The Final Install
A week’s work culminated in a collaborative installation called Constellations: Offline Communication Experiments. My part of the final piece was humorously summarized by Ben Dalton when he tweeted:
Ways of Working
While some of the other artists in the house pursued a myriad of paths, I kept to one project and one aim, head down in the upstairs studio. This was the result of my eagerness to take advantage of the luxurious opportunity to absorb myself in a creative project in greater depth than my recent day-to-day has allowed.
The week began with an intent to experiment with combining servo motors and Arduino. I’ve worked extensively in my practice with openCV and sensory input through Arduino or web cams but less with motors. I have been wanting to see how they work in order to extend recent collaborations with glass artists at the NGC in Sunderland.
As I began to make in Barrow, arrows became pointers to ways to travel within the park, a kind of orienteering strategy within other communications systems that might emerge. The arrows needed grounding and I happened upon some glittery card stock at the local shop. The pointers took shape as servo-powered jittery computer cursors and hands offset by boxed landscapes. The invisibility cloak re-appeared. It was donned by a volunteer who stood in the bush, moving the servos with a custom potentiometer controller, attempting to signal to the other participant reading the RFID tags which way to go (or not to go) within the system.
The image below illustrates our collaborative strategy: two artists, working on separate bits of shrubbery, connected by a piece of pavement and backed by the proscenium arch of a vaguely performative platform.
Working on a collaborative project over the course of the week surprised me, as I had come to the lab with a few paths that I’d hoped to pursue myself. When our initial performance magnified some of the ideas that we had individually been thinking about, it made sense to continue to work together and see what would happen. It was an enriching exercise to draw upon collaboration as a “testing ground” for ideas. In doing so, those ideas were placed in parallel to the way another artist thinks and works. New ways of viewing language and communication surfaced through a complex and sometimes difficult cycle of conversation, making and juxtaposing form.
What’s Next: Looking Ahead
Now, back home in Newcastle and back to polishing papers, different parts of my writing are jumping off the page because of their relation to the work that was made at DM labs. As I read paragraphs that I wrote months ago discussing “the origins of voice and code, the phenomenon of one entity speaking through another, and potentialities of control in computational systems”, I pause, think about the 4 sparkly cursors and RFID tags, and I start to see a golden thread.
I hope we will continue to hash out offline communication systems in future iterations of the collaboration we began here. Will it be tin can telephones? Barbie walkie talkies? RFID readers in libraries? Arrows and pointers?
… Or something new?
Packing Up: Looking Back
Saying that I was pleased to be a part of DM Labs 2014 would be an understatement. As I re-packed my box of materials to return home on Saturday afternoon, I compared my clear and creatively wide-open head-space with that of the overly busy person who had packed the same box a week before. I return home with a new project completed, new friends and contacts, a head spinning with new ideas, and, most importantly, a re-connection with the spontaneity of creative whim that a week in Barrow allowed.
Big thanks to Benedict, Glenn, and Dave for putting together such a well-run lab.