December 2009

Mapping Festival 2010 - Call for Entries (Geneva)

Mapping Festival 2009

From May 6th through the 16th 2010, the Mapping Festival will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, in differents venues: Bâtiment d'art contemporain, Théâtre du Grütli, Théâtre de la Parfumerie, Zoo & Spoutnik / Usine and Uptown Geneva.

You have many ideas and projects, the call for entries is now open, so we are counting on you to be there and spice up the Mapping Festival menu!

This year again, the festival will promote the mix of disciplines, and you will be able to apply for the following categories:

  • VJing
  • Audiovisual set
  • Installation
  • Outdoor projection
  • Lecture / Workshop / Presentation / Demo

Apply online at the Mapping festival website.
Submissions are due by January 4th, 2010.

Make Art 2009 (Poitiers)


Make Art Festval

Make Art is a key event for the FLOSS (Free/Livre/Open Source Software) community. Started in 2006 by GOTO10 collective, it takes place every year in Poitiers, France.  Its name refers to the UNIX make utility, a build tool that allows programmer to build source code into a version of a program. The geeky metaphor should be clear enough to understand the aim of this international festival dedicated to "free software artist, open hardware hackers and command-line fetishists".

From 8th to 13th December the city of Poitiers will host a rich schedule of workshops, presentations, performances and exhibitions focusing on the theme of "forking": copying a source, modifying it, improving it or turning it upside down to create a completely new concept. Nowadays the closed industry of books, softwares, hardwares and cultural contents made us rejecting the practice of copying one's work since it can harm the infamous exclusive, commercial rights of its author. The only practical result of this subtle process is a lethargic population waiting to be fed with measured, selected tiny pills of knowledge. Open source practice tries to improve self-determination through the free sharing of information, a human right we lost around 30 years ago when the first software patents were born.

Fore more info see the Make Art 2009 program.

Sounding Landscapes: Call for Submissions (Regina)

[Kris Brandhagen performing Ringmaster, Lancaster Room / November 2009] - call for mult-channel audio work

This call is for sonic art explorations of literal or fantastic interpretations of acoustic space, utilizing spatial production innovations and the relationship between space, time and physical energy. For an upcoming multidisciplinary concert event in March, is looking for multi-channel sonic compositions in any genre. In particular, we are looking for works that trouble the definitions of space and place through multi-channel audio methods (ranging from four to eight channels). All accepted submissions will be presented through an eight-channel octophonic (equal-spaced, lateral plane ring) speaker system. Honorariums will be paid.

For more details, please visit

Submissions must be received by February 1st, 2010

Playlist: Playing Games, Music, Art (Gijón)

Definitely a show I'm keeping tabs on - I'd love to track down a copy of the catalogue.

Tristan Perich - Eighteen Linear Constructions

[Tristan Perich / Eighteen Linear Constructions, installation view / 2009]

Along the Twentieth Century, music has often been the driving force behind crucial innovations in visual arts, and the starting point for many artists. Without forgetting the role played by music in the development of abstract art, it was mainly during the Sixties that music provided a fertile ground for new approaches, new theories, new art forms, new aesthetics. John Cage was a musician working with artists and engineers. The very first performance (the Untitled Event at Black Mountain College in 1952) was a musical event, such as many Fluxus events during the Sixties. Furthermore, Fluxus adopted music notation for its peculiar “scores”. It was thinking to music that Umberto Eco first introduced the concept of “opera aperta”. And at the very beginning of Video Art lies the manipulation of the electronic signal, first experimented by Nam June Paik in music.

PLAYLIST is an exhibition that wants to explore the role played by music in the adoption and manipulation, since the mid Nineties, of obsolete, digital as well as analogue, technologies: vinyls, old computers, game platforms and alikes. It's our feeling, on the one hand, that electronic music culture has been of great importance for the development of low-tech, home-based media art; and, on the other hand, that – such as for the early Video Art – the manipulation of the digital stream is mainly grounded in musical research. The core of PLAYLIST will be the exploration of the “8bit movement”, spread out from the manipulation of obsolete game technologies in order to create new instruments to play music. The show will demonstrate that the retrogaming phenomenon in visual arts can be considered an outfit of a pretty musical phenomenon, that in a bunch of years spread out all over the world through festivals and clubs, occasionally influencing mainstream musicians; and that visual and musical research progressed on parallel paths, in the quest for lo-res sounds and aesthetics, synthetic colors and notes. For the first time, retro-gaming will be explored through the lens of musical production and distribution, displaying not only tracks, but instruments, tools, softwares and hardwares, skins and graphics, but also discographies, platforms and communities. Thus, PLAYLIST will serve as a starting point for an archive / collection of materials produced by artists and musicians, and as a relational context where visitors can practice with tools produced by artists, and take part in workshops, lectures, improvised performances.

