Y2S2 | Interactive 2 | Guest Lecture Reflection | Automated Utopia

INTRODUCTION

“Artificial intelligence is a set of algorithms and intelligence to try to mimic human intelligence. Machine learning is one of them, and deep learning is one of those machine learning techniques.”

 

For those that were born in the mid-1900s, who would’ve thought that technology would have advanced so much in this age of era? And what is more interesting is the fact that all these advancements are done in just 50 years’ time.

The growth is an exponential one, where the improvement in technology started to rocket sky high once scientific discoveries have been found during the late 1900s/early 2000s. This profound progress in this automation field is so mind-boggling – isn’t it both compelling and overwhelming at the same time, knowing that machinery and robotics are able to accomplish so many things, or in some instances, carrying out decisions like real-life humans, just like us?

AUTOMATED UTOPIA

Automated /ˈɔːtəmeɪtɪd/ means to be operated by largely automatic equipment.

A utopia /juːˈtoʊpiə/ is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.

Automated utopia, is a term that is split into two parts: Automated & Utopia. Bringing these two words together, we get automated utopia, which means an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens that is operated by largely automatic equipment. The word automated is a rather broad word. It can mean both virtual and non-virtual automation. Things like robotics are physical, while things like machine learning, algorithm, and AI are immaterial.

In this reflection essay, I’ll be talking about automated utopia, a presentation conducted by a guest lecturer, Bin Ong Kian Peng, co-founder of supernormal.sg, an independent art space that strives to present experimental and offbeat works and projects, ranging from design to artistic practices, and the in-betweens. Bin gave us many new viewpoints to artificial intelligence and machine learning. However, does automation always lead to utopia? Or does it also lead to the dark side, dystopia? Let’s find out.

 

MACHINE LEARNING

Machine learning algorithms use statistics to find patterns in large amounts of data. The data here encompasses a lot of things, such as numbers, words, images, clicks, and the list goes on. If it can be digitally stored, it can be fed into a machine-learning algorithm. Machine learning is the process that powers many of the services we use today – recommendation systems like those on Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify; search engines like Google and Baidu; social media feeds like Facebook and Instagram; voice assistants like Siri and Alexa.

Bin shared with us a few movies that are automated-related. They include the famous The Matrix Franchise, William Gibson: Necromancer, and Eagle Eye. I assume that most of us have watched The Matrix before, but that movie might be a little too far-fetched, it is more of a science fiction action show. However, Eagle Eye is the total opposite – it is fully possible for the storyline in Eagle Eye to happen right now, in this current generation we are living in.

Having watched the Eagle Eye, the Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst (ARIIA) is the main antagonist of the movie. It is a computer system created to help locate terrorists, but later comes to believe that America is bringing itself to destruction after mistakenly attacking an incorrect target against its protest. It begins working of its own accord to wipe out the cabinet and uses influences on technologies and computer systems in order to do so.

In layman’s term, ARIIA can bluntly be considered as a search engine and recommendation system that works together to produce the final arrangements and judgements. In such instances, these are machine learning within that of big data analytics, with the corporation of AI that generates decisions that are then being placed into actions. Yes, the movie does get a bit too unrealistic, when it comes to the operation part where ARIIA pushes Jerry and Rachel into a series of increasingly dangerous situations, tracking and controlling their every move. However, machine learning like ARIIA is already something that is happening, or rather placed into use in our society. I’ll be talking about this in the next segment.

 

ALGORITHM

In this age of information, algorithms are used to handle the massive amounts of data produced daily. They can be helpful in a multitude of ways. One category of an algorithm is known as “risk assessment algorithm”. Risk assessment algorithms are used around the world to predict hot spots of violent crime and determine the types of supervision that inmates might need, or provide information that might be useful in sentencing.

Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, or COMPAS, is an example of a risk assessment algorithm. It is invented by Equivant, a company owned by Tim Brennan and Dave Wells. It aims to objectively predict recidivism risk by examining factors like a defendant’s criminal record to assess how likely they are to be arrested again in the next two years. Recidivism is defined as the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend.

However, in these algorithms, there are moments of slip-ups. Equivant faced a lot of back-lash when it first came to light that COMPAS held racial biases. There was overprediction of recidivism in black defendants, and underprediction of recidivism in white defendants. Black defendants were twice as likely to be incorrectly labelled as higher risk than white defendants, while white defendants labelled as lower risk were more likely to re-offend than black defendants who had similarly low COMPAS risk scores. Having a racial bias is one of the biggest forms of discrimination an algorithm can make.

“Could a deep-learning system sustain the autonomy of nonhuman ecological processes at designated sites without direct human interventions?”

 

This real-life example rather than a movie’s storyline. This then raises the question of how much we can trust algorithms to make decisions for us. Yes, there have been several studies showing that algorithms can be used to a positive effect, but algorithms can still discriminate. As such, I feel that human interventions are still necessary, and we cannot fully rely on deep learning and algorithms at this stage.

 

ROBOTICS

In one segment of Bin’s lecture, he shared about robotics on different platforms. Doomsday Book: Robotic Buddha touched on the topic of religion; Co(AI)xistence with Mirai Moriyama & Alter touched on human intelligence through; while Choy Kafai: Unbearable Darkness- A paranormal dance experience, touched on art.

“What will be the role of humans in a future AI-driven world?”

 

It was intriguing how in our modern technological advanced societies, robots have slowly become more and more prevalent. Although those examples given by Bin are more on the extreme sides, do we realise that most robots around us are ‘invisible’, and they are parts of our everyday lives like our laptops and transportation systems. One apt example would be the country, Japan.

Have you heard of the word “monozukuri“? Monozukuri is a term that has been used since the end of the 20th century to describe Japan’s manufacturing industry. The concept of monozukuri covers everything from the production techniques, frameworks and philosophies that support the manufacturing industry and the products that are created through these processes and systems, to the individuals (craftspeople and engineers) who create these products. Monozukuri has long been the source of Japan’s international competitiveness. And in recent years, robotics has been the driving force behind Japan’s monozukuri culture.

In the past, the main places industrial robots could be found at work were factories for automobiles and electronic equipment. With the aim of freeing humans from rigorous labour, the use of industrial robots became widespread as they performed simple jobs such as assembling parts and physically dangerous work such as transporting heavy items in harsh and hazardous environments. As global trends show the roles of robots growing ever greater, the “Robot Nation” of Japan is putting to use cutting-edge robotic technologies in a variety of fields besides manufacturing while keeping in mind societal demand.

Robots are now working on the front lines in a diverse array of areas, including aeronautics, medicine/welfare, disaster mitigation, disaster investigation and rescue. Here are some examples:

The Kibo Experiment Module attached to the International Space Station

 

A surgeon operating the master manipulators

 

Slave manipulators, which interact directly with the patient and are located remotely from the surgeon

 

ART THROUGH AUTOMATION

Serious stuff aside, automation and AI can also do useless but fun and interactive things like this:

This is a janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot that has a 100% win rate at the game. An example of a human-machine collaboration system, this robot uses high-speed vision to recognize the position and shape of a human hand once every millisecond. The robot then forms a hand that will beat the shape the human hand is making.

Robotics can also be seen in art, like Co(AI)xistence with Mirai Moriyama & Alter, the work of art that Bin mentioned. Co(AI)xistence explores communication between different forms of intelligences: human and machine. Through signals, body movements and spoken language, she created the interaction between Alter and Mirai Moriyama, a Japanese performer. Using a deep learning system, Alter learns from his experiences and the two try to define new perspectives of co-existence in the world.

This work of art very much reminded me of another work of art that my professor, Dr Dejan, shared in class. Its called: If/Then by Ken Feingold. Such works of art explore the new relationships that are established between our lives and technology. I did a short chapter on this artwork in my other post, you can view it here:

Y2S2 | Interactive 2 | Reading Assignment | New Media: A Critical Introduction

CONCLUSION

“So how can AI present a different world than that of the cyberpunk genre and give us a technological utopian society?”

