Category Archives: report

algoravin in the UK

A short trip around the UK for slub over the last couple of days, a livecoding gig in London at Bartlett Nexus in UCL at an event concerning architecture, games and hand made technology. A full video of the event (with us at the end) is here.

bartletts1

bartletts2

Also collected along the way, a photo of the xname manufacturing lab:
xname

Then up to Birmingham to attend the Network Music Festival and do another performance late on Saturday night. While there we had a chance to meet the members of The Hub, pioneers of networked music and livecoding. It was inspiring to chat with such experienced musicians in this field. The NMF included a huge range of performances, for example Melatab who used Kinect cameras for networked performance in a shared virtual space. I’m planning some Kinect hacking soon, so I took some photos:

nmf1

nmf2

/* vivo */ musings

So much to think about after the /* vivo */ festival, how livecoding is moving on, becoming more self critical as well as gender balanced. The first signs of this was the focus of the festival being almost entirely philosophical rather than technical. Previous meetings of this nature have involved a fair dose of tech minutiae – here these things hardly entered the conversations.

Show us your screens

One of the significant topics for discussions was put under the spotlight by Iohannes Zmölnig Рwho are the livecoding audience, what do they expect and how far do we need to go in order to be understood by them? Do we consider the act of code projection as a spectacle (as in VJing) or is it Рas Alex McLean asserts Рmore about authenticity, showing people what you are doing, what you are interacting with, and an honest invitation? Julian Rohrhuber and Alberto De Campo discussed how livecoding impacts on our school education conditioning, audiences thinking they are expected to understand what is projected in a particular didactic, limited manner (code projection as blackboard). Livecoding could be used to explore creative ways of compounding these expectations to invite changes to the many anti-intellectual biases in our society.

Luis Navarro Del Angel presented another important way of thinking about the potential of livecoding – as a new kind of mass creativity and participation, providing artistic methods to wider groups than can be achieved by traditional means. This is quite close to my own experience with livecoding music, and yet I’m much more used to thinking about what programming offers those who are already artists in some form, and familiar with other material. Luis’s approach was more focused on livecoding’s potential for people who haven’t found a form of expression, and making new languages aimed at this user group.

After some introductory workshops the later ones followed this philosophical thread by considering livecoding approaches rather than tools. Alex and I provided a kind of slub workshop, with examples of the small experimental languages we’ve made like texture, scheme bricks and lazybots, encouraging participants to consider how their ideal personal creative programming language would work. This provides interesting possibilities and I think, a more promising direction than convergence on one or two monolithic systems.

This festival was also a reminder of the importance of free software, it’s role to provide opportunities in places where for whatever reasons education has not provided the tools to work with software. Access to source code, and in the particular case of livecoding, it’s celebration and use as material, breeds independence, and helps in the formation of groups such as the scene in Mexico City.

Execution: a solo exhibition by Martin Howse

Some images of Martin Howse’ solo exhibition at the Fish Factory (Falmouth’s experimental gallery/reclaimed art space).

This exhibition consists of dot matrix printouts, large scale plotter prints, photographs, German VHS cassettes and a mass of technology – and clearly focuses on how it interferes with us physically though our bodies, and in a wider scale through our geography via mapping and recording experiments. His work is presented here without explanation, which means it must be taken on face value – quite a challenge as so much of the material he’s working with is invisible, or hidden inside both intricate custom devices and reclaimed/adapted circuitry from various sources.

It’s a challenge I like a lot, and equally intriguing is the difficulty in detecting ‘edges’ of the different exhibits on display. Extensive use of EM radiation (transmission and reception) means the whole thing seems to be alive, working as a whole – signals spilling over into each other, with surging, clicking and roaring. Moving close to a massive coil, the attached drill becomes activated by the circuitry on my camera when I take a picture, and doesn’t calm down till I move away. Video documentation shows how devices recorded signals from the surrounding landscape were used to generate the images on the walls of the gallery.

The devices are also communicating with the heavy industrial activity outside in the ship repair dockyard. The muted vibrations of hammering seemed be communicating with the tattooing device controlled by process information from an attached Linux laptop.

Live notation at the Arnolfini

I was honoured to take part in the live notation unit’s event at the Arnolfini on Friday, and to perform with Alex McLean and Hester Reeve in the evening.

Live notation is a project exploring connections between Live Art and Live Coding, both art forms revolving around performance, but with very different cultures and backgrounds.

The day started with workshops. The first one by Yuen Fong Ling played with the power structures inherent in Life Drawing. We tried breaking some conventions, instead of everyone drawing the same model – one scenario involved arranging the easels in a line where one person drew the model and everyone else copied the previous person in line. This ‘drawing machine’ resulted in an intriguing pictorial version of “Chinese whispers”. The second workshop involved programming choreography live via drawing and an overhead projector, firstly with workshop leader Kate Sicchio as the dancer, and then more and more livecoders joining in until the roles were reversed.

