Design geeks, software engineers and digital artist-coders came together at Fort Mason Center for The Creators Project, a two-day showcase that honors cross-disciplinary pioneers who engage with digital technology in novel ways.
Project creators Intel and Vice teamed up to transform the old army base into a veritable playground of interactive creativity reflective of the startup culture and innovation that has made the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area a technology mecca.
The two-day festival, which featured musical performances, film screenings, live panels with artists and museum fellows, coding and design workshops, a game station and awe-inspiring multimedia artwork, gave participating Creators a platform to disseminate their unique ideas and engage with the public.
A number of new art installations made their U.S. debut alongside works that have already premiered elsewhere.
Cutting-edge filmmaker Chris Milk, whose name has become inseparable from Arcade Fire after he coordinated the famed ball drop at Coachella in 2011, premiered “The Treachery of Sanctuary” —an imaginative triptych that uses kinetic motion sensors to transform the silhouettes of participators into visual simulations of flight.
Depending on which of the three white canvases you stand in front of in the installation, you may sprout a pair of seraphic wings, be attacked by a murder of crows or watch as your shadow disintegrates piecemeal into a flock of vertically-ascending birds. An accompanying soundtrack that sounds like it came out of Hitchcock’s The Birds makes the installation multisensory and increases its visceral appeal—it makes infantile dreams of flight seem not so far-fetched.
Design studio Sosolimited introduced “Overscan,” an Orwellian-like video display that takes live television broadcasts from one primary screen and analyzes its elementary components and deconstructs them in ways that reveal hidden linguistic repetitions, the prominence of specific facial patterns and certain underlying themes.
Custom language-processing and video analyzing software take text and images and emancipate them from sound and their original context.
“We watch T.V. in a very passive way not really engaging critically and not really thinking about it—and part of what we do is create a series of filters that change the way you view the broadcast. And they [the filters] can be very abstract or very poetic or sometimes informational, but they’re really just designed to get you to rethink the way you look at a broadcast or tune you into different aspects of the broadcast,” said John Rothenberg of Sosolimited
A stunning example of the fusion of art and technology came from collaborative workshop and technology lab SuperUber. “Octocloud” is a physical wooden structure with precisely built angles covered in high contrast paint, a collaborative and user-interactive video game and a stunning piece of visual art that blurs the line between the real, hyperreal and virtual worlds.
The virtual game follows minimalist design principals: the users control a ball with a mechanical controller that can be pulled back and let go with the intention of breaking a shield located in the center of the display.
What makes the piece so interesting is its integration. When you launch the virtual “ball [it] obeys the angles of the sculpture; it appears as if it exists physically in space,” said SuperUber co-founder Russ Rive.
Rive said that SuperUber draws a lot on classic breakout games and Atari. These games are huge source of inspiration because they had to be good games because the designers had to do a lot with only a limited number of pixels. Game-designers today are really focused on the graphics, but good graphics doesn’t make a game a good game, said Rive.
Gamification, specifically recruiting the participation of festival-goers, played an integral part in the “#Creators Live” visual installation by Social Print Studio and Intel Labs.
Building on the concept of the Instagrid application designed by Social Print Studio, festival goers were asked to use the #Creators tag for their Instagram photos on Twitter; via filtering software, these photos were aggregated in real-time and displayed in a grid-fashion.
For the project, Intel research scientists programmed a tactile screen that users could engage with; team members said the goal was to design a natural interface that didn’t require explanation.
“The goal is to make technology disappear behind the art; if you get it right, the technology should feel like magic,” said Intel fellow Doug Carmean in reference to the sensors on the other visual display screen that detect the approach of viewers and cause the photos to peel backwards in an enchanting undulating motion.
One of the most popular exhibits of the weekend was “Life on Mars Revisited,” a collaboration between film director Barney Clay and rock photographer Mick Rock.
The original 16mm film for the David Bowie video spent 30 years in a cookie tin in Mick Rock’s garage, and has only recently been cleaned up and visually reinterpreted. Lines to see the film stretched for an hour or more Saturday afternoon.
The film digitally isolates Bowie’s facial features, spasmodically switching from black and white to color and back again and fragmenting Bowie’s image—the effect being jarring and unique.
Noteworthy repeats from earlier events in other cities included “Process 16 (Software 3)” by Casey Reas, which looks like a painted abstract expressionist piece but was created using the Processing programming language; “Six-Forty by Four-Eighty,” a lighting installation with colored pixels that change color in response to human touch and manipulation by Zigelbaum + Coelho; Strata #4 by Quayola, which uses software to sift through the aesthetic layers of classic paintings and architecture and reinterpret them in a video display through the Delaunay triangulation method; “Meditation,” a display that responds to human body movements with serene sounds and colorful visuals, created by Minha Yang; and a minatory 40-foot audiovisual cube called “Origin” created by United Visual Artists and electronic artist Scanner.