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EXPOSED! Is my nipple showing?

by Deborah Turnbull on 12 SEP 2009

So my friend Grace FINALLY started her blog, called Cult of Clothes. If you knew how much our immediate circle of friends rely on Gracie as a fashion guru (and witty satirist, you should READ the emails she sends her estate agent, they are HILARIOUS!) you too would be heaving a sigh of relief.  Most of this centres around finding out what Grace might think of the latest trend BEFORE you've gone out and bought it, which in the case of legging jeans, has proved very useful. 

William ClaxtonAs such, she has inspired me to write about clothes...well, exhibitions about clothes anyways.  I know they aren't interactive or necessarily NEW media, but the more I work with digital, filmic, and computational work, the more interested I become in tangible objects, or the ephemera of exhibitions. And what 30-something professional isn't interested in fashion, right? I mean COME ON! I have to wear a UNIFORM to work...and it is comprised of a blue striped shirt not dissimilar to Bananas in Pajamas....sigh.  You can see why when Alison Gwilt, Course Director for Fashion & Textiles @ UTS, asked me to participate as project manager for UTS Gallery's recent exhibition Fashioning Now, I nodded enthusiastically while grinning.  Who wouldn't want to be inspired by new ideas on sustainable fashion, or meet Anna and Luke from Romance was Born?  In truth though, I'd also had my eye on visiting the Maritime Museum exhibition on swimwear for a while. How can one really stay away from and exhibition titled: EXPOSED! and featuring a topless model from the 60s, Peggy Moffit no less, as their siren call.  Oooooh, the intrigue! Ooooh the fun with censoring said topless model wearing a Rudi Gernriech design for a topless swimsuit...scandal scandal!

When you imagine me going to the exhibition, you might think me very reserved with my glasses and a notepad.  In fact, I went on a work excursion <field trip for my North American readers> to suss out how other museums run their customer service departments. After a free trip on the monorail [whoo hoo!] and a quick briefing about the way the Maritime FOH Manager runs things {I swear I looked VERY interested}, we were let loose on the museum.  When I say let loose, I mean that myself and newbie Alice Gage tore off through the museum, she with the eye of an editor and designer, and myself with the eye of a curator.  Now Alice, nicknamed by me as Gage-y, is a sheer force of nature.  She's funky and sarcastic, incredibly bright, and listens to what you're saying in such a way that you truly believe you're affecting her. As such, when we approached the exhibition, she already has all sorts of information on it and I knew it would be more animated due to her company. "Haven't you heard of Burkini's Deb?" <insert dramatic eye roll when I grinned and said, "nope!"> "God, look at these costumes, Deb!" when we were confronted with Annette Kellerman's film and performance costumes...think glittering mermaid "Which swimming cap would you wear? <my answer was the sea urchin pink spikey one>; "I'd wear THOSE pajamas to the beach FOR SURE" when we discovered Coco Chanel's silk beach pajamas, and finally, "I don't have much hope for these swimsuits of the future, they kinda suck". 

Where I wouldn't have the courage (and they didn't have the underwire) to support some of the swimsuits of the future, I was certainly intrigued.  It turns out they were a project by the Queensland University of Technology's 2nd year design students and there's a blog and everything.  The blog is a good deal more interesting than the finished designs, which are a cross between evening and swim wear, but then I've always been a bit of a process gal. I like a good journey.  I have to say though, one of my favourite parts of the exhibition were the tactile squares of fabrics I could touch.  I didn't know swim-wear could be made of silk or cotton or wool, but now I knew how it would feel against my skin.  I was also reminded that many Aussies have as many swimsuits as I have shoes due to the lovely weather here. Perhaps I should rethink my one sturdy black tankini and pepper my wardrobe with more variety and colour when it comes to swimwear.  Gracie would certainly be proud, she hates it when I wear black!

Aside from inspiring consumerist notions in me, the curators made good use of the long thin space they were allotted for the exhibition (think hallway).  Clever case designs and tactile elements mixed up what might have otherwise felt like a bit of a peep show.  Indeed one could watch riske films clips from the 20s and 30s and see examples of naughty miniatures imported from Europe, which went along with, and in some cases inspired, Australia's beach culture.  There were magazines, posters, scientific information on the materials used, and even a fashion video which was displayed on a vertically hung plasma to mirror the mirrored catwalk of said future swimwear. When I first came to Australia from Canada, I was a little shocked by how naked the culture was. My blue-white skin tone attests to the fact that we largely cover up in rainy Vancouver, and I was a little shocked at the bronzed and topless women that dotted the same beaches where I was wrapped in shawls, swathed in sunscreen, and perched under my trusty umbrella.  Here I was though, 5 short years later, grinning at the cheeky nature of the exhibition which also presented a somewhat feminist notion of these same garments which so shocked society in their time.  And to think, these costumes aren't even really required anymore. 

