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tag: art

The Weather Cafe

I have recently been working with the brilliant Leeds-based artist and director David Shearing on The Weather Café, an immersive café-based installation whose interior shifts gradually to reflect the real-time weather conditions outside. As the wind, rain, light and humidity fluctuate over the day, so too do the conditions indoors. The overhead lights brighten and dim, mirroring the brightness of the sky; an array of fans blow gusts of wind across the space in response to the wind picking up outside. On hazy days, mist billows beneath the tables.

This strangely permeable building is the backdrop for a rich and diverse set of oral stories that David has recorded with Leeds locals, which themselves shift in response to the weather conditions, grouped by atmospherics: still, light, fragile, unsettled. Backed by a generative score by my long-time friend and collaborator James Bulley, the different strands drift amongst one another in unexpected ways, coalescing in moments of real beauty.

Photo: Leanne Buchan

I realised the software infrastructure that tied together the different elements of the piece, sensing data from an Ultimeter weather station installed outside via a Python-based serial interface. This is aggregated in real-time with further readings from the fantastic Met Office API, and relayed to a bank of DMX controls - for lighting and internal effects - and to Ableton Live via pylive to interface with the responsive score.

The Weather Café can be found opposite Leeds Art Gallery, closing on 20th March.

More info: The Weather Café

Jones/Bulley portfolio

James and I have just finished a radical overhaul of the portfolio for our collaborative practice.


It now features full documentation of our existing works, plus some previews of our schedule heading into 2014.

A Dove In The Bell Jar

Next month at the Greenwich Gallery, my significant other Julia has a solo exhibition of her photomicrography practice. With a laboratory-grade microscope and digital SLR camera, she explores the hidden microworlds of cellular biology, crystallography, and more.

Alongside a whole series of aluminium-mounted prints, she will be in the gallery on Saturdays and Sundays with the microscope, projecting a live video feed of microscopic specimens onto a plasma display.

You want something teeny looking at? Bring it down.

A Dove In The Bell Jar
Greenwich Gallery
London, SE10 8RS
21 June – 3 July 2013

For much more, check out the eponymous blog: A Dove In The Bell Jar

Photographic print at Stitch art auction

Stitch is a not-for-profit organisation set up by a group of young artists, scientists and environmentalists with the aim of raising environmental awareness through art.

They are holding an art auction tonight in the amazing surrounds of the Old Dairy (WC1N), with all proceeds contributing towards environmental causes. I have a framed photograph in the show, Untitled (Isle of Grain).

Untitled (Isle of Grain), C-type 35mm print, 60cm x 42cm, 2011

I have written a short piece of text explaining the background to the image.

The Isle of Grain is a region of marshland in the north of Kent, at the mouthway of the River Thames. In virtue of its astounding biodiversity and variety of habitats, it is classified by ecologists as an "open mosaic" environment, home to a rich tapestry of wildlife. Thirteen of its native species are endangered with extinction, with a further 34 classified as nationally scarce. It is home to Britain's rarest species of native bee.

Its sparse populous, coastal location and proximity to London also make the Isle of Grain a target for industrial development. Formerly home to a BP oil refinery, it is now occupied by the Thamesport container seaport, an oil-burning power station, a Liquefied Natural Gas import facility, and the landing point of the BritNed high-voltage submarine power cable, linking Kent with Maasklakte, Holland. A further gas-fired power station is planned by the National Grid, who own over 700 acres of the surrounding land.

In November 2011, Lord Norman Foster presented a proposal to develop Grain as the radial point of a new high-tech transport system, the "Thames Hub". This would include a four-runway airport with twice the capacity of Heathrow, a Trade Spine to link utility pipes and cables to the north of England, and a high-speed rail station, forecast to become the UK's busiest.

The auction also includes works by the like of Vivienne Westwood, Richard Long, Marc Quinn and Richard Wentworth. The event runs from 6pm.

