Debord, Google and an HCI award – more confessions…

May 7th, 2013

The presentation appeared to go well, and we were presented with a certificate as a response to winning a Best Paper Honorable Mention Award. It was really exciting to be recognised within another discipline for the work we have done on A Conversation Between Trees and that the resulting research is of use or interest to this community of computer scientists.

The conference and trip to Paris brought up some interesting thoughts which I hope to write in more detail. We are having a think about these ideas in terms of the future of Active Ingredient, now that Matt and I are both increasingly inhabiting new worlds – me the world of academia and computer science and him the world of new media and commercial enterprise with his role at Mudlark. Somehow in this all is a question over where AI fits, how can we continue to create artistic and cultural interventions, keep radicalised, critical and thinking, keep playing, whilst we inhabit these other worlds? How do we tread the line between collaboration and participation with these other sectors whilst maintaining the autonomy of being an artist? Im sure this a common conflict for artists with day jobs and interests in working across disciplines.

On the last day of the conference i sneaked off to visit the exhibition about Guy Debord which is currently on at the Biblioteque Francois Mitterand on the left bank. A physical journey from Port Maillot, the commercial and conference centre of Paris in the North West, across the Seine to the area where radicals and artists once explored the city, with cameras and homemade maps, inventing psychogeography, conceptualising narratives of space and the society of the spectacle. Fighting in the streets in the 60s, believing in the Paris commune.

I had a Google flask in my bag, that i had picked up from the Google stall at the conference by adding my personal details to their database and signing up for information about the company.

There is something about the connection between Google and Debord. The big corporation that has mapped our world from above and entered our psyche and language and now manages our quest for information and learning, that has become the word for finding something out. Somehow it seems very linked to the Situationists mapping the city through passion and radicalism, something about the changing of language, manifestos now that is now just the word for a report that contains no action and psychogeography, the inspiration for a mobile phone app sold on Google’s app store.

I arrived at St Pancras and jumped straight into a meeting with Bronac Ferran and Felipe Fonseca, a leap back into the art world, talking about our changing landscape, our changing language, future residencies and collaborations in Brazil and UK. My Google flask weighs heavy in my bag, this is not the time to stop asking questions.

…and of course, I have just made a small installation about how AI’s work has been represented on Google, it seems Google is everywhere. maybe this is where the spectacle happens now… is it time for us to create un-google-able spectacles?

Confessions of an artist doing academia

April 28th, 2013

It is such an amazing pleasure to be able to come to Paris two days before presenting, stay in a beautiful flat with a view and for once to not have several days or weeks of fighting and struggling to get technology working before presenting to the public. Academic life is a very different kettle of fish than being an artist!

That said the pressure is on with this presentation, it being one of the top (if not the top) Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Conferences and also for the first time being here mainly as a representative of the University of Nottingham as opposed to Active Ingredient, although partly both.  Suddenly I will be representing the world of an institution and specifically ‘the world renowned’ Mixed Reality Lab, having spent most of my working life working independently. Im not completely sure how to navigate this, to the point that i’m not sure which voice to use, should i say we and us – as one of the artists in Active Ingredient – or am I talking about ‘our’ work or as researchers? Of course as normal it is something messy in between. So lets see, something to play with, as I have been throughout this PhD life.

Today after eating too much cheese at breakfast its time to get my head around the 3 academic based slides in the presentation that are slightly freaking me out – I can tell the story of A Conversation Between Trees in my sleep but putting in references to HCI literature and talk about methodology feels so completely counter to the way I would normally talk about our work that it is throwing me off kilter.

There is an exhibition of Guy Debord on in Paris at the moment so going to that will be my art treat this week and will be interesting to see the digital art sessions at the conference, to see how HCI is increasingly working with artists and hopefully some more lovely food is to be had.

Active Ingredient at Primary Spring Break – 2nd May 2013

April 24th, 2013

A search for Active Ingredient Nottingham on Google


Active Ingredient are showing a small screen based installation as part of Primary’s Spring Break event.

Active Ingredient are in the process of reviewing their pioneering
artwork that has been merging art, science and technology since 1996.
They are in the process of raising funds to create a book, digital
archive, retrospective exhibition and series of public seminars based
around their work during 2014.  As part of this process Rachel Jacobs,
one of the founders of the artist collective, has been searching
references on Google to the artist collective and a selection of their
artworks.  These are documented as a Power Point slide show and shown
alongside her favourite flyers. She didn’t know Tom Cruise featured in
Active Ingredient’s work until now.