For this book, I find it very interesting to learn how the past decade has been intensely dedicated to experimentation with computer technology within the performing arts. The entire book talks about how digital media has been vastly used and explored within live theatre and dance, resulting in new forms of interactive performances that have emerged in these participatory installations, executed on CD-ROMS and the Web at that time. As part of a newer generation, we witness how past performance artists have constantly involved the performance arts, and digital media into their works through studying their pieces. Today, new forms of interactive media have been heavily incorporated into the world of art, and new media has undoubtedly diversified the types of performing arts, leaving traditional live performance art with an astoundingly new perspective.
In chapter 14 of this book, Steve Dixon focused on how incorporating media screens can affect and enhance the spatial possibilities of traditional three dimensional theatre spaces. In spite of its two-dimensional offerings, digital projects can re-create a space to be more ‘pliable and poetic’. For example, being able to simultaneously view multiple perspectives through the use of different camera angles can help make a medium more flexible, attesting to the “pliability” of digital medium. In film, space and time can be transformed by the artist to create scenes that are almost impossible to re-enact physically, together with designed visuals that range from 360′ panorama, close ups and slow motion shots. One of the more intriguing things that he mentioned within the book was that projected media is often used to appeal to the senses rather than the rational intellect. Referencing to the contrast between the visceral instincts of an audience versus the intent of an artist, this statement made me reflect about the times when a ‘non-artistic’ friend was not able to comprehend an art piece, dismissing a work for its lack of visual intricacy. Did the meaning of the art piece get lost in translation while we are desperately trying to make meanings out of it?
In one of Steve Dixon’s examples, he talked about the Builders Associations, where the “Brechtian use of media displays remind audiences of the dialectical interplay between actors and screen.” In his argument, he wrote about how the boundary of reality should not be blurred by theatre, and audiences should be allowed to view the performance as more of a past event. This is similar to the use of the “suspension of disbelief” technique used commonly in theatre and live performances today, to enable participants to be engaged in a more immersive experience through their senses. In view of this reading relating back to our work, I think this is also where our project “In Light of You” could be classified under, because Steve Dixon wrote about the Brechtian critiques, focusing more on the cultural and societal aspects rather than the political. Using Brechtian techniques like “breaking the fourth wall” narration and Spass within the project, users can feel more engaged and involved as it touches on a serious topic through a fun and game-like interface, while maintaining focus on the players themselves as the main protagonist of the narration.
Dixon, Steve. 2015. Digital Performance: A History Of New Media In Theater. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
One of my favourite parts of this field trip is the different experience that I had as a student tasked to study the exhibition, as compared to a previous experience as a visitor who was solely visiting for the experience. Going to the Art Science Museum for a second time, some of the exhibitions hit differently in terms of the immersion level and novelty experience. This time, I feel that it was overall more immersive as we intentionally tried to study and learn the technicals and technology behind the pieces of works that we were interested in.
At the very first touchpoint of the overall gallery experience, I was intrigued by the layout of the Future Worlds space as it was designed for visitors to immerse in different levels of intensity and wonder as they progress through the different rooms. Even in the dark, the semi-circle layout allows visitors to intuitively understand the flow of the different artworks in a very straightforward manner. This truly simplifies navigation in the dark space for visitors, without them needing to constantly refer to the map and signages available.
With an overarching theme of City in a Garden, this exhibition is split into 3 different segments for visitors to enjoy:
Mainly Sanctuary, Park and Space.
City in a Garden
Within the first room lies the one of the most popular artwork, “Transcending Boundaries”, created by the renowned Japanese company TeamLab. Peppered across social media over the past two years, this artwork is appreciated for its aesthetics and interactivity, almost ubiquitously representing the Art Science Museum on digital platforms. The concept of this artwork is that in the mind, there are no boundaries between ideas and concepts, which are inherently ambiguous and mutually inclusive. In order for ideas and concepts to be expressed in the real world, it is necessary to have a physical material substance which allows the intangible to transcend and manifest into an experience. Within this work, elements from one one work are allowed to fluidly interact with and influence elements of the other works exhibited in the same space. In this way, the boundaries between art pieces dissolve.
By placing this artwork smack right in the middle of the first space, the visitors’ first glance is carefully placed upon this majestic artwork through thoughtful curation. The surrounding works only serve to enhance the visual experience, as it complements the aesthetics of the main waterfall artwork. Among all, “Transcending Boundaries” was the one of the two interactive artworks in the room, being one the larger one in scale compared to the others.
