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Monday, May 28, 2012

Dali's Brain

Here is a new film by Charles Bronson. a local SD artist and film maker

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Software Development as Artistic Practice: How Open Source Is Changing the Way Art is Made

Artists are notoriously secretive about their processes. Rothko never revealed the complex formulas behind his diaphanous color fields. Picasso gave his famous dictum, “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal,” which may have been why Brancusi was so loathe to let the Cubist into his studio. But what about when sharing becomes a fundamental part of the artistic practice? For new media artists, whose work embraces the latest innovations in computing technology and digital imaging, being transparent with their working process is a fundamental part of being a member of the creative community — everyone copies and adapts from each other, sharing strategies, tools, and techniques.

Rather than locking their studio doors, media artists are in a constant, open dialogue over how, and how best, to make use of the technologies that drive their work. It’s not just about making use of pre-existing platforms, but inventing new ones. Groups of media artists are constantly developing original software tools that are made free to use and adapt, under the same open source banner that drives the well-known Linux operating system, among countless other projects.

Though these open-source creative tools were developed by artists, they don’t need to be considered works of art in and of themselves. They are, however, allowing more and more artists to begin working with code to make art. The most widely used examples of artist-directed custom software development are Processing and OpenFrameworks, two open-source creative programming environments created to be accessible for computer-shy artists and experienced coders alike. The platforms have been integral to projects ranging from Marius Watz’s generative graphics to James George’s depth-sensing Kinect videos.

The difference between a media artist creating a tool like OpenFrameworks and a painter developing a new admixture of oil paint, for example, is that the coding tools are designed to be functional and public, a provocative quality in the traditionally covetous art-world context. “It’s the difference between something that represents and something that operates,” said Golan Levin, a media artist and director of Carnegie Mellon’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, in a recent conversation with ARTINFO. “When people do this propositional tool-making, even if there’s only two or three people who ever use it, it actually works — it’s part of its rhetorical force.” Levin teaches OpenFrameworks and Processing to visual art students in a now-mandatory class in Carnegie Mellon’s art program called Electronic Media Studio Two.
Creative programming environments are functional by necessity, especially with utilities like Processing and OpenFrameworks. “The moment they get widely used, you have to think about issues of functionality more than you have to think about provocation,” Levin continued. But this openness hasn’t always been the hallmark of creative software development.

In 1998, John Maeda, the director and founder of the MIT Media Lab’s Aesthetics and Computation Group, developed a programming environment called Design by Numbers. Created for “anyone who likes to pick up a pencil and doodle,” the private environment was intentionally minimal, a 100-by-100-pixel square that only displayed greyscale, its output determined by simple commands. It was a “level zero teaching tool,” remembers Levin, who was a student of Maeda’s. Two other students, Casey Reas and Ben Fry, decided that Design by Numbers didn’t go far enough — they wanted a bigger digital canvas, and full color. They developed Processing, which was made public in 2001.

OpenFrameworks also came in reaction to Maeda’s work. While working at Parsons, artist Zach Lieberman wanted to teach Maeda’s environment and his ACU code library to students but couldn’t because the earlier system wasn’t open source. Lieberman worked with his student Theo Watson and developer Arturo Castro (the only contributor with a background in computer science, rather than art) to create OpenFrameworks, which was released in 2005. The platform continues to evolve with the work of a core group of artists and developers, and is constantly being added to with new plugins and capabilities by the OpenFrameworks community.

When asked if he minded that businesses were using his software to create commercial projects, Lieberman told The Creators Project, “My theory is that putting better tools out there means that people can make better projects and then companies and institutions will see those projects and take more risks, and in that way everybody’s work will be able to improve. There’s just more opportunity.” The radical sharing of the open community source has helped companies and artists alike — and sometimes both at the same time.
Developer and artist Jonathan Vingiano, along with Internet artist Ryder Ripps, are the founders of OKFocus, a creative agency that has produced a slew of provocative Web-based projects in the last year, including Art or Not and Tug of Store. They also periodically release the Javascript plugins and tools that they develop in order to execute their work, and have even made their entire Web site design public. “What we’ve done is open source our aesthetic,” Vingiano explained. “We use a lot of open source tools. It’s the nature of being a part of this community,” he continued. “The second that you use something that’s free, you’re part of it, and it makes sense to give back to it.”

