Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dead/Live Video... 5/2/09

Dead/Live Video at Mass Art was incredible, at least the half hour of it I was able to catch made me wish I had gotten there earlier....
Thanks to Zebbler for organizing this event.

Dead/Live Video...5/2/09 from Boston Cyberarts on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Children of Arcadia" at Cambridge Arts Council

Walk into the gallery at the Cambridge Arts Council this week and you might kick yourself for forgetting your umbrella. Children of Arcadia, currently on view as part of the Cyberarts festival, immerses you in a digital tableau that suggests Lower Manhattan’s financial district reborn as a pre-industrial utopia, albeit one subject to the vagaries of current societal upheaval (which is manifest as, among other things, lots and lots of rain).

Human figures wander aimlessly across the landscape, and if you visit the gallery, you can take your turn navigating its ridges and rivers. The experience suggests your first visit to Second Life, and part of the fun comes from reconciling your avatar’s point-of-view with the omniscient POV projected on the gallery wall.

If a work of art can reflect society at the moment at which it’s created, then cyberart can reflect the evolution (or devolution) of society as the viewer experiences it. The landscape of Children of Arcadia is constantly changing based on data from the New York Stock Exchange and Google headline searches. If more “socially good” keywords show up in the search, the figures, or AIs, act politely with one another. If the Dow is gaining points, the sun comes out. (Viewers who attend the exhibition after the market has closed, however, will see uniformly rainy skies that reflect the downward trend of the last year.)

New media artist Mark Skwarek, working with digital animator Joseph Hocking, created Children of Arcadia as his Master’s Thesis project at RISD. “The work gathers real-time information from the internet related to the American economy and society and translates into either a utopia or an apocalypse,” explains Skwarek in his thesis defense. “A combination of the parsed information, the user’s actions, and those of the AIs…form the moral fabric of the society. This allows for multiple outcomes in similar apocalyptic situations.”

At last night’s First Mondays reception, this made for an interesting social experiment, as gallery-goers politely deferred to each other’s joystick-hogging and the live, acoustic accompaniment of bluesy Jahn Sood lent a resigned note to the apocalypse.

Working the joystick, I struggled futilely to transcend the boundaries of the Financial District ruins, and to connect with the other AIs with whom I crossed paths. I began to feel like a hamster going faster and faster on a wheel even as the glass cage surrounding it begins to shatter.

You can experience Arcadia at the Cambridge Arts Council Gallery through May 15, or view a demo at

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Makers Revolution

"We are obsessed with rapid prototyping," said Bre Pattis. On the table in front of us sat a CupCake CNC- a wood framed box filled with all manner of wiring and miniature motors. The conglomeration of parts came together in a surprisingly aesthetically pleasing manner. Inside the box, a plastic extruder was literally printing a three dimensional miniature airplane wing. Rapid prototyping was right. Bre added that they had shown up that morning without the tweezers they needed to complete setup of their display, so they had the CupCake make a new pair for them. He said it had taken less than three minutes.

Talk about resourcefulness.

But then- resourcefulness is the name of the game at this weekend's Maker Revolution, a two day event focusing on Do-It-Yourself (DIY) technology. It's the brainchild of local hackerspace Willoughby and Baltic, and is held at the Microsoft Startup Labs in Cambridge.

The entire eleventh floor of the Microsoft building was packed with all manner of gadgetry for the event- a rather schizophrenic looking sound station stocked with modified toys, a laser triggered art installation, a low frequency sound listening box, and my favorite- a hardware hacker station.

Over at the hardware station I ran into Mitch Altman, who had been somewhat of an idol of mine ever since I read about his TV-B-Gone in the AdBusters magazine about a million years ago. It's a key chain remote control that can turn off any TV. This is the gadget I've wished I had countless times at the bar when subjected to FOX News or some lame sports show (sorry sports fans).

Mitch's greying hair had been died a deep neon blue and purple and he wore a shirt from NoiseBridge- a hackerspace in San Fransisco that he founded last year. He was in Boston teach people to solder. "The TV-B-Gone provides me with enough money to do this full time," he said, "my goal is to make this stuff intriguing enough that even if someone has never made anything before they want to become involved."

