The International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) 2010 kicks off Tuesday, June 1st and ends Saturday, June 5th.
ICMC will be hosted by Stony Brook University, in association with New York University and the Electronic Music Foundation, and will be held in New York City and Stony Brook, NY. This year's theme is "Research, Education and Discovery."
In addition, the concert series features an impressive 100 "sonic works" by 100 individual artists, including:
Presumably because they couldn't pack everything into the official-6 day schedule, ICMC is preceded and followed by a few days of tutorials and workshops.
Tom Erbe and Cooper Baker will be teaching Pure Data Object Programming, Jan Trutzscher is leading a 2-part SuperCollider workshop, and Ivica Ico Bukvic, the founder and director of L2ork, will be addressing the logistics of starting an affordable laptop orchestra amongst many other presentations.
A full schedule of concerts, paper presentations, poster/demo sessions, and workshops can be found on the ICMC website. The "Call for Works" page has detailed outlines of the categories.
Artengine and Vague Terrain are pleased to announce Rhiannon Vogl as our first ever Critical Blogging Resident. Rhiannon will start her year long residence with Artengine and Vague Terrain with a trip to the cutting edge Elektra Festival in Montréal. She will be posting daily from the festival, from Thursday May 6th through Sunday May 8th, so for updates and reviews you can read her at artengine.ca/blog and here at Vague Terrain.
Over the course of the year Rhiannon will be using the Artengine and Vague Terrain blogs as creative spaces for critical discourse around the media arts and creative technological expression. If you want to get in touch please feel free to email her at email@example.com.
More About Rhiannon Vogl
Rhiannon received her Master of Arts in Art History from Carleton University, Ottawa in 2007. Since then, she has held the position of Curatorial Assistant, Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada. Her writing has appeared in three catalogues produced by the NGC – Nomads (2009), Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer (2008) and Real Life: Ron Mueck and Guy Ben-Ner (2008); Breathing Under Water: Glynis Humphrey, produced by Axenéo7, Gatineau (2008) as well as Canadian Art Magazine, Paroles Gelées: UCLA French Studies Journal, Dharma Arts Online, Vernissage Magazine, and The Ottawa Xpress. Most recently, she co-curated Contemporary Drawings from the National Gallery of Canada, which will tour beginning in 2011. Rhiannon currently sits on the Board of Directors at gallerie SAW gallery, and has presented her research internationally at conferences in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Kingston, Ontario.
Elektra is in full swing. I’ve been overwhelmed. Must start small and work into the core of what has been presented here.
Zimoun’s elegant installation at Push Galerie has been on my mind since seeing it on Wednesday. Here, a series of 216 dc motors – each strung with a strand of 1.0m wire – hung in a horizontal row on a white wooden ‘canvas’ that stretches the length of the gallery. As the motors spin and twirl the wires against the once pure surface behind them, they fill the gallery with the sound of rain shower, drops pelting concrete. Whisking against the surface behind them, they scratch and scuff against the once pure paint, leaving behind subtle, graphite-like markings, traces of themselves that will no doubt become darker and more apparent as the installation continues to operate. This is technology used for poetry, absorbing without being immersive, minimal without being alienating, sonic and ultimately quite beautiful.
This is work that is familiar to me, a place for me to enter into Elektra, an ironicly analog introduction to a festival of digital arts. However, Thought One that has emerged from Elektra is the idea of history repeating itself, of looping itself, or cycling in waves, in this case, between the digital and the analogue. Is the analogue r(e)merging? If so, how? What is it about analogue technologies that make them so different, so appealing at this moment in time. Is this even the case? Do some of us just crave being less attached in a wired sense, and being more sensuously engaged with the world again? Is there a way technology can make this possible? Does it really need to happen?
1.Edwin van der Heide’s Laser Sound Performance is being presented nightly here at Usine C. Smoky beams of radiant colour slice through the open industrial space. Violent or spectacular – you be the judge when it is presented in Ottawa Monday as part of House of Orange at the Mercury Lounge.
2.If you don’t already know about the work W2 out of Vancouver is doing, go here now and find out more. Really…right now.
