History of Design (IM) Hyperessay Selection Week 11 & 12

The artist that I have chosen would be  Mona Hatoum, a new media artist who is also known for her performance and artistic persona. 

mona hatoum

The main factors that I would parallel from Interactive Media to my hyper-essay would be the immersive and hypermedia qualities present in most of Hatoum’s art pieces.

Hatoum’s background provides a strong foundation for narrative, which is imperative in interactive media as it provides a baseline for audience participation, emotional or physical. Hatoum was born in the civil war period of Lebanon, forced to exile to London while the rest of her family remained in the war torn country. With such strong purpose and background, her works tend to narrate an encapsulating phenomena of emotions, with the polarity of fear and fascination/ desire and revulsion that pushes audience into her own mind. The very distance that prohibits Hatoum from touching her family draws the intentions of new media art, shrinking time and space to tell her story. This draws the focus of her works to video and sound, the only medium that is able to project the cultural intersections that displays her physical and perceptual surroundings.

Also, her identity as an exiled woman from a sexist society, missing her endearing mother, helps to draw reference to the physical and emotional disparity she feels when juxtaposed into a modern city as a new-age feminist artist. This faint distinction between body and soul can only be identified on a level technology can bring about, creating the contrasting themes that conventional art cannot bring about due to its lack of structural quality.


An interactive artwork by Hatoum that focuses on immersion and hypermedia would be the “Corps etranger” 1994.

This is an installation that focuses on the polarity of physical privacy to emotional voyuerism. When entering the 10 feet high cylindrical structure, the audience would hear the amplified sound of Hatoum’s recorded heart beat and stomach rumbling, immersed into the sound and video with the surroundings. When they look down, they would see a circular video screen showing a morbid process of endoscopy and colonoscopy, the process of pushing a tiny video camera through the digestive tract for medical purposes. With this process, the audience is physically pushed through the digestive tract of Hatoum. It is an entirely private process that is physically sacred, limited to the eyes of Hatoum and her doctor. However, in this artwork, Hatoum’s body is on full display without any limitations. The mucous membranes, hair, pupils, teeth, and orifices, are all enlarged and put on display as if it was a conventional screening.

The idea of physical privacy and emotional voyeurism comes in when the audience are inspecting Hatoum’s body on such a biological perspective, almost micro-focused on her identity as a human/female organism. In modern society where females are placed on the scrutiny of the male gaze, the technology used by her allows that male gaze to be amplified on such a voyeuristic level.

Alternatively, she compares the idea of natural biology to religious spiritualism. This is brought about by the excessive technology used in the series, compared to the almost temple-like structure of the installation. The audience would feel a sense of vertigo when they lower their head, heightened by a degree of magnification and claustrophobic space, they question the presence of an almighty entity that overlooks this space, contrasted with the proven biology seen on screen.


Prog for Art and Games: Mid-Terms (Colour Motion Detector)

The mid-term coding assignment was a free-for-all project that Corey assigned, without any limitations as to what we can do. Since the module name comprised of art and games, I decided to flow towards functional art instead of games because I wasn’t an avid gamer, and my understanding of gaming mechanism is rudimentary at best. 

In summary: The motion detector that sees potential danger in the darkness and tells you by changing colour


Final Product  (The initial process is shown below)

The final code was an alternate visual of what I initially set up to achieve. Firstly, I eliminated the usage of the “Weeping Woman”, and I changed the idea of painterly qualities into the coloured ellipse from the webcam projection. Hence, the visual changes from motion detection became the coloured pixels from the webcam foreground. Secondly, to create a stronger visual quality to the program, I created a background layer of threshold that identified light and shadows (A reason I will explain later). Thirdly, I used a code of mousePress to change colour when the coloured ellipse background changes colour, hence creating a motion detection value to the program.

With that, I created a coloured motion detector that works when there is a slightest change in light value in the room. 

In this program, there are three layers. The foreground shows a layer of ellipse that changes colour when motion is detected. It is identified by the webbing and interconnected lines shown in the foreground with one colour only. It changes colour. The mid-layer is the coloured ellipses that is achieved by abstracting the colour code from the web cam image. The background layer is the threshold layer that picks out light and shadow from within the web cam image.


How this program works is that the mouse holds an ellipse that changes colour according to the colour change of the background, which is the “eye” of the program. When there is a slight change to the threshold value in totality, even if the “eye” is not pointing at, (The eye should be pointed in the centre), the colour value of the surrounding ellipse will change no matter what because the threshold code dilutes or enhances the colour value in the darkness, indicating purple or brown. Therefore, the program helps to identify motion in the darkness because of its sensitivity to the threshold value of light and dark, and when it detects motion in the darkness, the “eye” will change the colour of the webbing ellipse, indicating to the user “motion detected”. The function of the coloured ellipse of the webcam is to assist the efficiency of motion detection by limiting the coding system to a set of colour to choose from.

