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How Museums Are Dealing With New Media Art: Part 2

How Museums Are Dealing With New Media Art: Part 2

In 2000 the Washington DC based Smithsonian American Museum of Art announced the creation of the New Media/New Century Award.  The New Media/New Century Award became one of first projects to support  new art created for the Web. The museum accepted proposals for original Web-based projects that explored the subject of American landscape, and how the new medium of Web art affected the American landscape as a subject. 

Though the project is over 10 years old, it demonstrates the early and exceptional sensibility of the Smithsonian’s curators. They understood the growing relevance new media art and especially Web-art, and its impact not only on people’s everyday perceptions, but also on the art scene as a whole.

Promoting Digital Media Art through Digital Media tools

Promoting Digital Media Art through Digital Media tools

In our technology-stuffed world, the difficulties faced by video artists seem paradoxical. Due to high up-front costs, and the difficulty of handling and selling digital technologies, established institutions such as art galleries and museums often shun their work. Artists may look at the entertainment industry as an alternative, but find themselves unfulfilled, as musicians typically come first in these sorts of collaborations.

PIPS:lab Diespace, Interactive Multimedia Experience

PIPS:lab recently made its US debut during a festival featuring Dutch artists here in Pittsburgh.  The Amsterdam group has been performing together for about a dozen years.  The work that they performed was categorized as absurdist media theater and was a short evening length work without intermission.  The use of technology for this performing group is integral.  The performance itself was noteworthy for its innovation on a number of different levels.  It is worth noting, however, the problems that PIPS:lab had in functionally executing the performance due to glitchy technology. The performance, Diespace, was essentially an introduction to a fictional new social network site that audience members were encouraged to visit after they die (or die in order to visit).  The actors polled the audience about their opinions regarding whether or not there is life after (or before, humorously) death.  These polls were conducted with a cool audience participation tool of light capture setup where the audience essentially wrote on a screen upstage.

The other insertion of tech into the performance involved video/audio remixes of various clips taken of audience member during and before the show.  These clips were then edited in real time into the performance.  This, in turn, served to engage the audience but through a pretty controlled format.  The display of the video and audio taken from the audience drew laughter and made the audience excited and was a high point of the performance lending to greater investment from the collective.  Additional audience participate was to be had through a lottery during the show where the faces of the audience were put into a virtual tumbler on the screen upstage.  Three audience members won prizes with the grand prize being a premium account for Diespace (which included significant stage time for the audience member who won it).

The performance unfolded at a relatively brisk pace with musical interludes to cover moments where the technology and content was being prepped.  The problem with this was that the performers ended up being a bit un-invested in the music and as a result it was hard to be carried away by the performance.  It was easy to check out during these scenes through the distractions on stage.  It was the sense of this reviewer that there was only one true musician on stage, a fact that was born out by the program notes about the artists backgrounds.

At least three times during the performance there were loud warnings of a computer crash each time forcing the performers on stage to repeat a few moments to a few minutes of the action.  This in turn lent to a stutter stop feel to the performance.  Execution of Diespace did not look like it was easy and to be certain what PIPS:lab is trying to do is not easy in general.  They deserve applause for attempting to stitch together so many constituent elements in the moment.  It was fascinating at times to see the failures of the technology and there was rarely a moment where the audience did not have something that they could try to be engaged in.  The relative successes and failures of this performance reinforce the point that some technologies have a ways to go before they are both accessible to independent performing artists.

The innovation of groups like PIPS:lab hopefully will be the wave of the future and it is gratifying to see media artists take the stage with musicians and actors.  The combination of talents of stage was a rich soup and Diespace was a valuable experience for the insights that it gave with regards to generation of true multi-disciplinary live work.





Creators Project in San Francisco

Last weekend the Creator's Project garnered significant attention from national media.  From the mission statement on the website "The Creators Project is a global celebration of art and technology." and "The Creators Project is a new kind of arts and culture channel for a new kind of world."   As an intersection between art and tech it seems appropriate that the blog weigh in and take a look at what they did, how they did it, and the implications.  The Creator's Project has major sponsorship from Intel Corp and VICE with significant online free content focusing on mostly short form interview of Creator associated artists.  This Project offers similar promise to other ventures to offering culture and arts online to ideas such as On The Boards TV and Jacob's Pillow Virtual Pillow but is already operating on a much larger scale than either of these.

The Creators Project offers arts and culture online at a scale that is extraordinary for such a young institution.  The levels of participation on information sharing that is happening through their website looks unparalleled and should be looked towards as a model for successful integration of technology and the arts.   The Creators Project was started in May of 2010 by VICE and seems to have two major interfaces with the public.  There is a exhibit/show that has toured around the world each year and an expanding web presence that now counts video downloads in the millions.  The content is broken out into six different categories:  Music, Film, Art, Design, Gaming, and Fashion and has engaged with artists from all of these areas to provide content online and for the annual festival.  They will be rolling out content collected from the event last weekend (March 17-19, 2012) in the coming weeks.

