Archive for category Science

Inextinguishable Fire – by Cassils

I haven’t written anything for a while but I felt compelled to do so after bearing witness to the breathtaking performance by Cassils at the National Theatre last night.

Having been a fan of Cassils for a while, initially due to their work Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture, their work using bodybuilding and a passing into a hyper-masculine physique through it. I also had the pleasure of attending a talk by Cassils in New York at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and hearing about the film Inextinguishable Fire I was so excited to see a live aspect of this piece, not entirely understanding how this would materialise.

The performance began with Cassils topless on the stage with clothing paraphernalia around them, there was a good seven minutes or so before the professional looking men in boiler suits began methodically dressing Cassils in wet clothing which look liked thermal layers, as Cassils began to shake it became clear that these garments must be freezing cold. The soundtrack started to become impossible to ignore around the third layer of these wet items as what began as a low drone, similar to a helicopter flying low overheard, took on an even more bass like rumble, adding even more to the tension and feeling that something awful or wonderful was about to happen.

The preparation for the actual self-immolation took about fifteen minutes but felt like an eternity as our heart rates sky rocketed and you could see audience members clutching at each others hands. The whole theatre was undoubtably nervous, is there a possibility this could get out of hand and go wrong? Do our desensitised minds actually want that to happen, for us to be witnesses to a true self-immolation? As the team of three men finish preparing Cassils, with the last smearing of  a vaseline looking substance to their face (it definitely can’t have been vaseline as that is flammable!) one the technicians lights a torch, like a wooden staff used to burn witches of old at the stake, and shouts ‘You’re on fire’.

And they were.

IMG_0485

The fire itself only lasted about 14 seconds but the act itself was so powerful that these 14 seconds stretched to an eternity as we all realised we were truly spectators to someone setting their-self on fire, no matter how many safety aspects were involved, this was truly happening, to a live human being, and we just sat and watched.

We were then led haphazardly outside, myself and my friend shakily walking at this point, to the other side of the National Theatre where the film of Inextinguishable Fire was projected on an outside wall. One of our key observations, that highlighted even further the importance to Cassils work and left us with a kind of desperate feeling for the human race, was that the passers by took no notice of the film, a few people would look up but no one stopped to see what was going despite the brightness and intensity of the film, the only people not from the original audience that seemed to be transfixed were small children. It was just such a poignant example of our desensitised selfs, the fact that we do see so much violence and pain inflicted on people and really just don’t care because it isn’t happening to us. It was also interesting to think if the film would’ve had the same effect if I hadn’t seen the live action immolation moments before.

I have never had such a strong reaction to anything in my life! And I think this was the purest and most engaging way to remember, on the apt Sunday of Remembrance. When something is ingrained with so much suffering and history, monks setting themselves on fire in protest, women being persecuted because men fear them, children in agony because of another pointless war, it just cannot fail to change your way of thinking, even in the slightest way. I often think that our generation is the least capable of empathy because in the Western World we are in danger of having no idea or connection to what it feels like to truly suffer and any suffering that happens around us is so disconnected from us in that we only engage with it through a screen, which we can ultimately X out of at any point.

‘When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you’ll shut your eyes. You’ll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you’ll close them to the memory. And then you’ll close your eyes to the facts.’  – Harun Farocki

Cassils // Inextinguishable Fire – Trailer from stichting MU on Vimeo.

 

 

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Reasons to be Creative Conference

At the beginning of this week, Mon, Tues, Weds, I attended a conference held at Brighton Dome as part of Brighton Digital Festival. The reason I was able to attend was due to a friend winning a ticket but then being unable to go. In return for the ticket I sent her sum up emails of the days speakers and I will attach that below in case it is useful to anyone else and it is definately useful for me to have all the relevant links and comments together and not in my appalling primary school child handwriting!

Day 1

Kevin Warwick:
Really interesting cyborg guy who looks very normal but was a pioneer in getting technology implanted into himself, such a copper implant that would act as a keycard when he entered his work building and it opened the doors and lights for him!

