Sunday, February 07, 2010

Decoding Decode.

If only real life was a bit more like this. Photo via Tim_D (usual rules apply)

Hello there. Been a bit silent on the old blog front in the last month. Sorry about that. It's been rather work-tastic, which has been excellent, but keeping me from writing about of the stuff i've been up outside of work in the last few weeks.

The most interesting thing i've seen has easily been Decode. It's on at the V&A until April, it is only a fiver, and YOU NEED TO GO.

It is the kind of thing that Lauren would fall head over heels in love with, were she still in London educating ignorant people like me about the wonders of contemporary art. Me, I liked it because of all the interactivity and bright colours. But then, i'm a simple beast (albeit one who likes to do star jumps when an exhibition calls for it).

I'm not going to go into detail about the specifics of the exhibits (We Feel Fine was there, natch, as was the video/visualisation for a Radiohead song - House of Cards), but suffice to say, they were a glorious mixture of the fantastic, the obscure and the intriguing. And a few of them were broken, but it made me feel less intimidated and less like a luddite.

No, what i'm going to talk about is the booklet I snagged from there, which features interviews with a few of the leading exhibitors. It really opened my eyes about how certain segments of the art world are facing the same debates as the comms world - about physicality, of how information is managed and dealt with, and how to manage the blurring between logic and magic. (NB: I'm not claiming communication is art, or even getting into that debate right now...heh).

Daniel Rozin (the man behind the 'Weave Mirror' exhibit- check it out here) in particular had some fascinating things to say. When asked about his work, and how much it represented an evolution of a new practice, or whether it was a brand new discipline, he had this to say:

"I certainly think of my work as part of a continuum of artistic expression that is constantly evolving. The main issues of my work - interactivity, point of view, human perception, image creation, participation etc - are by no means new subjects of thought for art. Artists have been thinking about these issues for centuries. The tools that I currently use are tools of technology (and artists have always used new technologies for their art). So I feel like my tools are different, and with the new tools come new opportunities, but the sensibilities are the same."

And there was another good one. When he was asked about the nature of his work, and what it posed for museums and established collections, he said this (shortened slightly):

"On the artistic side of things, both museums and collectors need to build up a literact when it comes to digital art. It takes a certain amount of experience and knowledge to be able to identify the outstanding and significant pieces from the more ubiquitous pieces which are merely flashy technological demonstration."

Now, this is interesting. I can barely code, but like to think I have a reasonably firm grasp on just what to look for in a good piece of communication (digital or otherwise). I do think there are those who don't have much of a digital mindset - by that I mean a lack of an appreciation that pieces of communication are there to be useful, to be shared and to be inclusive.

The facility for identifying this in pieces of communication, or to be able to tell when a tool presents a new opportunity - those are the traits which I think should be valued above all else. Thinking about the space in which things are going to be consumed, how cross pollinated things will be, how contrary people are, how likely things are going to be played with and remixed - those are skills which should always be applied. Slapping a tired old demographic on something, or a hackneyed, banal cliche - that's the enemy of lateral thinking.

Decode taught me that - you had grandmothers doing a dance to change the colours, and small children acting INCREDIBLY seriously around pieces of interactive art (as if they owned it, and it was only performing for them) opened my eyes a bit.

And i'll leave it to Golan Levin (creator of the fabulously named 'Opto-Isolator II') to have the last word. He was asked what digital technologies allow you to do that design technologies don't:

"I can create behaviour".
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