Have you ever seen a piece of work and wish that you’d done it? Are there projects that you know about that make you want to weep at their brilliance? Well that was the topic of tonights Christmas Lecture, organised by Cybersalon and New Media Knowledge.
Tonight I wore my blogger hat, something I don’t wear often, so here is a summary of each talk. I won’t go into detail on each project mentioned, but will try to get across some of the main points of each speaker. I took a camera, but the space was so intimate for the lecture, I didn’t want to spoil the mood, although a here are a few shots.
Some of the capitals hottest home grown and exported new media talent are coming together for this unique celebration of outstanding work. Four accomplished digeratti will be discussing not their own work - but great work that they admire, they marvel at, and that they wish they’d done. Chaired by digital design pioneer Malcolm Garrett (Applied Information Group) speakers include Jason Bruges (Jason Bruges Studio), Andy Cameron (formerly Antirom, now head of interactive at Fabrica), Sanky (AllofUs) and Simon Waterfall (Poke and newly-elected D&AD Deputy President).
Malcolm Garrett opened the session by introducing the theme of the event. He talked about the newly launched Dynamo London website, “the online showcase for all that is successful, creative, and ground-breaking in the professional world of interactive and digital media. If you have ever seen a project and wondered ‘why didnÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½t I do that?’ now you can share, discuss and celebrate what impressed you. Objective and altruistic, dynamo london celebrates otherwise unsung talent. We encourage you to nominate the work of others Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½ work that inspires you to such a degree that you feel compelled to bring it to the attention of your peers”.
Andy Cameron chose 4 projects as his “why didn’t I do that’ pieces. First was The Weather Project (aka Setting Sun) by Olafur Eliasson for the Tate Modern turbine hall. This project was shown as Andy says, because it was incredibly simple yet ambitious, elegant and has charm. What was interesting is that people would lie on the floor, looking up at the ceiling mirror, moving their bodies into shapes and spelling out words. This led to a shared social experience between visitors. Take a look at this Flickr set. This of course was a considered approach by the artist.
Second was the Composition Station by Andy Allenson with Joe Stephenson for the Science Museum in 2001 (more info). This grid based musical sequencer allowed shared composition between players, with a dynamic changing of grid size he explains. Third was Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1964), an audience participation performance where members would cut part of her clothes off on stage. These works at the time were very influential in what interactivity can be outside of the technology. Audience members would play in different ways, some perhaps being shy, others taking pleasure in her discomfort. This work facilitated a level of communication between the audience, mediated through the artist and the interaction.
Last but by no means least was Access by Marie Sester (shown above). Like the first project, the concept was simple and powerful. Audience members are thrown on to central stage by this light, most run away, some are mini performers he explains. Andy feels that the web interface (that allows online users to select targets) may distract from the key premise, that the original concept is enough on its own.
Jason Bruges presented six projects. (1) Kinetic Light Sculpture, a reactive facade at the Zeilgallery in Frankfurt by Christian Moeller and Ruediger Kramm (1992). (2) Following on from this was Arcade by the Chaos Computer Club. (3) Amodal Suspension by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (watch video). Two other influential projects from Lozano-Hemmer were (4) Frequency and Volume (watch video), sometimes the most obvious interaction is best, and (5) Standards & Double Standards (watch video). (6) was Ron Arad for Lolita. No project descriptions, please see individual links.
Due to Jason’s background as an architect, these works were selected for their presence in a physical space and the shear scale of the work. Jason is also a maker, so he was really admired how some of these were conceived, from the low-tech midi sequencer controlling radios of (4) to the complex construction of Lolita.
Simon Waterfall took a tangent approach, aimed very much at the local London design community due to subject, but had some interesting underlying points. His talk ‘Why its good to hate Daljit Singh‘, poked a little at the Digit London Creative Director, in a humorous way as both he and Simon are friends. Ultimately the talk was about a new piece called Body In Motion that Digit have created for Sony Ericsson, in the context of ‘I wish I had done that’.
Body In Motion is an interactive piece for public space to raise consumer awareness for a new K800i mobile phone. This phone has a feature in the camera, that when you press the snapshot button, it takes 4 shots before and 4 shots after. You can then select the best shot. This interactive video piece lets passers by jump in the air, take a photo of themselves in the process and share it with others. After 10 reasons why its good to hate Daljit (that I won’t bother with here), he went on to 10 reasons why this project was chosen…
the work is based solely on the unique selling point of the product, nothing else. The actual phone itself is used on site to select the desired image and take the shot (via remote link with another camera). It is a physical product interaction, something you will always remember. It took Digit 6 weeks to build. It was designed to fit in a lorry, and it touring 10 countries. Extends the physical on to the web, every part of the strategy is considered. Puts a souvenir and url in your pocket, something to share with your friends. Digit owns the intellectual property. Enjoyed by 60,000 users so far. All futures launches for Sony Ericsson are centred around this project. The last point as to why Simon wishes he had done it, is because Daljit did it first.
The last speaker was Sanky from AllofUs, here is a very quick run through…
Ericofon, a phone from 1954, takes a long time to make a call, so makes you think about the act of making a phone call before the action.
Railings from Greyworld, metal railings in a public space that play the tune ‘the Girl from Ipanema’ when you run a stick along them. Related -> Greyworld interview. The charming interactive and audible prints of Simon Elvins (see previous blog post) and technology in its simplest form of the Paper Record Player.
Then came a whole series of amazing products from the Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. My favorite of those that Sanky mentioned were the lamp bookmark (switches off light when you close book), teabag puppet marionette (play while you dunk) and slippers for children that light up ahead when they wear them. Unfortunately documentation of these things are hard to find. More links: Icon Magazine, IDEO Case Study, Design Boom interview.
Then Sanky presented Bebop from Nic Mulvaney. Bebop looks at your iTunes playlist then informs you of local gigs for that artist. Then he talked about my friend Seulki Kang (see Etch-a-Sound), for his project OGam (shown above). OGam explores an idea of experimenting with contemporary tea ceremony as a form of slowness and human senses (read concept). This tea table plugs into your PC and slowly rotates. The more you work at your machine, the faster the rotation slowly grows. This makes us stop and take time to enjoy tea. You can also compose sound by punching holes in a changeable surface to the table.
Sanky talked about a few others, but his main interests within this context were about duality, taking one thing and recontextualising it into something else. He liked the technology in its simplest form, those that had charm and a sense of magic about them. Projects that take a considered approach, where the designer observes how everyday things are used, and adds new meaning. Its about seeing outside of your own medium that creates something interesting.
The reception afterwards organised by Cybersalon featured The Illustrious Company’s 3D audioscape facility introduced by Heaven 17 founder Martyn Ware with live visuals from body>data>space. Related posts -> Future of Sound
Over all the talks were interesting and varied. Many works the audience may have seen before, but the interest was in why the speaker wishes they had done them in the first place.