He asked at the beginning of the talk if anyone would like to have an implant of some technological extension of their body and asked for a show of hands, I thought I wouldn’t want something, thinking of some kind of Terminator situation but then he mentioned that most of us have our pets micro chipped and that these class II implants are becoming increasingly common with nightclubs even using them so customers don’t have to pay for drinks, just scan their implanted chip, say in their arm, at the bar and their account is charged automatically.

He also spoke about some research he and some of his students are undertaking into sensory substitution, e.g having magnets implanted in the fingertips which vibrate as you get near to objects and having electrodes in the shape of letters placed on the tongue and the shape of the letter gets transmitted to the brain, both would be beneficial to blind people for instance.


http://www.kevinwarwick.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzqssQqUvj4

Relly Annet Barker:
She did a presentation about giving presentations and metioned some interesting things like ‘barcamp’ where first time speakers can go to talk about a chosen subject. This talk was particularly helpful for me as I am, like quite a few people out there, shit scared of public speaking!

She also runs Supernice Studio, which I gather is about helping people to get stuff done and to have the confidence to it, the link below is to a project to help give people a kick up the back side over the next 30 days with regards to web content and there are still a few days left to sign up:

http://supernicestudio.com/30days/

Memo Akten:
Epic visual artist, links will do more justice than words – epic!!!! (This is what I wrote in the email to my friend and it still applies here)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv1lrjA9UvA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcQJAlft1b0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cseTX_rW3uM&feature=list_other&playnext=1&list=SPDC836AFF792C013A

The above video is of the process of making Forms, 2012 and Akten worked with my previously mentioned favourites, Quayola.

http://www.quayola.com/

Stefanie Posavec:
Data Illustrator working with extracting data by hand, e.g. she goes through a book and counts the number of words and sentences and then represents it by hand or using illustrator. She was very apologetic about not knowing how to code and wanting to learn, I also often suffer from this feeling but really I think she has great way of doing things and I agree with her low tech approach. This is something that I will come back to in a separate, future post.

http://www.itsbeenreal.co.uk/

Day 2
Jake Archibald:

He did a talk about the Application Cache for html5, I dutifully sat through the whole talk but had no idea what the hell happened in that hour.
I managed to understand that it was something about making sites useable offline and obviously need to look into this!
Although he is part of the team that set up this site for tracking going to events:
http://lanyrd.com/
Bjarke Myrthu:
He brake danced onto the stage!
He was talking about the fact that people don’t use the internet to mix up genres of use, such as having a film playing with images over the top, he gave some examples:
http://moodstream.gettyimages.com/
http://stormingjuno.com/
He didn’t use this as an example but it’s that same sort of thing, a linkin park video that uses your facebook photo, it’s quite hilarious!
http://lostintheecho.com/
He also is making a website to help people be able to interact all of these mediums, youtube, still photos, sound files, etc together
www.storyplanet.com
Day 3
Gimme 5:
Which is loads of speakers coming on within the hour to talk about what they do or an idea for 5 mins
Will just list the most interesting ones
Luke Whittaker
http://www.stateofplaygames.com/blog/
Adam Onishi
http://www.onishiweb.co.uk/
Pete Hochkin
http://www.headloose.com/
Maikel Sibbald
http://www.yellowbirdsdonthavewingsbuttheyflytomakeyouexperiencea3dreality.com/
Then there was Simon Collison for the whole hour
Talking about less being more when putting out web content
He has a music website which the background images are inspired by found records in the street but then he set up these photos to get the ones he wanted
urgh can’t find the music site but thought it was called ‘rushmore’
here is his personal site:
http://www.colly.com/
He also mentioned that he loves art using found objects and said he likes the idea of ‘using what’s around and making more of what is little’
His twitter is @colly so maybe tweet him a link to foundism?

Foundism is the site of the friend I was emailing, it asks for submissions for found objects:

www.foundism.co.uk
Joel Baumann:
The best speaker of all!
Really funny and so enthusiastic about his work
Used to be part of:
http://www.tomato.co.uk/
Now doing random shit that he wants to do:
http://nnfenren.com/
http://noog.nnfenren.com/
noogs being the worlds first digital collectables!

