Day 5: Cleaning up the mess

Category : Artists, Ellie Harrison, Hull · No Comments · by October 30, 2010

Today was about documenting and wrapping up loose ends – making our experiments with touch screens into more resolved works that could be presented in contexts beyond the Lab.

With the help of Ben Dalton, Bob Levene and I got the code for the dirty hob piece finished, so that now when you rub the screen the ‘clean’ image is revealed in a more subtle way, not with the blocky pixel effect that seems to work so well on the Scratch Cards.

We made a short film of the piece now titled ‘How clean is your mouse?’ (by Glenn Boulter), which can be viewed here:

How clean is your mouse? from Bob Levene on Vimeo.

I then began to document the Scratch Cards work – setting up a touch screen on a plinth against a white background that could pass as a gallery. I began thinking more about what the Scratch Cards piece might mean in order to contextualise it and present it on my website and in preparation for the talks tomorrow.

I wrote this:

Scratch Cards features a series of six interactive touch screen based applications. Each presents a National Lottery ‘scratch card’ which the viewer can interact with by rubbing the screen to remove the surface and reveal the results.

The six ‘scratch cards’ used for the project were all purchased in Hull during the Digital Media Labs residency – none won a prize. When installed in the gallery, each of the applications will be reset once only at the start of each day.

The scratch card becomes a metaphor for obsolescence – contrasting the ‘hope’, ‘potential’ and ‘entertainment value’ contained in the unused card, with its worthlessness once it is revealed not to be a winner.

As an artwork, Scratch Cards is only ‘interactive’, so long as some of the surface remains for the viewer to remove. Once this has been fully rubbed away, the onscreen card becomes as redundant as its real life counterpart and this expensive piece of touch screen technology no longer performs any function.

Scratch Cards from Ellie Harrison on Vimeo.

Scratch Cards was created using Processing with production assistance from Ben Dalton.


Day 4: What have you done today?

Category : Artists, Ellie Harrison, Hull · No Comments · by October 28, 2010

Today we began with a tour of the Wilberforce Health Centre, where we spotted the slogan “What have you done today that was world class?” in the staff sign-in area. Something to keep in mind when writing these blog summaries I think…

Back in the lab I decided to continue with the scratch card project. I scratched-off and filmed the remainder of the six scratch cards I bought on Tuesday. I did not win a single prize, not even £1. But now at least I have footage of loosing on six scratch cards in a row, which is quite nice. I then scanned in and made scratchable touch screen apps for each of these six cards using Processing, reducing the size of the cards down on the screen so that they are more like actual size.

I am intending to resolve the Scratch Card concept / project as my main outcome of the Digital Media Lab and to get some good documentation of it tomorrow. Hopefully they’ll also be time for a few more experiments.

One of these is a collaboration with Bob Levene, which arose from a conversation we had yesterday about various analogies you could make with the action of rubbing / touching the screen. We decided to film a dirty hob and then to clean it meticulously – hoping to create some code in Processing which would allow for the hob to be cleaned through the act of rubbing the screen.

I liked the idea of finding a filthy hob and then in Kim and Aggie style, cleaning it beyond the owner’s wildest dreams, so that it looked brand new. Unfortunately it proved difficult to locate an authentically dirty hob in a city you are just visiting, so we used one in the catering department of the college and created ‘fake dirt’ (with baked beans and baby food), which we then removed / cleaned.

With a lot of these ideas I’m most interested in the absurdity of the using technology. The act of ‘virtual cleaning’ is similar to the act of real cleaning but with all practical use removed. At the same time, it is also an example of technology with all practical use removed. This links back to what we were discussing yesterday about the possible role of the artist being to remove function, create uselessness or disruption of existing technologies. This is what causes the ‘disruption of the normal order of normal people’s lives’ which we thought could be the main function of art in the public realm.


Day 3: The Cultural Void

Category : Artists, Ellie Harrison, Hull · No Comments · by October 27, 2010

Today was a bit of a slow day in comparison to the first two. I began by being sucked back into the real world, with 50+ emails that took my the whole morning to clear. In the afternoon we had a weird presentation by a guy called Peter Eyres – loosely based around exploring ‘alternative funding strategies’. We split into two groups to role-play a future without public funding from two different perspective – the corporate whore and the ‘social responsible’ artist.