 

It is clear that more time and progress is needed in order for such AI to understand the given data and be relied on entirely. AI has the potential to provide us with the most accurate and fair answers – to deduce who could be a repeated felony, to calculate the best opportunity cost, so on and so forth.

At this point in time, I do not believe that AI could fully present a technological utopian society. I gave a few examples on how reliance and dependence on technology could also lead to a dystopian society, where suppression and human misery would be present. Hence, we need to make sure that these tools are accurate, to begin with. If not, then they’re not fair to anyone.

However, there are notable and convincing breakthroughs, such as the examples I gave on Japan, which shows that technological advancements would be able to thrive in eventually in the future, but it would take an abundance of time, effort, and most importantly, patience.

 

Y2S2 | Interactive 2 | Reading Assignment | New Media: A Critical Introduction

INTRODUCTION

Initially, I wanted to do this reading assignment on another chapter of the book I did in Interactive Media 1 (A Companion to Digital Art) to see if I could do a continuation of my discussion. However, as I was browsing through the other books in the bibliography, I came across this book “New Media: A Critical Introduction”, which has a rather interesting Chapter 1, as compared to the other books. Other books dive deep into the topics straightaway, while New Media: A Critical Introduction started Chapter 1 as an introduction or rather, set a benchmark and definition on what new media is, before they begin their topics (i.e. virtual reality, network, cyberculture, etc.).

As such, I decided to do on Chapter 1, specifically sub-chapter 1.1 “New Media: Do we know what they are?” This topic stood out to me because the title literally rhetorically questioned me and I did ask myself, do I really know what new media is? Back in interactive media 1’s reading assignment, I started my OSS post defining what I determine new media is. I wrote: “New media art includes digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, and interactive art.” After reading up and researching this chapter, I realized that my definition isn’t wrong, there could be more to it. So before I move on, what is your definition of new media?

 

MEDIA STUDIES

I’m pretty sure some of you would have in mind “communication media” as part of new media, such as print media, photography, advertising, broadcasting, publishing, so on and so forth. Yes, all these can be considered as new media. Cultural genres and material products like newspapers, films, tapes, and discs, could also be referred to as new media as well. Even my own definition as mentioned above is right, where I referred new media to a social institution that is purely reduced to technologies being involved.

So, why is this term new media applied unproblematically? It is because of these three answers: Firstly, new media are thought of as epochal, like the beginning of a distinctive period in history of media. Secondly, the word “new” in new media is a powerful utopian and positive ideological charge. Lastly, new media is a useful term which avoids technical and formal definition, as in “digital” or “electronic” media. It does not focus on just the contentious quality as in “interactive media” or controversial practices as in “computer-mediated communication”.

 

IDEOLOGY BEHIND NEW MEDIA

In short, new media can be seen as a part of a new technoculture. Hence, new media gained its currency as a frequent term because of its useful inclusiveness. While a person using the term new media could be thinking about the Internet, others may mean something else like the digital TV, a virtual environment, or even a computer – we all use the same term but we refer to different phenomena.

We then realize, we are all actually claiming the status of ‘medium’ (plural for media) for what we have in mind, and we borrow the glamorous connotations of ‘newness’. The term new media is then used by anyone, with a broad cultural resonance rather than a narrow technicist or specialist application. At this point, we might ask whether we could readily identify some kind of fundamental common ground which underpins all new media – something more tangible or more scientific than the motives and contexts we have discussed so far.

 

IDENTIFYING NEW MEDIA & ITS EXAMPLES

Here is a schema that breaks down the global term new media into five manageable constituent parts, and thereafter I’ll be showing some examples which I’ve researched on:

  1. New textual experiences

Subject:

These experiences refer to new kinds of genre and textual form, entertainment, pleasure, and patterns of media consumption. They include computer games, simulations, or even special effects cinema.

Example:

“The Lapse Project”

By INTER-MISSION

Toggling between the physical and the imaginary, and responding to the accelerated digitization of our environment, The Lapse Project imagines a world that is constituted through interfaces where places of artistic and cultural identities become editable, and can just as easily be switched on or off. Through processes of digital manipulation, the multimedia installation “erases” familiar landmarks that now serve as spaces for the arts around Singapore’s Civic District – Singapore’s oldest building, The Arts House, National Gallery Singapore, National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.

The Lapse Project takes a multi-dimensional approach to question memory, space and legacy through simulations in structure, time, particle, text, and image. Visitors are invited to embody these lapses through special effects projection, contemplating the presence and absence of sights and sites.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: https://inter-mission.art/The-Lapse-Project-1

 

  1. New ways of representing the world

Subject:

These are media which, in ways that are not always clearly defined, offer new representational possibilities and experiences. They include immersive virtual environments and screen-based interactive multimedia.

Example:

“Desert Rain”

By Blast Theory

Desert Rain is the war game, which is part of a performance in an extensive physical setting, including a Virtual Reality environment, which allowed up to six participants going through a scripted sequence of physical spaces. This theatrical multi-media installation is based on real-life sources that probe the relationship between the real and the virtual in response to the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

Here is a brief video of the artwork:

Desert Rain reconstruct the virtual and physical environment through immersion, aiming to make the intersections and gaps between both worlds more concrete by means of interaction, to allow participants to experience them alongside the usage of hypermedia in specific stages.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: https://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/desert-rain/

 

  1. New relationships between subjects (users and consumers) and media technologies

Subject:

These relationships refer to the changes in the use and reception of image and communication media in everyday life and in the meanings that are invested in media.

Example:

“Take A Bullet For This CIty”

By R.  Luke DuBois

Take a Bullet for This City is a piece of artwork that serves New Orleans, or actually any country plagued by gun violence. The mechanics is simple, a computer-driven machine would pull the trigger of a gun that is loaded with blanks in response to a real shooting in the city. The Gun is placed inside a transparent acrylic box, and visitors would be able to see the gun ejecting empty cartridges every time a real shooting occurs. One might say that the shootings are rare and as such, not all visitors would have the chance to hear and see the occurrence of the gun triggering off. It almost sounds like an oxymoron to say that any visitors would be ‘lucky’ if they were to catch the rare moment of the gun being triggered off.

Here is a brief video of the artwork:

This work of art depicts how art is not just a product, for purely entertainment and enjoyment purposes. Art has changed its uses and reception of what they want the audience to experience, to spread a message, to influence the society, or even show underlying communication to the world just like how Take a Bullet for This City brings about an awareness that gun violence is something to be worried and concerned about. This piece is hard data in both senses of the word: it is based on facts; facts that are, by their very nature, intended to hurt us.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: http://www.digiart21.org/art/take-a-bullet-for-the-city

 

  1. New experiences of the relationship between embodiment, identity, and community

Subject:

The experience here shifts in the personal and social experience of time, space, and place (on both local and global scales) which have implications for the ways in which we experience ourselves and our place in the world.

Example:

“Sharing Faces”

By Kyle MacDonald

This artwork allows the audience to experience time, space, and place on a global scale, showing their significance in the world. The artist, Kyle MacDonald, has a way of doing up works of art that uses technology to connect people in unexpected ways. In Sharing Faces, MacDonald placed mirror-like screens in two locations, the first one being Anyang, Korea, and the second one being Yamaguchi, Japan.

When a visitor from Anyang looks into it, they would see someone else’s face from Yamaguchi – posed just like their own, vice versa. While moving, the screen would cycle through images that it has captured throughout the process and find a matching one to match the new pose, creating a sense of shadow, like a morphing person following your every move. Your every movement would be then captured as a material for future visitors to see.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: http://www.digital-projects-index.julien-drochon.net/portfolio/sharing-faces/

 

  1. New conceptions of the biological body’s relationship to technological media

Subject:

This challenges the distinctions between the human and the artificial, nature and technology – the real and the virtual.