Well, they succeeded with me. Within 45 minutes I was seated at a table with four other tentative beginners in what was my first ever circuit bending workshop. We were deconstructing a Staples "Easy Button" to modify the sounds it makes. Armed with soldering irons and an endless supply of electronic components, instructor Jimmie Rodgers guided us through the creation of our very own noisemakers.

I have to confess that initially, I was pretty apprehensive about handling the soldering iron. Visions of third degree burns ran through my head. Luckily, Jimmie put me at ease and soon I was well on my way to my first ever circuit bended toy. I outfitted it with two contact distortion points made from a penny and a Mexican 20 centavo piece, and I attached a pretty nifty looking red knob.

Immediately after completing my project, I decided that circuit bending is positively amazing and I needed to do more of it ASAP. I was one of those kids that used to take apart all of my toys, and it really appealed to that geeky part of me that liked to see how things work.

As I left the Microsoft building that evening with modified easy button in hand, I couldn't help but feel like I had just discovered a very empowered community of people. Willoughby and Baltic could certainly judge the success of their event by the substantial crowds, but I think a more important gauge would be the amount of DIY spirit and philosophy that permeated everything and everyone in the space.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nourishment, Art That Feeds the Soul and Makes Strong Funny Bones will be an exhibit at Art Institute of Boston @ Lesley University featuring the work of two artists, Ellen Wetmore and Jeff Warmouth.

Last week, I interviewed Jeff about his work and what he has in store for his part of the show.

MCE: Can you tell me a bit about what you have planned for the Cyberarts Festival?

JW: I’m creating competing fast food establishments. The gallery is going to be divided into large interactive video installations that represent two different fictional fast foods establishments, Jeffu Burger and JFC.

Both of the video components are going to have myself, as representative of the establishment, as a sort of a cybernetic agent. There will be a touch screen ordering system, so the public can come up and make a selection from a bunch of different fast food combinations

MCE: Why did you choose to incorporate technology? Why touch-screens and cybernetic agents?

JW: I’ve been doing food-based work for forever -- for a decade at this point -- but I’ve never really done fast food, per se. But I just began really thinking about fast food as a cybernetic experience. You know, from almost the micro-level, you drive up to the drive-thru window -- and there is technology. We don’t even talk to a person anymore; we’re mediated by technology at that level. You pull up to a window, speak to a little voice in the speaker and you have a menu that you are looking at.

Even on a much larger level, fast food as it exists in the world is totally dependent on 20th century technology. Just in terms of the way cows are grown to produce beef -- that could not exist without a lot of machinery, inventions like fertilizers, and lots and lots of technology that wasn’t around before the latter part of the 20th century. Fast food is all wrapped up in technology.

I work with comedy, and of course, there are jokes, culturally, about “Oh, fast food… it’s all the plastic. It’s all the same. It’s robotic.” Even though it really is humans serving things up to you.

But, in a sense if you drive up to a fast food window or you walk into a McDonalds and order, the workers, reading scripts, are almost like cybernetic entities onto themselves. They are not really enacting the roles of humans anymore. They are sort of enacting this cybernetic, robotic role.

MCE: Can I interrupt you for a moment and ask what you mean by cybernetic?

JW: I’m probably not being consistent in my use. I’m certainly familiar with Norbert Weiner’s definition of cybernetics and how in its original, literal sense it’s all based on feedback.

I guess also I’m using the word in the sense of a cyborg. I mean, when I say the role they are playing is no longer a human role, they’re playing a robotic role. Also, when I’m thinking about cybernetics and fast food as a cybernetic experience, I’m thinking about both the sense of a feedback loop but also, I suppose, a dystopian sense that a computer or a machine is implicitly part of that feedback loop and is moderating that feedback -- ..

MCE: That’s funny, actually, feedback is like feed and food …

JF: Food—exactly. Absolutely. I definitely think about it. I think that one of the brain storms for a name of the show had to do with feedback, like a pun, on “Feed bags” or something…

Speaking of puns, I’ve heard you talk about the importance of comedy in your work. Why do you think this is an effective way to subvert everyday practices for you?

Of course, it would be great to have a funny answer.

Why is it effective? I’m not sure. I think our society accepts comedy. I think it’s maybe the only place that society really accepts these deep subversive messages. So, I suppose, it works in terms of audience. Because we are kind of prepped for it.