I particularly like the these two artworks:
“Life survives by the power of life”
Part of the Spatial Calligraphy series, the first work offers a contemporary interpretation of traditional Japanese calligraphy (sho) in an abstract space. It reconstructs Japanese-sho in a three-dimensional space and expresses the depth, speed, and power of the brushstroke. Creatures flutter by, thrive and fall according to the passing seasons, reflecting the Buddhist Zen expression that all things are impermanent and what we put into shape is that which we, the living, think is the heart of life.
Done using a 3D software, the rotation and evolution of the piece is captured in video format and played in loop during the exhibition.
“Four Seasons, a 1000 years, Terraced Rice Fields”
I love this second work not only for its aesthetics, but also the concept and relational interactivity behind it. For this piece, the work is a real-time virtual field display of a paddy field in Bungotakada, Oita, Japan. In the actual Tashibunosho paddy field, the scenery has remained unchanged for thousands of years and it is depicted here virtually through the visual imagery of the people who continue to live in harmony with nature in this perpetual landscape. The depicted landscape and people’s lives change in the picture throughout 365 days. The picture changes throughout the day. It grows brighter as the sun rises, and it becomes aglow with the setting sun. As the night deepens, darkness sets in. The lives of the people depicted changes together with the flow of time. During the season of the Harvest festival, people will start playing music and dancing at night. The artwork synchronises with the actual sunrise and sunset at Tashibunosho. When it is actually raining in Tabushinosho, it will also rain in the depicted world. I thought this was pretty interesting as it consisted of interactivity on another level, beyond the usual direct audience-artwork relationship. I am intrigued by the technology used to document the current happenings on-site the paddy field, and it feels almost surreal that despite being located so far away, we are still somewhat connected to other human beings in the exact time and space through this virtual display.
This artwork is real-time project created by using a CG rendering engine that generates the visuals as captured through a motion capture device and camera on-site.
Beyond the aesthetics and conceptual value, I truly appreciate the obvious oriental influences. However, I was hoping that I could interact with the work further as the experience only exists and ceased on a visual level. To enhance the interactivity further, having the works respond to movements of visitors would be a pretty interesting touch to it as there would be a higher reciprocal value between the participant and the artworks. This could probably be done through motion sensing in the gallery space. Otherwise, I really enjoyed viewing the tiny little details on each of these panels as it felt like there were always more to be seen from every glance.
What I appreciate about the layout space in entirety is the varying levels of immersion and curation of the works. As one explores through the different rooms in progression, nature of the space changes together with the level of interactivity through the combination of the different types of immersive tech and artworks. The specific placement of the individual artworks also helped enhance the overall experience by drawing the viewers’ attention to specific locations.
At the end, I love that the exhibition ended with another one of the exhibition’s popular artworks “Crystal Universe”, with its picturesque and intriguing display. At the end of the gallery visit, the thoughtful placement of this artwork at the last of everything helps prompt a further interaction with the visitors beyond the physical space of the gallery. Overall through this exhibition, I’ve learnt that the experience of interaction begins as soon as before a participant steps into the space, and should leave them wanting more, exploring more and experiencing more beyond the physical space.
Pulse Room is an interactive installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, which features 300 clear incandescent light bulbs, 300 W each and hung from a cable at a height of three metres. The bulbs are uniformly distributed over the exhibition room, completely filling it. An interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects and records the heart rate of participants via their pulse, and converts it into light flashes shown by incandescent light bulbs. At any given time the room shows the heartbeat of the 100 most recent participants.
How It Works
When someone holds the interface, a computer detects the participant’s pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact heart rhythm. When the interface is released, all the lights turn off briefly and the flashing sequence advances by one position down the queue, to the next bulb in the grid. Each time someone touches the interface, a heart pattern is recorded and this is sent to the first bulb in the grid, pushing ahead all the existing recordings. At any given time, the installation shows recordings from the most recent participants.
There are two renditions for this interactive piece, a 100 bulbs and 300 bulbs version. Within both works, Lorenzo-Hemmer uses incandescent light bulbs, voltage controllers, heart rate sensors, computer and metal sculpture as part of his building materials for the clean and immaculate execution.
Incandescent light bulb
Heart rate sensors
Metal sculpture sensor stand
DMX circuit board
(Hemmer, R. L. (n.d.))
Artwork in Collaboration with:
Production support–David Lemieux, Natalie Bouchard, and Pierre Fournier
(Hemmer, R. L. (n.d.)).
