Resonate 2014

I’m just travelling home from Belgrade in Serbia, where I’ve spent the last few days at Resonate. Resonate is a conference, or more like a festival, primarily attended by people doing visualization work. It’s full of great talks from a community that is very tightly networked, brought together by the equally highly networked Filip Visnjik, who also founded the website Creative Applications. Many of the talks at the event act almost like portfolio presentations that give an overview of some compelling computer graphics or interactive installations created through the development of complex systems of code and electronics. Many of the biographies of speakers at the event start with a similar sentence: “[Person A] is a programmer and artist working at the intersection of [X] and [Y]”. This emphasis on “art” as a discipline is an interesting one, since it releases many of the attendees from the obligation that we often have in our lab of having to justify their work on pragmatic grounds. Presenters can instead focus on aesthetics and abstraction. Many of the presentations cover visualization and interaction work done with other artistic disciplines such as dance or music.

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http://www.kimchiandchips.com/ bravely set up one of their “Digital Emulsion” installations in the public lobby. Projection mapping onto string.

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Wesley Grubbs shows work for the McKnight Foundation. A data visualization made from the resume of an artist from the foundation was then hand annotated by that artist.

Below are highlights from the event, plus a little bit about my own 30 minute presentation.

Many of the best talks for me were ones that did a good job of demonstrating some insight from the work, either in terms of process or things that were learnt. Moritz Stefaner, for example, presented a really compelling analysis and set of tools looking at the selfie phenomenon, and did a great job of talking about mistakes, showing dead ends as well as clearly describing some of the outcomes suggested by the data. This work is all wrapped up in a site and set of tools entitled SelfieCity.

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Moritz Stefaner argues that averaging selfies just leads to blandness, and doesn’t tell you anything particularly interesting about, in this case, images drawn from different cities.

I enjoyed the presentation by Paul Prudence. He emerged from a period of experimentation with Adobe Flash from a decade or so ago, during which he published Flash Math Creativity, which is still something of a bible for learning how to dynamically control graphics. Since then, like his peer Joshua Davis, he’s reinvented himself as an artist working in the area of “visual music”. Towards the end of his presentation he started to talk a little about his process, showing sketchbooks and more.

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Paul Prudence presenting in the beautiful Gallery of the Frescoes.

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Paul Prudence’s sketchbook

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Paul Prudence’s overview of visual music.

Yuri Suzuki is one of many strong graduates of the Royal College of Art’s Design Products course, which he now teaches on. Like Paul, he works in the area of music, but what he produces is more playful, even tongue in cheek. His passion is the loss of the physical nature of music, and he particularly laments the passing of the LP record. His major project at the RCA was the Sound Chaser, which featured sections of LPs cut up to create “railway tracks” along which small motorized trains, fitted with record player needles, could travel. Mixing different tracks together gives you odd and unexpected burst of music. His work is full of these spontaneous inventions.

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Yuri Suzuki

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The Gallery of the Frescoes

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A panel session in the Kinoteka on strategies for creating and using generative coding featuring Greg J. Smith, Benedikt Groß, Luna Maurer and Jonathan Puckey from Moniker, and Karsten Schmidt.

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Jussi Ängeslevä from ART+COM generously shows the compelling work that he’s done with students across a broad set of themes including Computational Photography and Ready/Made.

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Daito Manabe, Kyle McDonald and Klaus Obermier present their joint project – Transcranial – which they put together over the fortnight before Resonate kicked off. Shown here is a piece created by Daito that uses electrical stimulation to involuntarily drive the muscles of an actor’s face.

I was lucky enough to be pushed into doing a 30 minute presentation by Filip, which is a real honour. I think he had seen me talk at the PSFK update event last year and clearly thought I’d fit in somehow. To be honest, I was pretty hesitant, though. Resonate has a particular community which I’m not sure I’m a part of, and the kind of work we do in the lab is driven by quite different motives than much of what was on show at the event. So I was pretty nervous at the outset, which was not helped by seeing Moritz Stefaner, who I admire very much, sitting in the front row. In the event, though, it went well, I think. The room was full, people seemed curious, and I managed to communicate the diversity of what we do, reasonably well.

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My talk in the Kinoteka 200 room [© Resonate 2014]

I have been thinking of our work in the lab as falling three categories: Pragmatic (constrained and contextual); Material (unconstrained and exploratory) Reflective (looking at the past and future). I showed some recent work we’re doing in each of these buckets: Bob Corish and teams work using Microsoft Kinect to assess the development of Multiple Sclerosis in patients as an example of the pragmatic; David Sweeney’s work making physical visualizations for the Tenison Road project as an example of Material; and some of my older work with Technology Heirlooms as more Reflective.

Here’s a PDF of my presentation. What I showed at Resonate contained videos and some transitions which this one doesn’t feature, so I’m not sure how much it makes sense, but there you go.

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Resonate has a really strong, engaged and excited community and I came away buzzing from what I’d seen in a way I rarely do from other events, even South by Southwest. Hopefully I can beat the rush and attend again next year.

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Wrist band

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David Sweeney and Tim Regan

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