Tag Archives: art

notes on the influence of gifs

in response to a call for context around this cool looking pixel stick project, and the influence of animated GIFs:

gifs and persistence experiments with LEDs are both super interesting.


I would riff on
– the longstanding resurgence of pixel art (eboy are my favourites in this category);
– the availability of simple microcontrollers to drive LEDs in projects like the pixel sticks (cf limor’s bike wheel persistence of vision animations for a good solid example);
– the pixel sticks look lovely, and seem to borrow / evolve from camera toss and that great wifi signal visualisation piece;
– it also makes me think of some of the aesthetic in GRL‘s stuff in particular night writer and laser tag.

but you could take the discussion in another direction and talk about the influence of the looping style of gifs (and more recently also vine) in animation (I have a folder of great gif examples I collected for a talk a couple of years ago if you need any). historically, I would include yourthemannowdog (ytmnd) in that evolution, and you can see the cross over to more mainstream works in examples like the recent music video from dizzee rascal or indeed this earlier wiley track.

I think the ‘near-stationary animation format’ that gifs have also encouraged is a different medium again (my favourite in this genre is ‘if we don’t, remember me‘ ), and I would expect this style to keep evolving for a while still as long-form screen artworks and ‘very slow animation’ in ambient visualisations and ‘animated wallpaper’ continue to become more possible with cheaper and more persistent screen technologies (LED screens and eink).

fuck you email, I love you

I wrote something about my relationship to work and the eight hour day for artist Sam Meech, who is currently logging and transcribing to knitting people’s working patterns. The project Punchcard Economy, is part of the upcoming Time & Motion exhibition at FACT in Liverpool.


I’m mostly an academic. It tends to be a role where you don’t have set hours other than the teaching and meetings you have to be at. If you want to do your research or tell people about it, you have to find the time to do that yourself. If you want to apply for funding or make a connection with someone to do something new, you have to find time to write about your intentions too. If you need to plan teaching – what it would be useful or important or exciting to know about a topic – or assess how well people have understood or applied ideas you were exploring with them, you need to work out when to do that too. Most academics I know do parts of this in their own time. They may enjoy the days of marking exam scripts on the sofa more than at the desk, or they may find they can ‘only write away from the distractions of work’.

I’m currently on research leave, which means I don’t have any regular teaching. This takes away the weekly schedule of needing to be in a lecture theatre or seminar room for a particular time. I do occasional guest lectures and workshops at the moment, but those don’t carry the bulk tasks of administering, planning and marking whole cohorts of people studying a large subject. I’m also trying to get back in to doing more art and design work. People sometimes call the making of things as a way of thinking about them ‘practice’ – arts practice, design practice, research-by-practice. This seems a good term to me – because making things is also a good way at getting better at the tools you use, and learning about the subjects you are tackling.

I’m used to this way of ‘flexible’ working. Of taking work home to do. Or doing ‘real thinking’ at the kitchen table or on the sofa at a weekend. I think school homework made me approach work this way. I used to think this was entirely a good thing. I had flexibility to do tasks when I wanted to, to mix my personal and research interests. However, there is something uniquely stressful about homework. It requires you to fold a sense of continuous low-level guilt about tasks still un-done in to your ‘free time’. Homework requires you to consider the evenings, weekends, holidays as potential time slots for work, and to worry about how you, personally, will allocate those tasks. If the work doesn’t get done, the implication is that you, personally, failed to plan correctly. Perhaps your timetable wasn’t good enough, or your todo list too vague, or you put things off for too long.

In the workplace, email is much the same as homework in this respect. It allows us and our managers to hide the complexity of allocating and planning tasks in the personal space of each worker. Email has near infinite capacity to hold un-done tasks. And if they remain un-done, then it is assumed to be a failure of you, personally, to have correctly planned how to deal with those emails. I am interested in the implications of digital connectedness. Email allows me to be more efficient in my work. I can quickly find information, get help, make notes, and so on in a way paper and post encumbered, but our tools for well-being have not kept pace with our tools for task-setting, yet. I think digital technology has had the same effect we see in email, in other aspects of work and life that we haven’t noticed fully yet. We will keep making discoveries about things we do differently, often more quickly, in smaller parts, and the unintended repercussions for other parts of what we do.