With all of my pieces, whether I'm really heavy on technology or not, for me the comedy is what it all comes back to. It's the way that I’ve found to get the message across. It's playful and I like playing. It allows for the comic and for the subversive. It allows for the poetic. It allows for concrete things but also abstract and philosophical things but without having to be philosophical.

MCE: Thanks, this has been really great. As a final question, any words of advice for people coming to see your work?

JF: Enjoy it. Play around and enjoy it.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

1/2 Dozen Questions with Zebbler

Zebbler (aka Peter Berdovsky) is a one-of-a-kind personality in the Boston art scene. In fact, he was just voted Boston's best visual artist by the readers of the Boston Phoenix. (You may also remember him from a little 2006 incident involving Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Department of Homeland Security). He indulged our questions in advance of his Cyberarts project, the Dead Video/Live Video festival, happening May 2 and 3 at the MassArt's Pozen Center.

1. Pretend this is Twitter. Describe “Dead/Live” in 140 characters or less.

Dead/Live Fest makes artists compete in two categories: short/music videos and live visual performances. We will pack a screening, performance competition, awards ceremony and a dance party all into one night of incredible visual fun in Pozen Center at Massart on May 2nd.

2. The submission guidelines for the festival seemed pretty broad. How would you describe the range and quality of submissions you received?

I truly enjoyed the range of the submissions. We had a range from super complex 3d work to lazily keyed layers from stolen youtube clips. They were all mostly great submissions though. I really wish I could show more - but we had to limit the finalists to just over an hour master reel.

3. Who’s jurying the festival?

Mostly just me - yours truly Zebbler. I've been pretty responsible about things and emailed everyone personally to tell them why they got picked or rejected.

I have elected two people to help me judge the live video competition of the festival - Nick Colangelo (aka Vinyl Blight) and Ben Cantil (aka Encanti). They are both from my start-up arts and media label Vermin Street.

Anything can happen in a live performance setting - so I could really use their eyeballs/ears to tell me what rocked and what just didn't work for them.

I have removed myself and my other jurors from the competition obviously. But - all in all - I am sort of enjoying this tyrannical freedom of picking out strong pieces from all of the submissions and weeding out the weak ones. I like having full creative control when hosting events like Dead/Live fest. It allows me to hold the larger vision in my mind and resonate all of the submissions against that larger vision of what I want the event to be like. Hopefully people will like what I planted in the garden for them this spring and we could come back to it year after year to pick the harvest.

4. You were obviously in the middle of a pretty famous example of this city reacting badly to a guerrilla marketing campaign, and now we have the Shepard Fairey arrest. Do you think this town makes it tough for artists to work outside the traditional lines, so to speak? Dead/Live, and other events in the Cyberarts Festival, would seem to argue against that conclusion.

I love Boston. I think there are a lot of very creative, beautiful, intelligent people in this city. They/we are the future of the city, and when the right time comes, it will be us in control of the City Hall. What will we do then? I would argue that it's hard to do anything much different that it's being done now immediately. We are in a tough budget crisis in a country that has generally disapproved of funding of the arts for a while. But that's not a reason to give up.

I say - lets take care of our bare necessities first, but when the trouble times turn around - lets not forget that the arts are really the soul of the city. Let our souls shine. Let Boston shine.

5. What’s your strongest pitch for getting the readers of this blog into the Pozen Center on May 2?
  1. It's really a gift for you guys from me. I have invested a ton of time and money and friendships to make this event happen. And here's why I would want to attend myself:
  2. The venue rocks! Surround sound on a moveable lighting truss, giant projection screen, modular staging environment.
  3. The performers will rock! We are holding a competition for best use of video in live performance environment. This will be like speed dating for VJs. Every act gets around 15-20 minutes to woo us. Look them up on they are fabulous.
  4. The video screening will be very interesting and beautiful. Some of the pieces are melancholy beautiful, some are very intense, some pop, some anti pop. A very nice mix for all the video connoisseurs out there. And the beauty here too is that it's very personal - each video you see was personally submitted to me by its creator. There's no corporate groups making any of it - it's all individuals like you and me - with something to say and something to show. They do it very well too.
  5. The afterparty/awards will be silly good too. Very relaxed awards will be followed by a very complex performance sequence in surround and HD live. Dance party like no other in the city. From one artist to another.
6. How does Dead/Live fit into the broader scope of work that you doing right now? Are you more interested in creating your own work or creating opportunities for other artists to present their work, such as this?

