The Year That Was

The clock’s ticking is becoming ever more pronounced, 2011 shall soon be placed in the archives of our collective history. So as we bid farewell to this year, let’s not forget the events that made the technology-art axis rotate for a full 365 days!

The year began with the unfolding of the Google Art Project, which revolutionized not only the way we view and how much we could view of an artwork, but also how art in museums became accessible at a global level.

And as art became accessible to a host of people, people became accessible to arts organizations through crowdsourcing. This year, we saw an incredible rise in the use of crowdsourcing, in many different areas and for many different purposes. Operas were crowdsourced, exhibitions were crowdsourced, and even art-works were crowdsourced. But it was the concept of crowdfunding that received a standing ovation from a crowd of people, organizations, and artists.

And in the pockets of these crowds of people were smart-phones and tablets, all glowing with the slide-to-unlock signs. With the rise of the iPhone/Droid/Blackberry and the iPad, many museums developed apps for specific artists or exhibitions in order to augment and guide the viewing experience. In fact, apps revolutionized the way audiences interact with art and museums were quick to capitalize on this opportunity.

Moreover, some galleries and museums relocated to the online world, and entire exhibitions moved from the realm of the physical to that of the virtual. Paddle8 and Art Micro-Patronage were both introduced this year, and only time will tell whether online exhibition spaces can be just as successful as offline ones. Moreover, there was an increasing emphasis on tailoring the arts towards one’s aesthetic and visual interests through and Artfinder, the Pandoras of the art world. Additionally, s[edition] rebelled against the procurement of tangible art forms through its effort to sell digital limited edition prints of big name artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

As always, social media analytics remained at the forefront, and arts organizations realized the importance of sharing and conversing with their audiences through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Many studies were done on Millenials and their motivations, which helped organizations engage and connect with this tech-savvy generation.

And as conversations became heated in social platforms, the world of art and technology did not let us forget that Earth itself is experiencing global warming. There were some excellent fusions of art and technology aimed at the problem of climate change and the move towards green energy by organizations such as GlacierWorks and SolarFlora.

But what will the year 2012 bring in the technology-arts realm? Innovation, progress, the unexpected, awe , wonder, but surely not an apocalypse, right?

Happy New Year!


GlacierWorks: A Detailed Look at Climate Change

The glaciers are melting’ is a phrase that we have heard and read, in all its literary permutations and combinations, ad infinitum. And the term “ad infinitum” should raise concern among us because when certain phrases are repeated so often, when they are so widespread, the world becomes inured to them. Ironically, despite of the size and scale of most glaciers, many of us have probably never encountered these sublime bodies of ice. So when we hear about the plight of our glaciers, we shrug and give a slight brrr of concern, for we are not acclimated to contemplate the cold beyonds of planet earth.

But what if we could visualize our glaciers at different points in time? What if we could see how much they have changed over the past century? Would we finally comprehend the glacial magnitude and urgency of climate change? GlacierWorks certainly thinks so.

“GlacierWorks is a non-profit organization that uses art, science, and adventure to raise public awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Greater Himalaya. By comparing our modern high-resolution imagery with archival photographs taken over the past century, we seek to highlight glacial loss and the potential for a greatly diminished water supply throughout Asia.”

The GlacierWorks team, which is led by “filmmaker, mountaineer, and adventurer”, David Breashears, re-traces the photographic and mountainous footprints of early 19th and 20th century photographers, each of whom dared to explore the Himalayan terrain during the course of their lives.

Among these early pioneers is the famous 19th century Italian mountaineer and photographer, Vittorio Sella, who is best known for his breathtaking images of the mountainous landscapes in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Whilst in India, Sella took a series of “awe-inspiring images of the Jannu and Kangchenjunga Glaciers, as well as the Karakoram’s Lower Baltoro Glacier.”

Another eminent photographer, whose images are traced by GlacierWorks, is Sir Edward Oliver Wheeler who was the Surveyor-General of British India from 1941 to 1947, and was knighted as a result of his notable work  in topography for the Indian subcontinent. Other noteworthy photographers of Mount Everest and its surrounding terrain include German filmmaker, Norman Günter Dyhrenfurth, and  George Herbert Leigh Mallory, who was a member of the 1921 British Reconnaissance Expedition, which “explored routes on Mount Everest and produced the first accurate maps of the region.”

In order to provide us with a compelling difference between the masses of our glaciers today as opposed to just a century ago, the GlacierWorks team determines the photographic point or location from where each of the images by Vittorio Sella or Sir Edward Oliver Wheeler were taken. As such, we are able to make a glance-by-glance comparison of the Himalayan glaciers through two images taken from the exact location, but with a century’s worth of time in between them. This visual comparison is sublime, even melancholic, but the overarching message is grim, for these images provide us with the cold, icy truth about our glaciers; not only are they melting, but they are doing so at a devastatingly alarming rate.  

On their website, we are encouraged to do some virtual mountaineering of our own so that  we may become familiar with the majestic but eternally distant Himalayan glaciers. In collaboration with xRex studio, “a visual effects practice which explores the intersection of high-end computer graphics and advances in digital photography”, GlacierWorks has created incredible 180 and 360 degree immersive explorations that re-create the awesome entirety of the Himalayan landscape, all in gigapixel imagery.

And with the use of gigapixel imagery, GlacierWorks has accomplished an uncanny yet astonishing feat: they have placed before our very eyes, the detailed truth on glacial loss; and they have made us confront, the absolute reality about the future our glaciers. GlacierWorks’ photographs incite a sense of loss and the necessity to change our profligate ways, before all that remains is a set of high resolution imagery, before the comparison between the glaciers of the past and those of the present is beyond discernment.

The 2011 UN Climate Change Conference will take place in Durban later this month. Here’s hoping they agree on at least a few environmental measures because inconclusive climate summits is something we have heard and read about ad infinitum.