‘flexible’ working and the guilt of undone tasks

Chapeltown Standard artist discussant, Leeds June 2011

Participated as an artist discussant at a series of meals and conversations organised by artist Benedict Philips.

Part of the Under The Paving Stones, The Beach festival in Chapeltown, Leeds (21-25 June 2011).

Under the Paving Stones, the Beach is a translation of the Situationist International slogan ‘sous les pavés, la plage’ used during the protests of May ’68 in Paris. The slogan refers to both the practice of lifting paving stones by rioters to use against police in demonstration but also the possibility of imagining the city beyond what is obvious in our current social and urban organisation. Both ideas are relevant in Chapeltown, a place known both for its incredible – but often overlooked – multicultural and archeological importance as well as its – very well documented – social problems and violent past.

Under The Paving Stones, The Beach is a festival of art in the public realm throughout Chapeltown. Featuring artists from across the UK – including artists resident in Chapeltown – the aim is to create social interaction and offer different opportunities to the public to engage with projects about what kind of art represents Chapeltown. Working outside white cube spaces and in partnership with local landlords and businesses the project offers exhibitions, public discussion, games and parties, internet-based and billboard projects on the street, in  other cultural venues, cafes as well as disused buildings reanimated for the occasion.

Here are my notes from our discussions.

Digital Artisans – some notes

Some quotes and context around technology and art teaching, and the history in Leeds.

An understanding of contemporary media and the means of production, informed by a sense of digital technology, aesthetics and ethics.

Process & materials. Mechanisms of communication.

“In a field that moves so quickly – where today’s innovations may be obsolete tomorrow – students need more than just technical skills. They need an understanding of the underlying structures that fuel the dynamism between technology and creativity.”

Sara Diamond, Artistic Director Media and Visual Arts, Director of Research, The Banff New Media Institute

“… if technology and the ability to be connected disappear further into the background, what will occupy our foreground? A bit of the humanity we’ve always valued in the “real world.” Legislators who are currently fixated on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education as the key to innovation will realize that STEM needs some STEAM–some art in the equation. We’ll witness a return to the integrity of craft, the humanity of authorship, and the rebalancing of our virtual and physical spaces. We’ll see a 21st-century renaissance in arts- and design-centered approaches to making things, where you–the individual–will take center stage in culture and commerce.”

Your Life in 2020, John Maeda (2010)


“Innovation is born when art meets science.”

John Maeda, President, RISD

Leeds Mechanics' Institute
Leeds City Mechanics’ Institute

  • 1824 – Leeds Mechanics Institute founded.
  • 1845 – Leeds College of Commerce founded.
  • 1846 – Leeds College of Art founded.
  • 1868 – Leeds Mechanics Institute became the Leeds Institute of Science, Art and Literature, later renamed Leeds College of Technology
  • 1874 – Yorkshire College of Education and Home Economics founded.
  • 1907 – City of Leeds College of Education founded (part of City of Leeds Training College)
  • 1933 – Carnegie Physical Training College founded
  • 1970 – Leeds Polytechnic was formed from the amalgamation of Leeds College of Technology, Leeds College of Commerce, part of Leeds College of Art and Yorkshire College of Education and Home Economics

George Birkbeck (1776-1841), held a degree in medicine. When he started his lectures in 1799 he found it necessary to have a good deal of apparatus, and while this was being made under his instructions he became acquainted with a number of Glasgow artisans. He found them so intelligent and so eager to learn that he resolved to start a course of lectures and experiments in mechanics ‘solely for persons engaged in the practical exercise of the mechanical arts, men whose situation in early life has precluded the possibility of acquiring even the smallest portion of scientific knowledge.’ The lectures proved a great success. After Birkbeck removed to London in 1804, the lectures were continued by the next occupant of the chair; and finally, in 1823, the members of the class organised it into a ‘Mechanics’ Institute’. Its purpose was defined as ‘instructing artisans in the scientific principles of arts and manufactures’.