Where I was quite certain I wasn't ready for a topless swimsuit, I rest-assured knew where to purchase a Burkini or how to have an outfit designed for a cocktail party in the sand.  Regarding the Maritime Museum, where else can you take in a history of the swimsuit AND get a tour of a submarine in the same place? As for young Gage-y, she argued with a young tour guide on the ethics of submarine evacuation and was called weird by an elderly submarine volunteer to which she grinned, and true to form, sarcastically replied "Thanks Ken!".  Don't worry, by the end of the tour they were hugging like old friends.  And as for my friend Grace, I'd love to hear her opinons on the swimsuits of the future...

Visit EXPOSED! at the Maritime Museum until the 25 October 2009.

Photograph by William Claxton and property of Demont Photo Management (borrowed from the Martime Museum website...thanks!)

Does a digital creature need THINGS? Craig Walsh's Artefact H10515 @ the PHM

by Deborah Turnbull on 10 SEP 2009

It was 9:00am one work-a-day morning when my boss told me to round up my fellow PHM staff. We were to go to training at Switch House Level 1 for a new artifact on exhibition in the museum. Where I had been yawning and rubbing my eyes while sorting email, that piece of knowledge perked me up more than my morning soy mocha had. Apparently this new work was interactive, experiential, immersive, and get this: ALIVE! Rumour had it that it even required feeding…

Where I had a bit of information on “the Artefact” thanks to my good friends and colleagues at IxC (they were working on the website that would feed this new resident), I wasn’t sure what to expect of a more finished product. In truth I had snuck into the gallery a few times over its installation, as the lure of a high quality interactive display in collaboration with Craig Walsh and some of the top interactive web designers in the country was too much to bear. If sneaking into a closed gallery is a walk on the wild side for me, seeing the finished product had me tingly all over.

Education co-ordinator Helen Whitty met us outside the gallery. Because she’s quite a fun education co-ordinator, she demonstrated with human subjects (us!) how the artifact was nourished through images gathered from Flickr* and how it linked to the PHM collection. As you can imagine, much laughter ensued when one of the staff was asked to impersonate the Internet and we were met with a look of sheer panic of the magnitude of that task. The internet turns out to be the spoon in the feeding of said artifact and the Flickr* images, drawn together by the audience members who type in their subject at computer terminals, are the sustenance.

She then explained the cumbersome name of the artifact, which was in fact Artefact H10515 (think H-ten-five-one-five). Though this was (apparently) a new dawn for immersive exhibitions at the PHM, management wanted to keep the acquisition process historically accurate. Indeed, the old log books containing registration details were the only “hands off” items in the exhibition and were displayed under glass on a plinth outside of the actual gallery. It seemed that the delineation between the old and the new way to display museum items was very deliberate, and being enforced spatially as well as epistemologically. Turns out they still want us to learn through the traditional cold removalist approach as well as the new fangled osmotic approach of sensory absorption supported by digital technology. The staff was certainly game to give it a go, so in we traipsed.

We were met with a huge space where dim lighting and audible breathing were the first thing one sensed. The hypnotic effect of the breathing lulled one into a false sense of almost womb-like security. As my eyes adjusted to the bric-a-brac go-bo lighting (think spooky trees backlit by a full moon) I focused on a large rectangular box in the centre of the room on which a digital being was displayed in all its glory. Functioning as the nucleus of cell, an octopus-like creature featuring reptilian skin and suction cups at the end of snake-like tendrils moved rhythmically between the four screens that appeared to house it. The internally lit designer chairs that dotted the space resembled pods, perhaps distributed a la Ridley Scott’s Aliens from the mother creature <eeeeeeep!>. Though they were meant to invite further contemplation via a seated view, I couldn’t shake the feeling that another “artifact” might spring from a pod at any time. As such, I thought keeping my bottom away from them was a good idea. When I was able to tear my eyes away from the creature, I viewed video reel of collaborators’ interviews, screen footage of Walsh’s previous works (all equally immersive and a bit more ethereal) and surveyed the computer terminals that housed the Thingalyser website that fed the creature. After a while, we were pulled away to start the working day, fully armed with information about our newest exhibition.