Example:

“If/Then”

By Ken Feingold

Ken Feingold takes art into the virtual realm through both software and hardware. In this work If/Then, two electronic silicone heads face each other on top of a box filled with foam. The faces are identical and the only parts moving are the eyes and the mouths. Both portraits are activated to speak to each other as though they are real-life human beings. The conversations between these two figures are neither scripted or random – the software gives each a “personality”, like a vocabulary, associative habits, obsessions, or other peculiarities, which make their conversations quirky, surprising, and hilarious.

Here is a brief video of the artwork:

This lifelike interaction between the two digital heads takes the audience into an interpersonal encounter, which sparks them into questioning themselves the complexity and unpredictability that language and mind create between people and computers. This presents new concepts of the portrait, pointing to issues of artificial intelligence and biological engineering.

Here’s the link to view the artwork: https://artelectronicmedia.com/artwork/if-then/

 

CONCLUSION

Looking into those subjects that I have mentioned above, these allow us to identify what new media is. It is obvious that there is a whole range of production that revolves around technology. These can be considered as new ways of distributing and consuming media, like using computer-mediated commutations and virtual realities through simulated environments, etc.

Therefore, it is still a grey area within what new media really is. However, if the work of art being investigated entails any of those subjects that are listed above, then we can consider it to be, new media.

Y2S2 | Interactive 2 | Inspiring Example of Interactive Art | Breathless

INTRODUCTION

Ever heard of using discomfort as a tool to design an interaction? As bizarre as it sounds, let me introduce to you this thought-provoking interactive art, named:

Breathless

By Thrill Laboratory

ABOUT THRILL LABORATORY

Thrill Laboratory is an organisation of people from different fields of study- scientists, artists, designers, technologists, and engineers. Although they are niche players in their specialised aspect, they all share the same passion for experimentation. Their vision is to be dedicated to the practical pursuit of creating, producing, and examining new forms of thrilling experience.

However, no organisations can thrive without a leader. And hence, the person behind Thrill Laboratory is none other than Thrill Engineer Professor Brendan Walker.

 

WALKER AS AN ARTIST

Walker is a new media artist whose work revolves around interactive installations. His works of art are inspired by many different elements and subjects, from paintings to war.

The term “Thrill Engineer” refers to a person who is able to sensitively construct and control a thrilling experience. As such, Walker concentrates on the individual, focusing on the interrelationships between subjective creativity and objective engineering.

 

WALKER’S THEME & CONTEXT

Walker believes in creating a more inventive and thrilling experience for the audience, to explore links between pleasure, arousal, performance, and emotions.

The context behind his works aims at the sociology, psychology, and physiology of being human, which is what interactive installations are all about. This made me interested and curious about his work as I wanted to see how he made use of participation between humans (the audience) to make art come to life.

To further understand him and his work, let’s look at the interactive art that I have chosen as mentioned above, Breathless.

 

WHAT IS BREATHLESS

Breathless is an interactive experience inspired by Fragonard’s Swing, as known as “The Happy Accidents of the Swing”, an 18th-century oil painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the Wallace Collection in London.

Breathless combines elements of voyeurism, abandonment and breath control to power a ride. It features a motorised swing controlled by breathing data collected from specially developed WiFi gas mask respirators. Audience members progress through the roles of Spectator, Rider, and Controller. They may be forced to watch the pleasure of a lover being manipulated by a stranger’s breathing – heard publicly amplified – or face the awkwardness of controlling a stranger themselves.

 

BREATHLESS WALKTHROUGH

This is the brief walkthrough of the interactive art:

  1. Participants join the queue and start off as the Spectator.
  2. Spectator is fitted with the gas mask, standing at the entrance to watch the whole interactive art.
  3. Rider and Controller already have their gas masks on, and the Rider is invited to sit on the swing in darkness.
  4. Controller sits in a chair beside the Rider under a spotlight.

[Interaction formally starts]

  1. Amplified breathing of the Controller can be heard which synchronises with the movement of the swing for 2 minutes; Intensity of the Controller’s inhale pulls the swing backward and exhale pushes the swing frontwards.
  2. Spotlight changes its direction to the Rider and sounds of breathing are now changed to Rider.
  3. Rider takes over the control of his/her ride and Controller is led away from the chair for another 2 minutes.
  4. Spotlight extinguishes.

[Interaction formally ends]

  1. Next participant is invited to join as a new Spectator; Rider is moved to the chair to become the Controller; Controller leaves.

 

Let’s take a look at the interactive art in this short video to understand it visually:

 

HOW BREATHLESS WAS BEING MADE

I was very amazed at the technologies that were being used in this whole setup. It might look like a simple installation but I was convinced that there must be a lot of behind-the-scenes thought process and preparation. After some research, I found out some of the hardware and software being used, which were really intricate.

Walker used Wi-Fi respirators, which were based on NATO Gas Mask filters. They use microprocessors to monitor the breathing flow rates of multiple subjects and broadcast them to a central computer. The swing is powered by a motor and pulley system.

The motor is controlled using an encoder and power management unit linked to the central computer. Motor position is linked to the volume of air moving through a chosen respirator. If breathing frequency is in harmony with the swing, then swing height increases.

Like I mentioned earlier, Walker’s works of art are inspired by many different elements and subjects. He drew stories from army gas mask drills conducted during the Second World War, which explains the gas masks used in Breathless, and then incorporates it into Fragonard’s Swing painting which we observe as the lady on a swing ride.

 

TECHNIQUES USED IN WALKER’S WORK

Although each experience in Thrill Laboratory’s work is different- different contributors, audience, venue, they all carry the same aim of creating and examining new forms of thrilling experience.

There are three types of thrill techniques as seen apparently in Breathless. Firstly, it is the thrill of the Spectator waiting for his/her turn- looking at the Rider to understand how helpless the Rider is. This build-up of excitement will undoubtedly give the Spectator an adrenaline rush.

Secondly, it is the thrill of the Rider taking the ride- he/she has no control over the intensity of the ride as it relies solely on the Controller’s breathing. However, the Rider would be able to control his/her ride after the breathing rights is passed on to him/her after 2 minutes. This sudden switch of roles will surely cause disorder to the Rider’s mind, from being helpless to being able to take control of him/herself.

Lastly, it would be the thrill of the Controller controlling the Rider’s ride- he/she has total command of the whole interactive art. Previously being the Rider, he/she knows how the current Rider is feeling at that moment in time. As such when The Controller is given the rights and opportunity to do it on the Rider, he/she is free to control the intensity of the ride, indirectly controlling the thrill of the Rider.

A very simple procedure yet so provocative and alluring, right? Here are a few real-time visuals of the whole interactive art:

Spectator

Rider

Controller

 

CONSEQUENCES OF BREATHLESS

Ultimately, the main approach used by Walker in Breathless, is something special called “Uncomfortable Interaction”. In short, uncomfortable interaction means using discomfort to design art, and at the same time giving a good user experience. One might think that to have a good experience, the art installation must be pleasant and serene. However, Breathless is a piece of evidence that discomfort through interaction can be satisfying and enjoyable as well, or even better.

There are mainly 3 consequences of using uncomfortable interaction in an interactive art. They are:

  1. Entertainment
  2. Enlightenment
  3. Sociality

Entertainment is on-going throughout the whole interaction- from the Spectator, to the Rider, to the Controller. It can be viewed as a taking roller coaster ride. While waiting for our turn to board the roller coaster, we can see the whole ride above our eyes while queueing. Finally it would be our turn to take the ride, and we go through whatever we just saw, experiencing the roller coaster drops while screaming our lungs out. Finally, once the ride is over, we feel relieved, but fulfilled at the same time! This whole process brings about entertainment.

Enlightenment is the different thrills that the Spectator, Rider, and Controller experience throughout the whole process. Those thrills indirectly establish an appropriate tone for engaging with dark themes, demanding a deep personal commitment between the three of them. Only after the Rider has finished his/her turn, he/she would be able to understand the discomfort from it, understanding the rationale of the ride. Those participants queueing up will never comprehend until experiencing it first hand during their turn. The controller, on the other hand, has already gone through the role of being a Spectator and Rider. He/she will start to question him/herself: Is this meant to be a pleasurable or painful experience?

