Variable reality - inter-formalities in digital/analogue arts

This panel will explore the notion that contemporary creative practice is increasingly taking place in and between analogue and digital cultures.
Thursday, 15 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Ian Gwilt
Dew Harrison
Martin Rieser
Suzette Worden
Ian Gwilt, Folder garden (2010). ABS plastic (rapid protoypes), sand, wood, paint
Martin Rieser amd Claire Smith, Inside Out exhibition (2010). Detail, rapid protoypes, resin.

Chair: Dr. Ian Gwilt

This panel will explore the notion that contemporary creative practice is increasingly taking place in and between analogue and digital cultures. And that by enfolding the creative processes inherent within these two environments we can generate richly informed creative outcomes that build on the qualities of both digital and material culture. This working in and between digital and analogue environments, toward the generation of creative works is the essence of what the panel will discuss as cross or variable reality creative practices.

The panel will consider the potential for making within and across digital/material environments through the presentation of their own research/practice.

Paper Abstracts

Bridging worlds for enhanced engagement

by Prof. Dew Harrison

The virtual worlds of the new century are the playgrounds for artists to explore space and time, the digital objects created here are experienced by avatar, without the full range of sensory perceptions we use when confronting the real world. To experience the virtual as a reality we need sensors connected to our physical bodies or to solid objects to simulate real-world sensations. In order to further engage viewers as participants in their work, contemporary artists are exploring ways of synthesizing the material physical real world with that of the virtual.

This presentation will explore one of the projects currently underway at CADRE, University of Wolverhampton that example ways of presenting the virtual as an alternative real. Shift-Life, is a virtual world of Darwinian fantasy sweet-like creatures projected into a sand-pit box which respond to the physical actions of visitors causing real-time upheavals in their environment. Through directly pouring liquids, hammering and adjusting lights, when interacting with this hands-on installation, the real world encroaches upon the virtual causing a life-and-death struggle to an artificial life form. This project was directly influenced by earlier works concerning Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass, where creature-like behaviors were given to Duchampian objects to amplify their familial relations.

Inside Out and the Materiality of the Digital

by Prof. Martin Rieser

Rieser will describe the Inside Out sculptural exchange exhibition currently touring the UK, which has been shown in Sydney, Australia and 4 UK venues. The project, which exchanged digital files across continents and then generated the objects using rapid prototype printing methods, was the first major international attempt to obviate the physical realization of the sculptures by the artists themselves. The talk will explore notions of materiality in relation to the digital and how radically artistic practice is changing around the idea of hybrid or overlapping realities as being interrelated and of equal cultural significance.

The Earth Sciences and creative practice: exploring the boundaries between digital and material cultures

by Prof. Suzette Worden

Within current art practice, artists engage with the earth sciences as a source of inspiration and as a provider of data about the physical environment. This rich source of data includes information on many elements: from the conditions of the atmosphere, to physical formations; from small scale to gigantic formations; extremes of heat and cold; and the interaction of all these in time and space. Additionally, the models, visualisations and explanations of these phenomena by scientists can include aesthetic characteristics that are appreciated by a wider audience than immediate scientific peers.

When we are concerned with digital environments, the discussion is most often centred on visualisation, which includes reference to both objects with a material or physical existence and to mental constructs. These can be directly observable or become visible through an instrument or device. Visual characteristics can also be translated from a non-visual state into constructed data, as a ‘conceptual’ translation.

Using examples related to the earth sciences, this presentation will first discuss the ways in which creative works demonstrate the movement of ideas and concepts from the physical to the digital. Then, examples of works that take us from the digital to the physical will be considered that make specific reference to geology, studies of rock formations and technologies supporting mining activities. This will include works that are engaged with related environmental, social and cultural issues.

It is proposed that a study of these ‘translations’ to and  from the digital to the material can open up further possibilities for providing a critique of new media works in the context of a broader historical perspective, including land art, ecology and environmental activism.

