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Exhibitions > Decode - Digital Design Sensations

Decode; Digital Design Sensations  /  Louise Shannon

Decode; Digital Designs Sensations presents art and design that utilises digital technologies to create a range of works, from screen based animations to large interactive and immersive environments. These technologies help to create works that are constantly in flux; they often grow and change over the course of the exhibition responding to instructions from specially created computer code. Many of the works in the exhibition respond to visitor intervention in the galleries. Artists and designers use new technologies to track the presence of visitors, creating works that offer experiential exchanges within the gallery space. Our increasingly networked world is providing a growing number of platforms for artists and designers for production, interrogation and dissemination.

Computational code carries the core data necessary to run a computer programme. This code is becoming an increasingly prevalent tool for artists and designers. Whether bespoke or open sourced, tinkered with or hacked, programming languages are becoming increasingly important in the design process. On Growth and Form (2009) by Daniel Brown explores the potential of computer programming. Brown explores the artistry of algorithms within his work, stretching the creative capacity of the computer and exploring the beauty of systems. His work, inspired by the V&A's collection, crafts bespoke programming languages to create unique visuals that grow and bloom over the course of the exhibition. The computer programme ensures that images taken from the textiles, ceramics and prints collection at the V&A are selected at random, weaved together and arranged within the floral parameters set by his bespoke algorithms.


On Growth and Form (2009) by Daniel Brown 

Complex computer programmes, combined with a host of infrared and tracking technologies form the basis of the works within the Interactivity section of the exhibition. These works often respond to the visitor creating an immediate exchange with the work. These works are often playful, evoking a sense of curiosity within the viewer, offering new and unique experiences within the gallery or museum space. Information exchange is not purely hierarchical - from object to viewer. In many of these works, the audiences have the opportunity to influence and control the pieces on display as artists and designers have a growing interest in behaviour and how this influences their work. The work of Mehmet Akten allows audiences to control pixels like a painter. Body Paint (2009) allows visitors to move pixels around, shaping the work purely by gesture. Akten, like others in the exhibition, is interested in the body and its role within works that have no visible interface.


"Body Paint" Installation at "Clicks or Mortar", March 2009 from Mehmet Akten.

Ross Phillips' work allows for creative exchange between visitors. Video Grid (2009) records visitors for one second with the results projected on to a grid in the exhibition space. Within that second they may interact with the previous visitors' experiments or create their own moving portrait. It gives us both an insight in to communal creativity and self representation under the collective gaze of the audience.

The work of Simon Heijdens prompts us to reflect on the impact of technology on society. Heijdens' work is often projected in large urban settings creating a juxtaposition with the natural and urban built environment. The branches and leaves on Tree (2005) move in response to local environment conditions outside of gallery. Sensors outside of the exhibition space feed information to the tree, when the tree sways outside, so too does the projected tree. The weather systems become visualised and nature is transplanted in to the urban environment. This becomes a powerful tool for highlighting the impact of technology advancement and the natural eco systems surrounding us.

The interactive design school Fabrica has produced a work that promotes a slower, less instant form of interaction. In the work Venetian Mirror (2009), the only way to make your presence felt is through stillness. As a contrast to some of the other interactive works in the exhibition, Venetian Mirror only works if the visitor to the exhibition slows down, remains still, inaction becomes the impetus.

As these work track the audience within the gallery space, the works in Network look at how human thought and activity within our increasingly digitised networked society has been translated and utilized by artists and designers.

Jonathan Harris and Sep Kemvar have captured an archive of online emotion over the last five years. In We Feel Fine (2005), sentiments expressed in online blogs and personal websites have been collated using data mining software to create an ever growing collection of feelings. These feelings can be interrogated, sorted to gender, city, country and weather conditions. This provides a powerful tool of reflection, a filter used to understand and see in an instant what the emotional temperature of one part of the world may be at any given point both past and present.

Aaron Koblin's Flight Patterns (2008) uses 24 hours worth of data provided by the United States Federal Aviation Administration detailing passenger and cargo flights over North America. This huge amount of data forms the basis of Koblin's animation visualizing flights as they cross North America. In a very short time, clear pictures of the country are formed. Its metropolitan cities can be identified as too can its relationships to its neighbouring countries. In only a few moments we have the capacity to comprehend huge data sets; they are transformed from cold numerical calculations in to a sociological study of the US at the beginning of the 21st century.


Aaron Koblin, Flight Patterns, 2008

Digital technologies have liberated the production of art and design from geographical centers. Geography is becoming increasingly insignificant as artists and designers can work via global networks. Many of the artists and designers in the exhibition work collaboratively across continents, not restricted to close proximity working.

As more people contribute to ever expanding works, the line between creator and author becomes increasingly blurred. Artists and designers are setting the parameters and releasing works into creative communities. Fabrica's Exquisite Clock (2009) uses the collective online community as the driving force for the work. Visitors to the gallery or website can upload images adding to a perpetually growing database of images which form a digital clock. This database has been expanding since 2009 and continues to grow as the exhibition tours.

The exhibition highlights a paradigm shift in design practices. Although computers have been utilized in the production of contemporary art and design for many years, we are seeing a host of new tools and increased possibilities for the design, production and execution of new work. Designers are creating their own tools, online repositories and libraries of code that are shared and published for the creative communities to use. The outcomes of these designs have a powerful impact, one that sees both the works and the exhibitions in which they are shown changing from that of the static to a dynamic and fluid experience.

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