Furthermore, PLAYLIST will try to provide a context for this kind of research, not necessarily game related, selecting seminal projects and artists that helped forging the conceptual frame in which retro-gaming took place.

Participating Artists: Paul B. Davis (UK), Jeff Donaldson / NoteNdo (DE), Dragan Espenschied (DE), Gino Esposto / (CH), Gijs Gieskes (NL), André Gonçalves (PT), Mike Johnston / Mike in Mono (UK), Joey Mariano / Animal Style (US), Raquel Meyers (SP), Mikro Orchestra (PL), Don Miller / No-carrier (US), Jeremiah Johnson / Nullsleep (US), Tristan Perich (US), Rabato (SP), Gebhard Sengmüller (AT), Alexei Shulgin (RU), Paul Slocum (USA), Tonylight (IT), VjVISUALOOP (IT).

Catalogue Essays: Matteo Bittanti, Kevin Driscoll and Joshua Diaz, Ed Halter, Domenico Quaranta.

Playlist takes place at the Mediateca Expandida de LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Gijón, Spain) from December 18 , 2009 - May 17 , 2010 and is curated by Domenico Quaranta.

Exhibition Info available here.

Body Politik: Online VJ Performance (Dec. 15)

Body Politik (an online live vj performance ) by Alessandro Imperato will be presented on December 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm Central at .The event is being organized by Upgrade! Tennessee.

Upgrade! Tennessee is sponsored by the Space for New Media at Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN and at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN and is administered by Jodi Hays, Kell Black and Barry Jones.

Alessandro Imperato is an English born digital artist and theorist in the social history of art and media theory. His imagery draws heavily on Brechtian strategies of ‘making strange’ settled meanings and narratives by jarring juxtaposition of potent signs. His work is particularly concerned with international military conflict in the post-Cold War and the increasing political contexts of cultural repression and regulation. Alessandro’s practice as a cultural producer can be described as being digital media montage. The artwork is intended to make sense of the mediations between reality and its representations. He aims to contribute towards a strategy of critically re-coding the post-war dualism between abstraction and figuration.

He regards art to be an important aspect of political and ideological struggle, in which realism and art’s critical relationship towards society involves an adequate re-description of present lived conditions. One of his aims is to contribute towards a Critical Realist aesthetic and to develop an adequate signifying practice that can take account of the various changing areas of political and cultural struggles. Revealing the social conflicts inherent in art and the media can expose the construction of myths of artistic autonomy and reveal artifacts as sites of political struggle. Alessandro is not interested in the invention of a private language, but in using the signs, forms and images of society to subvert and transform their meanings in order to reveal the myths and ideological distortions of cultural representations. Alessandro is a founder member of the Medeology Collective.

Arbitrary Legends: Digital Media's Standard Test Subjects (Part One of a series)

Goethe sought his urforms, Plato had his solids. Today, we owe our digital stimuli to a most peculiar collection of ancestral forms, an eclectic assortment of objects and images worthy of Wilkins

Our contemporary collection includes: 

  • A Cow
  • A Happy Buddha
  • Lena Söderberg, Playboy model
  • A Teapot
  • A Sphere
  • Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega
  • A Mandrill
  • A Torus
  • Some red and green peppers
  • A Bunny
  • A Dragon
  • An empty room containing one square cube and one tall rectangular form.
  • Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, Great Britain

Extending the bounds of this group slightly, we might also include the full texts of As You Like It, Paradise Lost, and Alice in Wonderland.

These items are among the core standard test objects for many of the computing processes we now take for granted. Their function lies somewhere between that of a crash test dummy and Tippy the Turtle ("Can you draw me?). Early in the development of encoding, transmission, and rendering processes for images, sounds and other files, researchers landed on these mostly arbitrary objects as their common test subjects. Each object has been compressed and re-compressed across multiple algorithms and analyses on the way to establishing public standards, licensed versions, and proprietary protocols.

