Tuesday, 30 June 2009

tentacles and terabits

Squids and tentacles are everywhere in my life at the moment- like a cliched sub-narrative from a b-grade fantasy movie, or a bad Freudian therapy session. More about that in a minute.

I first want to share some standouts from the Aotearoa Digital Arts Symposium, which I attended this past weekend.

Digital artists are an eclectic bunch, made up of programmers, sound and visual/film performance artists, electronic gadgeters, and academics. Often well travelled and highly educated, the members of this sub-culture are at the cutting edge of a number of fields, and form a hub of transdiciplinarity.

Highlight for me was meeting Phil Dadson, a world renowned interdisciplinary pioneer. His artistic practice weaves together sound, moving image, music and performance to create masterpieces of ungenreability. From Scratch has been his main (but not exclusive) platform, combining experimental instruments (often made from things found around your backyard), with the latest in performance technologies. Phil seems to have kept himself at the frontier of performance art, with his earliest successes starting almost forty years ago.

What I find most inspirational about him is his humility, and his incredible success at collaborating across disciplines and genres. Check out his website for an archive of ingenuity.

Elsewhere in the conference, I enjoyed hearing presentations on: 'live' cinema creation, creating creative spaces, interactive abstract painting, new radio, and some philosophy on the nature of 'real' and 'the material' (among many other interesting, although at times undecipherable, topics). There is some info on these in the symposium blog.

Conferences like this are great ways to find out what is happening at the cutting edge of technology and media. I usually survive the often obtuse topic matter and language by swallowing my pride and asking extremely basic questions. For example I asked my friend why we were spending almost two hours discussing something called "materiality" and her answer (hastily scribbled on a piece of paper, and furtively passed to me was " it's geek self-lashing"). Of course.

I also didn't understand why everyone kept referring to "white cubes" - I genuinely wondered if it was a new designer drug or an addiction to sugar shapes. Again, upon discrete enquiry, I found that it was a reference to traditional gallery and exhibition spaces which often work to confine artists and predefine the nature of their work.

And tentacles?

Well, from reading my blog you will see that I have recently become slightly obsessed by squids in a kind of 'oh dear this is quite sad, please get other hobbies' way. But who would blame me after my weekend of squid encounters. First, while walking to the conference I came upon a production crew setting up for an American mobile phone commercial. [This kind of occurrence is not unusual in a country where everyone seems to work in film, work as an extra, or is a hobbit from Lord of the Rings].

As I walked across the set, which seemed to take up several city streets, I came upon a giant squid bursting out of a house (!)

I stopped to take a sneaky photo of this dayglow inflatable phenomena (picture left) and carried on to the conference. There, as I arrived to register at the conference desk, the man arriving next to me proclaimed himself to be from Tentacle Media.

[Of course, I immediately, and rather excitedly, showed him the squid house up the road. He looked a little frightened of me and walked off].

During lunch a small boy crawled past on the floor with a squid soft toy on his head [I kid you not - what parents would buy something like that?]. And finally, the next day a friend at the conference delighted in telling me that a new squid/jellyfish-like crop circle had appeared in theUK in last few weeks.

As I was leaving Wellington, my hosts for the weekend encouraged me to visit the Colossal Squid at Te Papa as kind of climax to this string of squid encounters...but alas time ran out, as did my medication.

Signing off.

PS: I liked this graffiti alien I found near the conference venue - it has a large squid-like head don't you think?

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