Artisan: “A skilled manual worker who uses tools and machinery in a particular craft. A person who displays great dexterity.”

  • open, free, course of lectures on the ‘mechanical arts’
  • mix of classes, library, reading-room, and apparatus for experiments
  • lectures on mathematics and its applications, and on natural and experimental science and drawing
  • “threw into relief the connection between material advancement and the necessity of education to take part in its advantages”
  • funded by benevolent groups and individuals, businesses and small rental fee
  • provided free light on two evenings a week from the local Gas Light Company


[in] 1955 [Harry Thubron] became Head of Fine Art at Leeds College of Art. During his ten year tenure in Leeds he helped to revolutionise art education in England by establishing the Basic Design Course, a programme inspired by the German Bauhaus college and the theoretical writings of Herbert Read. In this programme, art and design students were not taught specific skills for any of the disciplines of art and design, but visual literacy in the use of colour, establishment of form and construction of space. Out of this, and similar experiments undertaken by Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton at Kings College Newcastle, a new introductory course for art, design and architecture students emerged, called the Foundation Course, which went on to became the standard degree course-entry qualification for art, design and architecture students … He also helped to create a prototype for Britain’s Polytechnics by sending his students to work on collaborative projects with engineering students from Leeds College of Technology, out of which Leeds Polytechnic was formed.


Students recreated the Locked Room
Out-take from Christopher Burstall’s BBC documentary A Question of Feeling 1970. Day one with students on the reconstructed The Locked Room project. © Garth Evans

Digital Media Labs Residency technical advisor, Hull Oct 2010

[update: pasted in notes from talk below]

Technical advisor for the Digital Media Labs Hull touch screen art commissioning residency.

Digital Media Labs offers ten chosen artists a week-long residency as part of a commissioning process for a touch screen art work for the new multi-million pound NHS Hull Wilberforce Health Centre. This commission and Lab will be a key part of their innovative and ambitious arts programme for the new city centre multi-use building. – about

Ran a series of workshops and talks throughout the week demonstrating the potential and limitations of touch screens. Worked with other resident artists to help them produce functional demos of touch-screen pieces. Predominantly used Processing.

A winding journey through technology talk notes.

Most useful Processing code snippets for touch screens are:


size(screen.width, screen.height);

and remembering that you can run in presentation mode full screen on the second monitor if you change run.display in the preferences file linked from the processing preferences page. void mouseMoved() { } was also handy, as touching the screen often triggers a move rather than a click.

A winding journey through technology talk notes:

Trying to find nice examples of touch screen art feels hard to me. A few projects come to mind that don’t use the technology we are focusing on necessarily, but do introduce nice modes of interaction and aesthetics.

  • Khronos Projector – timelapse seems to lend itself to well to touch. Alvaro Cassinelli & Masatoshi Ishikawa’s morphable ventures through time and the timelapse ideas that proceeded it are outlined nicely in Golan’s Slit-Scan review.
  • Manual Input Workstation – Golan Levin & Zachary Lieberman’s high-tech, low-tech combination of Over Head Projector and computer vision feels like very fluid interaction interaction and stylish visual output.
  • PinPongPlus – this MIT Media Lab project came up in conversation as an example of touch as secondary to an interaction, and also for the use of microphones to detect points of contact – a way of making a window in to a touch interface for example.
  • Urine Control – a touch interface in the loosest sense, and the urinal game the She-Pee was made for. While the stream is constant, players can adjust direction to find their desired target.

We then moved on to a number of technical elements, each one triggering an association in some way with the next.

