- Mobile Performance
- Electric Speed
- Schematic as Score
- (Re)purposed Clothes
- Collaborative Spaces
- Device Art
- Digital Dub
- Rise of the VJ
- Sample Culture
This edition of VagueTerrain showcases an intimate and phenomenological mobile art aesthetic unfolding in networked mobile performance and media art projects that utilise the potential of the latest smartphones, transforming and repurposing the device into a new collaborative medium for expression.
Many mobile cinematic projects in the past valued poor image quality and low-resolution video on their phones for its immediacy, blurriness and pixelated imperfection – with low resolution holding its own beauty, value, and unique aesthetic. The aesthetic of this emerging mobile moving image medium, as with the early video cameras, has been one of rapidly improving image quality and developing photo and video editing applications. Yet in exchange what is gained is an immediacy and empowerment through the simplicity of use of the device. Due to its portability and close relationship to the body, the videophone has an inherent embodied expressivity. Observing users of multimedia phones, there is an inversion of what is considered ‘quality’ image construction or filmmaking taking place: the limitations of the tool and pixelated resolution become an asset rather than a hindrance to image-making. It is the very messiness of the medium that makes it visceral; the tension of imperfection of image quality that lends a rawness and gives it an authenticity or ‘liveness’.
Several artists and filmmakers, following from Lev Manovich, are now finding new ways to create generative narrative using databases, custom software or apps that take advantage of mobile media - the field is expanding exponentially. Conceptual aspects of the ‘database’, along with visual methods for tagging and categorising media in the network fuel ambient narrative constructions and performance projects. Generative elements are incorporated through custom iPhone and iPad tools, made by artists using specialised programming environments and open source or other artistic technologies. New forms of narrative are being explored, such as that experienced through the work of Mark Amerika, made by structured improvisational mobile cinema activities as in Mobile Phone Video Art Classics (2008) or Immobilité (2009), or Dean Terry’s mo.vid.1 (2005), Steve Hawley’s Speech Marks (2004) and Giselle Beiguelman’s sometimes always, sometimes never (2005). These works have set the tone for newly evolving projects. Amerika, Terry, Kozel and my own media art research, MINDtouch, point to the increasing use of gesture which is becoming a key aspect of the mobile video modality. The mobile device encourages movement, often resulting in blurry, abstracted patterns, and a ‘splattering’ effect from gesture. It inspires a playful, expressive, performative exploration.
BBC Screens commissions large interactive screens projects, for example artist Kasia Molga’s project for Glastonbury 2010 which takes mobile sms' from the audience to create an interactive mobile / digital painting; the V+A had a weekend of open source creativity as part of their digital art exhibition Decode in 2010/2011 which showcased artists who made innovative performative or interactive projects with Nokia's open source platform the N900. Others like Mark Amerika have made structured improvisational mobile cinema works like Immobilité , and still others are now taking over the iPhone platform and making art apps. One artist last year showed work supported by Nokia and elementary schools, where he taught students drawing and animation using the iPhone touch and now the iPad. Last year the artist David Hockney exhibited work made entirely on the iPhone touch and the iPad; visitors could watch him create in real time. In the summer of 2010 in London a project called Media Sandbox provided a workshop that taught theatre directors and actors how to make new creative and participatory theatre using mobile and pervasive devices.
As the curator of this journal issue, I also want to mention my own recently completed PhD project, MINDtouch was a participatory media art work that was designed for "Social Mobile VJing" using for media phones. MINDtouch explored embodied, non-verbal interaction using wearable biosensing devices and mobile phones as the ‘interfaces’ to connect bodies, in a weave of layered media during social events. It sought to uncover how bodily sensations, perceptions, and interactions could be meaningfully utilised and expressed visually. Participatory, mobile media social events enabled telematic presence and liveness, aided by the embodied physiological sensors, to intensify the interaction and engagement. Presence of participants was transformed into a digital video collage, allowing them to ‘touch’ and ‘play’ with others, remotely, through the network.
This edition of Vague Terrain will present these and other ground-breaking projects that are taking mobile art and mobile media into new directions. In this issue the focus is then new artworks that use either mobile video or other mobile applications in performance or other performative pieces, or have a performative aspect in their mobile video art, with the exception of one artist. Featured here are many diverse artists, including the London-based artist Kasia Molga mentioned above, who uses interactive live data feeds and SMS to create digital paintings and other interactive digital works. Filmmaker Max Schleser developed his own new, artistic approach to mobile documentary making called 'mobile-metary' and the resulting projects made this way. A dancer/choreographer team made of of Susan Kozel, Mia Keinanen, Leena Rouhiainen, Samu Mielonen, and Anne Koutonen with many others, made two main projects exploring Twitter and choreography called Inutweet, and we will focus on their most recent project called alone or not.
I interviewed well-known VJ and video artist Mark Amerika about his work and Immobilité in particular. I talked to Whit MacLaughlin who is the Artistic Director of the theatre group New Paradise Laboratories, who make theatre using mobile devices and web interactivity, especially in its production Extremely Public Displays of Privacy?. Another interesting piece was the result of the emobile-art European Art residency - The Third Woman mobile art project; I spoke to two of the artists who were involved in the mobile film and site-specific performance aspects of the project, Martin Rieser and Anna Dumitriu. In my recent travels, I met Dutch artist/coder Sander Veenhof, who makes mobile Augmented Reality works that are highly engaging and participatory, I felt his work was so exciting and cutting edge that he needed to be featured here too. Another filmmaker, Pete Gomes, who started making films using traditional celluloid and still works on more traditional film projects in collaborations, but has moved much of his of own abstract and personal projects to the mobile format, experimenting with the latest mobile film apps to emulate the old celluloid look. Through my MobileFest contacts in Brazil I was referred to the work of Giuliano Chiaradia, who collaborated with several dancer/actors to co-create unique mobile performance video pieces for a project called 5#Calls. Lastly, I have always been interested in the research by Will Pearson who has been developing mobile comics and developed a mobile visual narrative project and downloadable iPhone app called Sobras.
Finally, I've also included an overview of my own recent works, such as MINDtouch, using mobile video and sensing devices in performance and participatory installation.
Camille Baker, London