Humans throughout the ages have tried to understand humanity. What sets us apart from any other creation? Is it our ability to create or to recreate with our surroundings? Our ability to ideate our unique inner thoughts and desires? Or a combination of both? Humans are intrinsically social animals; we seek a sense of belonging and acceptance from like minded peers. This does not refer to human conformity but merely humanity’s desire to be reminded that they are not alone in this world. This desire for identification and interaction can be seen in this modern era where technology has made room for the development of New Media Art. Humanity also seeks to be stimulated- especially with knowledge. The classic men of the Renaissance to the teachers of the Bauhaus school believed that the act of learning and the gratification of knowledge inspires and motivates human growth. And with the onset of knowledge comes the curiosity for truth. While Deconstructivists chose to break down what was familiar to discover the truth, it is up to the individual to find his or her own method.Though sharing inherent commonalities, humans are idiosyncratic in expression due to varying external sociocultural factors. And when we express we create. We are humans because we uniquely create upon innate characteristics.
For my Hyperessay, I chose a new media piece by Portslade-based artists’ group, Blast Theory, renown for their works that mix interactive media, digital broadcasting and live performance. The piece is an interactive, immersive, and collaborative work called, “I’d Hide You”. Linked below is the trailer for Blast Theory’s, “I’d Hide You”.
The basic premise of “I’d Hide You” is that people are equipped with live cameras and are divided into teams in which they play a game of tag around the entire city. The immersion lies in the second layer of the piece, in which these cameras send live footage to the internet; allowing anyone to watch the game as if they themselves were running. The interactivity can be experienced in the final layer of the artwork in which the viewer is now a part of the team, he or she can help the runners and chaser find one another through GPS location by updating the online the location of the other runner’s location. This interactivity is not only personal but also collaborative. The outcome of this project can be seen in the video below by Blast Theory who summarizes the entire event.
Unlike the other works by Blast Theory, “I’d Hide You” is not a politically or socially stimulating piece meant to impress eager enthusiasts but instead a simple form of interacting with, collaborating together, and immersing oneself in the experience. When creating this collaborative work, the artists took the most rudimentary form of interactive games, filming oneself running. This simple idea of running and catching has been a form of human entertainment even before the onset of technology. For example, physical games like “tag” and animated cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry” revolve around the idea of a runner and a chaser. The entertainment comes from the adventure the runner and chaser experience during their journey as well as the ultimate conclusion that follows the long arduous journey. In the case of the participants for I’d Hide You, they get to experience this entire journey alongside the runners.
“For all its apparent simplicity as a player experience, “I’d Hide You” is actually doing something very radical in terms of its relationship with an audience and with space.”
During our History of Design class, as mentioned by our Professor, New Media art contains three aspects that make it unique and stand apart from any other forms of art. Interactivity. Hypermedia. Immersion. Under interactivity, there is also collaboration, which I believe is also very important in the work that I chose by Blast Theory.”I’d Hide You”, as mentioned before, contains interaction, collaboration, and immersion. There is Hypermedia in this work, but it is limited to the interface used by the team in order to communicate with the runners as well as the live streaming cameras used to document the chase.
The interactivity in “I’d Hide You” can be seen between the runners themselves as well as the audience and the runners. The interaction between the runners refers to the actual game of chase that they are playing where each person is simultaneously trying to hide from other runners while catching them. The interaction between the runners and audience is documented by them watching the live stream and helping the runners either hide or find each other. Through this journey, the participants, runners, and artists all become collaborators who have created a whole new experience and outcome by dabbling with the different variabilities in the work. Variability. One of the five Principles of New Media discussed by Lev Manovich. In “I’d Hide You”, variability, is the strongest principle as the integration of multiple human interactions have created a multitude of different end results. Not only is there a man to man interaction but also a man to machine, or even a machine to man interaction. The audience is also interacting with technology (and vice versa) as they use it as a tool to communicate with the “performers”. But by inserting themselves in this experience with the use of technology, they themselves have become “performers”.
This immersion into the experience happens both virtually online as well as physically offline. The physical immersion occurs amongst the runner as they are literally thrust into the outside world to complete this piece. The places they are running around are completely candid with none of the passerby or store owners having been told what was happening prior to the game. The virtual part of this piece materializes onto the digital screen in through the live streaming video. This video is made possible by the camera and LED ring light each runner is equipped with before the start of the game. The runners are also given GPS trackers to constantly locate and update their location online, as well as given a phone that updates them to Intel given by their team members. The runner is constantly holding up the camera for their team members to see, this makes the participants the runner’s new “eyes”. Eventually, the participant immerses himself or herself into the experience and becomes one with the runner. Not only does the participant get to see what the runner sees, but he or she also gets to see it at real time. This real-time immersion can be seen in older works such as Ivan Sutherland’s “Head-Mounted Display” and newer games like “Pokemon Go!”.
“I’d Hide You” is a simplistic and exhilarating game that brings together different people for a fun night together. Participants follow runners on a tour of the nightlife in the city while playing a rigorous yet digital game of Tag and Hide-and-Go-Seek.
For my Hyperessay, I chose a new media piece by a Portslade-based artists’ group called Blast Theory, renown for their works that mix interactive media, digital broadcasting and live performance. The piece is an interactive, immersive, and collaborative work called, “I’d Hide You”. Linked below is the trailer for Blast Theory’s, “I’d Hide You”.
But who and what is Blast Theory exactly? What is it that they do? Blast Theory is in a sense, a community of pioneering artists creating interactive art pieces to explore social and political questions. Blast Theory does this by letting the audience members to play a vital role in the overall outcome of the production and outcome of the artwork. This way, the audience becomes the artists while the artist becomes the viewer. This makes the exploration of social and political questions a more personal and thought-provoking experience for the audience.
Blast Theory was created in 1991 by Matt Adams, Niki Jewett, Will Kittow and Ju Row Farr. And as mentioned before, Blast Theory uses a multitude of media; such as performance, installation, video, and online technology to highlight social and political issues that surround the very media they use. What makes Blast Theory avant-garde is the way they meld scientific technology with collaborative art while still taking a stance on social topics. Some of their other well-known works include- “Can You See Me Now?”, “Uncle Roy All Around You”, “Kidnap”, “Gunman Kill Three”, and “Karen.”
“Gunman Kill Three” was one of their earliest works and was geared more towards live and performance art. This work and several other early works focused on the club culture to create multimedia performances. Even in their early works interactivity played a key role in the performance. “Kidnap” was one of Blast Theory’s more controversial and risky works due to the issue the piece tackled as well as the method Blast Theory chose to communicate the message with. “Kidnap” is an interactive and immersive experience that gives the participants a genuine “kidnapping” experience (with their prior consent). Blast Theory wanted to underscore the themes of violence, pornography, and politics. In “Can You See Me Now?” and “Uncle Roy All Around You” are two of their successful multimedia pieces that integrated locative media with mixed reality.
What drew me to Blast Theory was their ability to incorporate technology often associated as “anti-art” with social and political issues to create a stimulating an interactive art piece. This idea of mixing and recreating has always been an important value in my life and to see a group of artists express it so beautifully and simply resonated with me. Not only does Blast Theory feel like a source of comfort but also plays a part in inspiring me. Blast Theory stimulates both the audience and themselves. The artists within the group constantly try to challenge themselves with new technology, methods, and issues by pushing themselves to be more innovative and courageous.
In my next post, I will be discussing in more detail the art piece by Blast Theory that I have chosen to analyze for my Hyperessay.