I like doing both. I really like expressing myself visually and performing. But it's all about the desire to share something beautiful with my audience. And this is exactly what I am trying to do with my festival as well - share something beautiful with all of you.

And it does create a service for the artists that get featured in the fest as well - it's great exposure for them.

My bottom line was fun though. I want it to be a fun experience for myself to do this, for the audience to experience it and for the artists to perform and present their work. That's it really.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"I'm Not Here" by Juria Yoshikawa

"I'm Not Here" by Juria Yoshikawa (a.k.a. Lance Shields, RL name) is being shown as a SL-RL link up at CounterpART Gallery in Lowell, MA, April 24 to May 10. The artwork is located in SL at the Kennesaw State Univ. sim at:

Getting Lost in Yourself
Once you get used to the idea of yourself as an avatar and an artist (or whatever you choose to be) in the virtual world, you very quickly take it for granted that this is "you", this is how you behave around other Second Life (SL) avatars and this is how you see all things virtual. In a way taking it for granted is a little sad since many of us were and are looking for some kind of new otherness in our experience and creations in SL. But is this really me in SL? On the same note is this really me in real life (RL) when I go to work everyday? Thinking about these questions, I created "I'm Not Here" to be an immersive situation to enhance the avatar’s sense of self in SL through color, light, motion and audio while putting the avatar in the center of the art. When I say “I’m not here”, the work is asking what “being here” as SL avatars is really about. With this in mind, I created two large translucent, light sculptures for visitors to enter in, lose themselves and discover themselves anew as abstracted shapes in color. I also placed audio samples of voices in sculptures throughout the space that get triggered when people walk through them - creating a room size, multi-player musical instrument and echoes of disembodied voices. To further objectify the avatar body as a part of the art itself, I also provide animations that viewers can activate to move their avatars in perplexing ways. At the same time, participants are invited to take snapshots of themselves as colored silhouettes and post the photos to become permanent artifacts and a lasting part of the experience.

SL to RL and New Levels of Meaning
I've taken countless images in the two light space-sculptures since I first rezzed them two years ago. One of the ideas of this installation is that the art functions on many levels: virtual installation and space, 2D photos taken within the spaces and shown on the wall panels in SL and more recently as part of Boston Cyber Arts actual prints of the images shown in the RL gallery at CounterpART. If people buy some of the prints, they will be hung in their homes and this will be another layer. All of these are experiences in themselves and raise such questions as what is here and now, what is art, what is this experience I'm having right now?

But Who Am I?

I suppose I should use this blog post to introduce myself or should I say ourselves. I am Juria Yoshikawa and I arrived in Second Life in the winter of 2007 looking for a new artistic spark. Rather than bringing in rl artwork, I felt compelled to use mainly the elements that make up SL itself. A typical virtual artwork of mine mixes kinetic objects, animated texture, repurposed lsl script, ambient noise and av animations. I also usually work in large scales because I am interested in people experiencing the work in a physical way - flying through them, riding on them and socializing within the art. I especially enjoy remote collaborations between musicians, coders, curators from around the world who are brought together in the virtual space to create a new genre of artwork.

In my real life, I am also Lance Shields, a Tokyo based new media artist and designer. I have spent many years making digital art, installation art and performance. Sculpture and installation are where I started my creative career but I became progressively more involved in the digital and interactive. I see Second Life as a return back to my artistic roots yet at the same time combines my newer interests in the phenomenology in the virtual world. I chose to be a female avatar (after a short stint as a male avatar) not so much to be a part of the sexual dynamics in SL but as an experiment in creating a completely new persona as well as learning to make art from the point of view of a female. Juria is actually part of the art herself, often times wearing the art and appearing in many of the photos and videos I take of the art.

In the end, when I'm making art in SL I'm clearly both Juria and Lance. Do I get lost at times explaining whose work it is and what sort of person is behind the work? Yes, I do. But I also with little hesitation accept this layering of identity and world views and just want to keep making art. I may not be here but someone sure is.