3.The pervasivness of technology in the everyday has been highlighted more than once here, and what comes to be most interesting is not always what the gadget is or how it is designed to operate, but rather, how artists and collectives are going out into the world to make use of it, to use it speak to the time in which we live, or to slip themselves clandestinely into the gaps left in the inbetween. Many of the artists who have presented here have chosen to use their work as a way of activating public space, of attempting to foster a two-way dialogue between “the public” and the technology around them. Many of these projects have been smart, thoughtful and genuine; however, we need to think more about the responsibility of artists who create work where “the public” is directly implicated. It is not enough to give provide someone with an app for their iPhone and send them to roam in the city, nor is it fair to assume that only one “public” exists, nor that all “publics” have the same opportunities or technological access. What are the social responsibilities of artists who create interactive work in the public sphere?
[Byetone at Elektra 2010 / still from video by mikebug]
Elektra is over, and I’m left cold. Not just because it snowed on the last day of the festival, (leaving me no choice but to wear every single article of clothing I had brought with me to Montreal at once,) but because last night’s finale, sadly, fell short of what I was hoping for.
We were presented with four performances by artists on the Berlin-based raster-noton music label, known for their roster of minimalist electronic artists. Not to speak to the specific quality of each performance, because the actualy sound engineering of each was quite well done, it was the the absolute minimality of the programming that left me wishing I kept both my extra sweaters on at Usine C. The abstract, if not atonal, sounds pumping violently through the speakers created a wall of such solid sound that it literally felt as though I was swimming in it trying to move from my space on the floor over to the bar – an immersive experience, most certainly, but agressive beyond agressive. There was also a marked lack of visual accompaniment, or willingness to use the video medium to its full potential, in many of the performances, which made for a much less dynamic presentation on the whole than we had been used to experiencing nightly during the festival. It was this lack of sensual variety from performer to performer and from track to track that left truly left me wanting more, wishing that the festival hadn’t ended on this particular note. Much more suited for the festival’s last evening, a friend remarked to me as we removed our (absolutely essential) earplugs, would have been Tasman Richardson or Jubal Brown, artists who use both audio and visual mediums to their full advantage, and could have much better showcased the vastly orignal and innovate work being created by Canadian artists.
Conference, Toronto, Canada – University of Toronto, November 12-14, 2010
A renewed emphasis on participatory forms of digitally-mediated production is transforming our social landscape. ‘Making’ has become the dominant metaphor for a variety of digital and digitally-mediated practices. The web is exploding with independently produced digital ‘content’ such as video diaries, conversations, stories, software, music, video games - as well as communities of self-organized crafters, hackers, and other enthusiasts for whom 'making' is an explicitly political act. This interactive conference seeks to extend conversations about these new modes of engaged DIY citizenship.
We invite scholars, activists, artists, designers, programmers and others interested in the social and participatory dimensions of digitally-mediated practices, to engage in dialogue across disciplinary and professional divides. All methodological and theoretical approaches are welcomed. Submissions may include paper proposals, works of art and/or design, short video or audio segments, performances, video games, digital media, or other genres and forms.
Please submit a 250-word proposal or description of work/presentation and a one-page artist or scholarly CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
Submission deadline: May 20, 2010
Last week, I headed to Montréal for the 11th incarnation of the Elektra International Digital Arts Festival in Montréal. The five day event attracted artists and industry professionals from as far away as Dakar, Seoul, Istanbul and Shanghai, as well as various countries across Europe and North America, to the cosmopolitan Québeqois city, which is quickly, as many of us already knew, establishing a name for itself as THE creative hotbed for electronic arts. There was much to take in each day, and while it can’t all be discussed here, this post represents a compendium of the most interesting, evocative and stimulating experiences from my time there.
For those presenting at the International Marketplace for Digital Arts, the future, in the (wink) words of Chip Douglas, is very much now. The “professional rendez-vous” as it was dubbed by Elektra’s organizers, was a two-day blitz of presentations, debates and dialogues, given by over 30 international artists, producers, agents, broadcasters, curators, institutional directors and event organizers. While the format of the conference itself could be described as both a massive speed dating session and networking boot camp, leaving not quite enough space for attendees to fully digest all that was being offered, the conceptual framework of the event – arranged as a space to foster collaborations and to develop new, cross-border distribution networks, was clearly taken advantage of by all observers and presenters alike.