For OpenFrameworks and Processing, having a large number of contributing developers and users — more cooks in the kitchen — is a good thing, but the downside is that it can get messy. Cinder, a C++ library for creative coding, is led by a single developer, Andrew Bell. It’s still open source, but it was designed for a more professional, expert group of users familiar with the strictures of software engineering. In the right hands, it’s a powerful tool, but it doesn’t provide the same educational experience that makes Processing and OpenFrameworks accessible to larger audiences.

Rather than as artworks or tools, it might be best to think of these software platforms in terms of the community of creators and users that they bring together. Artists develop new methods for working and share them, connecting with and enabling their audiences. The audience, or the user base, then takes the new software and runs with it, moving it in directions its architects may have never considered. It’s an open model for innovation and creativity that challenges many of the traditional values of the entrenched art world, emphasizing transparency over opacity and interconnection over secrecy. Isn't it about time we moved beyond the closed-door policy?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Airplanes, Algae and Arts Education

We at SDVAN and DNA of Creativity want to wish a fond farewell to Sarah Muir and give all thanks for all she has done for the arts and science communities. 

In their work to uncover new, sustainable biofuels, The Boeing Company relies on the creativity of its workforce. Innovators at Boeing have identified algae as a possible biofuel that could lower carbon emissions for airplanes. That’s one reason why Sarah Murr, a Global Corporate Citizenship Community Investor for Boeing and a Board Member of the California Alliance, travelled to Sacramento to speak to lawmakers about the importance of a creative workforce - not only for companies like Boeing, but for the future of our state in the global economy.
“The challenge is that we have a skills shortage not a labor shortage -- especially with unemployment rates where they are,” says Murr, “We have a shortage of people with the skills for the jobs that are needed in an increasingly dynamic and competitive marketplace.” Murr delivered her message at a hearing before the Joint Committee on the Arts organized by Senator Curren Price and in sit down meetings with key legislators and members of the Governor’s staff arranged by the California Alliance.
According to Murr, “Providing comprehensive arts education programs as early as pre-school will help future generations of creative thinkers and problem solvers who will invent the next life-changing products or services – be it algae for biofuel, new lightweight materials for airplanes or something we can’t yet imagine.”

This week we learned that, after thirty-five years with the Boeing Company, Sarah Murr will be retiring in July. Those who have worked with her on arts education issues will greet this news with a mixture of gratitude, for all she has contributed, and apprehension, for all we are losing. At a time when corporate relationships to the needs of the broader community are evolving, Sarah Murr, with the support of the Boeing Corporation, has blazed a trail of unprecedented involvement and commitment to the well being and education of California's children. I invite you to learn more about the potential of corporate citizenship and the meaning of leadership in the words of Sarah's testimony.
Joe Landon SignatureJoe Landon
Executive Director California Alliance for Arts Education

Kinect-ing the Dots: How Artists Are Using Hacked Infrared Cameras to Stretch the Limits of Visual Art

Media artist James George and photographer Alexander Porter want to turn photography into a desk job. Well, even more of a desk job. As digital cameras and ever-larger memory cards have negated the need to think about scarcity while shooting pictures, the pair’s work to combine digital SLR photography with the Microsoft Xbox 360’s Kinect infrared camera have made the medium even less immediate, turning Henri Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment into a prolonged sifting process performed at a keyboard instead of behind a lens or in a darkroom.

The end results of this is a new hybrid form of photography, ghostly collections of data points that fragment the image and destabilize the role of the photographer. This new format is highlighted in “Wired Frames,” a group exhibition open today at Eyebeam.

The details of George and Porter's process are fascinating. Instead of snapping a photo and awaiting the outcome on film or on a screen, they take their camera-combine out to collect data rather than visible light, gathering spatial information from the Kinect’s infrared sensor and color from the more traditional camera. Using a custom software kit called RGB+D (red, green, and blue, plus depth), the pair process the information they collect, rendering the Kinect data as three-dimensional clouds of dots and lines that can be “painted” with the SLR data, adding washes of relevant color.