NOOG #2 from Nnfenren on Vimeo.

Johanna Kollman:

She talked about collaborating and ways of re thinking the way you work.
http://www.slideshare.net/johannakollmann

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Kinetica Art Fair 2012

To explain:

‘Kinetica Art Fair is a yearly event produced by Kinetica Museum. It brings together galleries, art organisations and curatorial groups from around the world who focus on universal concepts and evolutionary processes though the convergence of kinetic, electronic, robotic, sound, light, time-based and multi-disciplinary new media art, science and technology.’

http://www.kinetica-artfair.com/?about_us/art-fair.html

I attended this years Art fair as a volunteer on the Intuition and Ingenuity exhibition stand, which consisted of art inspired by computer pioneer Alan Turing, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. The exhibition will shortly be at Lighthouse in Brighton, so I will save mentioning this further until a later date.

There was a vast array of works on display from Tim Lewis’ animatronic works (below), which consisted of freakishly concocted creatures that jolted and strutted around, to moving images, such as Sandra Crisp’s (http://sandracrispart.com/) film Oceanic, which explored 3D layers of the environment (2nd below).

Some of my particular favourites were:

Andras Mengyan http://www.andrasmengyan.com/ who is a Hungarian artist working with concerns around simultaneous perception. He was using lasers and animation, combined with a special liquid that he had developed with chemist to create his desired effect.

Sophie Cullinan’s installation was both provocative and yet innocent. Her sock paintings consisted of used socks that could be pumped up by various pumps, such as bike pumps or balloon pumps that had been painted an pink, udder type colour, to eventually inflate and look rather nipple like. Her blow up doll piece, Worn, again conjures up ideas of blow up sexual aids for me, even though there is something quite frumpy and childish about her patchwork exterior. Cullinan describes Worn as a ‘domestic machine’ on her website, I also agree that the idea of a woman made out of worn fabric who is continuously at work, work which is dictated by the viewer who has to press a button to make her inflate, is deeply symbolic of a woman’s struggle and of having to work under the ‘gaze’ of others. there is also something unnerving about the industrial hoover sound for the inflation.
Another film that enjoyed was a short film by Laura Jean Healey called The Siren described as:
The Siren is an exploration of the notion of the Other.  It explores the nature of the feminine mystic within the screen and the seemingly active male gaze. The Siren, both alluring and terrifying, embodies the duel nature of all women throughout time and confronts the audience, asking if  ‘I do not exist in my own right. If I am merely a symptom of male desire, then ‘what am I?’’
Lastly Nichola Rae (http://www.a2arts.co.uk/) had a projection of sonic frequencies that would interact and change pattern when a guitar was strummed or a mic sung into that were connected to it:

                                       

All in all it was a very inspiring day and I would strongly recommend next years fair to anyone interested in art/science/electronics/computing/pretty things etc…….

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Uncaged Monkeys; Night of 200 Billion Stars

I attended the above event this week at the Brighton Dome.

As I was quite ill with the flu I was abit apprehensive of a hardcore night of science (I probably would have been regardless of illness). I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of subject matter, personalities and opinions voiced throughout the night.

Most interesting for me was mathematician Simon Singh speaking about the idea of the ‘bible code’, the idea of being able to decifer futuristic events from an ancient Hebrew bible text, and how a professor debunked this idea by showing that you could decifer anything from a long enough text, such as Moby Dick. He also demonstrated an enigma encoding machine, which looks fascinating.

Another interesting, and specifically relevant speak for me was, Adam Rutherford’s homage to the space shuttle programme. He had created a film which incorporated all of the space missions undertaken into one long edited take off. Rutherford described the irony of NASA having such an awful archiving system that all of the footage was still stored on VHS, and as part of his project he helped to digitise the footage.

This was particularly interesting for me as I am currently involved in helping digitise Brighton and Hove Museum’s Oil Painting collections and other collections at the moment. There is something very exciting about knowing you have helped to preserve information from the past in order for it to last longer into the future, and also so that it may reach a wider audience.

 

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