Some of the most thought-provoking presentations were given by organizations such as W2 (Vancouver), FAN et Centre Irisson (Casablanca), Trias Culture (Dakar) and Nabi Center (Seoul) who are each working, in a variety of ways, to increase the availability of technology – both open source software and physical hardware, access to media outlets, and opportunities to create multi-media art. Inspiring presentations were given by the organizers of the Zero One San Jose Biennial, Performa, and the Shanghai eARTS Festival, who showcased highly creative approaches to curating performance and electronic arts on a massive scale, while individuals like Nina Czegledy provided the group with stimulating philosophical and conceptual frameworks from which to consider larger topics such as new curatorial models for a digital age, whether social media can function independently as a voice for marginalized voices, and how artists might be able to use technology to (re)activate urban space or upset the proliferation of invasive technologies within the public sphere.
Key to many of the most appealing presentations was a sensitivity towards new social interactions and rituals developing as a result of technology’s pervasiveness in our daily lives, as well as a concern for keeping the media arts an open (read: free) platform for creativity. While it was unfortunate that there was not as much time for debate or discussion built into the two-days of programming, and that it may have, in hind sight, been a more successful event if the presentations were spaced out over a longer period of time, the IMDA was nevertheless a thought-provoking, if not motivating, portion of Elektra.
[Cécile Babiole, Jean-Michel Dumas & Vincent Goudard / Donjon - still]
Of course, Elektra wouldn’t be Elektra without a massively spectacular display of immersive audio-visual performances by a selection of the world’s leading video, installation and electro-acoustic artists.
The kaleidoscopic, fully immersive Laser Sound Performance presented nightly at Usine C. by Edwin van der Heide was a true crowd pleaser, surrounding the packed crowd in pulses of pure prismatic colour set to waves of digital sound.
BEAT, a collaboration between Sylvain Pohu and Sixtrum was a surprising combination of rhythmic, intricate percussion composed to accompany a black and white video projection that contained a multitude of visual and text-based clips, surrounding the definition of the word “beat.” Switching continuously between the aural and social concepts of the word, with images ranging from those of instruments to factory workers to slaves, the performance at once called attention to its own physical construction while at the same time offering a form of cultural critique that was for the most part unique in comparison to many of the other A/V performances at the festival.
Treating the relationship between sound and light in a completely formal manner, ABCD-Light by Purform was a stunning series of geometric and linear visualizations of pulsating sounds – ultra-slick and impeccably-crafted without being arrogant; while both Herman Kolgen’s Inject V.02 and Dust demonstrated the incredibly detailed capabilities of high-definition video technology and, despite whether one may have found them clichéd in their narratives, were utterly gorgeous, overpoweringly sensual displays of eye-candy.
A favourite ultimately, had to be Cécile Babiole, Jean-Michel Dumas and Vincent Goudard’s quirky, playful and refreshingly humourous performance titled Donjon. Here, objects from everyday life – from domestic appliances to retro a/v equipment, racing cars to , were animated as very basic 3-D models, and as they bopped and bounced across the screen to the accompanying music, they were deconstructed, falling apart on themselves until they became no more than broken-down or flattened cross sections of their former selves. The minimalist, even old-school aesthetic of the video was paired with music reminiscent of arcade/video game soundtracks, giving the entire piece a wonderfully-nostalgic feel like only neon and break-beats can, all the while deconstructing the, as the artists call it, “glut” of consumer objects that surround us daily.
Many of the local artist-runs centres had partnered with Elektra to present digital, electronic or “new media”-based works.
While some, such as Ian Wojtowicz’s (US) The Betweeners– a series of portraits inspired by online profile pictures and digital visualization which attempted to map the virtual social connection of several Montréal strangers – or Ann Hirsch’s Scandalishious (both at Skol) took the digital world both as their media and subject matter, others, such as 216 prepared dc Motors by Zimoun at Galerie Push, and Pascal Dufaux’s Le cosmos dans lequel nous sommes, at Galerie Joyce Yahouda employed both simple and more complex electronic devices to create very different sculptural installations. Reminiscent of a futuristic tee-pee structure or the lunar-lander, Dufaux’s custom-made video-kinetic camera, used to take surveillance-inspired photographs while continuously rotating in hypocyclodoial motion around a series of mirrors, was almost more interesting than the images it had been built to capture, and like Zimoun’s sonic installation, presented the viewer with a truly hypnotic experience.
