Blast Theory’s piece Karen (2015) is seemingly a life-coaching app: Karen, a middle-aged woman starts the experience as the user’s personal life coach. But the user’s frequent one-to-one sessions (the total span of which can range from 7 days to a few months, depending on how often you use the app) take an unexpected turn, as Karen appears to be psychologically volatile, confused, and increasingly invasive. A hybrid between game and drama, the piece raises questions about privacy and control at a time when technologies increasingly permeate every aspect of our lives. Karen prompts the user to question how they use media, what information they leak through this usage, and what is at stake in doing so.
Blast Theory is a pioneering artist group creating interactive art to explore social and political questions, placing audience members at the centre of their work.
“Since the mid 1990s, the group followed the trajectory of the development of the media, with their acute and in-depth psychological analyses. I would call them the most contemporary media-poet of this age.” – Soh Yeong Roh, head of the Selection Committee for the 2016 Nam June Paik Art Center Award
Since 1991, they have been using interactive media to create groundbreaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting. Led by artists Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, they create interactive art that puts the audience at the centre of the work. Drawing on popular culture, technology and games, the work often blurs the boundaries between the real and the fictional.
In virtual and physical spaces from pubs, canals and abandoned warehouses to libraries, museums and apps – Blast Theory goes to unexpected places to make their work accessible to everyone.
Works that I really like by them include My One Demand, Can You See Me Now?, Karen, and Day Of The Figurines.
George Legrady: Database Art
Multimedia artist George Legrady creates installations, photography, and data visualizations that manipulate technologies in order to examine our relationship with images and technology.
Refraction (2010–11) consists of eight composite photographs, printed using an antiquated method known as the lenticular process; three images are superimposed and become visible according to the spectator’s angle of view. In Slice (2011), a software-generated animation that blurs the line between representation and abstraction, an image is sliced into smaller and smaller fragments until it manifests an illegible abstraction. Legrady’s earlier works include his Algorithmic Visualizations, abstract, algorithmically generated images. “One of my goals in working with computers and computer programming was to introduce works that would somehow test the boundary between the believable and the simulated,” he has said.
My favourite of his works are his database themed projects. In the succinct words of Legrady: “We are data”. On the technological level, Legrady’s project investigates the rule-based algorithmic processes and parsing techniques of data-processing technology for the aesthetic display of selected data on the screen. For this goal, the artist uses a wide range of artistic techniques known in information visualization, such as color-coding, spatial plotting, animation, visual metaphors and the organization of data through a balanced composition.