Lastly, sociality is where the three of them promote empathy and respect between each other as all of them went through the same level of discomfort during the whole process. Such social experience and initiation by sharing discomfort creates a powerful social experience and synergy amongst themselves.

 

CONCLUSION

To end off, I must say that not all interactive art must be complicated and fancy. What is more important is the techniques and ideation behind the whole setup. Breathless proved to me that a simple interactive art is able to bring about so much perspective in the human endeavor.

Also, a simple interactive art might not be simple to do; it isn’t correlated. As seen in Breathless, the amount of preparation needed and the whole concept behind is pretty demanding and heavy. However, the end product is so impressive. Hence, this is why I chose Breathless for my example of an inspiring and thought-provoking interactive art.

Y2S1 | Interactive Media 1 | Reading Assignment | A Companion to Digital Art

Introduction

In ADM, we study the history of art during our first year. As we dive into our second year of school, we study the history of design which covers interactive media, product design, and visual communications. So, what is the difference between art history and history of design? And why are histories of design (in this case, interactive media), other than histories of art, of particular importance for new media art in this generation?

I’ve chosen the book, A Companion to Digital Art, written by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. in 2016, to write my research, impressions, and reflection. As an interactive media student myself, I wanted to read up and research on a topic of relevance to me, to aid me in my work or to give me inspirations for the projects that I am working on. As such, I specifically picked chapter 27: Exhibition Histories and Futures- The Importance of Participation and Audiences.

This chapter discusses new media art, which is prospering in this age of time, and how it requires audiences and participation for the whole work of art to happen. Also, it examines exhibition histories and shows how it links and influences the future, which are the exhibits we see in our current lives now.

 

 

What is New Media Art

We have transited from traditional artwork to what we call new media artwork in this current era. I define traditional art as art bring produced at the present period of time that reflects the current culture by utilizing classical techniques in drawing, painting, or sculpting. One example would be Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh as shown below:

On the other hand, new media art includes digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, and interactive art. One very good example would be my class’s recent field trip to Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, where we visited the Future World Exhibit. You can view my reflections and insights here:

Y2S1 | Interactive Media 1 | ArtScience Museum Future World | Impressions and Reflections

 

Participation and Audiences in New Media Art

So what is so special about new media art? New media art does not fully exist as an artwork unless it is exhibited and interacted with by the audience. The fundamental interplay of space, time, and materiality is familiar to curators of installation art and media installations of various kinds and needs careful consideration of artists’ intent for the wider cultural context of the space.

Here is an example: The Tenth Sentiment by Ryota Kuwakubo’s artwork in 2011.

As you can see, this is an installation of a model train moving on its track through a landscape of mundane household objects in a darkened room. The shadows on the walls are entirely created by a small light on the front of the train, casting beautiful and fleeting animations across the walls.

Now imagine if all these that I mentioned above were just to be captured as an installation shot, or to be documented as a mere catalog of the objects and media being involved.

It would be so unfair to the artist as it would do so little justice to the whole experience of the exhibit. The behaviors of the audience would definitely be different if they were to be there in person to view the whole setup- the domestic hush in the intimate darkness, the small pleasurable sighs at an unexpected light effect, the repeated slow circuits around the room, and most importantly, their awareness that other people are also staying to wonder.

Why was the last point important though, some might wonder? This is because viewers’ interactivity is a key issue for exhibition histories. If audiences are missing from exhibition documentation, then all exhibitions would appear to be static objects, which conforms to the art‐historical norm.

 

 

Importance of Participation and Audiences in New Media Art

Although the specific medias being used in any installation is important, the conduct and performance of the work itself are equally, or rather more important for the audience, for them to rethink curatorial methods in terms of the particular systems and values of new media art.

As mentioned above, new media art includes digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, and interactive art. However, it doesn’t just end there. It is a notoriously problematic term to start with, which can cover a whole range of different media, systems, and means of distribution. So how do we identify if it is new media art?

“The three main characteristics of new media art are: connectivity, computability, and interactivity.” – Steve Dietz, 1999.

Who is Steve Dietz? Dietz is an American playwright and theatre director. Called “the most ubiquitous American playwright whose name you may never have heard”, Dietz has long been one of America’s most prolific and widely produced playwrights.

In his phrase, each characteristic, when applied to new media art in general, can be related to different exhibition histories, ranging from installation to performance, to videos.

Connectivity is a familiar feature to curators of live art or conceptual art, where the work of art itself bridges itself with the audience. The connection can be in any form as constructed by the artist, be it through sound, light, touch, or just viewing it alone. One example would be an event titled “Reunion” in Toronto back in 1968.

Marcel Duchamp and John Cage played a game of musical chess. The event drew an audience of hundreds to the Ryerson Theatre, where the two creative giants would activate a unique auditory experience through a specially constructed chess board that triggered different electronic compositions with each individual move, while Alexina Duchamp (the female in the picture) looks on with a handy bottle of wine to lubricate the social connections.

When it comes to computability, it is the technologies used in the setup itself. Things like Arduino, Touchdesigner, TinyDB, Unison, or even just coding by itself like Python- all these automation and technology are being used in the setup to make things move or react to something according to the response of the audience, making the installation mobile and fluid.

And lastly, for interactivity, it is basically the participation between the art and the audience. Like what I have mentioned above, interactivity is a key objective for new media art. If audiences are missing from exhibition documentation, then all exhibitions would appear to be static objects, which makes no difference to traditional art.

Without participation and audiences, these three characteristics would not be able to arise. And when these three characteristics are not in place, new media art would not be able to develop. This shows how important participation and audiences is important and essential in new media art.

 

 

New Media Art through New Media Systems

New media art can be expressed in many ways as mentioned, but what is the driving force behind it? This is where new media systems come into play.

New media systems are used for many things- selling things, collecting things, categorizing things, curating things, and of course, creating art. An important characteristic of new media system is that it contains many archives of documentations of art or exhibitions. One example is The Archive of Digital Art:

https://www.digitalartarchive.at/database/database-info/archive.html

Take a look at this website which features a lot of commissioned new media art, where the art can be experienced as an exhibition virtually. It is categorised so neatly into different genres, and they give full information on each and every artwork, just like what you would expect to see in an exhibit.

But of course, the downside of this would be that the audience would not be able to feel the whole experience as they would only be seeing it through their own computer screens in static images. However, this is not the case for all virtual exhibitions.

New media systems have advanced to fast such that things such as virtual museum tours are steadily becoming more and more common. VR has the power to transport users to places they might never be able to visit in real life so welcoming digital visitors into the museums of the world is a natural fit. Let us take a look at this example for the National Museum of Natural History.

This famous museum in Washington has several virtual tours integrated directly onto the web. Using Web VR means that virtual visitors can utilize any headset, providing a Web VR enabled browser that is used. The tours include both permanent and past exhibitions with the core tour offering dozens of panoramic images that can be navigated via an on-screen map or interactive arrows.

While the tour lacks in supporting content, it certainly makes up for in scope and range, with dinosaurs, sea life, geology and more in focus. Here’s the link for you to have a short experience:

https://naturalhistory2.si.edu/vt3/NMNH/z_NMNH-001.html

As such, it could be argued that Youtube, Vimeo, blogs, Flickr, or just the Internet itself are the largest, most connected and most participatory documentation archives of art. Even things like Open Source, this current OSS system that we are using, is also an example of how new media system archives art, producing new media art. And if you haven’t realised, all these examples that I have shown complies with the three characteristics of new media art- connectivity, computability, and interactivity.

 

 

How Participation and Audiences create History 

Every art movement was being influenced by the previous art movement, just like how Romanticism first developed as a reaction to the dominant movement of its time- Neoclassicism.

So how does new media art create history in the world of design, to influence the next generation, or rather the next movement? And the answer is, again, participation and audiences.

One apt example would be an exhibit named “Information” curated by Kynaston McShine back in 1970, in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The exhibit was influenced by conceptual art, but with new curatorial tools and methods through the integration of ideas of interaction and participation. And before we continue, here is yet another example of how every art movement influences the next art movement- conceptual art was the fundamental and leading influence on interactive and participatory work of all media in this era.