[Daan Roosegarde / Dune]
Further afield at Orobo, Kaffe Matthews presented a Québec incarnation of their Sonic Bed – a weighty wooden enclosure that houses speakers and a queen-sized mattress that is imbedded with subwoofers. Original digital tracks scored by Magali Babin, John Oswald and Georges Azzaria pulsed from the surround-sound system, while the subwoofers throbbed along to the beat, vibrating those who chose to lay in the bed into both meditative and rousing states.
Interactive in a completely different sense, Daan Roosegaarde’s Dune, installed on the upper level of Usine C, presented visitors to the festival’s main site with a field of luminous fibres that covered the concrete floor like a bed of tall grasses that flickered and blazed automatically, illuminating itself in response to noise and motion generated by people moving through the darkened hallway. Existing as a hybrid between the digital and natural world, Dune exemplified the poetic relationship that can exist between humans and technology, pointed most strikingly to the complexity, beauty and even fragility of this dialectic, and in a sense, perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Elektra .
This year Istanbul Technical University was the host site for EvoStar 2010, the main European conference on evolutionary computation. State of the art research in the application of nature inspired algorithms was presented in a number of fields including telecommunications, complex systems, environmental issues, finance, games, image and signal processing, machine intelligence, optimization, dynamics, transportation systems, and the focus here, art, music, and design. Each topic was organized as a conference within a conference although cross attendance was encouraged.
The EvoMUSART section, as it is called, included 16 papers selected in a competitive peer review process. Like the other papers from the conference these papers will appear in the journal Applications of Evolutionary Computation published by Springer.
While EvoMUSART is more technical than some other venues for generative art research aesthetic goals are nevertheless primary. For example Sah et al presented a system for creating animated photomosaics where, over time, a large number of very small images evolve an arrangement creating one large image. In the system presented by Dubbin and Stanley users can indirectly train neural networks by making interactive selections within an evolutionary system. This leads to the creation of animated dancers who can perform in realtime given music as an input.
This year a good number of music systems were presented. Shao et al presented Jive, a system that uses interactive evolution to compose generative functions, and then allows the use of a mouse or Wii-controller to interact with those functions for real-time performance. And a system that can take a bass line and compose harmonization in the form of 3 and 4 note chords was presented by De Prisco et al.
One of the earliest techniques applied to machine composition that is still viable today is the use of Markov processes. Put simply a Markov process selects the next note based on probabilities determined by the previous few notes. The problem with such systems is that they can sound reasonably good a few measures at a time, but lack coherence or aesthetic value over the full course of a piece. Davismoon and Eccles presented a system that overcomes this problem to some extent by adding musical constraints to the Markov probabilities.
In the realm of new synthesis techniques Sequera and Miranda presented a method where a cellular automata is mapped into a spectrogram that determines a timbre. Codognet and Pasquet reported on their Sound Agents system that creates an immersive ambient sound environment using 24 loudspeakers, a subwoofer, and multi-agent swarm-intelligence software architecture. Moroni and Manzolli described a system that uses mobile robots and video tracking along with evolutionary computation to compose and present sound art.
A significant topic in the application of evolutionary systems in the arts is computational aesthetic evaluation. Evolution proceeds by "survival of the fittest" and most engineering applications have objective measures of fitness that can allow a genetically based system to run generation after generation without human intervention. Applications in the arts, however, usually have an artist in the loop because aesthetic evaluation by computer remains an unsolved problem. Several papers at EvoMUSART touched on this problem including my own. I will summarize some of those ideas here in a future blog entry.
On April 17th I participated in a gallery conversation at the opening of the Scandalishious/The Betweeners show at the Centre des Arts Actuels Skol in Montréal. This was the first time that SKOL hosted a conversation between artists, curators and visitors. The discussion that resulted was an interesting and thought provoking entry point into the themes of the exhibition, which juxtaposes works by two artists whose practices take very different approaches to social media as platform, Anne Hirsch's Scandalishious and Ian Wojtowicz's The Betweeners (pictured above). I was particularly captivated by The Betweeners as it touches on some of the issues that interest me about our changing relationship to data and the impacts that emergent data mining practices may have on our interactions in the world.
