Bringing media back to space

On: October 22, 2009
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About Ramses Petronia


Every day our lives seem to require more and more ‘new media’ to keep up the pace. GPS on cellphones, possibility of instant communication either online or via phone, a wii to make sure we do some sports, and so on. We are often less aware of the space we travel through, or live in. At the same time this space is also being influenced or altered, in ways of which we are not directly aware. These alterations are not necessarily focused on our social interaction or interaction with the space we are in.

Daan Brinkmann, an artist that works with the Montevideo Art Institute in Amsterdam worked on a project a few years ago, called ’16 Pillars’, which he made to cause more social interaction between people or people and their surroundings in public spaces such as an airport waiting room. In this piece of art he made 16 pillars with sensors that make it possible to change light, and sound. This video shows how the artwork functions.

Manuel Castells distinguishes spatial organization of our common experience defined by cities (The Space of Flows (2000) ) referred to as the ‘space of places’, from ‘a new logic of space structured on networks and flows of information’, which he calls ‘space of flow’. Castells proposes that the space of flows in traditional urban spaces transforms the city forms into ‘processes’.  In the spaces of flow we see how the combination of media, and spaces influence our experience tremendously.

Traffic, flow of people, sound, and lighting in big cities are all interconnected in a way that they can be influenced, or influence eachother. If a public transport bus is running late, central programming can let the bus arrive on time by making sure it gets relatively more green lights on its way.

As we are more and more influenced by these changes around us, we also see that artists start using new media either to be in the trend, or to add something new with present possibilities and present art experience.

Lev Manovich describes in Learning from Prada how Museums and art galleries are often less popular because of new media. He recommends they start looking at how they can beat the computer screen at its own game, by staging real objects of desire, and by adding some spice to the space with maybe some audio-visual interactive gadgetry, such as is being done in the commercial world. Manovich describes how Prada NYC does not make us feel in a store, but more in a modern church. Prada’s way of showing off with their brand in any way, described by Manovich as brandscaping (shock advertisement). As he notes this ‘results in the I know it’s an illusion, but nevertheless effect. Prada is a business which is governed by economic rationality, yet we still feel we are not simply in a store, but in a modern church. ‘

When taking this into account it seems, that artists such as Brinkmann might be a step further than what Manovich advises Museums. Not only does Brinkmann make use of new media for his art. He is not selling the ‘I know it’s an illusion, but nevertheless effect.’ He is researching and creating new work with the help of new electronic interaction art. His latest work is the skinstrument.

The installation enables several players to simultaneously generate sounds by touching eachother on the skin. When players touch one of the semi spheres they become part of an electronic circuit consisting of a tiny, imperceptible current. When the players start to touch each other on the skin this circuit starts to generate sound. The intensity of the touch determines the modulation of the sound.

Could art that invites for interaction with and between people provide for an appreciated experience? And what kind of role could it fullfill in city architecture or everyday city life?

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