A look at the future of this program would be linking the colour changes (motion detection) with an alarm that gets sent directly to the phone or security system. The sensitivity of this program would be most applicable in high security area since a slight change in  threshold in any corner would incoherently change the colour of the motion detector. I would imagine this system placed in a high security vault, whereby no foot traffic is accessible nor change in threshold value. Hence when there is a change in threshold, which results in colour change, it would mean a need to take a look at the security vault for potential robbers.

colour value in darkness


My project offshoots from the amalgamation of painting and kinetic action, which meant that I wanted to utilise my own kinetic motion detected from the webcam, thereafter changing the visual qualities of the painting posted on the processing window. I selected the “Weeping Woman” by Picasso as I found its abstract qualities to be easy to manipulate, as well as animate. File “weep0” shows the animation file for the “Weeping Woman”. For this segment, I tried to texturise the painting so that my motion can create a visual change in the painting. Hence, I tried to draw out the colour detection from the painting into multiple ellipses, creating the textured and cloudy appearance of the window, as if the woman is always moving.

weeping woman animation
motion detection
tinier ellipse
coloured ellipse

The next segment includes my activation of the webcam, which was an uncharted territory for me. The activation of the webcam is an already existing programme within the Processing application, which is indicated by the green light on. The combination of the ellipse function from the previous sequence creates a pulling effect of my motion detected on the camera, mimicking the classic “motion action” in the Marvel Ant-man comic series. There is, however, a difference between the effect of coloured ellipse condition shown in the image above, as opposed to the image entitled “tinier ellipse”, which shows the motion drawback mentioned before.

motion delay
Combination 1

Combination 1 depicts the final product where I combined the painting animation and the motion detection, which did not create a product that was at all aesthetically pleasing. The ideation behind this code would be having the coloured ellipse pixelation coding pasted onto the painting, whereas the motion detection blasted behind it. There was no correlation at best, thus making this a failure in objective.


Combination 2

Combination 2 depicts a program where I achieved my initial intentions, which was to allow the motion detection to create changes to the painting pasted on the Processing window. This was only achievable because Corey’s consultation directed me towards the idea of using Threshold, the value of light (0-1) on every pixel, which meant that there is an achievable value of yes and no, creating an affect and effect program. Hence, every time the threshold falls to 0, which is black, the pixels of the painting would change accordingly, like the resistance on the television screen.


Technical Aftermath

Moving on from this program, I would try to enhance the efficiency of the program. This meant that I would combine all three layers into one, which helps the viewer to see the motion detection more easily. In this program, as mentioned, it is apparent that there are three layers. I would combine the coloured ellipse layer from the webcam with the colour detection form the “eye”, creating a smoother visual.



Written Report: Neo-Conceptualism

Duchamp defied the conventions of art the day he was denied the privileges as a Cubist painter and was abandoned by his contemporaries. He was left without any status on the quagmire interlinked between Cubism, Futurism and Abstract., and with that, he created Conceptualism. Conceptualism closely paralleled Dadaism, spearheaded by Duchamp; striving on nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois. Hence, Dada is headlined by unique traits like denouncing societal set utilitarian functions of found objects and materials, as well as the visual indifference that gives high art status to concept-centric artworks. They also label aesthetics as unnecessary priorities, all in the name of enhancing the phenomenal quality experienced looking at the artwork. Flying through half a century later, Neo-Conceptualism evolved from the aforementioned predecessor, offshoot from various factors like shock tactic, openness to material, contemporary culture and entrepreneurial marketing. In this essay, I will highlight how Neo-Conceptualism redefines the boundaries of the very redefinitions of change Duchamp started, comparing Conceptualism championed by Duchamp to Neo-Conceptualism steered by the Young British Artists.

Conceptual Art and Dada were both born in the midst of humanity’s biggest travesty, World War One. It questioned the purpose of art in the times of war and disturbance, especially since Duchamp’s contemporaries were trying to break boundaries with artistic expression. Duchamp was an avid painter who seasoned with abstraction and tilted towards Cubism and Futurism. He was, however, denied acceptance by his contemporaries like Picasso. This drove him to seek out an alternate identity for high art, pursuing non-art function to be placed in a gallery space. Non-art function was a significant hallmark of Conceptualism, pioneered by Dadaism*.Duchamp was not interested in retinal art at this point, art that focused more on the aesthetics. Instead, he would cancel the utilitarian function of an object, and assign a new function that fits well in a white cube. In 1917, Duchamp epitomises the assault on convention and gallery notion of high art by displacing a urinal used in toilets into a gallery space. It is a public urinal placed on its back with a pseudonym “R.Mutt 1917” signed on the sides. Duchamp provokes communication with audience when they question the new found purpose of the amenity that is commonly used to drain urine, one that is useless when the drainage is left on the sides. In this way, the factory designated function of the urinal is estranged, instead converted into one that is purposefully mind boggling.

