Monthly Archives: September 2012

Robot in Red Heels

So, when somebody asks you to assist with a project involving an eavesdropping robot-head, there’s only one answer: Duh, JA!

Baltic Goes DigitalThus, I assisted this week with helping to set up a new installation at BTH in, of all places, the Länken cafeteria. The robot is part of the “Audio Elsewhere” art work, included in the Baltic Goes Digital Exhibition, a collaboration between Gdansk City Gallery in Poland and Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, my home-base, in Karlksrona, Sweden. The  exhibition was created as an Art Line contest  and asked artists to imagine a fictional and utopian version of a “Baltic City.” The exhibition runs from Sept 14 to Nov 4, 2012.

Audio Elsewhere is a project designed by Polish artist Marek Dybuść and is intended to allow listeners in Poland to audibly experience a remote location across the Baltic sea. Visitors to the gallery in Gdansk will be able to overhear sounds transmitted from BTH via a “robot-head” mounted on a female mannequin that transmits the audio from Länken to Poland. Digital images of the Länken installation will also be sent via a webcam and will be projected on a screen in the gallery. The “robot head” responds to listener’s head movements in the gallery and moves accordingly to focus on a selected sound source. providing the gallery visitor with an entirely realistic digital audiosphere of a distant place.

Maciej arrives on the overnight ferry from Poland with mannequin-robot wrapped in plastic–only her red stilettos give her away.

To assist with the installation, I met Polish artist Maciej Pomianowski , who worked on  the technical development of the work, at the Stena Line ferry terminal where he had traveled overnight with the robot, actually a life-sized mannequin with a robot-head, dressed in stylish black and white skirt, sweater, and bright red stilettos. Oh, did I mention the gold paint? (The feminist in me chose to ignore the styling and concentrate instead on how we were going to get “her” quickly installed given some of our technical needs and a short length of time.) Maciej apparently had quite the time on the ferry explaining to fellow travellers what he was doing with a “woman” wrapped in plastic and strapped to a dolly. Eventually, he chose to say nothing and just allow them to guess. Good call. Oh also, the cab ride with her was fun 🙂

Maciej and the Robot

Robot and Maciej: A golden match

Eventually we got her set up, hooked to the BTH wireless, via her own eduroam student account, and put her on display. The fact that before she was settled in place, she remained partially “nude” in our computer lab, save her gold paint, while Maciej made technical adjustments in her rear end, often with her skirt hiked over his head, cussing at wireless problems, was a source of great amusement for me. But I digress.

During the opening in Gdansk, a few of my students and colleagues joined her in our location at BTH for some celebratory champagne and to generate some good conversation upon which that others could eavesdrop from afar.  A good time was had by all, and she shall remain in place until November 4th.

a view of the robot in Sweden via webcam from Polish location

A view of the robot in BTH cafeteria via webcam in Gdansk.

Update 1: I was able to visit the gallery in Gdansk while I was in town for the Polish opening of The Telling the Baltic exhibition. It was very cool to surveil the cafeteria at BTH via webcam and  sound-feed after seeing “her” for so long on the other side of the Baltic. I definitely enjoyed operating her head movements so as to frighten students who were holding a meeting on the couches just out of view. Good times. Also the other pieces in the exhibition were inspiring as well and quite elegant in their attempts to use digital media to construct  a fictional Baltic city. Art Line wins again.

Update 2: Check out the interview on Swedish Radio I gave about the robot and her placement at BTH as a conduit for sharing Baltic identities. (Tune in about 11.25 to hear me…)

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(s)AND and (Re-) Mapping Moby: Video Descriptions

art line logoVideos describing  the “(s)AND” and “(Re-)Mapping Moby” projects, for which I am serving as a project leader, are now currently available online. (See links below.)

Both are collaborative projects that I am developing as part of my research at my home institution, Blekinge Tekniska Högskola,  within the Art Line framework. Collectively, they explore embodied modes of expression operating in performative mixed media practices. I am working together with researchers in the Augmented Environments Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga, USA, in the Computer Science department at Malmo Högskola in Sweden, and with independent artists elsewhere in Sweden and the Baltic region. Constructed with a variety of media types (visual, textual, audio, live performance) these artifacts serve to redistribute and construct material mediascapes and ecosystems that exploit sensory expressiveness in/with the body. They are creative/critical experiments that allow my collaborators and I to develop experiences and interfaces to support mixed-mediated performance:

In the “(s)AND” project, we explore the physical landscape around Nida, Lithuania and the Blekinge region of Sweden and their local histories with a focus on shifting sites of narrative location and mediated story-telling. (Hence the project title which alludes to “sand” as a physical property characterized by it shifting nature, at the border between solid land and liquid water, as well as the additive possibilities (and) that such shifting allows when we imagine its stories: If borders shift, then what, one may ask, is lost or gained as the renegotiation occurs? What are the Baltic stories held within, washed away, and re-deposited in the iconic sANDs and dunes of Nida and the rocky shores, runes, and petroglyphs of Blekinge. And how do they exemplify all stories as historically liquid, immense, secret, and yet, intimate when one participates with them?  The project uses hand-held touch screens to access augmented reality and other media content comprised of photographs, video and audio from (and inspired by) the unique landscape locations. Intended to be exhibited across media platforms  and contexts users will be able to access (to “touch”) the abstract narratives  in an installation setting, as well as via a smart phone “app” and a live/media performance. (View video online for more details.)

In the“(re-)Mapping Moby” project, we explore a classic literary novel (Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby-Dick), in conversation with contemporary digital mapping and mixed reality media technologies. Using the literary text as an inspirational base text, we are  exploring ways to re-map the novel to reveal the liquid borders at the heart of its narrative form. Moby-Dick as the base text for this project is not an arbitrary choice. Melville’s revolutionary Romantic text foregrounds the intimate self-reflexive nature of a sea journey of self-discovery that continually presents its narrative and fictional content—an adventurous quest for an elusive object of desire, the white whale—as  a material metaphor for literary production in an ambiguous (“shifty”) aesthetic tradition driven by innovation and progress. The work on this project involves constructing a digital map interface linked to social networking sites, geo-tagging applications, and corresponding augmented reality tools developed for mobile and desktop web browser experiences. The map will be constructed based on locations and stories identified in the novel, but re-located onto the city spaces of Karlskrona, Sweden, where I now live and work. Users will access the content, inspired by the novel, by performing tasks, creating media content, and walking through the city-spaces of a small naval village in Sweden.  Purposely distant and dis-located from the original text,  the location in Sweden nonetheless draws the user into the narrative through a performative mixed-media experience sustained by the experience we (re-)map. (View video online for more details.)

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