  • Shadow Cameras – we were talking about whether you could look round corners in a photo ‘like in the movies’. It is, under some conditions, possible to re-calculate the view of a scene from another light source. Not quite round corners, but close.
  • Optical Emission Security – the images on computer screens can be reconstructed under some conditions – which really could be viewing round a corner. This example relies on CRT monitors like the old van Eck eavesdropping, but other methods of diffusely reflected screen light have also been investigated (couldn’t remember the link).
  • Sneakey – this telephoto-key-duplication project led on from the discussion of how the things we assume are secure, may not be as technology advances.
  • Kryptonite Pen Key – as did this classic example of lateral thinking and a low-tech equivalent of bump-keying with the end of a bic ballpoint pen.
  • Yellow Dots – the idea of snooping led us to the Yellow Dots that computers can easily recognise, but humans tend to miss. You can find them on your bank notes in little constellations, and most commercial printers sneak yellow dot fingerprints on to each page you print.
  • Fingerprints – we often consider the uniqueness of our fingerprints as a useful shortcut for proving who we are. As do governments when planning their advanced ID documents. Many countries now include RFID chips containing biometric data derived from facial features and fingerprints. However, it has been proposed that it may be possible to reverse engineer a fingerprint from the biometric data. Or your fingerprints may be obtained some other way. The prints can then be etched using standard circuit board kits, and made in to fake fingers using melted gummy bears for access to secure offices, etc.
  • RFID Guardian – radio frequency ID chips are designed to be read from only a few centimetres away, but they can be interrogated from much farther away with the appropriate scanner. The RFID Guardian is designed to actively intercept all requests for information from the RFID chips in your pockets, and only allow through the ones you allow.
  • Airpwn – the RFID Guardian is a user approved man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting the communication between chip and reader. Normally, however, man-in-the-middle attacks tend to be more malicious. Airpwn was an experiment at defcon 12 where a laptop listened to the open traffic over the wifi network and transmitted answers louder in return. They tricked the laptops around them in to loading their versions of web pages, but with details swapped maliciously. In particular, goatse was used to replace every image. More recently, the FireSheep plugin has demonstrated how open to interception internet traffic can be.
  • Mary 101 – if FireSheep lets someone co-opt your online identity, what about a more fundamental appropriation? I like this work from Tony Ezzat, Gadi Geiger and Tomaso Poggio that calculates suitable mouth shapes from existing video to fit faces to new spoken word. It allows experimenters to make videos of people say things they never said, and can even make you sing Korean Pop.
  • Human Cycles – in a final, slightly unrelated point, we chatted about Louis von Ahn’s great adventures in motivating humans to contribute help to things computers can’t do well, and inparticular the classic ESP Game, where people guess words to describe images – playing a game for fun, but also labelling the images as a by-product.

China trip notes for a friend

Some thoughts on Beijing:

View Beijing visit notes in a larger map

And on Shanghai:

View Shanghai visit notes in a larger map

You’ve seen this already, but here’s my photos:

I’d suggest considering a trip to Hangzhou from Shanghai (1 hour ish by busy, efficient, cheapish train) for the day, or stay over. It has a pretty lake. And apparently the trips to the tea growing areas are a nice day out.

Art in Unusual Spaces residency & show, Leeds Aug 2010

One month Art in Unusual Spaces artist residency and End Of Season group show.

Art in Unusual Spaces Presents…

Preview Event: 5-7pm Thursday 2nd September 2010
Ground Floor of Leeds Shopping Plaza | All are welcome to attend.
Refreshments will be served courtesy of Land Securities
Artwork will be viewable through the windows of the units:
Fri 3rd Sept & Sat 4th Sept 10 – 6pm , Sun 5th Sept 11 – 5pm.

Throughout August a number of artists have been creating illustration, video and installation in five empty shop units in Leeds shopping Plaza. Audiences are invited to come and view the work during the first weekend of September.

Art in Unusual Spaces has been hosting events across Leeds City Centre since December 2009. This is the last exhibition utilising these empty shop units before they are redeveloped and we move on to new pastures!