My work has been exhibited and supported inworld at IBM sim, Princeton University sim, Visions of Global Justice (UCLA), Kennesaw State University, Brooklyn is Watching (Jack the Pelican Presents) and in RL at the Directors Lounge Festival in Berlin.

Past Juria Yoshikawa work online:

Get Your Fix of Electronic Music at Brandeis

If you want to check out some great electronic music tonight, the Slosberg Music Center at Brandeis University is the place to be. The intimate venue will be the scene for the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio (BEAMS) Electronic Music Half-Marathon.

“I’ve been playing music since I was four years old,” says featured artist James Borchers, “ever since my parents bought me a sears drum set.” A Nebraska native, Borchers moved to New York in 2001 to study music. While he still enjoys percussion, he admits that composition is his first love.

An incredibly versatile musician, Borchers has composed pieces for orchestral and chamber music, electronic music, opera and music theater. He’s performed at the Storm King Music Festival, Bang on a can marathon, Ballet Hispanico, New York Youth Symphony and the New Amsterdam Orchestra.

“Tonight I’ll be performing Composed Improvisation,” says Borchers, “it’s a piece using the tabla and a laptop. The actual notes are not written, but the piece is fairly consistent at each performance. The laptop responds to different sounds the tabla makes.” The Tabla is a popular Indian percussion instrument.

Guest artist Charles Dodge will start off events at 4:00 p.m. with a lecture on his extensive work in the field. One of the first musicians to use synthetic voice manipulation, his 1972 composition Speech Songs is considered a computer classic.

Dodge’s award winning work music led him to co-author book Computer Music: Synthesis, Composition and Performance, a well-known textbook on electronic music. He’s also the founder of the Center for Computer Music at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

At 8:00 p.m. the Slosberg Music Center audience will be treated to Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental performed by Sara Bob and for Baird, etudes for violin and electronics performed by Krista Reisner. The lineup will continue with James Borchers, Christian Gentry, Peter Lane, Travis Alford, Yohanan Chendler and Brandeis Professor Eric Chasalow.

The marathon is taking place in conjunction with the April 22-26 Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts which features plays, concerts and art exhibitions. All events are free and open to the public.

The marathon will be held at the Slosberg Music center, Brandeis University Brandeis at 415 South St in Waltham. Call 781/736-3331 for more information.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Processing Time (A code jam, a party and competition!)

At Processing Time you can: Compete individually or in pairs to design and develop beautiful programs in Processing. Snack and refresh yourself. Present completed projects to other participants and visitors at the end of the day. Anyone (not just MIT students or community members) can compete, anyone can stop by to see presentations. Meet the creators of Processing, Ben Fry (in person) and Casey Reas (via video), who will give awards.

Last week, I sat down with Nick Montfort, the organizer of Processing Time as well as author, editor and professor at MIT, to talk about the event.

MCE: Why did you decide to organize Processing Time?

NM: The long answer is that my involvement in the Boston Cyberarts festival started in 2001 with this event called the Boston T1 Party, an electronic literature reading that we put on with eleven authors and nine different works in the main auditorium of the Boston public library. I think it’s probably the most successful public event outside a university or some other similar context as far as drawing in people to see what electronic literature was like. It was a great event in many ways.

Once I came back to the Boston area, I knew I wanted to participate in the Cyberarts festival again and organize some sort of event. I started to think about what might work well from the standpoint of MIT's engagement with the arts, as well as things that weren’t otherwise represented in the Cyberarts festival. Electronic literature would certainly fit the latter category; as far as I know there isn’t going to be a reading this year.

But one other thing that seemed to be missing from the festival was events that looked at how computation was aesthetic, how it was a part of art practice. Obviously, we use computation in almost any sort of digital work, not something on a DVD but anything that is on a computer. And that is not the element most often foregrounded -- it’s the visual element, it’s the interface. But how it is that a program could function in a beautiful way, could do something interesting -- that was pretty intriguing.

So, thinking about these things, talking with Leila Kinney, who is the Director of Arts Initiatives here at MIT, it seemed like it would be nice to have a party, a coding session, a competition--not like an in ACM programming contest sort of way, but more in the sense of the Interactive Fiction Competition or various other competitions people hold online. That is, where a community interested in a particular type of coding practice in digital media form gets together, does these things, shows them to each other and appreciates what they’ve done -- and has fun.