The thing is, we didn’t really know what to tell people. The interaction seemed limited to a point and click internet interface where you may or may not see the resultant image encircled by octopus suckers. It was a bit of a head-scratcher, but also eerily compelling. I didn’t want to leave the room. Its as though management expected this though, as we had a shiny new button on our tills to prompt us to tell folks about it and enquire whether they had come to the museum the specifically see the Artefact. I spent the morning a little numb, missing the re-created womb and wondering when the interactive elements would be installed so that I could become better acquainted with the system through tactile manipulation. I was a little buoyed when my tech manager (and IxC insider) offered to take me along to the launch as his +1, thinking surely they wouldn’t launch it without the interactive elements!

Over the next weekend, Switch 1 was closed while they wrestled with getting the interactives online. That Tuesday night, Aram and I went along to the launch, listened to the talks, had a few drinks, caught up with friends, and ate what was likely more than our fair share of canapé. When we went over to the exhibit, there were subtle changes; the images was sharper, Aram explained some of the reptilian skin creation to me, there were more people around talking about interactivity and the study of exhibition over the history of museums, and of course the artist was mingling and shots were being snapped by the in-house photographer. The moment of truth had arrived…would the system be tactile? If so, how so?

I pressed my fingers against the glass at the closest sucker tendril and dragged it across the surface. Nothing. Aram tried tapping his finger at different points. Nothing. We approached our interactive guru at the museum and asked him about the process of installing the interactive elements. He knew nothing. We approached education, they knew nothing. We asked Aram’s bosses, they knew nothing. Apparently they could launch it without the interactive elements ready, which perhaps makes Craig Walsh more of a superstar than I initially took him for. I glanced around the room, hoping to talk to him and noticed that all the people we had spoken to were doing the same thing. Helen Whitty was the first to speak out, “Where’s Craig?” and a flurry of activity ensued locating the photographer and Craig, and apparently his mother, who had come along as his +1.

Resigned to drinking and eating more, we snapped some photos and left the space (again, reluctantly on my part). As the night wound down, I stood with our group of friends, laughing and talking, drank a little more, and lo and behold got recognized by Artistic Director of Artistic Programmes at the MCA, Judith Blackhall (high 5’s all around ladies and gentlemen!)! When I headed over for more drink, she actually broke away from her group, including said superstar artist and his mother, to apologise for missing the launch of my show at the UTS Tower. She did thank me for the invite and then proceeded to talk with me for the next 20 minutes about different exhibitions. Christopher Snelling (site manager at the PDC) did saunter over with a smile in his eyes to ask me what I was up to (likely he was quite interested as to why I was schmoozing arguably the most powerful woman in the programming of contemporary art in Sydney, save her boss, Liz Ann Macgregor). During these glorious 20 minutes, we three talked about our art collections, what we were doing in the new year, and of course, how that affected everything else in Sydney. I was also able to show her Beta_space, after which I reluctantly released her back to her group.

In the afterglow of this somewhat miraculous experience (so what I actually went back and high-fived my friends or if her colleague snubbed me 5 seconds after David Cranswick from DLux smiled and walked away from me), it struck me then that the boys who concieved the technical support for Beta_space had also constructed the Thingalyser website, food for the Artefact. It seemed that something larger had come out of a conversation we had been having within the museum for almost 5 years, since the creation of Beta_pace in November 2004. If the boys at IxC had evolved in their skill to participate in the dialogue of new interactive arts creation, perhaps there’s hope for me yet!

Visit the Artefact H10515 for a truly immersive (though not yet interactive) experience until August 2010.

Can math be beautiful? I think YES!

by Deborah Turnbull on 27 AUG 2009

I decided to leave math to the smart folks in year 11. 

I made sure I had enough credits to get into College, but then I happily surrendered myself to Computer Science 101/102 for my university science credits and settled into the art history, film, and media classes that would inform the next 4 years of my honours degree.  My class list was much the same for my masters degree, plus dissertation and internships.  You can imagine my surprise when I went along to hear my colleague, Matthew Connell's, talk at the Ultimo Science Festival (PHM) and understood it!  He is the Principle Curator in Maths and IT at the PHM, and where I am familiar with IT, I'm not so good on the maths.