In other words, almost all of the digital images, texts and sounds we view each day are based on processes first tested on these objects. Only when these objects came into clear focus with each new algorithm were the rest of us allowed to add a new capacity to our expanding digital sensorium.

At their least interesting, these objects functioned simply as test patterns, or "Hello World" messages. One can't say that every jpeg today bears the mark of "Lena" the Playboy Model. Yet researchers depend on experience of these objects to make subjective judgments about which human physiological processes to facilitate or ignore. Lena isn't exactly the "face that launched a thousand ships" - we'd still have jpegs without her image. However, the way in which her image has been reduced repeatedly to code represents something of a prototype class, a way of seeing intended to be repeated over and over again.

With this post I'll launch a survey of this Wunderkammer, with some words on the origins, rationale and purpose of each object. Many of these are steeped in lore and legend. My information, gleaned from internet research and the ACM archive, may be incomplete.

This collection may not grow much beyond its current confines, as computing problems seem to require an increasingly diverse set of increasingly proprietary test data. In a later concluding post, I'll reflect a little on these changes, and their implications for future digital sensoria. There is some great critical work going on in software studies and infrastructure studies that can help us understand these processes.

For today, we'll start with the obvious, the "lena.tif" file.

Lena Söderberg

[Cropped image of Lena Söderberg / source: Playboy, November 1972]

Probably the most famous test image, this over-the-shoulder pose is certainly the most politically charged of our set. The image is of course a cropped version of a 1972 Playboy centerfold image. A website at Carnegie Mellon documents the history of this scan, with the help of a report written by my colleague Jamie Hutchinson. (Follow the links to some especially bizarre documents of the model attending a recent professional conference to celebrate the anniversary of her role. There is also a curious Woody Allen connection here which I challenge you to discover.) 

This image continues to be used today as a standard for establishing effective algorithms for sampling and interpolating images. In fact, once the origins of the image were uncovered in the nineties, Playboy relinquished some intellectual property control and offered access to the original negative, for increased resolution in testing.

There are some obvious lines of interpretation begging for attention here. For example, it seems only fitting to base image compression formats on interpolation of a pornographic image, given pornography's prominent role in digital image circulation. The male gaze here has been encoded and streamlined into a non-optical information stream. (Some would argue that this process started long before software; see Harun Farocki's film Ein Bild (An Image).)

The image has at least one obvious function within the labor of graphics research, attempting to provide heterosexual male workers with some degree of pleasure through the drudgery of repetitive coding. More than that, the image adds an extra-visual register to the subjective decision about how "lossy" is too lossy in processes of sampling and interpolation. Decisions on the limits of acceptable degradation in compression were a group effort, and assessment of perceived sex appeal could replace other, more contentious levels of tolerance for noise. (e.g., "She's lossy, but I think we can all agree she's still hot.")

By contrast, one could imagine more strident arguments over acceptable lossiness in the case of a scan of the Mona Lisa. Fine Art is more quickly relegated to the domain of "personal taste," whereas the Playboy centerfold was constructed to create massive, objective appeal. "Our main aim was to compress the image without affect on Lena’s beauty," writes one contemporary researcher. We of course see here an implied ideal audience - or at least a demographic portrait of who gave us our more popular compression formats.

In this way, other less popular test objects in image compression seem more like test patterns, and less like subjective rubicons. An image of a Mandrill has been a popular source, for example, as has been a cropped photograph of red and green peppers, or even a photograph of a street in Dorset. More on that next time.

Additional installments of this series: Part Two, Part Three.

Urban Screens 2010 - Call for Submissions (Toronto)

"Stereoscope" - Project Blinkenlights

[Project Blinkenlights / Stereoscope at Toronto City Hall / 2008]

Call for Interactive Media And Video Art

Explore what is possible with creative access to live, interactive, locally and globally connected screens: real-time, content-rich experiences on digital screens in our public space

The exhibition I am here; what can we do? is part of “Urban Screens Toronto 2010”, an international urban screens conference and exhibition taking place between September 24th-30th; produced in collaboration with the International Urban Screens Association (IUSA).

Urban Screens Toronto 2010 will promote a multifaceted approach to exploring the growing appearance of moving images in urban space and the global transformation of public culture in the context of networked forms of urban screens. It will build on the successful events held in Amsterdam, Manchester, and Melbourne and will be the first international Urban Screens conference held in North America.