For their “DepthEditorDebug” series, George and Porter took their setup to a subway station platform and came back with a series of images depicting wavering visualizations of human figures, architectural emptinesses, and subway cars turned into clouds of points. The images, also on display in “Wired Frames,” are all created from the same set of data — because of the depth sensing, the camera has no fixed viewpoint; through the software, the computer can parse the information and map relevant color onto depth from any angle.

Though it may be surprising to find a traditionally trained photographer dismantling his own medium, Porter has embraced the RGB+D format. The process of creating images changes, becoming a search for “photographic moments in the software,” explained Porter in a recent conversation at Eyebeam. “It doesn’t ruin the essential things for me.” Through the software, the serendipity of photography persists, with some added twists: There are new variables to play with, like altering the way color is mapped onto spatial points or how the depth points are distributed. “The impulse behind it is the same,” Porter concluded.
George, who is currently an artist in residence at Eyebeam, identifies with the New Aesthetic label that recently went viral with novelist and futurist Bruce Sterling's Wired essay, but worries about making work that is simply “about technology,” rather than using the technology to make innovative art. With this work, they are “appropriating technology made for machine consumption for expressive capability,” he said, using the tools “in ways not intended by the people who made them.”

The other artists in “Wired Frames” are equally adept at twisting technology to their own creative ends. Kyle McDonald, who is famous for hacking into a Mac store full of computers and hijacking their webcams, collaborated with Arturo Castro to create “Faces,” an installation that uses a webcam and McDonald’s FaceOSC software to track viewers’ facial movements and overlay a real-time virtual mask of a different face on top their own. For the exhibition, McDonald has also curated a selection of projects that other people have created using FaceOSC, from artists to developers and hobbyists.

By including these other projects, “Wired Frames” exposes the greater community behind technology-based art and underlines the participating artists’ status not just as makers of objects, images, and videos, but creators of public tools and resources and members of an extremely active online community. Both RGB+D and FaceOSC are open source, meaning that anyone can use or adapt the software without licensing restrictions. One issue that technology-based art confronts is that the idea of the single author is increasingly irrelevant — all work is based on the machines, tools, and software already created by other artists and developers. Unlike the contemporary art norm, the key here is to acknowledge your immediate peers and influences properly, and participate in the community by keeping your own creations accessible and open.
“There’s no conflict of interest there, it’s only supportive,” said George. According to the artist, a creation like RGB+D might not be an art object in itself, but it is nevertheless “validated when work from other people comes out of it… There’s [original] work made with it, but it also enables other people.”

George and documentarian Jonathan Minard further trace the outlines of their artistic community in a new documentary, “Clouds,” filmed with Kinect and SLR, which will make its debut in the Eyebeam exhibition. Advancing the aesthetic of the earlier “DepthEditorDebug” images, the film is made up of interviews of new media luminaries including artist and professor Golan Levin, curator and critic Regine Debatty, and computational designer Karsten Schmidt, with each video portrait composed of colored point clouds that whirl and zoom as the figures speak. Their dialogues, ranging from musings on the future of data to explanations of the Kinect technology, are fascinating, but the effects created by the artists heighten what would be a straight talking-head documentary into a computational art piece, a new media philosophy made visual.

“Clouds” looks like the future, with its swirling data points and polygonated, holographic gurus of digital life. But what’s most surprising about the work is that it’s heavily invested in the present tense — not some distant, utopian future, but our own near future, the coming visual aesthetic. “We’re using the language of our time to talk about our time,” one of the film’s subjects, artist Sonia Yuditskaya, pronounces. Her face is an etched series of data points against a blank black ground.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NEA and Art and Science

Dear Colleagues, 

Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts hosted a conversation on our Art Works blog around the intersection of art, science, creativity, and innovation that featured posts by arts/science enthusiasts Roger MalinaMarina McDougallAndrea GroverWhitney Dail, and Bill O’Brien; and a podcast featuring author and Wired contributing editor Jonah Lehrer. The posts cover a range of subjects, from how creativity works to the nature of arts as a form of inquiry to the idea of using art-driven systems to better understand medical conditions, demonstrating the striking similarities between artist and scientist in their approach to understanding and interacting with our world.
The NEA is continuing the conversation with two additional art/science-themed events in June that are described below. We hope you will join us. If you are interested in learning more about how the NEA can support art/science projects in the future please join our mailing list by emailing us at