Titled, From certainty to fallability: an epic tale from the history of mathmatics, I thought there would be a lot more math.  What myself and the well-populated audience were treated to was a social history about the men and women who were the major players in current (being the last 2000 years) mathmatical theory.  Matthew explained how Euclid's 5 hard and fast rules to do with math were not so hard and fast, that they applied to some aspects of our world, but not others, a concept that rocked the maths world in the late 19th-century.  He talked about maths as a language that you have to practise and stick with from a very young age, about the possibility of truth through contradiction and about how artist MC Escher took his designs from the latest geometrical trend in the late 19th-century (non-Euclidean geometry); and finally, when queried about math and religion, he talked about how 4 or 5 of the main logicians and mathmaticians in the history believed they were fulfilling God's work.

Though I was riveted, when Matthew began discussing maths modelling, I worried I might begin to zone out.  Fortunately, he started talking about crochet, a knitted craft I had recently tried to appropriate due to the the Hyperbolic Crochet groups that had been meeting at the museum over that last few months performing workshops for all who wanted to learn. Having knitted since childhood, I tried my hand at crocheting, which I needed my friend's visiting mum to start for me and which I'm not entirely sure I tied off properly.  It turns out that a Latvian mathmatician, Dr. Daina Taimina, discovered that crocheting was the ideal way to represent the concepts of hyperbolic geometry in model form.  It also turns out that when the principles of hyperbolic geometry are applied to crochet stitching, the recognizable shapes of corals, sea sponges, and other underwater creatures emerged. Needless to say, most of the maths community in 1997 were pleasantly surprised.

At the close of the talk, I asked about future focus and innovation for current high school students.  If math, specifically Turing's code-breaking theories and machines, could bring us computers, how could it be the enemy I always took it for? It turns out Matthew has been working with high school maths and art teachers to disrupt the current curriculum and make math more visual, more enjoyable, more tangible.  I, for one, am thrilled that teenagers 2 generations after me might actually enjoy math, not be shuffled into "adjusted" classes for those that aren't "math compatible".  Having ended up a curator in new media art, I deal with technology on a daily basis and often have to rely on technicians who speak the language of maths to support the tools my artists utilise to realise their work.

Though I have worked with Matthew for 2.5 years on the curatorial project Beta_space (a part of his prize winning Cyberworlds exhibition in the IT galleries of the museum) and read his thoughts on prototpying interactive artwork and its process, I had never heard him speak about maths and logic before.  It was eye-opening and left me with a desire to become fluid in the language my tools use.  After this talk, I felt more alive, more engaged, and like I had learned something new about an old onion.  Plus, I remembered basic geometry! Excellent!

Thank you Ultimo Science Festival!

CITIES TANGO: Sydney-Belfast, 2009

by Deborah Turnbull on 25 AUG 2009

Come along to the 2 Danks Street complex in Waterloo to view Ernest Edmonds' newest interactive artwork.  There will also be an artist's talk by Multiple Box artist Pete Longworth regarding his new body of photography Wonderland, curated by Sandy Edwards. Wine and nibbles on arrival.

In this new interactive and generative work, two cities interact with one another across continents and time zones. In real time, images of audiences from each city are displayed in another city, so that a form of communication takes place through providing image and movement content. 

In alternate locations – currently these locations are in time zones 9 hours apart - the work picks up images from the screen location and reacts to movement. At the same time, the analysed image information is sent over the internet to the alternate location, also influencing the work’s behaviour. Thus, images of the remote location are dynamically revealed and the colours used, the times of day selected and the pace of the work is influenced in each location by a combination of the images seen at both locations. 
 
CITIES TANGO is an extension of Tango Tangle first seen on the large urban screen at Federation Square, Melbourne in 2007. CITIES TANGO first appeared in 2008 linked to the Federation Square screen with an urban screen at the SAP offices in Berlin, followed by a more recent showing at UTS in the New Media Curation exhibition Image Ecologies in July 2009.

The client components running in Belfast and Sydney communicate through a central server in Sydney. The system has been in continuous development by a team led by Professor Ernest Edmonds in the Creativity & Cognition Studios, Faculty of Engineering and IT. On this occasion CITIES TANGO links the International Symposium for Electronic Art (ISEA), taking place this week in Belfast, Ireland, with the Danks Street Galleries in Sydney. 
 
Professor Ernest Edmonds is represented by the Conny Dietzschold Gallery, Sydney.

Image Information:

ERNEST EDMONDS
CITIES TANGO: Sydney-Belfast, 2009

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT:

Wednesday 26 August 2009 @ 6pm | Conny Dietzschold Gallery | 2 Danks Street | Waterloo

 

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