MCE: Have you, yourself, made any time-based work in Processing?

NM: My own practice is much more involved with text and writing, so I haven’t looked at that very much. … I’m generally interested in unusual displays of time because they play with the convention that we know of for how time is supposed to be displayed, which is very seldom questioned. But when it is, it’s sometimes questioned in a really interesting way,

I’m also interested in clocks as functions. You want to map the time, which you have as an input, to an output, which could be sound, could be text, could be visual. When you build a clock, you’re doing something you can’t do in Illustrator. You’re actually creating this mapping between what you see and the time as it is represented in your computer internally.

I should say that also, to give us something to do, we’re going to start off and say ok, ‘build a clock.’ But some people’s programs may have the display of time as a rather incidental thing, and they may do a bunch of other things. We’re not restricting anyone from doing anything else. But in order to have something that all of us that afternoon are working on in common, we’re all going to throw that out there.

MCE: During the presentations, are people going to be encouraged to show their code?

NM: Encouraged or required! I think that the point is to see what beautiful programs are like. So, when you run them, you see what you do. But you’d also like to be able look at code and see how they are written.

MCE: Should people know Processing if they want to come?

NM: They should either know Processing or bring a teammate who knows Processing.

We’re not having an introductory workshop or training sessions. But we did want to accommodate people who have an interest in this type of work, who want to come and be part of the event, but their knowledge of how to program Processing was limited. The way we thought to do this was to have individuals allowed to compete, but also pairs of people.

MCE: A coding party. It’s awesome. Any words of encouragement or final thoughts?

NM: A lot of people want to come and watch and see the results and that’s great. But people should come compete also! We have some people signed up already, and we’d like to get more!

There you have it. To sign up, contact :

For more information, go to or download the .pdf.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Navigating Virtual Space

“Virtuelle Mauer/ ReConstructing the Wall,” a virtual reality artwork by artists T+T (Tamiko Thiel and Teresa Reuter at the Goethe Institute on April 23 2009 with an artist’s talk at 6 pm. The exhibit will be on view April 24 – May 6, 2009.

Here’s how it will begin: You’ll be standing in a darkened gallery at a podium. In front of you an animated three-dimensional (3-D) world will be glowing, projected onto a nine by twelve foot screen. With your hand on a simple joystick, you’ll navigate. You’ll be wandering in a space fractured by the Berlin Wall sometime between the 1960s and 1980s.

The Berlin Wall, which divided West and East Berlin during the Cold War has become a cultural and political icon. However, its lived experience and daily reality is fading with the distance of time. "Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall," in one respect, is an intervention in this forgetting, a catalyst for understanding and remembrance. Built over years of research and reflection, involving interviews with residents, archival documents and the artists’ own personal experiences of the wall, the artist team T+T (Tamiko Thiel and Teresa Reuter) have reconstructed a one-kilometer (~1/2 mile) area of the neighborhood between the West Berlin district Kreuzberg and the East Berlin district Mitte. You, the viewer, inhabit this space. You may try to overcome the physical obstacle presented by the wall, attempting escape, or you may engage the characters you meet; each interaction will unfold and release other stories that make up the social and political fabric of the space.

What exactly you’ll see and experience is a choice. “I think of the virtual world as a virtual stage set; not in that the audience watches the stage, but that you’re inside of the play. Your movements and actions, your decisions of where to go and what to do are triggering the elements of the plot,” explains Thiel. Without a viewer to look at and engage with the virtual world, the work is incomplete. “The primary idea of the installation,” according to Thiel “is that the user explores it themselves and, with their own kinesthetic and spatial sense, measures the wall in essence, and really deals with the wall as a barrier. ‘How do I get around this? How do I make sense of this world that is split in two by the wall?”

“Virtual reality” (VR) usually suggests donning expensive hardware or entering a specialized studio. Here, T+T are more concerned not with the technology that VR utilizes, but the experience it enables—an immersive and interactive experience of space. Moreover, the technology T+T work with is accessible to as many viewers as possible. “I think interactive 3-D media has so much potential to reach a wide audience,” Thiel says. “And, it’s clear to me that reaching a very wide audience includes people who don’t like games and people who would never touch a computer, reaching not just young people but very old people and people who are handicapped and don’t have the finger dexterity to do keyboard shortcuts.” Thus, the necessary movements for interaction are reduced down to a bare minimum: a joystick which moves right, left, forward and back.

