudo intellectual abundance with This is Why You're Fat and There I Fixed It, to strange observances of mistakes in the public realm with Fail Blog. In addition to these crowdsourced content sites, I also see some ongoing potential with artist-created sites such as Brett Domino's lowtech approach to music making ...
The Euro was supposed to make things easier for Europeans. With one
currency, travel and commerce are simplified and become ubiquitous. Despite
the changeover, questions emerge regarding preserving borders and European
national identities. Does one currency compromise cultural and social
individualism and traditions? If not, why do physical borders still exist
between member states?
In the art world, borders have been a pre-occupation among artists working
in every medium. From early border artists such as the Border Art Workshop
(http://sunsite.wits.ac.za/biennale/catalog/baw.htm) protesting the
Mexico/US border with mixed-media installations to Denmark's web-based
Border Crossing Hitlist (http://www.nicolette.dk/hitlist) that tracks
people's border crossing activities, territorial rights have figured
prominently in artistic expression. Through border art, questions arise as
to how cultural identity transcends physical borders, what psychological
obstacles these barriers represent, and how people respond to these both
personally, socially, and creatively.
On the European side, British techno-artist, Heath Bunting's project,
Borderxing guide (http://irational.org/borderxing), attempts to create a
virtual map and guide of how to cross European borders without papers. "I
have not been [to Europe] that much this year, " admits Bunting, "But I did
notice that I was often unsure which country I was in."
Instead of having the guide online, the project uses the web as a 'guide to
the guide', where the website features a collection of real-world computers
that carry the information. Therefore if you want to learn how to border
hack, you have to log on, find the closest physical host computer, get out
of your chair, and head out. People can volunteer a machine to be a 'host'
of the guide, but the computer must be publicly accessible for all.
By giving a physical location to the information we take for granted as
being online, Bunting has made a digital project that requires movement.
"For the sake of elite power, human movement is restricted and information
and money mobilized, " says Bunting. "This project intends to suggest the
reversal of this whereby humans are encouraged to move and the immaterial is
Ultimately, Bunting's goal is to make land-based borders irrelevant. Even
with the growing ubiquity of the Euro, the physical barriers between
neighboring states remains an obstacle for tourists and citizens. Borderxing
guide is a first step of social protest against the idea that physical
barriers can curtail the spread of culture across distance. If the currency
is the same, why isn't the continent unified? Or why not even create a
hybrid language that combines every accent? That might be a long shot,
but Bunting sees the future of borders as 'information-based borders' where
the only difference between countries is the information made accessible to
us while inside.
-Jonah Brucker-Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ever wonder how many pollutants you generate by typing an email? Is the
electricity used to power this computer more than the power to build it?
Maybe if products were designed with energy consumption in mind, our fears
of shrinking natural resources would dissolve. As digital technology heads
for a sustainable relationship with the environment, artists are taking the
lead on creating innovative approaches to these questions.
From early environmentally conscious art like Robert Smithson's "Spiral
Jetty" (1970) to recent work like "The Bank of Time"
(http://www.thebankoftime.com/) which turns idle computer time into fertile
ground for desktop plants, there is a history of interlinking creative and
ecological practices. Contemporary artists such as Natalie Jeremijenko also
focus critical art practices towards environmental issues. Her project,
"Stump", which prints out a tree ring when a tree's worth of paper is
consumed, illustrates our continued dependence on shrinking resources in the
digital world. Working in urban space, "One Tree"
(http://cat.nyu.edu/natalie/OneTree/OneTreeDescription.html) clones a young
tree one thousand times and plants them around San Francisco to see the
ecological effects of different areas of the city on biologically identical
Working more in the realm of solving the global Greenhouse scare through
simple rules of interaction design is Co2nvert (http://www.co2nvert.com),
a new project by Irish designer Philip Phelan. The project features working
prototypes of innovative eco-conscious ideas with everything from the
"Snobby Toaster" that won't run on fossil fuel power to the "Buy-Sell Socket"
that lets you manually crank power back into the energy grid.
Phelan, a graduate of London's Royal College of Art - Interaction Design
program, begins with the simple idea that modifying the design of everyday
objects can not only enlighten us about personal energy use but also help
change our habits. "We need to take individual responsibility for Greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions to make a real difference," explains Phelan. "We need to
introduce 'cues' and 'clues' into a domestic environment to modify
consumer's GHG-causing energy behavior patterns." This might sound like a
heady statement of early 90s Earth Day hype, but what types of alternatives
are possible? What has really changed since then?
Conceived for the home, CO2nvert's products like the "Greenhouse Fuse" rely
on our wall sockets being smart enough to know the type of appliance plugged
into them. If the quality of energy used by the appliance is unclean, the
fuse will blow. The "Carbon Sink Filter" is a packaged carbon-sink that
comes with tree seedlings that once planted, soak up the carbon dioxide
emissions generated. Similarly, the CO2nvert "Emissions Bill" is a monthly
reminder breaking down each household's global pollutant contribution. This
might entice you to ease up on your hair dryers and electric blender use. Or
if you worry about clean energy sources, the "Windwasher" flashes a message
on its LCD screen alerting us when off shore breezes are available to spin
CO2nvert's opus is "Appliance Weathermap", a real-time weather map featuring
flying dishwashers over your home country that signal the opportune time to
use natural energy. "In times of high winds or sunshine, appliance weather
maps should show the amount of power they hold so that, given enough
renewable energy resources, we can put our foot down at opportune times,"
Whether it's through personal choice or subtle differences in the appliances
or bills we receive everyday, projects like CO2nvert serve as a wake up call
to our energy consumption, a topic often elided in discourse about the
"virtual" and the implicit assumption that contemporary technoculture is
less materially damaging than other forms of industry. Artists continue to
challenge our habits of interaction with the planet, and attempt to shape
our relationship to precious natural resources. Despite the range of
environmentally conscious projects in both art and design, change is only
possible when our individual actions are manifested on a global scale. "If
we use interaction design to introduce such [ecological] 'feedback' into the
home or work," agree Phelan, " Then this can turn a small individual
difference into a massive collective one."