Another trademark would be the visual indifference that reflected the humour and wits of the Conceptual artists. It was a counter to the logic of the scientific era, where humans living through the world war becomes too complex and idealised. In the Bicycle Wheel 1913, the first readymade by Duchamp, he mounted a bicycle wheel onto a painted wooden stool. This work was a clear representation of how Duchamp’s mind worked. Duchamp cancelled the function of the bicycle wheel by placing it wheels up onto the stool, making the wheel useless as it cannot rotate to travel. The stool has a metal pipe forked into it, negating its use as a proper stool for sitting. It was a pointless motion that reoccurs overtime as Duchamp spun it, out of his curiosity for observing kinetic energy. Duchamp was interested in the visual irony made available with conceptual artworks, placing two polarities of meaning side by side. This contrasts Duchamp’s rational back to men’s obsession with logocentrism, understanding definitions and meanings that are inherently “birthed” into objects when the factories created them.

Fast forward into the 1990s, Neo-Conceptualism began as the Young British Artists  (YBA) gathered to create new, innovative works. The YBA was not an arbitrary term, instead it was a successful economic label. Charles Saatchi spearheaded the economic thrust of the label, promoting artists that he favoured, like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The YBA were significant followers of the Conceptual movement, derivations of factors like re-appropriating functions as well as the visual indifference of various materials. YBA, however, had alternate essential traits birthed out of the difference in timeline, mainly: contemporary relevance, shock factor and entrepreneurial aggression.

The YBA grew in the 1990s, propagating media culture after the birth of the contemporary media boom. This was an important factor that the YBAs could use to relate to the audience, such as Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”. This work portrayed a dead shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, looking as new as the day it died. This artwork is a classic showcase of the idea of affect and effect, portraying the idea of mortality in motion. The work triggered a universal human response of fear, urging humans to cringe as they look at the artwork. The shark is in suspension, in the midst of a “dive”, suggesting an affect. The effect comes in when the audience realise how fatal the objectification of the shark is, as an apex predator, and how much strength it can amount to. The idea of death comes even more significant and ironic as the shark itself is present in the tank as a creature of such ravenous hunger- dead; while its reason for death unknown to the audience. The contemporary culture was a significant factor in amplifying this work’s phenomenal quality. In 1975, “Jaws” was released as a blockbuster that acclaimed $470.7 million , creating a contemporary cult following that fantasises the creation of this natural killer. Hirst is playing to this idea of conceptual indifference, comparing the identity of sharks in ancient history to the identity of sharks following the release of “Jaws”. Hirst’s work creates an air of eeriness and death with the use of the vitrine, allowing audience to look at the shark as it biologically deteriorates through time. This is one of the most significant artworks by Hirst, or any contemporaries in terms of economic worth, valued at $16.6 million. Hirst utilised the contemporary cult fantasy of sharks, paired with shock factor of mortality to drive up the value of neo-conceptual art like this.

Shock factor was another trait significant to the YBAs, an alternate step up from the Conceptualists. This shock factor was often presented through themes of life and death, as mentioned in the artwork above.It is to create a concept or aesthetic that is so jarring that it stuns audience introspection wise. In “A Thousand Years”, it is a rectangular vitrine divided into two sections: One with a white die that breeds maggots and flies, the other with a severed cow’s head and insect-o-cutor. The phenomenal quality sets in when audience stares through the glass vitrine, prickling their sense of sight, sound and smell. Glass is an ephemeral material, strong enough to hold back significant weight, yet weak enough to shatter with enough pressure. The transparency of the vitrine, geometrics and sharp edges created a clinical environment to stare at the alternatives of clean and dirty. Audience take up the position of a higher entity, staring into the microcosm of death and life, while watching the inevitable truth of mortality pass by. Another artwork that utilises the shock tactic would be Marc Quinn’s “Self” 1991. This is a self-casted sculpture using his own blood, 5 litres every 5 years. This work is refrigerated and kept in its original form, despite it degrading over time. This artwork is a representation of life and death as audience stares at mortality through a hyperrealistic scope. The audience looks through the aging of Quinn down a timeline. The idea of life comes in more significant as blood itself, is alive. The biological structure of blood is kept alive when the refrigeration keeps it from decomposing. Secondly, Quinn denounces the biological function of blood in terms of transporting essential living materials, instead, he kept the biological symbolism behind it as an amplifying meaning that circles back to logocentrism.

Neo-Conceptualism grew over time to become a catch-all miscellaneous bin of art by-products, including performance art, photography, or the amalgamation of the aforementioned movements. Neo-conceptualism is a derivation of Conceptualism with its trademark characteristics, evolving with the contemporary culture and societal needs and desire. Traditional art started as a theme for worshipping the elites, which gradually becomes desired by the middle class or poor to feast on it. The ideation of making art more accessible for consumption as true art, taken in by people of all classes, will and has become a norm that will keep art constantly evolving.

*Conceptualism and Dada will be referred together as one.