Current content on the website is a mind blowing array of new directions taken by artists in each of the fields.  One of the standout artists at the event last weekend was a new work from visual multidisciplinary artist Chris Milk.  The installation called the Treachery of Sanctuary incorporated user interaction with digital transformation to look at elements of flight.  Visuals of this can be found here.

Anther fascinating example that was found on the Creator's Project website was the Electronic Shadow from France.  Electronic Shadow uses imaging technology and software to generate interactive 3D maps of people places and objects.  These images then can be used and manipulated in artistic fashions.  The implication for this technology would, for instance, be a game changing one for other art forms such as dance.

Exchange of ideas such as Creator's Project bring together the bleeding edge of Technology and the Arts and as such should be a point of engagement for institutions that are looking to modernize and include new audiences (and younger audiences).  The artists involved have obviously successfully engaged these audiences already and by following the lead of these success stories arts leaders at more conventional organizations can find hope in a new direction in reshaping structure and content to address the demands of a more complex world.





Sweet Pantone Tarts

Spring seems to have sprung here in Pittsburgh, and having a week off on spring break makes everything seem lovely. It is under that guise I present this post to you purely for aesthetic reasons. Emilie Guelpa is a French artist/blogger/chef who has created these masterful (et très mignon) tarts inspired by Pantone colors. While I can totally imagine eating them in the café of an art museum, they were created for the magazine Fricote and posted on her blog Griottes. While the blog is currently French only, Guelpa promises an English translation version very soon. In the mean time, you can check out her Pinterest and dream about delightfully colorful tarts.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you have a great weekend planned and nice weather to enjoy it!




The Cloud

Moving your organization's data to a cloud server might be a good idea at this time.  There are several advantages to working off of a cloud server and a few drawbacks. Some advantages to going to cloud computing:

Accessibility is generally improved through cloud storage.  You can access data from anywhere that you have internet access.

Security on cloud storage services is up to the standard of where ever you have your cloud.  Google and Amazon have some of the best experts on digital security in the world for instance and using a cloud operated by them gives you a greater degree of safety for your data.

The Capacity of cloud storage is very flexible and is expandable with comparative ease.  The fact that cloud storage servers will never need to be upgraded or replaced does save you capital expenses as well as man hours.

The downside:

You don't own it and you have to play by someone else's rules.  If you are using a smaller company, please, make sure to check out their backup plans, security measures, and records regarding downtime and maintenance schedules.

It may be hard to use cloud servers with certain types of databases or other programs and as such may present an integration issue (ticketing systems, development programs, etc).  Make sure you have a plan to get the information from point A to point B if necessary.

In event that you don't have access to the internet you are completely cut off unless you back up to a physical source onsite.  It can be distressing for obvious reasons if your internet service goes sideways and you end up with multiple idle employees until it is restored.


Pinterest 101 for Arts Organizations [mini-nar]

Pinterest is the latest and greatest in social media, we've talked about it before, and it just reached 10 million unique hits in a month, the fastest independent website to ever attain this lofty title. Every blogger with access to a data set out there is looking at the demographics of Pinterest, but what can a visually based social media do for your organization? This Mini-Nar is going to take a look at some of the basic functions of Pinterest, as well as how some arts organizations are maintaining and utilizing their Pinterest accounts.

Check out these Pinterests from the video: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Ballet, the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, and Lionsgate Be Fit. Some of the demographic data I referred to came from Tech Crunch.

What do you think? Is Pinterest something you'll consider using - or do you already utilize it? Comment on this post and let us know!

A Look at Typography: Google Web Fonts and More!

This terrific, typographic Thursday, let’s take a flourishing swoop through the world of serifs, ligatures, and stems. If your knowledge of type is limited to Times New Roman, Arial, and the omnipresent Helevetica, its time you enlarged your typographical horizon. For no amount of bolding, italicizing, and underlining can emphasize the importance of using appropriate and engaging typefaces.

Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art won the “Best in Class” award from Interactivity Media for its new website. While the Met had a lot of help from Cogapp, a company specializing in digital media technologies, there are number of cost-effective ways to improve the visual appeal of your own site; typography being one of the oldest and most aesthetically attuned.

A little over a century ago, the glistening era of the Parisian Belle Époque was beautifully, and textually illustrated in the posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. During World War I, Dadaists employed unconventional typography in their manifestos to signal an era of violence that could no longer conform to the bourgeoisie proprieties of the past. Even our love for vintage posters from the earlier half of the twentieth century has a lot to do with the brilliant use of typography!

But somewhere along the line, we became rather stiff in our typographical efforts. Concerns with readability lead to an irrational fear of the serif, and the world forgot that it had come this far, using typefaces besides Arial or Helvetica. While it is true that some of the older typefaces lose their readability when viewed online, there are many, many typefaces that have been created since the advent of the web. These newer font families are easy on the eyes, in both readability and visual flamboyance. Forget Comic Sans, it’s time for Fonts Sans Boredom.

One of the best places to start searching for the perfect typeface is in the neat world of Google Web Fonts. "Google Web Fonts makes web fonts quick and easy to use for everyone, including professional designers and developers. We believe that there should not be any barriers to making great websites. Our goals are to create a directory of core web fonts for the world and to provide an API service so that anyone can bring quality typography to their webpages."