-Jonah Brucker-Cohen (email@example.com)
Jonah Brucker-Cohen | Media Lab Europe
Research Fellow | Sugar House Lane
Human Connectedness | Bellevue Dublin 8, Ireland
(h) +353 1 4760375 (w) +353 1 4742853 (m) +353 1 (0)87 7990004
Report From the 6th International Browserday
May 17, 2002
by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Paradiso, an old church turned nightclub in the heart of
Amsterdam, was an unlikely venue to collide with visions of Internet
future presented by over 30 participants during the 6th International
Browserday. After successful past runs in Amsterdam, New York, and
Berlin, Browserday's founder Mieke Gerritzen started the festival on
the simple notion that the Internet is far too rich a medium for
expression to be siphoned through the existing canon of Netscape and
IE. Browserday is an opportunity, challenge, and competition for
young designers and artists to destroy the status quo of what it
means to "browse" information both online and offline and come up
with new alternatives and precedents.
This year, Browserday's theme was "Mobile Minded: Rich Air", a
testament to our increasingly mobile existence and growing
dependencies on cell phones, PDAs, GPS, and wireless networks. A
festive "Browser Dinner" designed by media artist Shulea Cheang took
place the night before in a large greenhouse outside of the city. The
dinner featured waiters dressed as cyborgs and only serving food to
hungry guests who made the most audible bleeps with their cell phones.
The event itself was hosted by the lively John Thakara of Doors of
Perception fame and began with the presentation, "Klima Kontrolle", a
funny gag where Roel Wouters and Luna Maurer from Amsterdam's
Sandberg Institute plugged in a desk fan and pointed it at a Mac
laptop causing the desktop to gradually blow off the screen. Among
the themes mentioned throughout the evening included technology's
relationship to the body, connections between public and private
spaces, data surveillance and customization, control of information
flow, and the emotional and social structures of human/computer
After the presentations concluded, the jury announced a short list of
five nominees and the winner of the event. The finalists included:
"Instinct" - a proposal to color-code our cell phone address books
according to the real-time mood and physical state of our friends.
"Emotional Landscapes" - a future emotional data-layer of an urban
space where people could leave traces of the emotions they felt in
distinct locations via GPS tracking. "Abbreviated Lifestyles" - five
timepieces that attempted to restructure our lives based on
time-based systems such as keeping track of our dreams and
aspirations over a lifetime. "Browsing the Air" - an enthusiastic
trio from Berlin who presented a plan to encrypt SMS messages sent
between mobile phones. "My Browser", by Bob Stel and Lauran Ory also
of the Sandberg Institute, which ultimately won the event, featured a
video presentation of a dying old man describing his personal
attachment to his browser. Speaking of the browser as if it was his
only companion, the project emphasized the idea that in the future
our personal attachments to technology will ultimately become more
important than simply using technology.
Other honorable mentions included "Body Mnemonics", a comment on how
information can be ultimately something stored on our body itself
where different locations signify different types of data. For
instance, you might keep your enemies information on your neck and
give the phrase "pain in the neck" entirely new meaning. Also
interesting proposals were "Flesh- Machine", a dynamic tattoo that
changes its appearance and stores information as your body changes,
and "Tired to Be Wired, No Strings Attached" a video presentation
about the rise of Internet telepathy in a not-so-distant future.
Following the student presenters were two guest speakers, along with
short talks by past winners of Browserday including myself, Joes
Koppers, and Victor Vina. Tim Pritlove of Berlin's Chaos Computer
Club (http://www.ccc.de) (the world oldest hackers club founded in
1981), gave an inspiring presentation on the freedom of information
and accessible public interfaces. After defending the true meaning of
the term "hacker" as philanthropic rather than menacing, Pritlove
described CCC's latest coup/project, "Blinkenlights"
(http://www.blinkenlights.de) as a culmination of the group's 20t
year history. The Blinkenlights project, which turned a 12 story
building in Germany's Alexanderplatz into a low-res computer monitor
using high-powered controllable lights in every window, was the
club's attempt at making the first ever dynamic, multi-user public
display. He showed examples of passersbys playing Pong on the
building with their mobile phones, sending in customized animations
created with homemade BlinkenPaint software, and even adding "hacks"
to the open-source software running the installation.
Between student presentations was also a demo by Jaap de Dulk, the
person responsible for porting Japan's wildly successful I-Mode
phones to KPN (Dutch Telecom) and the European market. Dulk described
ways to implement homemade I-Mode sites and showed some of the
features unique to the platform in Europe such as SPS (Short Picture
Service), a new sibling to SMS that lets you send graphics and
animations to other people.
After the presentations and winners ceremony ended, techno and
hip-hop beats filled the Paradiso's terraced interior. The advent of
Browserday sparked hope that the future of information retrieval,
access, and dissemination will escape the control of
mega-corporations or governments. The "browser" itself no longer
holds the same meaning it did in the early days of the Net. Instead
of thinking of a browser as something that displays information,
Browserday is challenging us to question how the information itself
will dictate and adapt its own delivery mechanisms. Ultimately, the
browser is becoming less of a signifier for the web than a way of
manipulating and exploring the dynamic of social and personal data
flow. The next International Browserday will take place in Montreal,
Canada next spring.