Through an integrated program of keynote lectures, panel sessions, workshops, curated screenings and multimedia projects, it will bring together leading Canadian and international artists and curators, architects and urban planners, designers, ad agencies and brand managers, screen operators and content providers, academics, activists, policymakers, technology manufacturers, software developers and public intellectuals.

Public Call For:

  • New or existing experimental, interactive artwork suitable for urban screens.
  • Short-format videos that are relevant for presentation on urban screens.
  • Interactive Design & advertising created for urban screens. We will accept past commercial interactive work from ad agencies and designers.
  • Student work interactive and video work by students at any institution worldwide is welcome..

Themes include, but are not limited to:

  • The meeting point of the real and the virtual;
  • work that incorporates media technology and contemporary building/architectural technology; user-generated content;
  • multi-site, networked projects;
  • work that addresses public spaces and civic engagement.

Submission deadline: March 1st 2010
Please submit PDF files only.
No larger than 3 MB.
Provide URLs for viewing of work if desired.

Proposals should include:

1) Brief 50-word summary of your artwork
2) Full proposal or description of the project (maximum 2 pages)
3) Maximum 10 images, URL where work can be found online
4) Documentation of this work if it has previously be exhibited, or of another exhibited work by the artist.
3) Detailed list of technical requirements
4) Curriculum Vitae (maximum 3 pages)

Fees: There is no entry fee. Reasonable presentation fees will be paid, for new and existing interactive work and videos. Fees will not be paid for design & advertising work. Students will not receive a fee, but will  be automatically considered for a prize. Please note that we cannot fund the creation of new work.

Submit: In the subject line: URBAN SCREENS TORONTO PROPOSAL

Email to JURY at:

Jury: The jury will be comprised of Toronto Urban Screens committee members Michelle Kasprzak, Janine Marchessault, Gabe Sawhney, Suzanne Stein and Sharon Switzer.

Notification: April 1, 2010


PlayLab - Call for Collaborators (Madrid)

Antonin Fourneau - MoripadSmall

[Antonin Fourneau / moripadSmall / 2009]

What is PlayLab?

PlayLab aims to explore the context of games and video games as a space for creativity, experimentation, learning and reflection. It also aims to create an environment that leads to collaborative work in which different disciplines come together.

PlayLab's activities are proposed as an open and participatory research process from which one can approach video games, a phenomenon that is becoming more extensive and influent in Contemporary Society, and explore its critical potential, its learning possibilities and its capacity to create social spaces that go beyond the purely commercial and standardized.

PlayLab is also interested in the history of Games and video games as it examines its possible genealogies and studies its social, cognitive and psychological effects characteristic of video games today.

Workshop Details

Coordinated by: Flavio Escribano
Call for collaborators: December 14, 2009 through January 20, 2010
Presentation of selected proposals: January 21, 2010
Teachers: Mar Canet, Antonin Fourneau and Abelardo Gil-Fournier
Venue: Medialab-Prado - Madrid, Spain

PlayLab Call for Collaborators

The roll of the collaborator is crucial in the Medialab-Prado's workshops' statement and development process, as these workshops are constituted as a horizontal collaborative work environment, knowledge interchange and theoretical-practical training among teachers, authors and collaborators.

Collaborators can join any of the developing teams that will carry out the selected proposals, depending on their particular interests and skills, thus contributing with their knowledge and skills and at the same time learning from the other group members and from the leading tutors: Mar Canet, Antonin Fourneau, and Abelardo Gil-Fournier. According to the open call guidelines, collaborators' names will be acknowledged in the final prototypes. Medialab-Prado can issue a diploma to collaborators after completing the workshop.

Work groups will start to set up through the PlayLab forum, where interested people can contact authors and other collaborators. Following the presentation of projects on the first day of the workshop (Thursday, January 21, 2010), work groups will be finally defined.

During the first part of the workshop (January 21 - 24, 2010) teams will start developing the prototypes. Afterwards, we encourage teams to continue working in an independent way, so once they get to the second part (February 4 - 7, 2010) they will be closer to finish them.

If you wish to take part in a work group, register on the Medialab-Prado workshop page.

[via: Benjamin Baker-Smith who will be joining the VT blog team as a contributor in 2010]