The fonts provided by Google are open source, which means they are free and can be used sans fear! Each font is accompanied by a short paragraph describing its origins and the best uses (titles, sub -headings, paragraph text) for that particular style. You may be interested in an article in Mashable that gives you step by step instructions on How to Implement Google Font API On Your Website.

 Another great resource for the art of the alphabet is the website I Love Typography. The site features lots of informative articles by John Boardley, the publisher of Codex, the journal for typography. If you happen to desire a more typographical world, the website is great way to learn about different typefaces and their appropriate usage. As Boardley writes, “It’s just about impossible to imagine a world without type, but at the same time type’s ubiquity has most of us taking it for granted. So take a closer look.”

If you do take a closer and more critical look, you will soon notice how some sites employ typefaces to their advantage. I Love Typography is, of course, an undoubtedly great example! Others include The New Yorker, which uses beautiful text and plenty of white space to lessen the clutter and increase its visual appeal. Typographica and The New York Moon (showcased above) are other great examples of websites that transform text into graphic design! An entire list of sites showcasing the marvels of typography can be found in an article by the Design Cubicle.

So let terrific typography embolden you! Let's use it to eliminate textual overload and alphabetical lackluster.

Leading with Social Design at Facebook’s Analog Research Lab

“Everything just is,” says Christopher Cox, Vice President of Product at Facebook. Photos is an application for photos, Events is for events, and Groups is for groups of people. Though many criticize Facebook’s interface and design as bland and uncreative, its designers at the Analog Research Lab test their ideas and design decisions in a highly informed way.  According to a design mind article by Reena Jana, the Analog Research Lab is the company’s creative design space used to

...create branded marketing materials—T-shirts, for instance—for developer conferences and other Facebook events. It’s also where designers experiment with simple fonts and sleek iconography that will eventually influence what appears on the Facebook website.

I had never heard of Facebook’s Analog Research Lab. But its purpose, products and success reminded me of topics I have discussed in previous posts. For example, consider Facebook’s design decisions in light of  Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum. Facebook has certainly managed to promote a social experience that is accessible, meaningful and unique to each user, in large part due to the structure format and design elements the creative team at the Analog Research Lab develops.

Or consider artist Tanja Hollander’s most recent project, Are You Really My Friend? The Facebook Portrait Project,  exploring the (d)evolution of human relationships as a result of our simultaneous existence in two worlds- the virtual and the real. At the Lab, designers are on a mission to make virtual interactions between individuals less cyber and more real.

The Analog Research Lab is not staffed with full-time employees. Instead, it serves as a space for Facebook designers to express the company and the brand using tools and techniques that are, get this, non-digital. The lab is stocked with a printing press, wood cutting tools, ink, a dark room for developing photos, drying space, etc. It encourages designers to focus purely on design, design techniques, and simpler, less complicated design strategies. True to its name, the Analog Research Lab is also a design research space. Colors, fonts, styles, shapes, etc. are tested on real people to gauge their future success and popularity online. The designers also use the space to make motivational, quirky screenprinted posters. Lots of them. So. Cool.

The Lab also serves as the home of Facebook’s new Artist-in-Residency program, a project to create, support and install offline artwork in Facebook’s offices. The first artist, Jet Martinez, recently completed a large, colorful mural titled “Bouquet” to beautify the walls of Building 17, where the company’s engineers work their magic.

Facebook’s offline and online design decisions aim to support human-to human interactions. This may come as a surprise, especially in light of the charged sociological and anthropological discussions that social media has forever affected (for the worse) humans’ ability to interact, engage and relate to one another in the physical world. Facebook’s creative leadership, including Cox, Ben Barry and Everett Katigbak, are committed to the design approach of “social design.” Updates to Facebook’s features, product development and design are made in response to users and their online behavior. Jana explains this approach as one that

…improves how people build human-to-human, versus human-to-interface, connections online.

Take for example one of the Lab’s stationary products- postcards printed with the word “Poke” in red letters. The design is in obvious reference to the virtual action of “poking” a friend on Facebook. To support the human-to-human connection, designers in the Lab created printed postcards, with non-digital design tools, for Facebook employees to write hand-written messages to send through good old fashioned, snail mail. The creative work done in the Lab explores the overlap and divide between cyber and physical interactions- translating Facebook's interactiveness in the digital realm to a tangible reality in our inhabitable space.

It is a neat space- the perfect dichotomy of trendy, vintage workshop and hip, old-school office. I am always curious to see how technology companies incorporate offline art and celebrate non-digital artists in their physical space, if they even do so. Are there other technology companies with similar artistic, in-house projects like Facebook's Artists-in-Residency program? Do technology or digital design companies have a responsibility to support non-digital and offline art? Are cyber users more attracted to online interfaces with simpler, non-digital design elements? Take a look at your own Facebook page. Think about the scaffolding, constraints and structured components that ironically, like Simon suggests, make self-expression so much easier and fluid.