Maelstrom (2011) at Barbican Lates

Later this month, James Bulley and I will be debuting a new collaborative work at a Barbican Lates event, curated by Off Modern as part of the OMA/Progress exhibition.

Entitled "Maelstrom", it is a multichannel sound installation that uses real-time YouTube uploads as its raw material, using them to resynthesize morphing banks of chord sequences. These are then spun rapidly around the listener by a multichannel system of repurposed speakers, creating a tornado of audio data.

From the press blurb:

Over 48 hours of user-created audio is uploaded to the internet every minute, a figure that is increasing exponentially. Maelstrom is a sound installation that draws on this material in real time, constructing shifting walls of sound from thousands of audio fragments.

By organising these fragments based on their tonal attributes, they collectively form a vast instrument, whose properties are affected by global internet activity. A score composed specifically for this instrument voices an endless series of chord variations, dynamically generated by an array of live processes.

Maelstrom builds a tornado of tonal cluster chords around its spiral speaker system, engulfing the listener in the swirling mass of information that is now an integral part of our day-to-day lives.

Off Modern Late is on Thursday 24th November, in various spaces around the Barbican Centre, from 6.30pm onwards. Entry is free.

More info: The Barbican, Off Modern.

Untitled (Digital Photographs, 2002-2011) at Cats and Kittens, N16

Yes, another one. For those around East London over the coming weeks, I have a digital print in the exhibition Cats and Kittens, opening at Barden's (N16) on 14th July.

Untitled (Digital Photographs, 2002-2011) compresses 11,000 digital photos taken over 10 years into a single poster-sized image, incorporating a line of pixels from each in sequence.

It's not reproducible online due to its large scale and detail, but can be seen from late next week (details on poster below).

Horizontal Transmission (2011) at A Theory of Everything

In the culmination of a busy few weeks, I have another new digital installation opening this Friday. Horizontal Transmission is a semi-interactive sonic ecosystem based on bacterial dynamics, somewhere between a VR game and in silico systems biology simulation. It's an extension of research that I've recently been involved with in conjunction with the pioneering Division of Mathematical Biology at the National Institute for Medical Research.

preview screenshot

It's a part of A Theory of Everything, at Deptford's Core Gallery from 24 June to 10 July, alongside a number of other works based on physical patterns and the empirical search for unifying scientific laws.

More on the piece:

Bacterial organisms exhibit a trait that is unique within the living world. As well as inheriting genetic properties from parent to child, bacteria are able to exchange genetic information with their neighbours, via packets of DNA known as 'plasmids'. This enables bacteria to temporarily adopt characteristics which may give them a competitive advantage in a hostile environment. Plasmids can be seen as semi-beneficial parasites which hop from bacterial host to host, giving rise to complex evolutionary patterns.

"Horizontal Transmission" (2011) simulates these dynamics in a 3D space, representing populations of cells both visually and sonically. When sound is detected from the gallery space by the attached microphone, it is transformed into a plasmid and deposited in the virtual space. This can then be assimilated by the bacterial population, who then mimic these sounds in their inter-cellular communications. The bacterial world can be explored using a 3D control interface, with which an observer can navigate through the population, observing cellular dynamics and communication patterns.

There are subsequently a number of informal salons featuring the artists and scientists involved. Find out more on the A Theory of Everything blog.

Ordering #1 (Sans/Soleil) at M∴M∴M∴, Apiary Studios

From next week till mid July, I'll be showing some new work as part of M∴M∴M∴, over at Hackney's Apiary Studios.

Ordering #1 (Sans/Soleil) is a reworking of Chris Marker’s "Sans Soleil" (1983) in which the film’s frames are sorted in order of luminosity and projected as a loop. It cycles from the black frames of its opening to those of maximal brightness, and again in reverse.

More information: M∴M∴M∴

Complexity and Networks meeting on music, beauty and neuroscience

[icon] Prog_19_5_10.pdf

Imperial's Complexity and Networks group are hosting a day-long meeting on music, beauty perception and neuroscience this coming May (Wednesday 19th). With a focus on the neural correlates of creative and aesthetic processes, and the complex dynamics thereof, it's one not to miss for art-and-emergence junkies.