Variable reality - inter-formalities in digital/analogue arts

by Prof. Ian Gwilt

This paper will introduce the panel theme. In it I will also discuss how tangible translations change our relationship to screen-based information.  Through a set of examples I will also discuss how by encoding digital information into a physical object we can establish a different way of reading data through spatial, temporal and material variations that sit outside of the computer-monitor and the digital environment.

Bios of the Participants

Martin Rieser

Professor Martin Rieser's art practice in internet art and interactive narrative installations has been seen around the world including Milia in Cannes; Paris; The ICA London and in Germany, Montreal, Nagoya in Japan and Melbourne, Australia. He as delivered papers on interactive narrative and exhibited at many major conferences in the field including ISEA: Montreal 1995, Rotterdam 1996, Chicago 1997, Nagoya 2002, Belfast 2009, University of Oslo 2004, Siggraph, 2005, Refresh Banff Arts Centre 2005, Digital Matchmakers Trondheim 2005 Plan ICA 2005, NAI Rotterdam 2008, Intelligent Environments Seattle 2008,Barcelona 2009, Locunet University of Athens 2008, ISEA 2009 and at many other conference venues across the UK and Europe.

His interactive installations include Understanding Echo shown in Japan 2002, Hosts Bath Abbey 2006 and Secret Door Invideo Milan 2006, The Street RMIT Gallery Melbourne 2008. He is currently developing mobile artworks for Vienna (The Third Woman), and public installations for the new DMC in Leicester (Secret Garden) . He has published numerous essays and books on digital art including New Screen Media: Cinema/ Art/Narrative (BFI/ZKM, 2002), which combines a DVD of current research and practice in this area together with critical essays. And has recently edited The Mobile Audience, a book on locative technology and art due out this year from Rodopi, also logged in a blog: He has also acted as consultant to bodies such as Cardiff Bay Arts Trust and the Photographer’s Gallery London, Arkive in Bristol, The Soros Media Institute in Prague and UIAH in Helsinki.

Dew Harrison

Dew Harrison is a Professor of Digital Media Art and Director of CADRE, the Centre for Art and Design Research And Experimentation at the University of Wolverhampton, where she works as the Associate Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies in the School of Art and Design.  As a practising artist with a PhD from CAIIA (Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts), her work continues to explore a theoretically informed computer-mediated approach to the territory between art, technology and consciousness studies in order to position a participatory concept-based art practice. This involves semantically associating ideas and concepts into non-linear multimedia form and digital outcomes have been shown both in the UK and internationally.  She considers the dialogue between the virtual (digital) realm and the real world, as a semantic space for creative exploration.  With over 50 publications to date, she is regularly invited to present at conferences concerning Consciousness Studies, Curation and Archiving, Digital Art, Art History, Interactive Gaming, and Museology.

Her practice is often collaborative as exampled in her recent installation ‘Shift-Life’ where she worked with two programmers and an animator. This piece was commissioned by Shrewsbury Museum Services for the International Darwin Bicentenary, and funded by Arts Council England.

Suzette Worden

Suzette Worden is Professor of Design in the School of Design and Art, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. She completed her PhD in 1980 and taught the history of design at the University of Brighton until 1998. She was Director of a digital media research centre at the University of West of England, Bristol (1998-2001). She has published on furniture, product and appliance design, research methods, digital media and the uses of electronic resources for teaching and research. She has also co-curated exhibitions and been involved in the organisation of conferences including CADE (Computers in Art and Design Education) in 1995 and 2007. Her current research interests relate to West Australian resources, including mining, aluminium and wool under the theme of materiality and design. This research links the ongoing potential of digital media with craft and design cultural heritage, material culture and science technology studies.

Ian Gwilt

Dr. Ian Gwilt is a Professor of Design at Sheffield Hallam University. He holds an MA in Interactive Multimedia, conferred by the University of Balears (UIB) in Spain, and the Royal College of Art (RCA) London. He has a Phd from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales examining the theory and practice of mixed-reality art. In the last 15 years he has shown interactive installations and digital work at a number of international new media events, galleries and exhibitions. His own practice/research is concerned with augmented reality and locative media, the graphical user interface as creative/cultural artefact, and exploring new forms and contexts for information design and post consumption visual communication.