The title The Betweeners refers to the notion of 'betweeness-centrality' which comes from social network analysis. A node in a network has high betweeness-centrality when it bridges multiple sets of unconnected nodes, making it a high traffic connection point in the network. A high measure of betweeness-centrality does not necessarily indicate that these nodes have the highest number of connections, or that they are even particularly active in the network. However as Ian pointed out, if these nodes were removed, the structure of the network would change significantly. Using the MySpace API and an existing SNA algorithm he identified the people in Montréal who have the highest betweeness-centrality on MySpace. He met with a group of these people and produced a large-format photo-portrait work of the group which reproduces the poses in their individual MySpace profile pictures. The exhibition showcases this portrait, as well as the individual profile pictures and bios of participants. There are also projected visualizations of the MySpace Montréal network.
What interests me about this work is that it exemplifies a paradigmatic shift across all sectors of society related to our relationships to data. We now have access to exponentially increasing quantities of data, growing numbers of datasets and the means of analyzing them in different ways. But extrapolating meaning from this abundance of data is not always an obvious task. In the case of the data analysis behind The Betweeners, we are left asking ourselves 'what does it actually mean'? The people participating in the discussion at SKOL seemed to want to understand the significance of The Betweeners in a human context – to discover what the measurement of betweeness-centrality can tell us about these people or the online community they belong to. In fact, it cannot reliably tell us anything other than that these people have high viral potential. The significance of the data remains within the frame of reference of the network itself.
As we move into an era of pervasive data and computing, where we can algorhythymize our way through petabytes of data, what kinds of indicators will we use to determine meaning? And who will establish these indicators? Right now we have access to answers, but have yet to formulate the questions. There is certainly the possibility for this type of data to be used by predatory capitalist agents, as someone brought up during the discussion at SKOL. What fascinates me about this work is that it highlights some of the ambiguous and as yet undefined parameters of our relationships to data, both the data that we consume through various filters, and the data we produce through our activities in online networks. Data is not a static or inert blob of stuff to be used but something that requires interpretation along many fronts. I think we need to avoid passivity toward the interests that filter and create meaning for us from the layers of data we interact with on a daily basis. As The Betweeners demonstrates, to engage with this new information environment we need to learn how to ask the right questions.
This exhibition runs until May 22 at Skol, for more info see skol.ca/en
Crossposted to Artengine
The 2010 T-Stick Composition Workshops (2010TCW) bring together five composers (any nationality, all ages) to develop new live electroacoustic solos for the soprano t-stick digital musical instrument in collaboration with Canadian composer and digital instrumentalist, D. Andrew Stewart. Selected composers will work individually with D. A. Stewart, being introduced to the present-day modes of performance on the soprano t-stick. The workshops will focus on exploring musical and physical playing gestures and will also include the development of new playing techniques and sounds for the instrument. The outcome of the workshops will be five new solo works for the soprano t-stick. The works will be performed by D. Andrew Stewart in a series of Canadian concerts beginning in January, 2011.
2010TCW is looking for composers who have distinct proposals for the t-stick. Preference will be given to unique projects that, firstly, illustrate a wide-ranging use of the t-stick and secondly, seek to expand the performance modes of the instrument.
Composers who are both experienced with electroacoustic media and nonspecialists, as well as acoustic instrument composers, are invited to submit (1) their biography along with (2) a one-page project proposal. If possible, composers should send (3) one sample of their music that may illustrate a concept or musical idea they find applicable to the t-stick digital musical instrument.
Send biography and one-page proposal (txt, pdf, Word) by e-mail to 2010TCW@dandrewstewart.ca. For the music sample, please provide a URL or contact the aforementioned email address to make alternate arrangements.
Application deadline: 1 July, 2010
Travel assistance, lodging (hotel) and subsistence (meals) are not provided by 2010TCW. Commissioning awards may be granted to the selected composers (to be confirmed).
More about the T-Stick and involved Artists: