The Art of Domains19

There was a lot to love about Domains19,  and I’m just starting to get my head around the event. But I think the most gratifying part of the conference for me was to see the art exhibits really take. I’m at heart a frustrated artist, I desperately want to be one but I lack much of the talent and work ethic required, so I just reproduce 80s living rooms, VHS stores, and soon video game arcades. It’s a kind of art I guess, if art is a bad imitation of life.

Anyway, all this to say I was thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Ryan Seslow on his featured art piece around accessibility for the conference, namely “The Art of Accessibility.” The development of this piece is worth documenting a bit. We had Ryan down to Fredericksburg twice before the conference as a way to both brainstorm and let the piece gestate a bit. The first visit was in February. Ryan came down and we spent a Saturday playing around at CoWork. We had in our mind that we would try and get screens to highlights his various GIFs as part of the piece, but this is where serendipity and being together worked its magic. We had a bunch of old TVs and VCRs laying around the office that we picked up or folks had given us for Reclaim Video, and Tim had the idea that we could repurpose them to show off Ryan’s GIF for the exhibit. This started us down a really fun path of playing with the Raspberry Pi Video Looper setup, and soon enough we had a pretty solid sense of the piece:

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Make art with @ryanseslow, dammit

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That was a few hours one weekend, and we decided then that one more trip down would allow us to spend another weekend to finish the piece together. So, to that end, we brought Ryan down again in late May and actually built the pyramid of 9 monitors and mapped out all the other pieces like which Raspberry Pi would go with which TV. Also, to work around the fact we had more TVs than Raspberry Pis, we actually recorded 6 hours of a looping GIF onto two different VHS tapes and had two of the 9 screens actually running a GIF via VHS. We also introduced the video projector which would feature a whole wall of GIFs and then, finally, we got not only a GIF running in an Internet Explorer browser on Mac OS9, but also used one of the TVs to act as a monitor for a 1999 Apple Quicktime camera George Meadows had donated to Reclaim Video. 

The whole thing was really fun because Ryan was so damn easy and awesome to work with, and he just let Tim and I shoot ideas about how to highlight his art, and together we built a piece I am inordinately proud of. Tim was a master at adding a number of cool features (the Apple spy camera, the Mac OS9 browser GIF, etc) as well as making things work, and this exhibit is testament that most good things are a collaboration of many people contributing what they can. I think it’s awesome, and it highlghts what my work life has felt like fo the past 15 years, I have been very lucky in that.

More importantly, I do think the piece does justice to Ryan’s attempt to capture the chaos of making sense of the digital world as a deaf person, and the array of dead technology highlights the prison house of form and style of that defines our media landscape.  It was a truly a generative collaboration, and folks seemed to appreciate the resulting product. In fact, while setting up the night before a group of young artists were digging on it pretty hard, and it made me happy:

But pretty much everyone brought their A-game to Domains19 when it came to art. The TmCertified crew consisting of Matt Roberts and Tommy Birchett were educating the Domains community about the real value of the new derivative art on the global exchange market known as the web. I may, or may not, be able to get a version of the art Tess and I collaborated on for their installation, but they were nothing short of awesome. It was performance art and interactive, creative fun. I loved it.

Also, Zach Whalen‘s Glitch Art frame was amazing. He built the frame and stand that encased the GIFs though two monitors and each day a new combination of Glitch GIFs. It was mesmerizing, and reminds me how awesome Zach is!

Speaking of UMW, they really brought it hard for the art fair, Jess Reingold and Jennifer Hill’s Battle for Silicon Valley triptych hat maps the techno-plutocrats of our era on top of the an historical painting from the 18th or 19th century (not sure which one though):

There was a visit from the good Dr. whose drone could put to sleep an entire room of folks.

While not a Domains19 art work per se, it was good to see SPLOTs represented in the general collection 🙂

Martin Hawksey and Bryan Mathers teamed up to create a photo booth where folks could use the Fabulous Remixer Machine or create a GIF from back to the future with McFlyify.

And Martin Hawksey out did himself with one of the best keynotes I have seen in a very long time. He actually built a the  “They Live” generator that “lets you relive the seminal moment [in They Live] when Nada walks down the L.A street and the real truth is revealed.

They Live

Martin used Kairos to demonstrate how accurate that software is at detecting if you are wearing sunglasses, it also returns other demographic data such as age, gender and ethnicity. 

And then there were sava saheli singh and Tim Maughan‘s Screening Surveillance films, which were an awesome addition, you can hear them discuss A Model Employee in the video above.

I am thrilled so many folks took the idea seriously and brought made this little experiment possible. It built on the Domains Record Fair last year in some important ways, and I really love the idea of highlighting art and creativity as part and parcel of good edtech. 

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2 Responses to The Art of Domains19

  1. mhawksey says:

    Domains was an amazing! The range of expression on show was inspiring … needless to say I’ve come home and asked Maren if we can and incorporate something similar for the next OER conference 🙂

  2. Ryan says:

    So so excellent!!

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