Looking into one of the works inside Information would be Hans Haacke’s work “MoMA Poll”. MoMA Poll was a work of art that actively uses participation by the audience, who voted on political questions, with their votes being visible to all, in clear plastic posting boxes. These types of interaction and installation traditionally were the responsibilities of different departments within a museum, but were now brought together via artistic practice thorugh MoMA Poll.

McShine planned the exhibition installation in collaboration with MoMA’s production manager. The installation included several beanbags as audience seating, eschewing hard modernist benches and opening up the possibility for audience members to choose where to put them, to interact with each other, or engage in solitary contemplation of artworks. Audience comfort is of course not always the first thing on artists’ minds. It may be the work’s intent to discomfort or provoke. A little sidetrack, here is a post that I did on uncomfortable interactions through interactive art. Do screen through to appreciate how uncomfortable interactions are able to create a good experience for the audience!

Y1S2 | Experimental Interaction | Research Critique 4 | Uncomfortable Interactions

Now back to MoMA Poll- This installation is an early example of what in the art world came to be known as institutional critique. Such work of arts creates history as it is controversial and it stands against the social norm, and all these would not have been possible without participation and audiences. And in time to come, these works will definitely influence the next generation of artworks.

 

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can all see that participation and audiences are really crucial in interactive artwork, which is considered as new media art in this generation. Traditional artwork was all static artwork, there is no flow or movement in the artwork itself. However, new media art needs motion and activity for it to work.

This can also be linked to Do-It-With-Others (DIWO), a joint project development model that enables like-minded people to collaboratively work on a task, project or any other service. To me it, it is like a concept that is to create something together with others, and it is similar to how new media art works as well. Without participation and audience, the whole work of art would not be able to execute at all.

Here is a project which I applied the concept of DIWO:

Y1S2 | Experimental Interaction | Micro-Project 2 | Crowd-Sourced Art

All in all, I’ve learned that the core foundation for the success of a good and valuable new media interactive art would be participation and audience. This knowledge would definitely be instilled in my mind for works that I’ll be doing in the future, bringing me to greater heights!

 

Y2S1 | History Of Design | Visual Communication | Graphic Design So Far… (Seymour Chwast)

Introduction

I have always been drawn to graphic designs which were out of the norm, or those that were created intentionally to spread a message, or create tension, or even to protest.

To me, aesthetics in graphic designs are very subjective. One might think that an artwork is good, while the other one might think it is bad. Just like the artwork I mentioned in my previous post by Kazimir Malevich called Black Square:

How many of us are able to appreciate this work of art? Moreover, would you believe me that this work of his was his most famous one, amongst all the others that he did which had more colours and shapes? I didn’t have a huge impression when I first saw this, until I learned about the meaning behind it.

This slab of black paint that dominates the canvas works as grand refusal, shows the nature of abstraction. Favoring flatness over depth, Black Square conveys the feeling of displeasure that arises from the imagination’s inadequacy.

This is where I’ll start to appreciate this piece of art. After knowing the intention of the artist and the underlying meaning behind this painting, my experience of viewing the painting changed- it now involves a feeling of pain brought about by the breakdown of representation, followed by a powerful sense of relief.

My point of raising this up is that art is viewed different by different people. So how do we differentiate art, or how do we define if art is good or bad? In my opinion, there is no good or bad art but rather, if the work itself carries a meaning behind it. This brings me to Seymour Chwast, a graphic designer that was being mentioned in our last lecture.

 

Seymour Chwast

So, who is Seymour Chwast, and why did I choose to talk about him? Before I carry on, this was the work by him which attracted me to learn more about him and his works:

End Bad Breath, dated 1968. The painting shows Uncle Sam, a traditional symbol of American patriotism, subverted to protest the United States’ ongoing involvement in the Vietnam War.

The work itself looks simple, the medium was just woodcut (blue plate), offset printing, dimensions 28 x 40 inches, something which could be done by any arts students. But it was the message behind this graphic which made it special, which makes me appreciate this, which makes me look at this whole graphic in another light.

“The broadside and the poster are traditional media of protest. I am simply continuing the practice.”                                                                                                                 — Seymour Chwast, The Left Handed Designer, 1985

 

Timeline

This is Seymour Chwast, born on 18 August 1931 in the Bronx, New York.

This was back when he was at the peak of his career.

And this is him now… and he is still working at the age of 88!

“I don’t understand retiring. I have to sit at a drawing table or else it’s a wasted day.”                                                                                                                                                           — Seymour Chwast, Co.Design Interview, 2016

1950

Seymour Chwast graduated from Cooper Union. He studied drawing and painting and through that, he learned that he excelled as a nonconformist. And this brings me back to my point again, where I enjoy artworks that do not conform to social norms, which was why I chose to research on him.

1954

After graduation and a few unsuccessful stints in art and promotion departments, he and fellow Cooper classmates Edward Sorel and Milton Glaser form Push Pin Studios in 1954, which was also mentioned in our lecture. Shortly after, Reynold Ruffins joins shortly thereafter. Little did they know, their fortuitous partnership, along with the publication of the Monthly Graphic, establishes the studio as a force of visual and conceptual imagination. A flood of freelance assignments ignites Push Pin’s unique culture of collaboration.

1960

All artists influence each other throughout the generations, that is how different genres of artworks progresses as well. And Chwast, like any other artists, borrows freely from the past too. His works are influenced from Victoriana, Art Nouveau and Art Deco — to create new works that wholly integrate type and art. I would define Chwast as the Postmodern pioneer.

Chwast expressive poster, book, and packaging designs are resolutely individual, in contrast to the narrative realism of illustration, and the confining sameness of modernism, both popular into the 1960s. Fluent in historical styles and movements, Chwast experiments with primitive folk art, surrealism, expressionist woodcuts, and photomontage.

1969

In 1969, Chwast published “The South” issue of Push Pin Graphic.

“Conscience came before commerce, and The South issue was one of the most trenchant graphic design commentaries during a period known for its social and political activism.”                                                                                                        — Steven Heller

1996

Chwast launched The Nose.

The Nose was a periodical dedicated to relevant social issues, even if some of them were trivial.

2000

Other than Chwast’s commission works, he himself still crafts his own work to develop as an artist, mining his own psyche for expressive material to explore, examine, and uncover. As he had been through WW2 as a child, he obsessively paints elaborate scenes of warfare, brilliantly filled with planes, parachutes, tanks, and fighting men.

“I have always tried to use my assignments as platforms for whatever I have to say, while the client, in turn, uses me.”                                                                                     — Seymour Chwast

2010

The present Chwast, where he has been into 6 decades of professional practice in the graphic design industry. His work continues to expand, but I felt that it toned down a lot.

His work began to move towards humor and accessible topics of the modern era. I guess, this shows how art evolves over time.

 

Conclusion

These are the important events during Chwast’s career, and he is very self-driven at this very point in time- working daily on his drawing desk. However, notice the trend in these highlighted events, it was all linked to him creating art that breaks the social norm, or to raise societal issues. This was what made me interested in his works and how he produced them, his thought process and ideology behind each and evert work of art. All in all, Seymour Chwast is definitely a notable figure that changed the design industry- as a designer, an illustrator, and an art director.

To end off, here is a video of Chwast showing some of his personal works, as well as sharing about Push Pin Studios.

 

Course Reflection 

It has been a really content-heavy 4 weeks worth of lessons, and I don’t deny that I’ve learned a lot. Lessons were very well structured and well planned, together with quizzes that “forces” us to listen attentively so that we would digest the knowledge being taught to us.

However, the amount of knowledge being taught to us felt like I was back in JC once again- memorizing all the information just for the upcoming exams (in this case would be the quizzes). Once the quiz ends, I forget most of them because it was just too overwhelming. In short, I listened and studied for the sake of the quizzes.

