Tag Archives: BTH

Performing Exhibitions: dis-playing with art

The upcoming Art Line research seminar I am organizing on Oct 26, 2012 at BTH  promises to be extra-awesome.

There is a great line-up of artists and scholars, and all will come together to demo and reflect on their own work curating, exhibiting, and creating performative media art. I’m very happy to have such an interesting group of creative talent on hand to explore a topic so close to my current research.

Following a talk I will give with my collaborator Daniel Spikol (computer scientist, Malmö Högskola), I will also be demoing a live/mediated performance with Astrid Selling Sjöberg and Kristin Borgehed, incredible folk musicians and scholars from the Folk Practice Academy. Inspired by the (s)AND project, we will use my poetic texts, live music and song,  iPad generated sound-art, video projections and photographs created by my colleagues Martin Arvebro  (videographer) and Ida Gustavsson (photographer) to explore and perform the eco/echo-systems of  Baltic landscapes and the stories they circulate.

Check out the seminar details:

poster image“Performing Exhibitions: Displaying Digital Art and Media” is a seminar exploring exhibition, curation, and performative practices in digital art and mixed media. How does digitally-mediated art engage human actors, embodied agents, and sensory input? What factors influence exhibition and curation choices when displaying innovative art, technology and media forms? How do media artists work to enhance and/or perform liveness and human sensation? What questions do researchers explore when working with the aesthetics of techno-human interfaces? These are the questions we will examine. Featured speakers include an International range of artists, curators, researchers, and scientists working across disciplines and media contexts.

Featured Speakers: Ada Auf Der Strasse (media artist, dancer); Lissa Holloway-Attaway (digital media researcher/mixed media performance); Elektro Moon Vision: Elwira Wojtunik and Popesz Csaba Láng (visual artists/live performance  duo); Susan Kozel (media artist/researcher, dancer); Jacob Lillemose (curator); Jesper Norda, (sound artist); Mateusz Pek, (digital artist); Rebecca Rouse (digital media researcher/theater performance studies); Daniel Spikol (computer science/digital media researcher); Teresa Wennberg (mixed media artist/researcher);

Special Performance: Astrid Selling Sjöberg, Kristin Borgehed (Folk Musicians)

Session Moderators: Maria Engberg, Talan Memmott (Senior Lecturers, BTH, Digital Culture and Communication)

Special Installation: Baltic Agora (Mateusz Pek)

This seminar is sponsored by the Department of Culture and Communication at BTH and by Art Line, an EU-funded project exploring art in public, physical and virtual space in the southern Baltic region


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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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The Telling the Baltic ( TTB ) Artist Workshop I recently hosted at BTH with my Art Line colleagues over the past two weeks has been exceptionally interesting and creatively stimulating—which also means I’ve been totally exhausted most days. That said, having a group of artists and story-collectors in the same room together for such an intense, concentrated period to share their work and to develop ideas for building this grand touring exhibition is really a luxury.

Polish Story-Collector Marcin Boryczko describes his methods for collection and transcription

The breadth of stories collected from the different partners in their different areas of the Baltic has been fascinating. I’ve listened, totally enrapt, these weeks to the presentations of what we have been calling “raw materials” (that is the stories we’ve collected, in video, photographic, and text formats that will be the basis for the artists’ rendering into exhibition pieces) and to the artists’ talks about their practices and initial ideas for development. And so, in my ”raw” story-induced rapture, I have been transported to many sites and watery insights about the Baltic and what it has to tell and how it can inspire. As we suspected, the Baltic turns out to be an exceptional story-teller and evocative agent for abstraction.

Telling the Baltic Polish story transcript

Polish story-collector and radio interviewer Małgorzata Żerwe (with Marcin) highlights key moments in story about dog rescued in shipyard

 Raw is, in fact,  an apt term for what the stories we have collected convey, but only if that means the rawness that is a kind of richness of information—that is information that has not yet been distilled down or processed (as in a RAW image format). In this sense it is bigger still than what the artists will use to create what can only in its latter state be seen as selective rendering, an abstraction. This story rawness is pretty full on, and it’s hard to consider what might be left behind if/when the raw stories become abstract art, as if there is a clear difference between the two. Listening to one artist at the workshop  (whom I respected, but with whom I nonetheless disagreed) characterize the stories as “only information” that must be separately “archived”  (in a database or in a library-setting) as opposed to the art works that naturally should be on exhibition given their more abstract form, made me realize why this project interested me in the first place: ontological /aesthetic/philosophical/interdisciplinary conundrums excite me. . .

Lithuanian Artist/Story-collector presentation

Lithuanian Artist Irma Stanaityte describes encounter with fishermen

What is a story, anyway and how can we mediate it without somehow changing or intervening in it? What does it mean to render a story, in art, in digital space, or in the embodied act of listening to it? Of course mediation is always a factor in these interactions, and we are participants in all that we hear; this is both a theoretical and ontological reality fundamental to the theories of material mediation I teach—but in this case I am actively impacted by what that means, particularly when art and story are so closely connected, and yet somehow still opposed in this project. When confronted with the material fact of designing an exhibition space (or contributing to its design), this theoretical musing becomes more pragmatically engaging. Oh, what to do with these stories?

four fishermen

Polish and Swedish fishermen gather in the cultural center (an unlikely setting) with the artists to describe their Baltic fishing practices and thoughts about EU regulations for sustainability

In the project, we separate easily into story-collectors and artists by our actions and the tasks we have set for ourselves (story-collectors gather, then artists make), but the raw materials we work with are not so clearly discernible when we isolate them from those tasked with their mediation and rendering.