The performances consisted of a mix of live art and livecoding, and also served to demonstrate the breadth of approaches that these art forms represent – Wrongheaded performed a spectacular livecoding invasion of religious ritual, while Kate Sicchio followed beautiful instructions she’d received a couple of hours before interpreting Nicholas Poussin’s painting ‘The Triumph of David’ using brightly coloured silks. Thor Magnusson unleashed a sub bass rumbling agent driven visual approach to livecoding with a very considered minimal performance. As an audience member, I think livecoding needs a dose of cross fertilisation with related areas, especially if they are outside of the computer music sphere – we can think more about our roles, the situation and less about the mechanics. As a performer, I’m still processing (and waiting for photos) and will write a bit more on our performance in a few days.

SuperCollider Symposium

I had a great couple of days at the SuperCollider symposium, starting with a gameboy performance with Till Bovermann and ending with a talk on BetaBlocker with him and Tom Hall. As an outsider to the community (I have contributed code, but I’m not a regular user of Supercollider) it was interesting to pick up on the threads and burning issues of the scene.

Our performance went well, and I found it oddly satisfying to continually dismantle all repetitive dancable structures as they emerged in order to keep up with Till’s more fluid style. We were both running the Betablocker virtual machine, but using it in very different ways – I was running a single one at 4 or 5 cycles per second inside the DS, Till was running many at 44100 cycles per second inside Supercollider.


Photos by Steve Welburn

I also had a chance to experience Benoit and the Mandelbrots for the first time – both in livecoding performance and finding out more about their software during their talk. It seems that livecoding is very active with a lot of new approaches being tried – for example extensive use of text chat for communication during performances. Also I found out about BeeNoir an amazing hexagonal beehive sound installation made by the Mandelbrots which was inspired by Al Jazari!

One of the hightlights of the event was Takeko Akamatsu of CraftWife fame initiating a 5 minute code-off competition between Click Nilson, MCLD, redfrik and Juan Mandelbrot (including a fully loaded water pistol) during her keynote talk.

You can read about some of the other things at the conference on this BBC article. Thanks to Dan Stowell and the team for all the hard work putting on the symposium.

Serious Play at FoAM

Last weekend it was the annual FoAM gathering to discuss long term ideas, some self reflection and consideration of external perceptions. We were guided on this mission by Simone Poutnik and Hendrik Tiesinga, members of FoAM and founders of Natural Innovation. They decided to trial a new method on us all, Lego Serious Play. Now, I’m a bit battle hardened when it comes to alternative business management strategies as I’ve been exposed to quite a few in various places over the years, but despite Lego’s high scoring buzzword bingo website, I can independently verify this approach as very much a success.

You start by building personal models that represent different aspects of the organisation in various states, and then work as a group to bring them together in different ways. This is done in a structured way, leading to certain questions at different stages of the process.

The core idea was to “think with your hands” and indeed the normal problem you get in these situations, a tricky question leading to an utterly blank mind, was removed as soon as you started searching for plastic bricks. Things seemed to build themselves in some way, the increasing scarcity of bricks requiring ever greater degrees of metaphor. The indirect method of having to explain your odd constructions (usually in quite an abstract way) said a lot more than I would have managed in a more traditional situation.

Clip Kino


Last week I attended a Clip Kino event at Alto University’s Media Factory. Clip Kino is a concept to use online video as a focus for events and talks via informal screenings. The ease of access of vast amounts of online video makes this a fast way to research ideas, and doing it in small groups means that a conversational approach quickly emerges – which worked well in this event, called Clip Camp:

Clip Camp is a format that merges open sharing events, such as BarCamp, with online video culture. The event is an experiment in methodology, creating a cross between a seminar room, a short video-clip festival and an offline discussion forum about online materials.

There is a good write up of the presentations on the media factory blog.

HENVI and Finnish Bioarts Society

I spent the morning on Kallvikinniemi with HENVI (the University of Helsinki Centre for the Environment) and the Finnish Bioarts Society learning about 3 new projects involving Forests and Climate Change, Sustainable Urban Development through Ecosystem Services and Multidisciplinary Baltic Sea Research. All of these project are interested in collaborating with artists for public engagement and multidisciplinary work – calls will be made by the Bioarts Society later in the year.

Artvertiser in Helsinki

Yesterday I had the chance to take part in Julian Oliver’s and Damian Stewart’s Artvertiser walk around Helsinki. Advertising space was augmented with new artworks made by the workshop participants and displayed by their custom built camera goggles. It was also a chance to chat with the group behind m-cult, who were supporting the workshop. I found it significant that many of the locations chosen came with their own musical augmentation too – a deliberate choice, I’m sure.