Public Receptivity & Thoughts
The first work of his three-part installation: “Pulse” series, the Pulse Room works upon the concept of subverting intimacy between participants and their familiarity with their own bodily data through publicly displaying information that is supposedly deemed as ‘sensitive’ and ‘personal’. Through this broadcasted display of intimate bodily information, participants are invited to be a part of an experience where they thread between feelings of familiarity vs foreignness, evoking a sense of intrigue and alternative perspective as though they are looking at the self through another lens.
Another two other famous pieces from his “Pulse” series is the Pulse Tank and Pulse Index. where biometric data from participants’ pulses and fingerprints are utilised and transformed into beautiful visualisations of light and water.
“Pulse Tank” is an Interactive installation where the heart rates of members of the public are detected by sensors and converted into water waves in a ripple tank. A light show is created by the resulting waves and their interaction. To participate, insert your finger into one of the four cylinders on the side of the tank or put your hands flat on the front panel; the computer will detect your pulse and activate a solenoid which will hammer your heart rate onto the tank.
“Pulse Index” is an interactive installation that records participants’ fingerprints at the same time as it detects their heart rates. The piece displays data for the last 765 and over participants in a stepped display that creates a horizon line of skin. To participate, people introduce their finger into a custom-made sensor equipped with a 220x digital microscope and a heart rate sensor; their fingerprint immediately appears on the largest cell of the display, pulsating to their heart beat. As more people try the piece one’s own recording travels upwards until it disappears altogether —a kind of memento mori using fingerprints, the most commonly used biometric image for identification.
The project exists in a small plasma version which features a 58 inch HD screen hung in portrait mode and in a large projection version which can be as large as desired.
Interestingly, the one thing people love about Lozano-Hemmer’ Pulse series is that these interactive pieces do not invade their personal space in threatening ways despite the public broadcasting of personal information such as heart rate and fingerprints. This is done through a careful curation of the space (context), and interactivity in mind, where people are actively participating in the process of exploration and creation rather than being self-conscious. This is a great reflection of Lozano-Hemmer’s personal mantra of prioritising participation in every interactive piece, where he believed that “It used to be all about the viewers waiting for artwork to inspire them. Now it’s the artworks that are waiting for people to feel, sense and inspire them.”
The entire concept behind the entire ‘Pulse’ series was really to explore the question and meaning of our existence, as seen in the Pulse Room where every bulb represented an individual, with the rhythmic light flashes representative of the unique heartbeat rhythm that belongs to an individual. Through using technology and different medium of light and kinetic creativity, participants form their own connection and interpretation with the interactive piece.
I personally find this artwork quite intriguing as it is a direct translation of the self; a part of you which you don’t usually think about on a daily basis, yet instrumental to your existence. A piece of you taken out of its bodily context, and projected visually to you and everyone else. Rhythmic and symphonic, Lozano-Hemmer has successfully merged the idea of bringing art and science together through this stimulating piece. I also really like the way he keeps his overall execution clean and ordinary at first glance. For example in the “Pulse Tank”, the still bed of water seemed just like any other tank of water until someone first tries to interact with it spontaneously. One person generates ripples in the water, and with multiple participants, a whole new different artwork is created through the complex patterns of interferences that cast intriguing shadows around the space. I also really appreciate that his art has no ‘pattern’; no actual predictability or restriction as to how his participants can behave or interact with his works. From his works, I feel that we can all learn from Lozano-Hemmer’s ability to make philosophical ideas somehow literal and transform the abstract to become weirdly real, hopefully with a surreal edge too.
Founded in 2016, the Inter-Mission collective consists of local Singaporean artists Marcel Gaspar, Urich Lau, Shengen Lim and Teow Yue Han. Focusing on both collaborative and interdisciplinary works, they mainly engage and create through video art, audiovisual, performances, installation and interactive pieces that discusses the role of technology within art. With the aim of becoming the bridge between technologically driven works, the creators and their audience, the collective seeks to encourage conversation and reflection amongst everyone, particularly in a time where our technological environment is consistently evolving.
Out of all their works, The Lapse Project caught my eye.
Does technology help us to remember, or forget?
In this interactive piece, topics of memory, space and legacy are questioned through lapses in time, space and structure within the Singaporean context. The audience are invited into this space to embody and re-imagine a world crafted through digital interfaces where origins of cultural and artistic identities become editable. Through clever digital manipulation, familiar landmarks such as the Singapore’s oldest building, The Arts House, is erased off, allowing one to immerse in a space of imagination and foreign nolstagia.