The installation proves to be not only an exploration of the lived experience of the Berlin Wall but also an exploration of the idea of the virtual. How are we transported to new spaces and new ideas by technology? How can we engage the mental and physical spaces of history? T+T’s installation proves to be a fascinating, thought-provoking experience – and surely not to be missed during this year’s festival.

For more information on the exhibit, see the Cyberarts Festival page or the “Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall” project page.

For further reading, an excellent interview about the piece was published last year between Tamiko Thiel and Jonathan Taylor of On Screen Magazine during its US premiere at 911 Seattle Media Arts Center.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gene Gort on LABOR & the Creative Commons Philosophy

Ken Steen, Gene Gort and Jeffrey Krieger with the Reliquary of Labor logo,
a circle of dancing sparks that symbolizes their collaboration.
Q: Why is transparency of the creative process important to you?

GG: The notion that art is a result of some divine inspiration that drops from the sky into the gallery/museum/concert hall is overrated and mythologized too much. We want people to know that art is a struggle, a process, a dialogue that comes in fits and starts. In short, it is LABOR, hence the title. Our metaphor was like a building progressing over time within plain sight of the neighborhood or the community; it changes subtly and not so subtly every time you pass by. For the idea to work for us, we wanted to de-emphasize the end result - the performance moment - and allow viewers/participants to witness the mistakes, the false starts. We were educated in the 70's and things like process driven art, performance art and the strategies of artists like John Cage have influenced us profoundly.

Q. How can audiences participate in the project?

GG: Well, the project is ongoing. We are open to any and all suggestions. The score is available on request as are all the raw date files. There are podcasts available from the site with a lot of writing and notation. If someone is inspired to take on this material, they can use it and rebuild it themselves. They can also send us remixes for use to incorporate in future iterations. As part of the Creative Commons philosophy, we would like to be credited with the origin of the material if someone undertakes this independently.

Q. What do you hope audiences will discover?

GG: Like any good artwork, the process of discovery itself is important. I, as an artist, am not interested in reaching a mass audience. I am more interested in what is akin to a gentle nudge in the ribs and a whisper, "Did you ever notice this?" That's what good art does to me. If we can allow the audience access to our process of discovery maybe they can arrive at their own moment of discovery on their terms. As we gathered the material over the year or so, our observations blossomed into something transformative to us about work and skill and craft and cooperation of the workers at the site, as well as our own processes. The logo for the project, the circle with dancing sparks, is emblematic of our discovery. A pipe subject to an electric grinder, at the hands of a skilled worker, seen from a particular vantage point, becomes something altogether different and beautiful. This is the area of discovery we hope ROL invites in the viewer.

RELIQUARY OF LABOR, a parallel-media project by Gene Gort + Ken Steen features a solo performance by electronic cellist Jeff Krieger. It is a work-in-progress that incorporates the performing forces of electronic cello, multi-channel computer generated and manipulated sound, video and a variety of web-based components.

More info about at:

Tuesday, 28 Apr, 2009 - 7:30pm Axiom Gallery, 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA. Tickets - $10

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Playing around at MIT

by Marlene Genovese

I enjoy a few video games, including popular titles like Halo and Portal. Games are everywhere; in the box, in the newspaper, on my mobile phone, on the social networking site and in advertisements. I’ve been enjoying gaming for many years, and for me classic titles from childhood include Pong, Ms. Pac Man, Castlevania and how many times have we all dreamt Tetris?

My husband works in the video game industry and I’ve learned that all things involved in commercial gaming are TOP SECRET until the marketing machine decides its time to promote. If you are curious about how video games are made you will want to add the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab to your list of events to see. This isn’t a commercial lab so they are inviting you right in to show you how it’s done.

In the development phase, video games are a nascent combination of graphics and programming, all which will run on an engine platform (video and engine processors) which originate the interaction between the programmed content and the player(s). Game theorists, artists and programmers collaborate on a medium that is interactive, fun, visually pleasing while trying to achieve a technically smooth experience. The grad students at the lab are doubly busy this spring as they each have a thesis to complete and part of the exhibit to design for the opening day on May 1.