Although content is important, I feel that keeping us engaged in this module (History of Design) itself is equally important as well. Only when we as students are engaged, we would naturally understand all the contents (at least to a certain extent) without the need to intentionally sit down and cram all the facts and materials, which ultimately defeats the whole purpose of studying this module.

That being said, I do understand that the school needs all these topics to be covered in this short period of time too. I don’t have any feedback on how this system could be improved, but this are just some of my thoughts! Still, kudos to all the lecturers that planned these lessons for us. Preparing for small presentations for some modules already drains me out, I can’t imagine how it would be like to plan for a whole cohort for the whole semester…

 

Y2S1 | Interactive Media 1 | ArtScience Museum Future World | Impressions and Reflections

Introduction

ArtScience Museum Future World is a themed gallery filled with futuristic interactive artworks, located beside the Marina Bay Sands. The entire exhibit is filled with the world of art, science, magic, and metaphor through a collection of cutting-edge digital installations. This interactive space is collaborated with teamLab, a renowned interdisciplinary art collective.

I’ll be doing an overview of the whole setup, while also selecting a few exhibits within the gallery which I found really interesting, together with photos and videos I took during my visit. Also, I’ll be identifying the interactivity components being used in those setups that I’ll be talking about, so as to aid me in my future works and to give me more inspirations and ideas.

Future World takes visitors on an exciting journey of discovery through these four key narratives:

1. City in A Garden

2. Sanctuary

3. Park

4. Space

 

City in A Garden

Brief

City in A Garden takes inspiration from Singapore, where urban structures and nature co-exist harmoniously and demonstrates how essential nature’s resources are to people. Nature’s nurturing embrace allows for people to thrive, cultivating their creative impulses, allowing for the production of art, science, and technology.

The following are some notable installations that I will be talking about:

1. Inverted Globe, Giant Connecting Block Town

This was the first installation that caught my attention. It was located inside a secluded room after walking through a dimly lit walkway. Outside the walkway,  I wasn’t able to see anything, but there were sounds projecting from the inside which lured me in.

Once I entered the room, I was surprised to see the entire space being projected with colourful and popping visuals, definitely not what I would expect after walking through that dark walkway.

There were movable objects on the ground, which were meant to be moved around to reconstruct the route. Here is a video of me and Ashley playing with the objects:

This interactive artwork reacts to our input and ultimately develops into a vibrant, thriving cityscape. The moving cars, trains, planes, and boats were projected around the whole room on all four walls, which makes the experience very immersive.

Notable interactivity components: Projection & Sound.

 

2. Sketch Aquarium

This I would say, is the most famous work in the entire exhibit.

This iconic installation features a digitally rendered, aquatic world of underwater animals. Participants of all ages use their imaginations to create fantastic and colorful sea creatures on paper. 

They are then digitally scanned and brought to life to swim freely in the aquarium where they live. 

The crowd around this installation is undeniably the most as compared to the others, and I do see a reason why. Size does matter a lot in an installation, as humans we get drawn to things which are big scale. Here is Since the projection is huge, roughly 5m high and 20m wide, most of the visitors are intrigued and captivated by the whole setup.

This interactive art made use of Do-It-With-Others (DIWO), a joint project development model that enables like-minded people to collaboratively work on a task. Without the visitors’ drawings, there would be no underwater animals, which defeats the whole purpose of this setup.

* Refer to this post as I shared a little more about what DIWO is:

Y2S1 | Interactive Media 1 | Inspiring Example of Interactive Art | Rhythm 0

Upon closer look at the underwater animals that were drawn by the visitors, I saw one that was standing out.

There was one octopus with the words “FREE HK”. In the midst of the current Hong Kong protest happening right now for almost 3 months, it is no surprise to see such portrayal of messages appearing there and then. I would consider this as protest art through collaborative work (the artist and the audience). Although I was slightly taken aback when I saw this, this made me ponder about how art is able to influence society, or even show underlying communication to the world through methods like this.

This reminded me of a work called “The Knitted Radio”, a project developed in collaboration with Irene Posch at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York in 2014.

It is part of an ongoing investigation towards using traditional textile crafting techniques to create electronic components and devices from scratch. The tactile piece manifests how to knit a sweater that is also an FM radio transmitter. By equipping the wearer with the ability to occupy electronic space, the casual knitwear intends to inspire local, free communication structures. The experiment is dedicated to the diverse crowd involved in recent Gezi Park protests in Taksim Square, Istanbul.

Here is a link to understand The Knitted Radio further:

The Knitted Radio (2014)

 

Sounds similar, right? Using art to protest silently, with the help of interaction through technology.

Notable interactivity components: DIWO & Magnitude.

 

3. Sliding through the Fruit Field

Sliding through the Fruit Field is a playful and colourful interactive artwork designed for children that is projected onto a newly-designed slide. They first climb the stair to reach the peak before sliding down the stairs.

Visitors become a beam of life-giving sunlight, and as they glide down the slope, their energy is transferred to the fruit field, causing flowers and fruit to blossom and grow. As the different elements interact in the field, new seeds are sown, leading to new life.

This was undeniably the one the kids loved the most. To be honest, there were no adults in this segment at all.  The notion of sliding down the slide is surely a fun thing to do for all children, and I am sure that was what the artist wanted to achieve as well, judging from the last paragraph of the artwork label “Hey kids,” (pardon for the blur picture, it was dark inside the exhibit…)

I guess the concept of play is essential when it comes to creating an interactive artwork that wishes to involve and attract the younger crowd, and the artist has succeeded in doing so.

Notable interactivity components: Play.

 

Santuary

Brief

Away from the hustle-bustle of City in a Garden, enter into an idyllic digital wonderland for a moment of tranquility. Sanctuary is the oasis of calm in the center of Future World.

The following is the only installation in Santuary:

Impermanent Life: People Create Space and Time, at the Confluence of their Spacetime New Space and Time is Born

This installation, depicts cherry blossoms blooming and scattering, playing out the cycle of life and death. The existence of both human and nature is impermanent, because, no state, good or bad, lasts forever. A circle is born from our feet and radiates at a certain rhythm.

I went in for roughly 10 minutes, to see who would come in and stay as well. With no surprise, kids that enter this space lasted for not more than even 5 seconds. This installation provides the perfect environment for reflection and meditation, something which kids would not be able to appreciate.

I felt that this was a really nice setup. Amongst all the colourful and loud installations in the whole exhibit, this setup was the one that was the direct opposite of what we would have expected. Depending on the state of the environment, the circles created can either provide light or darkness to the entire space.

The background lo-fi music, together with the slow animation of the projection, gives a harmonious and peaceful feeling to the whole environment. This artwork is calm, but reactive at the same time. I feel that this is something that is not easy to achieve for an artwork, but the artist has managed to do so.

Notable interactivity components: Sound & Momentum.

Park

Brief

In Park, visitors are invited to have fun, to learn and play using a combination of physical activity and digital technology.
Here are some notable installations that got my attention:
1. Light Ball Orchestra
The whole area was filled with beachball-sized globes of multicoloured light, that itself already got me interested in the setup. The child in me got me kicking the balls around, which produced different sounds. It wasn’t really music, it was different tones of electrifying, one-of-a-kind orchestra. At the same time, the balls changes colour, creating a resonating effect throughout this dazzling environment.
Here is a video of Ruihong and me enjoying the playful and dynamic space:

Only when there is participation amongst the visitors, then the Light Ball Orchestra would be able to send out ripples in different directions to interact with others. By working together through pushing, bouncing and rolling the balls to continuously change the composition, color, and sound of the orchestra, this is another example of DIWO being used, which is often seen in many interactive artists’ works.

Notable interactivity components: Light & Sound.

 

2. Sketch Town

This installation is a depiction of a fictitious town, based on Singapore that includes recognizable landmarks, such as, ArtScience Museum, the Merlion and the Singapore Flyer.

This is super similar to sketch aquarium, whereby the visitor would use crayons and paper to draw a building, a car, or a plane for Sketch Town, and see how their urban design becomes part of a vast projected city.