fishermen show size of fish

The fishermen show us the size of their biggest catch. They said only amateurs did this, but they reluctantly, and humorously, showed us together it was "this big." (photo credit: Anna Stellar, TTB artist)



And sometimes we have decided (or were forced to consider through material experiences that stubbornly resisted separation) that the artists and story-collectors should be necessarily the same person. They could not (or would not) divide into hunting/gathering and then making phases …

lighthouse keeper story presentation

Polish Story-Collector Agnieszka Wołodźko presents her interview with Polish lighthouse keeper

For me, the interviews with male and female lighthouse keepers in Poland, with articulate Swedish fishermen concerned with sustainable fishing practices, Lithuanian crow eaters (literally, those that eat the birds, and not in an idiomatic sense), with sailors and seamen of all nationalities who share their sexist superstitions about women on- and off-board (whistling women are the worst) is like being in the middle of some lovely, immersive mythic archive of oddity, history and fantasy—that is, the best possible of all raw archives. It is too much (to be processed) and too rich to be identified as in need of more artistry and abstraction.

artists locate sites on map of Baltic

Russian artist Anton Zabrodin and Polish collector Agnieszka Wołodźko locate sites of interest on the Baltic map

artists at workshop

Swedish artist Johan Thurfjell (L), Polish artist Patrycja Orzechowska (C), and Danish artist Henrik Lund Jörgensen (R) listen and reflect at workshop

And so in the workshop, a central concern for me (but for some others as well) has been to discuss ways to represent and share the stories we have collected, as well as the art derived from them, within the exhibitions we have planned. How can we make the stories accessible and dynamic and how can we be sure in an “art” exhibition that they are not subverted or viewed as a lesser kind of “raw,” as objective information vs.  arty abstraction?

baltic map relfected on collector's face

Agnieszka's Baltic grimace

How can we share the stories with others in ways that encourage immersion and connection with the people of the Baltic who bothered to talk to us (but who are also generally bemused by, or just confused about, our interest in their “ordinary” lives)?  Outside of a kind of traditional “media library” of sources through which visitors to the exhibitions can browse, how may we encourage them to spend time with the stories and find further connection with the art? It’s a dilemma I think we will continue exploring, but I am encouraged that others share my struggle with this.

worshop participants at pub

We end week one of the workshop at a local pub to discuss ideas with "other" kinds of flowing inspiration.

Intimacy with others via their stories is a challenge in a public exhibition space, as is the act of “shared reading” (however we characterize this slippery act, as slow and private,  or shared and embodied). I don’t expect we’ll solve this problem, actually, but I hope to embrace it and see how it flows. Thankfully, we have several exhibitions to explore the possibilities and see where we are led.

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Telling the Baltic Artist Workshop, March 2012:

I’m so happy that our Artist Workshop for Telling the Baltic is finally beginning. We are hosting a number of artists from Southern Baltic region at BTH between March 5-16 to help develop materials for our touring exhibition in 2012-13. An excerpt  from the press release is included below…

The Baltic Sea and its surroundings comprise a natural and multi-layered story that can reveal itself in countless forms, all depending on how and where one chooses to look and to investigate its many depths and surfaces

Beginning in early 2011, Lissa Holloway Attaway,  Pirjo Elovaara and Talan Memmot of the Department of Culture and Communication at Blekinge Institute of Technology, along with independent videographer Martin Arvebro,  began their research into the Baltic sea as a site for collecting stories. They met up with sea-dwellers at the island of Sturkö, south of Karlskrona; they met up with chefs, bartenders, captains and other crew members on board the Stena Vision ferry traveling between Karlskrona and Gdynia, as well as on the much smaller Aspö commuter ferry. They also gathered stories from the landscape itself around the Baltic region, using video and photography to document it. On the other side of the Baltic, Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in Poland, NCCA Kaliningrad in Russia, Nida Art Colony in Lithuania and Kunsthalle Rostock in Germany  also gathered their stories, each using different methods and collecting unique perspectives.

This pool of different narratives, in video, audio, and in photo format will be presented to the International artists from the Southern Baltic region gathering at Campus Gräsvik. The artists will use the stories as inspiration to create art works to be included in a touring exhibition held in Baltic locations during 2012 and 2013. The tour begins in June 2012 at the Blekinge Museum in Kalrkskrona. This (re-)telling of Baltic stories in artistic form offers new perspectives on what the Baltic is for many, and what it might be for others to come

On Monday 5/3 from 14.30 and Tuesday 6/3, from 15.00 to 17.30 participating artists will present themselves and their varied art practices for 15 minutes each, followed by a general discussion. These presentations will be held at Campus Gräsvik, room C 313A and are open to the public.

Participating artists are:  Anna Brag (SE), Astrid Göransson (SE), Anna Steller (PL), Anna Zaradny (PL), Henrik Lund Jörgensen (DK/SE), Irma Stanaityte (LT), Iwona Zając (PL), Johan Thurfjell (SE), Jurgita Remeikyte (LT)), Katrin Roeber (DE), Łukasz Szałankiewicz (PL), Paetrick Schmidt (DE), Patrycja Orzechowska (PL) and Rikard Fåhreus (SE).

Participating story-collectors are:

Lissa Holloway Attaway (CA/SE), Agnieszka Wołodźko (PL), Marcin Boryczko (PL), Małgorzata Żerwe (PL), Pirjo Elovaara (SE), Karin Nilsson (SE), Talan Memmott (US/SE)

More information about the Telling the Baltic project:


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