Summary: Digital Arts Lab (Berlin)

What is happening in Berlin’s creative technology scene these days? The pop-up exhibition “Digital Arts Lab” showcased a selection of works from Berlin-based artists and creative technologists.

The show was curated by Julian Adenauer and Jasmin Grimm from Retune and staged as part of hub.berlin, a big industry conference related to topics of digital development, big data and AI.

Photo´© MoovelLab

I always like to sneak into the world of creative technologists and digital artists, both for inspiration around new interaction ideas as well as to soak up critical or just off-mainstream reflections on what we can & should do with all these new technologies.

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The show opened with the installation Cubist Mirror by artist/programmer Gene Kogan, in which visitors see themselves in a screen like in a mirror, and will find the appearance of their “portrait” changed by ever changing layers of optical patterns. These are generated in real-time by a neural network, which was trained using an extensive data base of iconic artworks. Gene explains the underlying principle of style-transfer in this post. Below the installation in-situ as well as an example portrait:

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#hubberlin #futureisnow #happypeople #berlin

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Studio Neeeeeu presented OrBeat, an augmented-reality installation in which users could control the electronic music playing over the loudspeakers by placing or moving about graphic elements in a shared AR-space. The installation was controlled using mobile phones (both Android and iOS models). Users all saw the same space, and if one would place or move an element, the others would see that as well.

What I liked was not only the colorful virtual controlling elements which looked like toys and made controlling the music feel like something haptic. I also liked the idea that all users were seeing the same space with the same elements in it, and so would be able to control this augmented space (and the pertaining music) collaboratively.

Here’s a short video presenting the studio and the ideas behind OrBeat, featuring my old work-buddies from Art+Com Studios, Raphael Moco Schiller and Raphaël de Courville:

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Japanese media artist So Kanno looks at swarm intelligence in his installation Laser Mice. A bunch of little robots which were randomly moving about and were flashing lights from one to the other, which from time to time would create a rhythm of pulsing connections within the swarm. The installation was easily the most popular piece in the show, or at least the most instagrammable piece judging from the number of posts available there. Again, here is So Kanno’s video and a snapshot of the little robots doing their thing.  

 

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One piece that I really liked for its imaginative lo-tech set-up was the installation between happening by Chinese artist Carla Chan. It consists of a sheet of paper and a magnet underneath, and a mechanism that moves the magnet around. She then poured iron powder onto the paper. As the magnet was moving underneath the sheet, the iron powder would move about accordingly, creating an ever-shifting abstract pattern on the paper. I thought the minimalism and “modesty” of this piece was really touching, but unfortunately it was difficult to photograph or film the final work. The instagram post below (from an earlier event) shows the iron powder moving on the page.

 

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A similarly intriguing project was Jan Bernstein’s Digitalism is Dead. Jan created two wall installations featuring countless little dots (black and white in one piece, white on both sides in the second). Behind the dots, several magnets created overlapping magnetic fields, and it was these that made the dots flip in irregular patterns. It is also worth checking out Jan’s earlier projects, such as his collection of flower pots which (or who?) find the brightest spot in a room and independently walk there.  

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Studio Milz was perched in the back of the exhibition space, but it turned out their project shaped the whole exhibition architecture. Simon Deeg and Andreas Picker presented their Joyn Machine, which is in fact a full production set-up for measure made architectural structures of wooden slats. It consists of the slat-cutting machine, and a software in which the user can create a 3D-furniture piece. The software will then determine the number, length and joints of the slats needed and control the cutting machine in producing these. This set up allows easy and mobile creation of wooden furniture or exhibition architecture. In fact, the whole exhibition of the Digital Arts Lab was set-up using Joyn Machine architecture.

 

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There was a lot more to discover which I should mention here: The augmented-reality installation by artist duo Banz & Bowinkel, in which a number of avatars behaved according to a specific set of rules. The smell lab by artist Klara Ravat allowed users to reproduce specific (tech-related) smells. And the installation Artifical Remnants by Sofia Crespo was based on a convolutional neural network, which was trained on thousands of images of existing animal species and used that to create fictional fossils of artificial species.

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