"TRANSCENDING BORDERS: The Intersections of Art, Science, Technology, and Society on a Global Stage"
On Monday, June 4 from 5 to 7 pm, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman, Austrian Ambassador Dr. Hans Peter Manz, and Salzburg Global Seminar President Stephen Salyer will be hosting a series of panels at the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC.

"Transcending Borders" is an international dialogue around the nexus of art, science, and technology in the 21st century. Today's artists and scientists improve our critical understanding of the world by provoking new ideas, experimentation, and creative strategies. This conversation will be moderated by Amanda McDonald Crowley and will feature Gerfried Stocker from Ars Electronica with Joel Slayton from Zero1, the artist/scientist team of Liz Lerman and Drew Baden, Clare Shine from the Salzburg Global Seminar, and policy makers from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Science Foundation. 
Space is limited and advance registration is required. To RSVP please visit
NEA Art/Science Webinar
The NEA supports art/science projects across all disciplines through our Art Works grants. Anyone interested in learning more about funding opportunities for art/science projects is invited to log on to a NEA webinar on June 14th at 3:00 pm EST. Agency representatives will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. Our next application deadline is on August, 9th.  
To join the webinar, go to and click "Enter as Guest." Type in your full name, and then click "Enter Room.” You can listen using your computer speakers or dial-in toll-free to 1-877-685-5350, participant code: 942738.
An archive will be posted Monday, June 18 in the "Podcasts, Webcasts, & Webinars" section of the NEA website.


Bill O'Brien | Senior Advisor for Program Innovation
National Endowment for the Arts | 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 628
Washington, DC 20506 | 202 682 5550 |

Friday, May 4, 2012

Leonardo de Vinci App

Almost 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci’s death, technology brings the artist’s ground-breaking studies of the human body to life.

The Royal Collection's iPad app Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy enables users to appreciate fully the astonishing accuracy of Leonardo’s work for the first time. The app includes interactive 3D anatomical models, pinch-zoom functionality and interviews with experts on Leonardo’s work and the history of medicine. It even allows users to reverse and translate the thousands of notes made by the artist in his distinctive mirror-writing, direct from the pages of his notebooks. Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy has been produced by the Royal Collection in partnership with iPad app publishers Touch Press and leading healthcare publisher Primal Pictures.
The app includes all of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings – 268 pages in total. Over 11 chapters the app tells the story of the greatest challenge Leonardo faced in his career as he embarked upon a campaign of dissection in hospitals and medical schools to investigate the bones, muscles, vessels and organs.

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy is a fantastic way to explore some of the most amazingly detailed and accurate anatomical drawings of all time in the most minute detail. We believe that Leonardo would have been fascinated by modern medical imaging and would have embraced the way in which this app brings his drawings to life.

The app includes the following features:

  • Enhanced e-book interface.
  • All 268 of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings from the Royal Collection, with pinch-zoom functionality at high resolution.
  • A mirror spyglass enabling users to read Leonardo’s mirror-writing in the original Italian. 
  • Swipe gesture to translate Leonardo’s mirror writing into typeset English text in situ.
  • Integrated 3D anatomical models from world-leading medical animators Primal Pictures, carefully matched to Leonardo’s illustrations and made interactive using Touch Press rotational technology.
  • Eleven chapters, written by Martin Clayton, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection, telling the story of Leonardo’s anatomical work and presenting over 70 selected works with interactive features.
  • Interviews with Martin Clayton and other experts on the significance of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings.
  • Full catalogue text for all drawings in the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace (4 May – 7 October 2012).
  • Intelligent keyword searching and collection navigation via a human body interface.
Visit the Touch Press website to find out more about the app.
Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy is priced at £9.99 ($13.99) and is available to download via the iTunes App Store.
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