The only difference is that we could physically interact with the projection through touch and movement, bringing the town to life. Touch a car, for example, and it will speed up, or change direction, as seen in the following video:

A little too underwhelming for this installation in my opinion as it was pretty similar to Sketch Aquarium, and I felt that Sketch Aquarium had more impact on me due to its large magnitude.

Notable interactivity components: The same as Sketch Aquarium, less magnitude.

 

Space

Brief

This marks the end of any visitors’ journey in the whole exhibit on a note of wonder by embarking outward and upward into astronomical Space.

There is only one installation called Crystal Universe in Space, which immersed me in what has been the subject of dreams, mythologies, artistic visions and scientific exploration since the dawn of human history.

Crystal Universe

This is undoubtedly my favorite installation in this exhibit!

Behold a seemingly infinite number of light particles inside the scintillating Crystal Universe. This stunning artwork is created with teamLab’s Interactive 4D Vision technology and over 170,000 LED lights, giving the illusion of stars moving in space. Move beyond the stars, and I start to encounter astrophysical phenomena such as planets, galaxies, and even gravitational waves.

I surrounded myself amongst the vastness of the cosmos, and it just feels so surreal. It is amazing just how LED lights are able to do such wonders. I must say the number of LED lights being used is a huge factor for the success of this installation. 

I’m also quite sure that this might be the most expensive installation, given the amount of money spent on all that 170,000 LED lights. It is amazing how everything is aligned so neatly and in order, which makes the setup so clean and organized.

It has a very simple interactivity: the light and body of the installation respond to our mass and motion, and the fabric of the universe changes by ‘swiping’ astrological phenomenon from smart devices within the installation. And that’s it, we just enjoy and watch them become part of the dazzling environment around us.

Not only does this setup look good on the inside, it was even more beautiful looking from the outside.

Truly a great work of art- strongly possessing both interactivity and aesthetics at the same time.

Notable interactivity components: Quantity & aesthetics.

Conclusion

It was an eye-opener to have a chance to visit this exhibit. I didn’t manage to join my class previously for the INTER-MISSION Interactive Project and I am glad I could make it for this visit.

Not going to lie, I have not visited the ArtScience Museum before, so this was my very first time and it was a wonderful experience. It has certainly given me a lot of inspiration and ideas for my future works, and I can’t wait for Future World’s next exhibit!

Y2S1 | History Of Design | Visual Communication | To Bauhaus & Beyond Reflection (Suprematism)

Movements

Timeline

Here is a brief timeline of the movements founded in their respective years:

1907: Cubism

1909: Futurism

1913: Suprematism

1915: Constructivism

1917: De Stijl

Brief Descriptions

Cubists explored open form, piercing figures and objects by letting the space flow through them, blending background into the foreground, and showing objects from various angles.

Futurism was not immediately identified with a distinctive style. The Futurists were fascinated by the problems of representing modern experience and strived to have their paintings evoke all kinds of sensations that were not merely those visible to the eye. Futurist art brings to mind the noise, heat and even the smell of the metropolis.

After the Russian Revolution, Russian artists absorbed Cubism and Futurism to coin a term called Cubo-Futurism.

A short time later, Kazimir Malevich, a Russian avant-garde, was the pioneer of geometric abstract art. He used abstraction, and non-objective geometric patterns in a style and artistic movement he called Suprematism.

Constructivism devoted itself to the practical arts of industrial design and other visual communications. Constructivism called on artists to produce and use art for industry and social causes. It had three main principles: tectonics, texture, and construction. Happening during the time of the Russian Revolution, Constructivism called for order and organization to be restored.

Lastly, De Stijl focuses on the essential elements of representation.

 

Suprematism

Introduction

I’ll be focusing on suprematism in this reflection.

Suprematism is an art movement, which focuses on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, triangles, or even just lines. It is usually painted in a limited range of colors such as the primary colours of red, yellow, and blue. Suprematism uses elemental shapes and color to create form.

These concrete elements constructed together created expressive qualities arising not from a pictorial image but from pure content and arrangement. Abstraction became based on sensation and this movement is abstract. Reducing simplicity, moving towards complete abstraction.

Founder of Suprematism

It was founded by Kazimir Malevich in 1913, who is a Russian. Malevich was an avant-garde and art theorist.

He believed that there were only delicate links between words and the objects they denote, and from this, he saw the possibilities for totally abstract art. Malevich came to be intrigued by the search for art’s barest essentials, which eventually derives from using elemental shapes and colors to create abstract art.

Malevich once quoted: “The term suprematism refers to an abstract art based upon “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than on visual depiction of objects.” In other words, it means that Suprematist art focuses on the interrelation of form and color, rather than the representation of beautiful images.

In even simpler terms, Suprematism itself refers to the supremacy of the artist’s feelings straight into the artwork, without any desire whatsoever to represent them as real-life things which we all can identify with such as landscapes and portraits.

Malevich’s Works

Now let us look into some of his famous works. Firstly, it would be this painting called Black Cross, oil on canvas painted in the year 1923.

Black cross is included in one of his most abstract works, with very clear geometric lines that are undeniably an example of the Suprematist movement, of which this artist was such a major part. Malevich explores an important aspect of human life, which is the power to choose between two options. Malevich felt the cross was an image of a decision. In this case, this choice is reduced to one between good and evil. The cross here has both religious symbolism in terms of decision making and meaning which applies to cross streets in regular life.

Next up would be this painting named, White on White series Malevich, painted on canvas in 1918.

Malevich pushed the limits of abstraction to an unprecedented degree. Reducing pictorial means to their bare minimum, he not only dispensed with the illusion of depth and volume, but also got rid of one of the essential attributes in paintings, which is color. What remains is a geometric figure, barely differentiated from a slightly warmer white ground, and the illusion of movement by its skewed and off-center position. With its textured surface and delicate brushwork, White on White emphasizes the painting’s material aspects.

Lastly, this would be his most famous work called Black Square.

Black square is painted on linen in the year 1915. The slab of black paint that dominates the canvas works as grand refusal, shows the nature of abstraction. Favoring flatness over depth, Black Square conveys the feeling of displeasure that arises from the imagination’s inadequacy. The experience of viewing the painting involves a feeling of pain brought about by the breakdown of representation, followed by a powerful sense of relief. Black Square was presented as a breakthrough in his career and in art in general.

Other Works

These are some of his other works of art. What similarities do you see?

After viewing these works of his, you might think that Malevich was just being an over-rated artist, or maybe he just wanted to smoke his way through to become a famous artist that only draws shapes with minimal colours. But let us look at some of his previous works.

Malevich actually developed the concept of Suprematism when he was already an established painter. Here you can see that he was once a traditional painter who paints figures in space. He even had his paintings exhibited in the Donkey’s Tail in 1912, a famous Russian artist group. He is a professional artist.

Influence in the Art Industry

Abstract art is often heavily criticized for its lack of meaning behind the layers of paint on the canvas. However, others believe that this is exactly what makes abstract special. The variety of interpretations allows the viewer to create the meaning themselves. This makes abstract art something that anyone can relate to. Malevich’s works have turned the tables for modern art, allowing a new wave of artists to enter the scene and take over. Here are some of the artists that are influenced by his works.

The top is Untitled, by Davide Balliano in 2016; Bottom is Dulles by Sarah Morris in 2001. With the concept of Suprematism, Malevich expected to express the full spectrum of emotion that a human may feel.

Conclusion

To end off, here is a short video of Malevich’s most famous exhibit which is still renowned in the modern world now:

In the video, you’ll recognise some of the works that I have explained earlier on, and you will see how he transformed from a traditional painter to an abstract artist as he progresses.

 

 

Y2S1 | History Of Design | Visual Communication | Industrial Revolution & Graphic Reactions Reflection (The Linotype Machine)

The Industrial Revolution

Introduction

The Industrial Revolution was a period between the late 18th Century and early 20th Century, which saw rapid growth in mechanisation, industrial production and change in society. It began in Great Britain and then spread across the United States and the rest of the world.

