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Bridging Code Live
by Malcolm Levy, curator of CODE Live
Why do we bridge? Since time immemorial, the idea of bridging has been a hallmark of civilization. Instrumental in providing a means of passage—at first geographical and then man-made-bridges allowed for movement from place to place across the world. In looking at the overall selection of artworks for CODE Live, there is a constant resonance with the ideas of what it means to "Bridge." In the essays by Zainub Verjee, Stephen Kovats, Caroline Seck Langill and Louise Poissant, we see a multitude of ways in which the CODE Live works interact and intersect with the theme of Bridging. In addition to the works touched upon within the essays in this HorizonZero issue, I would encourage you to search amongst the links to the CODE website to further explore these wonderful installations.
An interesting trend has occurred over the past 20 years. The use of everything from audio, visuals, sensors, cameras, robotics, computer programs, LEDs, and other forms of technology in media art is bringing across ideas that lie completely outside these realms. It's these secondary and tertiary forces that are the focus of CODE Live. The idea is that art today, in an interesting reversal of perception, has the ability to incorporate notions initially perceived to be oppositional within a technological realm: the environment, traditional practice, travel, culture, tactility, perception, and any multitude of different experiences in between. This juxtaposition makes up the ecology of works within CODE Live, and the bridges that can be seen within it.
The entire series of Eco Art speaks to the ironic connections that currently exist between technology and the world around us. Though traditionally thought to be oppositional in nature, eco art has found an interesting place within technology. Wang Yuyang's Artificial Moon creates a giant LED moon in both natural and man-made spaces. EatART's Mondo Spider takes one on an adventure through an eco friendly bladerunner-like reality. But it's not its relation to a spider that makes it eco art, but rather the fact that the work has been converted as a Zero Emissions machine; the first of its kind. Akousmaflore creates a garden of musical plants, which react to the movements and touch of those that engage with their beauty, while Seed allows participants to use mobile devices to plant trees, not only visually on an ever growing projected image, but also in actual fact directly in the ground.
Transformation has always been an important and essential facet of art. Appropriation, re-appropriation, repatriation, cultural commentary, mash-ups, and the use of ancient forms and traditions informing art practice have all been constant themes. This transformation has been quite astounding in the fields of media, music and related visual art. As technology envelopes our planet in an expanding network of wires and satellites, one has seen a congruent growth in the practice. The visionary ideas of Ranjit Makkuni, and the think tank at Sacred World have created works dissecting cities, culture, religion and traditions in ways that effortlessly move between artifact and the digital space. Dustin Rivers' Untold Histories tells the stories of the Squamish Nation and their history on the land that is now part of downtown Vancouver. Vested takes the visitor on an experience throughout many of the world's most famous monuments and buildings, and in the tradition of Don Ritter's work, after putting on a custom vest, forces the user to become an active participant in the space, thinking about actions, consequences, and the multiplicity of cultures that one lives within. Song of Solomon uses a stirring soundscape to tell the story of Solomon Linda, the original creator of the song "Mbube," later made famous through the hit film The Lion King, and the reality of cultural appropriation, its consequences and impact even in the 21st century. Throughout CODE Live, traveling is a constant theme, and in this time of movement, what could be a more appropriate way to move than through participation in the internet itself?
The advances in the internet and communications technology has taken us into a completely new sphere of influence and art over the past 10 years. Where are you? allows participants to journey through a surreal universe at speeds and scales that are beyond normal comprehension. Breaking the Ice makes it possible for visitors in Montreal and Vancouver to interact together in one space, working together around a goal of further connecting Canada. CODE.lab uses hidden cameras to create a form of participation not normally commented on: that of the observer being observed. Instant Places: Canada CODE is an audio/video environment in which images, sounds, and texts collected from across Canada are transformed in real time. In Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Vectorial Elevation, the public is an integral part of the artwork. Using an online interface, participants from all over the world are able to design immense "light sculptures" with 20 searchlights located along English Bay in Vancouver. Over the years, this project has brought hundreds of thousands of people online to create different iterations of the work. All of these pieces challenge our perception of how we feel, sound, react and relate in such a context.
Tactility and perception is of course one of the most interesting aspects of art that can be aided and embedded with technology. This is often what has helped make the work unique and interactive for audiences. How the brain tricks itself into believing through image and sound is one of the inescapable implications of the experience triggered by The Paradise Institute. Ken Rinaldo's Paparazzi Bots take us into the possibilities of future and present worlds, where surveillance technologies, cellphones and artificial intelligence are beginning to record our every move. Made up of tiny LED fibres, Daan Roosegaarde's Dune takes the audience immediately into the relationship between light and dark, between artificial ecologies and human senses, and, into the world of interaction that lies beyond. Fearless City Mobile and NeoGrafik challenge our changing perceptions of art, community and architecture. From research in science and art, wearable microcomputers and smart fabrics, the Electromode Series transforms the body through dynamic, kinetic and shape-shifting garments that expand the body's possibilities. Pieces such as Peau d'Âne, Skorpions, Walking City, Emotional Ties, Jacket Antics and Electric Skin challenge our perception of the world around us. Reactable brings us an instrument that can be grasped within minutes. Ideas of a physical yet virtual space filter through this piece. Here technology has the ability to create systems for collaboration, a concept that might have implications far outside the world of art. Reading the essays by the various writers in this issue of HorizonZero, enables us to bridge our perspectives on media art and its place in the world today.
Malcolm Levy is the Curator of CODE Live at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. His work in experimental film, media and documentary include co-founding capitalmag.com and the New Forms Festival, a series of works for CBC Radio 3 on 120seconds, and writing/curating for Mobile Muse, MUTEK, VIDFEST and Assignment Zero among others. Malcolm's films and video installation works have been presented in India, Australia, China, Germany and Canada.