Notes from binaural recordings in Marfa, TX

I love how these read like some sort of miniature poetry. Maybe one day I’ll upload some of the recordings.

disk 4
2005-07-04 12_44.wav - supermarket 6.8 Mb
2005-07-04 12_44(1).wav - supermarket talking in background 11.7 Mb
2005-07-04 13_16.wav - squacking bird, too windy 3.1 MB 19s
2005-07-04 13_16(1).wav - quiet a few birds 22.1 Mb ** (speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 13_20.wav - cleaning up sounds 14.4 Mb ** (speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 14_23.wav - bbq little wind at start 22.2 Mb *** good for radio (speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 14_25.wav - clearing sticks train in the middle 66.6 Mb * really high pitched sounds
2005-07-04 17_21.wav - town and country 19.2 Mb
2005-07-04 17_58(1).wav - windmill and laughing *** good for radio
2005-07-04 18_01.wav - cars and windmills (a touch of wind) 23.1 Mb ** bit windy, maybe ok
2005-07-04 18_37.wav - rustling birds wind at end 8.3 Mb windy
2005-07-04 18_39.wav - flies, cars, rumble 13.2 Mb *** good for radio (speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 19_38(1).wav - talk, fireworks, some wind in middle 20.4 Mb *** (speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 20_11.wav - klang klang wind at start and end 17.5 Mb windy
2005-07-04 20_13.wav - drips and wind mill 11.2 Mb ** make into loop cut before beeps at end
2005-07-04 20_57.wav - mdstartup noise, long approach car, some birds 18.8 Mb windy
2005-07-04 21_10(1).wav - v quiet. metal tinking. birds. cow at end pinto canyon road 18.4 Mb ** 
(speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 21_14.wav - cows, birds insect, stone throwing 31.3 Mb *** (speaking at very end)
2005-07-04 21_38.wav - bad sound in car, car door, after dusk at pinto canyon, cars passing 52 MB 
5m10s *** edit down start
2005-07-04 22_23.wav - town and country after dark, train passing 27.7MB 2m45s 
2005-07-05 06_51.wav - windy then quiet then windy luna at the arroyo, dogs and roosters, distant 
highway 53.9MB 5m21s 
2005-07-05 06_59.wav - amber at luna on the last morning, birdies chirping, roosters 25.3MB 2m31s 
2005-07-05 07_26.wav - Ben at luna on the last morning, birdies, dogs, roosters, crickets 32.2MB 
3m12s  *** (speaking at very end) radio too
2005-07-05 7_37.wav - Burros and pissing and and crickets and a truck at luna 58.7MB 5m49s  *** 
(speaking at very end) radio too
2005-07-05 9_11.wav - footsteps and birds, beautiful, quiet metal banging 14.7MB 1m28s ** wind 
2005-07-05 9_13.wav - good cars passing rockshop, quiet, 14.2MB 1m25s ** edit off start
2005-07-05 9_14.wav - GOOD TRUCK (topped out) 11.8MB 1m11s
2005-07-05 9_16.wav - seven minutes of perfection, am at rockshop 73.6MB 7m18s **** fade in and out
2005-07-05 9_23.wav - one minute of perfection, am at rockshop ** a little wind
2005-07-05 9_32.wav - truck at rockshop 9.2MB 55s
2005-07-05 9_57.wav - Good! train tracks by the drug blimp 54.8MB 5m25s
2005-07-05 11_54.wav - annoying mexican radio broadcast 45.7MB 4m32s 

disk 3
2005-09-13 19_01.wav - TALKING the fear is that the train was going away 13.7MB 1m22s
2005-09-13 19_02.wav - TALKING I don't hear anything. 1m22s
2005-09-13 19_02(1).wav - TALKING and cars 7m17s
2005-09-13 19_02(2).wav - drunk and under the shirt, beer bottles 5m07s
2005-09-13 19_03.wav - nowheresville 18s
2005-09-13 19_03(1).wav - redford dog story 1m48s
2005-09-13 19_03(2).wav - junk 02s
2005-09-13 19_03(3).wav - blather 1m45s
2005-09-13 19_04.wav - this is the train, shh 5m56s
2005-09-13 19_04(1).wav - crickets, cars, listening from trestle, some wind, scratchy 5m45s