Period

There were two stages of the Industrial Revolution:

1.    The first stage of the Industrial Revolution (1770-1870) – Centred on steam, water, iron and shift from agriculture.

2.    The second stage of Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) – New technologies of electricity, development of petrol engine, oil, and greater use of cheap steel.

Conclusion

Industrial and scientific discoveries enabled a revolution in our understanding of the material world. Thus, there was a population shift – moving from rural agriculture to work in factories in cities which led to mass production of goods, increased efficiency, reducing average costs to enable more goods to be produced.

As such, the Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history as it hugely impacted the way societies in the world would function in the years to come, such as graphic reactions.

 

The Linotype Machine

Introduction

That was briefly what the Industrial Revolution was, I’ll now introduce the Linotype Machine.

The Linotype Machine was invented in 1884 by a German watchmaker named Ottmar Mergenthaler, which is probably one of the most notable creations during the Industrial Revolution. This was during the second stage of the Industrial Revolution, where new technologies and the use of cheap steel were introduced into the industry.

This machine sped up the process of printing which revolutionized the newspaper and book printing industries through the ingenious method of “line casting”. Line casting refers to placing the entire line of type for printing instead of using. Individual letter for typesetting.

How it works

Linotype Machine came from the derivation of its full name- Line of Type, which is a literal description of the machine itself. Here is a video I found, showing a demonstration of the linotype:

If you can’t already tell, the Linotype is an extremely loud machine. Thus, many deaf people were hired to work in this printing industry as they would not be bothered by the noise pollution created during the process, not kidding.

 

The height of an average Linotype is roughly seven-foot high, and it works by creating one line of type at a time. It uses matrices, which are small brass units that have edges indented with characters that are assembled into lines to compose text.

Once the matrix line is established, a line of type is automatically cast via a solid bar, called the Linotype slug.

The operator types the information on the keyboard and the Linotype pulls type, which can then be printed.

How it differs from other printing methods

The invention of Linotype sped up the process of printing excessively, which allowed letterpress to prosper. Before the invention of Linotype, a huge group of people would be needed to set the type by hand one letter at a time which took a really long time as it was awfully tedious and slow. Other than it being labor-intensive, many typesetters would run out of letters, also known as “sorts”.

The productivity and efficiency made many workers fear that they would lose their jobs as the Linotype created a method for mechanization which cuts down the number of workers needed for typesetting. However, due to supply and demand, there was no issue of unemployment. There was a huge demand for books, newspapers, and magazines due to them being produced so fast. This, in turn, increased the supply and more people were recruited to run the machines to meet the demand of the population.

Influence on society

Linotype machines made an especially huge impact in the newspaper industry. They were first used for the New York Tribune back in 1886. They revolutionized the industry by making newspapers run longer than a few pages.

As mentioned above, since the supply of newspapers increased due to the huge demand, this also meant that the spread of information on political and social events became so much faster as more people have access to the newspapers. Thus, the population was able to keep up with the current affairs.

Not only that, Linotype made education more available to everyone as the printing of textbooks increased as well. Religion also slowly began to rely on it as well- bibles were able to be printed in bulks to be spread across the world.

Not long later, the Linotype spread to different areas in the world, introducing different languages to be incorporated into the machine with their respective local languages. By 1928, Linotype became the primary typesetting device around the world.

Conclusion

The linotype machine was truly an amazing invention. It did not appear as an overnight invention- a lot of thought process was put into place before the final prototype which proves its simple yet reliable design. it revolutionizes the printing industry, increasing productivity and efficiency which made text a lot more accessible to the population.

Although technology has bloomed in our current generation and Linotype has retired, the importance of print through Linotype should not be forgotten. Without the Linotype, we would not be right here with the current typesetting and printing we enjoy in our daily lives. Let’s not take things for granted, and appreciate the pioneer inventions which led us to where we are today!

Y2S1 | History Of Design | Visual Communication | Writing to Typography Reflection (General Reflection)

It was our first lecture last week on Typography, shifting from product design to visual communication in our staggered lesson structure. It was interesting to learn about the evolution of typography, albeit rather content heavy- two hours’ worth of information being loaded to us. I won’t be focusing on just one subject matter, so here is a general summary of what I had learnt so far in lesson one. I’ll be highlighting some important terms along the way, they’ll be in bold.

The lecture started off with cave paintings and petroglyphs.

Through these cave paintings, the inscribing and drawings it had was more of conveying of information rather than it being aesthetic. Slowly, writing became more abstract, in cuneiform.

It changed from sharp stylist and pictorial, to being complex and indefinite. Then came sound words, pictures of things that could represent an idea.

This was something which took the longest time to decipher, until rosette stone was found. Rosette stone had three different type of languages: Top being hieroglyph, middle being demotic script, and bottom being Greek language.

This is the Book of dead. The material used is Papyrus. Felt the material during class, seems as though it is one of those leaves that the hawker uncles serve their hokkien mee in. One interesting fact of this type is that it could be read from left to right, or right to left, or top to down, based on direction of symbol.

Next would be the alphabet transformation. Only 21 alphabets initially, all consonants and no vowels.

This is a Votive stela with four figures. From the type as seen below the sculptures, the “A” looks like triangle, “T” look like a form of rectangle, and the “E” is like a square with the dot as the middle stroke. This type is to be read in Boustrophedon– left to right then right to left like a zigzag direction. However, it eventually just transform to be read from left to right like how we normally read in this era.

Over here we have Greek uncials, which shows a more cursive writing. due to less strokes. As such, they could write more efficiently. As you can see, the type are all of the same height, which is what uncials mean.

Then we have the Roman square capital, where there are no spaces between words all join together. They are separated by the dots in between each words. This is the first appearance of serif. In other words, we could also call them square letters.

As for the Roman rustic capitals, these are the normal people writings. The type is smaller and thinner width wise, and much lesser strokes as seen.

This is the Book of Kells. It is half uncial (insular), which is an extension of the alphabet. The material used is parchment skin, which is smoother to write on as compared to Papyrus as mentioned earlier.

From the Book of Kells, it influenced the Caroline minuscule script. Minusculerefers to the lower case letters. Also, we start to see obvious strokes above and below, there isn’t a fixed height for each type anymore.

This is the Douce apocalypse. For this type, the vertical strokes of each alphabet were first drawn, the curves are then filled in thereafter. Thus, we could see that it is much more condense, with more characters in a line. Although this looks dense, it as meant to be space-saving.

From here, we’ll be venturing into the Chinese area for type. This is an Oracle bone script, earliest known form of Chinese writing. It was used for definitions such as forecasting weather.

This is the Diamond sutra. It is the first printed scroll/book for anyone to attain it and read it. We start to see calligraphy from where in the form of regular script, this was when Emperor Qing united all the different provinces in China.

Moving away from the chinese writings, here we have the Biblia Pauperum.  It has Pictorial artefacts which serves as a purpose to explain to people who were illiterate.

Touching a little but on product design, this is the Gutenberg punch and matrix. Gutenberg created this movable type. He was trained as metalsmith and this is his  main invention.

Here is a short clip I found online which might help us to understand it a little better:

Then we have the Gutenberg bible, which is based on gothic letterforms from Germany.

In De dibinis, both alphabets upper and lower case were all used as the designs have to be compatible.

Slowly, we can start to recognise these type as they start to form the shape of the alphabets we use in our current generation. In Romain du Rol from France, this type design was considered a transitional type. Thick and thin alphabets becomes more obvious, and the type as a whole looks more and more vertical as compared to old style gararond.

Then we have Vergil’s Bucolica, another transitional typeface. From here, type started to become what we name as minimalist style. It shows hierarchy and contrast using only type alone.

Finally, we have Manule Tipografico, where we see Modern typefaces.

It was interesting to see the evolution and process of typography. Typography is used by ancient civilizations of the world to represent ideas ever since the beginning, and these images soon evolved into alphabets and phonographic writing, which led to the development of various typographic systems we have right now.

In conclusion, typography no doubt has an extensive history, and is obviously a crucial aspect of graphic design.