At the exhibit you will be able to view a plotted history of video game craft in the Boston/Cambridge area. There will also be plenty of opportunities to sit down and enjoy some of the local games that have a place in this history.

Creating a game is quite a process. It’s amazing really that you can go from storyboarding and idea to completing a final experience that is ready for anyone to play. The artists have a vision of how it will look. The game designers want to invent fresh fun that has a strong element of challenge and the programmers figure out what engine platform it will run on. Sprinkled in are technical artists, process leads, special effects and audio teams.

It’s a big endeavor but Philip Tan, the executive director is enthusiastic to share it. “We want to demystify the process of making games.” The exhibit will be set-up during April. In addition to the timeline, grad students will be on hand to demonstrate a little audio integration, special effects, graphics creation and animation exercises. You can demo a mobile game (for Nokia or Ericsson cell phones) online or download a XBOX game at if you can’t wait! I know I couldn’t.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gene Gort on Evolution of a Project

Q: What should people expect at Reliquary of Labor?

GG: We will present the solo version of ROL as seen on the website with a few tweaks. There are some areas in the last movement I want to embellish with images from earlier sections as a kind of reprise...I haven't told Ken or Jeff (cellist in image on left) yet, but that' what's interesting about this - they will probably surprise me with something too. The set up for the evening will be single channel video projection, stereo fixed-media sound and Jeff on electric cello with real-time effects using MAX/MSP processing. It focuses on Jeff's musicianship as a soloist, so other parts from the original work that highlighted percussion have been edited out. It runs about 40 minutes.

Q. How has Reliquary of Labor changed over time? Has the project evolved as you had imagined it?

GG: Some things have happened that we expected/predicted. Ken developed the music for Jeff's solo repertoire that will be at Axiom, which required a re-working of all the percussion parts as electronic, sampled and pre-recorded parts. I re-worked the multi-channel video into single channel with the opportunity for sync sound editing in this version. We were able to do a studio recording as well,, which is now on the site. Jeff has also worked with a short section of the "Under Wraps" video, edited it, and now has an improvisation he has added to his solo "Videocello" repertoire under the title "Recycled Tyvek." One thing that hasn't developed very much is the re-use of our material as posted online. I think that's just due to marketing/visibility but we don't know unless people inform us - which is part of the Creative Commons philosophy. There is so much material I want to return to - especially the sound files. We harvested material for over a year so I suspect we all will resuscitate new things as time goes by. It's very rich for us.

RELIQUARY OF LABOR, a parallel-media project by Gene Gort + Ken Steen features a solo performance by electronic cellist Jeff Krieger. It is a work-in-progress that incorporates the performing forces of electronic cello, multi-channel computer generated and manipulated sound, video and a variety of web-based components.

More info at: Podcasts and videos of the work are on the website.

Tuesday, 28 April, 2009 - 7:30pm. Axiom Gallery 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA Tickets $10

Friday, March 20, 2009

Checking Out CyberArtCentral

The staff took some time on Thursday to look at the terrific space that will house CyberArtCentral, the central headquarters and visitor center for the 2009 Boston Cyberarts Festival. We’re going to be occupying a spacious, light-filled corner storefront on the ground floor of 1330 Boylston Street, a brand-new building run by Samuels & Associates in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston.

CyberArtCentral is the place where Festival-goers can pick up information about the Festival, learn more about specific exhibitions and events, talk to Festival volunteers, and purchase Festival merchandise (wait ‘til you see this year’s t-shirts!). We’re also planning an exhibition in the space of artwork by area digital media art students.

In one of those great coincidences of timing, the first weekend of the Festival coincides with a three-game home stand against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, right across the street. So we’re pretty sure there will be plenty of people wandering by and checking us out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Filthy Fluno in SL

Delighted to see that our friend Jeff Lipsky -- also known as Filthy Fluno in Second Life -- was the subject of an extensive article in the New York Times Magazine yesterday! Filthy is working with us to create our own exhibition in Second Life as part of the upcoming 2009 Boston Cyberarts Festival.

Click here to read the entire article.