By re-constructing an imagined world where British colonialism and its architectural remains were never once present, the audience are forced to confront the following question: “What would exactly define our Singaporean art practices and its artists if none of these cross-cultural influences happened within our arts scene?”
Through absence, do we truly re-think about its purpose and presence.
This project reminded me of a discussion amongst my friends and I that took place during Singapore’s Design Week last year. While browsing through works from various local designers and illustrators, one of my peers commented that most of our design senses were ‘borrowed’ and that the Singaporean design would be empty if not for our ubiquitous ang ku kuehs, dragon playground and Peranakan motifs.
If we remove all of these, what would be left that makes the Singaporean design truly unique?
I think that to preserve our ‘unique’ sense of design, it is essential for us to re-look and reframe our idea of what art is, and to be more receptive towards alternative perspectives. Our identity is made up of a melting pot of influences; the exact thing that makes our design aesthetic unique in the first place. Hence, we should continue working upon that by developing our receptivity and seeking to push beyond boundaries. Apart from that, this project also makes me realise how important preservation and documentation is, in a time where things are advancing rapidly. Without researching upon this project, I would not be reminded of the ‘older Singapore’ which leaves me with a very nostalgic feeling. From this, I am reminded that it is crucial that we as creators seek out ways to explore different methods of preserving memories in time and space, particularly in a time where technology is existent.
Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery by Lee Kang-So:
When I first entered the small space, the first thought that came to mind was “Wow, this looks avant-garde.” With the Korean pub-inspired set up contrasting against the sterile white environment of the gallery space, the inhabitation of Life Circuit within the space only proved to be another level of juxtaposition to this abstract interactive piece. Compared to the Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery, the technology-driven performance done by the artistes Urich Lau and Teow Yue Han was almost a direct contrast; the first work inspired by the past, and the latter inspired by the future. I felt that the futuristic headgears fashioned by the artistes looked really cool, and reminded me greatly of the Tokyo City’s cyberpunk theme. Through utilising modern technology and gadgets such as webcams and projections, the overall performance created an alternate reality that engulfed the audience in a moment of suspended disbelief. By projecting what is seen by the wearer onto a screen, the audience is able to observe themselves and the artist’s own movements recorded through another perspective, in the exact shared space everyone is in.
I personally really like the headgear, and find it interesting how Yue Han reconstructed it using objects like welding goggles, ear muffs and gas mask, converting them eventually into a tech-based wearable gadget. Behind Life Circuit, the idea is to utilise the futuristic tech headgear to transform live feed into electronic output; what the artist sees and hear, into a projection publicly displayed for everyone to immerse in. Through converting what the artist sees and hear into video and sound outputs, an interactive circuit is created together with the viewers in real-time, through the output-input nature as the gadget becomes an extension of the creator’s anatomy.
In both performances, it was interesting to see how there was a difference in the level of interactivity based off the audience’s responsiveness and reactions. The second performance was definitely more engaging as the audiences’ direct participation in the work itself made the overall artwork a lot more personal, and thus, memorable for those who were involved.
In my opinion, using Lee Kang-So’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) as a holding space for the interactive piece was a brilliant idea, as participants could freely decide what they wanted to do. This greatly altered the responses and make the input material a lot more unique such that if one were to visit the interactive performance on both days, they would be experiencing two different results.
Interestingly, the current Lee Kang-So’s Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery (1973) is a re-enactment of his first original exhibition back in 1973. In this piece, Lee seeks to subvert the sterile white environment of a gallery setting into the everyday bustling Asian life through transplanting a traditional Korean pub scene (Chumak) into a public space. With chairs and tables set up, the usually quiet walking space is transformed into a gathering place where participants can openly share a glass of makgeolli (Korean fermented rice wine) and converse freely. Bringing the original work and its time period into context, I found out that this was an powerful juxtaposition of the South Korean societyduring the 1970s where the country was submerged in political and economic unrest stemming from the martial law dictated by South Korea’s first president Syngman Rhee. During that time, there was a restriction on the freedom of speech, and Lee wanted to emphasise upon that by setting up a contradictory communal space that was created specially to encourage conversations. Personally, I feel that the impact of the set up was reduced as it has been taken out of its cultural context. Our local audience may not understand South Korea’s political history well enough to fully immerse in its content, which really took away from the overall experience. By re-adapting the set up to our local context, the bar could have been better re-contextualised and better understood through local perspectives. However, what I do appreciate about these 2 artworks together, is that the combination of both works truly creates another level of meaning as a whole, where the content of this work itself is completed through the audiences’ participation, engagement and experiences.