I found myself in the ‘socially responsible’ group, but the idea of ‘role-playing’ this felt pretty impossible as it all felt just too close to home. We talked about compromise, being told what to do / working to a brief and funding / subsidising your practice by working other jobs so that your work can remain more autonomous / less commercial. Below are my notes from the session, which lasted most of the afternoon.



Day 2: Scratch Card

Category : Artists, Ellie Harrison, Hull · No Comments · by October 26, 2010

Today we begun with introductions to a number of different programming tools including Quartz Composer, VVVV and Processing. I began to think more about the act of touching the touch screen – about the conceptual shift that occurs when you imagine the tip of your finger interacting with the computer screen rather than the mouse cursor.

No doubt influenced by my role as Syndicate Secretary for the Artists’ Lottery Syndicate and by my wider interest in ‘alternative funding strategies’, at some point during this introductory session I wrote the words ‘scratch card’ in my notebook. Then, as soon as the demonstrations were over I headed down to the nearest newsagents to buy myself six National Lottery scratch cards – a mixture of £1 and £2 games.

I was interested in replicating the scratching action through the touching / rubbing of the touch screen. I wanted to make a simple / quick experiment to visualise this and to try it out. With the help of Ben Dalton, I was able to get a simple prototype running in Processing before lunch time, which you can view here.

Once I was able to see and interact with this experiment on the touch screen, I began to think more about the ideas behind it. I like the idea of the ‘potential’ contained in the unscratched card – the possibility of winning the prize. But, unfortunately, because the card I scanned in did not win any prizes this potential was quickly dissipated once its surface was removed. It is demoted to a completely valueless object, and even more so as a screen representation of a losing card, rather than the card itself.

If this piece was shown in a gallery, I like the idea of it only being reset once a day, so that only one or a small number of people get the opportunity to interact with it. Once it has been fully scratched, it is no longer interactive. It no longer contains any ‘potential’ or value.


Day 1: Visualising Scale

Category : Artists, Ellie Harrison, Hull · No Comments · by October 25, 2010

Today we were introduced to the web-based presentation software Prezi. It can be used to make very flashy-looking presentations which can zoom in-and-out and move around different spatial planes, enabling the viewer to focus in on different details.

Bob Levene mentioned the similarities between Prezi’s zoom affect and the groundbreaking Charles and Ray Eames film Powers of Ten from 1977.

I watched the film and became interested in using the Prezi software as a tool for visualising scale – enabling the viewer to see very large things in proportion to very small.

Following last week’s controversial Spending Review, I was particularly interested in visualising the amount of money which the UK government had gifted to the banks in the 2009 bailouts in comparison to the annual expenditure of different government departments such as Culture, Media and Sport, which had be subject to disproportionate cuts.

I used Illustrator to create a graphic in which these different amounts were visualised proportionally in colour-coded circles. I calculated the diameters of each circle by using each number in billions-of-pounds as the ‘area’ in an online circle calculator.

I imported my graphic and then used Prezi to make a series of ‘paths’, which would take the viewer on a tour around the different departmental budgets – zooming-in and then out to give an idea of proportionate scale.

You can view my first experiment in Prezi above in conjunction with the key below in order to determine which government department’s 2010 budget each circle refers to. The big black circle represents the money used for the bank bailouts in 2009.


Introduction: Ellie Harrison

Category : Ellie Harrison · No Comments · by September 23, 2010

I am an artist based in Glasgow. I have just graduated from the Master of Fine Art (MFA) programme at Glasgow School of Art. My recent work seeks to react and respond to our political, economic and environmental climate, to consider our contemporary situation in light of developments in human history, whilst questioning the ethical implications of the role of the artist within this. By employing a variety of media including interactive installation, web-based work, collaborative projects and performance spectacles I attempt this challenge, not in a dry or overly-intellectual way, but by devising playful new strategies which offer provocative or ethically ambiguous perspectives on local / global events.

Recent project include: the Artists’ Lottery Syndicate – a 40-strong collective of artists attempting to win the jackpot over the coming year, General Election Drinking Game – an ‘endurance performance’ to coincide with last May’s election, Vending Machine – an old vending machine reprogrammed to spew out free packets of crisps when news relating to the recession makes the headlines on the BBC News RSS feed, and, most recently Fireworks Display – a one-woman attempt to re-enact a chronology of the history of revolution over the course of the last 360 years via the medium of pyrotechnics (see image).

Image: Fireworks Display, Glue Factory, Glasgow, 26 June 2010

For more information please visit: www.ellieharrison.com