disk 2
2005-07-03 13_31.wav - judd 2m09s
2005-07-03 13_52.wav - footsteps, crunching at chinati, wind ~2m *** radio cut wind
2005-07-03 14_29.wav - inside artillery shed at chinati 1m53s *** radio cut talkk at very end
2005-07-03 14_35.wav - inside artillery, joey speaking 21s
2005-07-03 15_35.wav - what are you recording? crap 1m30s
2005-07-03 15_57.wav - boring 1m24s
2005-07-03 16_07.wav - joey braiding hair 1m07s
2005-07-03 19_24.wav - rays are supermarket 1m28s
2005-07-03 21_54.wav - wind 28s
2005-07-03 22_17.wav - 3m of crickets, then rest yapping 7m14s 
2005-07-03 22_30.wav - loud, boring crickets with wind 49s
2005-07-03 22_30(1).wav - loud crickets and cars under trestle 2m20s
2005-07-03 22_43.wav - more crickets and cars under trestle 3m20s
2005-07-03 23_18.wav - this is the train from ben's mic 5m43s
2005-07-03 23_44.wav - crickets and cars again (plus one dooley) and some wind 1m14s
2005-07-03 23_45.wav - crickets, crickets and a car 1m23s
2005-07-04 00_08.wav - mumbling at the marfa lights and a truck or two 3m26s 
2005-07-04 00_27.wav - luna crickets, foosteps and Lalito's engine 12m45s

disk 1
2005-09-13 18_22(1).wav - wmbr 8s 
2005-09-13 18_22(1).wav - wmbr
2005-09-13 18_23.wav - wmbr
2005-09-13 18_23(1).wav - wmbr
2005-09-13 18_23(2).wav - rockshop rustling not so crappy but crappy
2005-09-13 18_23(3).wav - testing rockshop 15s
2005-09-13 18_23(4).wav - birdies and cars ar rockshop; some wind but not bad especially at the 
end, train horn in distance 5m20s
2005-09-13 18_24.wav - wind 8s
2005-09-13 18_24(1).wav - lots of wind and drops of rain on tin and rustling, cars 1m27s
2005-09-13 18_24(2).wav - wind. metal.
2005-09-13 18_26.wav -  nothing
2005-09-13 18_26(1).wav - rain and thunder. nice a bit short
2005-09-13 18_26(2).wav - rain and thunder.
2005-09-13 18_26(3).wav - thunder and rain.
2005-09-13 18_26(4).wav - wind. birds. laughing. "hello"
2005-09-13 18_26(5).wav - rustle rustle. wind.
2005-09-13 18_27.wav - wind and rustle. then quiet rooster. then more wind.
2005-09-13 18_27(1).wav - boring.
2005-09-13 18_27(2).wav - trying to record the train. *** radio
2005-09-13 18_27(3).wav - glitch
2005-09-13 18_27(4).wav - train horn bad wind in middle.
2005-09-13 18_27(5).wav - rustle. late night fire talking.
2005-09-13 18_28.wav - aroya. wind and mic knocking.
2005-09-13 18_28(1).wav - long windy walk through aroyo
2005-09-13 18_29.wav - frogs and crickets 20s of good then windy
2005-09-13 18_29(1).wav - slow fade in and out. crickets and aroyo
2005-09-13 18_30.wav -
2005-09-13 18_30(1).wav -
2005-09-13 18_30(2).wav - rock shop birds

short wind:
2005-07-04 12_44(1).wav
2005-07-04 17_58.wav
2005-07-05 9_12.wav
2005-07-05 9_56.wav - crunching, walking and wind 10.5MB 1m03s

short speaking:
2005-07-04 18_45.wav - throwing rocks 18 Mb
2005-07-04 22_55.wav - luna "what are you thinking- of painting the house white?" 9.1 MB 55s

2005-07-04 18_21.wav - banging headphones test
2005-07-04 19_38.wav - nothing
2005-07-04 21_10.wav - not much 2.2 Mb