From Paper to Pixels: The Art of Perceptual Computing

What happens when you take the technology behind perceptual computing and pair it with cutting-edge, exploratory art works? That’s the question Infrared5 CEO and Creative Director Rebecca Allen decided to explore with a new art exhibit coming out September 20, 2013 titled “From Paper to Pixels”; “an initiative to create collaboration between traditional artists and new media artists.”

About the Exhibit

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Allen about this innovative exhibit recently. It started as a “passion project”:

“Basically, the whole concept began with me wanting to see Aaron North's artwork move: http://www.aaronorth.com/. I own four of his pieces and whenever I passed them in my house, I would imagine the creatures moving around their fantastical world. Since Infrared5 has the skills to bring them to life, we decided to do that. It was during my first conversation with Aaron North when I discovered how excited he became by this concept that other traditional artists might want to have the same opportunity. So I decided to have it become a whole show. There are 10 pieces in the show; and traditional and new media participants from all over are participating. It has been amazing to see what people are creating for it.”

The show debuts for the first time ever this fall, and is anticipated to be an annual event. Ms. Allen is already planning next year’s show and is excited about the interest and collaboration she’s seen from both the technology and art communities. She notes that she’s already made many new connections that she wouldn’t have otherwise because of this exhibit, and there are a wide variety of new creations coming in:

“We’ve got an artist from the MIT Media Lab who is creating a conductive paint and sound experiment; you touch the painting and it creates music. We’ve also got huge, felted wool sculptures that will be hooked to machines that will be making them move according to what people are doing in front of them, basically mimicking their movements. Another woman is doing dollhouse art out of magazines, and a new media artist has created a camera to explore that tiny dollhouse. We’re definitely offering a wide variety of work.”

The show is intended to be a traveling exhibit, with multiple opportunities for artists to collaborate. They’re already scheduled for the Future M conference in Boston, with the first showing at the JP Open Studies in Jamaica Plain, Boston Sept. 21-22. This exhibit will be open to the public, with an invite-only opening on Sept. 19 for a sneak peek. Ms. Allen’s ultimate vision for the exhibit is that it will travel several months a year, developing more pieces over time, with the goal to travel the world and expose people to the collaboration possibilities between art and technology.

About the Artists

“From Paper to Pixels” is slated to include a wide variety of artists, including:

TRADITIONAL ARTISTS
Aaron North (www.aaronorth.com)
Anna Kristina Goransson (www.annakristinadesigns.com)
Ace Norton (www.acenorton.com)
Rosie Ranauro (www.rosieranauro.com)
Bradley Munkowitz (www.gmunk.com)
Sally B Moore (www.sallybmoore.com)
Sage Schmitt (www.sageschmett.com)
Elodie Sabardeil (www.elodie-sabardeil.com)
John Guthrie (www.johnkguthrie.com)*

NEW MEDIA ARTISTS
Rob Gonsalves (www.robgon.com)
Eric Rosenbaum (web.media.mit.edu/~ericr/)*
Keith Peters (artfromcode.com)
Joe Farbrook (www.farbrook.net/)
Kawandeep Virdee (www.whichlight.com/)
Andy Shaules 
Infrared5 (www.infrared5.com)
Steff Kelsey (www.lavjaveler.com)

Two artists, Kristina Goransson and Rob Gonsalves, graciously took the time to answer a few questions about their work in the show:

1. What does your background look like in regards to both art and technology?

Kristina Goransson: For me, art has always been a necessity. It is a way to express myself while at the same time filling a need to create form and color on a more obsessive level.

I started out getting a degree in Furniture from RISD and later going to UMass Dartmouth for an MFA in Fibers. I have always enjoyed the manual labor part of creating art and so I have very little background in technology. In fact, I would say that until recently I have been downright opposed to working with new media technology. 

Rob Gonsalves: My background is primarily in computers. I studied computer science in college, UMass Lowell, but I took a lot of art classes - drawing, photography, and computer art. I work at a software company, Avid Technology that makes video and film editing systems.

2. What got you interested in this sort of exhibit?

RG: I have been working on video installations since 1992, when I started collaborating with my friend William Tremblay who went to MassArt. In 1999, we created a large-scale installation called Y2K Pops for First Night Boston. We built an orchestra of 101 obsolete computers that ran continuously at the Hynes Convention Center throughout the critical period of New Year's Eve, to explore whether the computers would fail at the dawn of the new millennium.

I continue to work on interactive art, showing with a group of artists and engineers called the COLLISIONcollective. I like to explore alternative forms of human/computer interaction, usually with a humorous or ironic twist.

KG: The last few years I have been itching to make my work animated in some way and using sound as well. What has been stopping me is the lack of knowledge I have of anything having to do with computers and other media. This exhibit was the perfect way for me to dip my feet into this with the help of Rob's extensive knowledge of new media. 

3. What was the planning process – how did you come up with this sort of interaction?

RG: I saw the call for work for "From Paper to Pixels" on the Collision mailing list with the intriguing premise of pairing new media artists with traditional artists. My first thought was to pair up with Kristina, as I am good friends with her and know her work.

Kristina kicked off the collaboration by sending photos of her recent felt sculptures. I was drawn to her Lightdrops, and we discussed the possible options of incorporating elements of new media: video projection, interactivity, sound, kinetics. They all sounded good, so we decided to do all four!

KG: The process went smoothly with a few brainstorms and exchange of images and ideas until we nailed down the project. 

4. Where do you see art like this going in the next few years – give us your crystal ball prediction.

RG: Wow, there are a lot of strong forces currently in play with art and technology, so making a prediction would be tough. I think that advanced technology has become cheaper, faster, and more widely available. And information on how to use the new technology effectively is readily available. Just run a Google search on "arduino servo control" and you'll get 1.1 million hits, with instructional videos on YouTube! The result of all this is the ability to create just about anything that you can dream up.

KG: All I can say is that if someone like me, who was pretty anti-technology, is now embracing new media and wanting to work with it, it must mean that the times are changing and it will become the norm and perhaps considered "traditional" someday. 

5. Anything else you’d like to say about the exhibit, perceptual computing, the art works, etc.

RG: I am really excited about the recent development of gesture recognition devices, like the Senz3D from Creative Technology, the Leap Motion Controller, and the Microsoft Kinect; the latter is used in Lightdrop Encounters.  These new interfaces are opening doors to new forms of interacting with computer-based artwork.

KG: I am really looking forward to this.

Art meets technology

If you are in the Boston area around September 20, this is definitely an event you’ll want to attend. What do you think of art and technology merging to create new works? Where do you see this kind of collaboration heading in the next few years? Share your comments with us.

 

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