See the attached list of talks (PDF) for more info.

Jane Prophet

Written as part of Ada Lovelace Day 2009.

Jane Prophet is a UK-based artist whose practice explores contemporary technological processes while retaining distinctly classical referents. Loosely speaking, she could be described as a sculptor, though one whose investigative drive and spectrum of interests leads her through radically fresh terrain with each new project. Working with cutting-edge materials and practices — from CD-ROM and early net art in the 90s, through to recent explorations of fractal-based machine fabrication and stem cell dynamics — the process through which her work is produced is often equally as rich as the end product.

Jane Prophet, TechnoSphere One of her most widely-known pieces is the pioneering online environment TechnoSphere (1995), an immersive, real-time 3D virtual world which was amongst the first major net-based artificial life simulations. Developed by her and a small team of programmers, this world constituted 16 km2 of fractal-based terrain, populated by creatures designed and constructed by visitors to the website. The result was a stunningly complex ecosystem, in which the creatures could grow, eat, fight and mate, with digital DNA giving rise to a degree of evolutionary potential. Over the project's lifespan, more than 3m distinct creatures were created by over 100,000 visitors.

More recently, she has been working with a research group here at Goldsmiths, University of London on the ongoing Net Work (2005-), which takes simple models of stem cell behaviour and translates them into cellular automata: grid-like structures which portray the interactions of discrete cells. Jane Prophet, Net Works These behaviours are translated into a 100m2 web of illumated fishing buoys and floated in a river or lake to create a simple but compelling public artwork, whose intention is to accessibly highlight processes of self-organisation to a wider audience.

(Trans)Plant (2008) is another large-scale public sculpture, duplicating the fractal structures of cow parsely (akin to Lindenmayer systems) in a dynamic installation which expands and contracts in the same manner as the familiar childhood push-button collapsible animals. This, like Net Work, is the product of an interdisciplinary team of designers, biomimeticists and engineers, which serves not just as a work in itself but as a document of a process.

Jane Prophet, Transplant Her adoption of new technologies is far from a case of techno-evangelism, however. Works such as The Internal Organs of a Cyborg (1995) pose questions about identity and the limits of humanity via bodily augmentation, and the potential that this has for fracturing our ideas of selfhood (see Lacan's "fragmented body"). Likewise, Decoy (2002) explores notions of beauty and artifice via synthetic landscape images, referencing the Arcadian dreams of English nature painters and the modern-day drive for atmospheric perfection via regeneration and landscaping.

In a 1998 interview, she discusses her ambivalent relationships with technology.

I'm really drawn to the technology because of the debates that it threw me into, I think, and the questions that I had to ask about what it meant in terms of authenticity of images, what it meant in terms of the physicality or the reality of an image or of a body of work.

But primarily, when I think about the work I make with new media technology I see very little difference between it (other than hopefully it's more mature) and the work I made when I worked in installation and performance when I was a student and the reason for that is that for me at the center of any piece is the idea, is the concept.

As one with an avid (and vested) interest in current tech trends, I'm always keen to explore the latest Vimeo images of bleeding-edge whizz-bang triple-mip-mapped developments. Arguably more crucial, however, as computational advancement continues to accelerate, is a critical engagement and reflection on the meaning and consequences of these technologies. This is perhaps why I find Jane Prophet's work so consistently compelling.

The Lovelace Connection

This piece was written as part of Ada Lovelace Day 2009, a drive to highlight the work of women in technology. I imagine that, even in the age of computational ultra-saturation, Lady Lovelace would be particularly thrilled at the work of Prophet and her peers in the sphere of media art: one of her most imaginative yet accurate foresights was the prediction that computers would not be restricted to the boundaries of logico-arithmetic computation, but could be used to generate new sound and images, reaching out into the realm of creative practice.