V2_ Summer Specials!

A blog post by Ivana Hilj - Instead of closing its doors for a well deserved summer break, V2_ kept it busy even in the hottest months of the year. During a special summer residency programme, three up-and-coming artists spent six weeks developing their art practice in close collaboration with V2_'s curators and expert developers. The outcomes were presented this September in a 'summer-flavoured' edition of Test_Lab.

The end of summer makes most of us sadly sigh – the sandy beaches looking so far away and the arrival of  winter bearing down on us – and yet the audience that joined Test_Lab Summer Sessions on September 17th seemed quite happy to be back 'in town' and greatly enjoyed this edition, which marks the start of a new season for the Test_Lab event series. The refreshing cocktails served and the enthusiasm that the presenting artists shared with the audience, after almost two months of challenging work, certainly contributed to make this evening a particularly gezellig one. 

It was indeed a demanding and busy summer for Melissa Coleman, Tarik Barri, David de Buyser and V2_'s curators and expert developers. After being selected for V2_'s special art residency programme, Melissa, Tarik and David had spent six summer weeks working intensely with the V2_Lab crew, in order to develop three projects in the fields of Wearable Technology, Augmented Reality and Organic Environments. To make things even busier, a 'sneak-preview' of the outcome was held in a special edition of Test_Lab at Ars Electronica (Linz) already in early September. Twice as good: the Ars  edition turned to be a success, and for the Rotterdam version that followed, at the usual Test_Lab location, the three prototypes were once again 'ready-to-get-tested'.

When I saw David de Buyser's  Moss Irrigation System_Second Variation, I automatically thought about a conversation I recently had with a colleague about the expensive and time consuming procedure he went through to get rid of the moss that was invading the roof of his house. Well, David had just spent six weeks working at V2_ 'on the other side' of this struggle with nature. Not only did he plan a self-supporting irrigation system powered by solar energy, in order to nurture the growth of a moss wall, but he also decided to make it grow vertically. Why would you ever do such an (apparently) bizarre thing? – the question was automatically raised by someone among the audience after his demonstration was over. The reason appeared clear to everyone after David explained the scope of his project  Acoustic Mirror_Moss: the 'moss wall' prototype he developed during the Summer Sessions residency at V2_ was actually a phase of this, much larger work. 

In fact, the Acoustic Mirror_Moss is not a gardening experiment, but an audio-visual installation. The moss wall acts as a screen, where to project computer generated images that vary according to environment variables, such as temperature, humidity and light.  David is planning to make this moss wall – in a second phase of the project – a sort of experimentation ground for music making. In order to do so, he will examine the acoustic qualities (absorption / reflection) of the moss by playing different sounds arranged in a musical composition and by sending them to the wall.

While looking at David's demo, a noise of some subtle kind caught my attention. As I turned, I realised it was coming from a suitcase standing close to a beautiful vintage Burberry trench coat, and to an embroidered hanging tapestry. At last, Melissa Coleman, one of the artists in residence, cleared the mystery around these uncanny yet fascinating objects with her demonstration. Part of a project called Media Vintage, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie are 'memory containers' which conjugate old and new media: made with interactive electronic textiles embedded in vintage clothing or accessories, these three objects can physically store digital information. Digital data, usually perceived as abstract and fleeting, are thus made accessible and readable by the 'old-school' reassuring physical nature of everyday objects and materials. 

I can certainly say, after trying it on, that the vintage charme of a Burberry trench coat (Charlie) gets quite  enhanced by the fact that it reads fabric punch-cards which can tell you stories of an old man's life.. While Bravo triggers your nostalgia for 'those old times' by singing a song from long ago while your fingers read the Braille code embroidered on the tapestry. The suitcase, Alpha, allows you to weave temporary secret messages in Morse code –  emphasising, through digital technology, the uncanny 'essence' that old objects already possess by means of having a past we did not witness.

At last, I managed to 'almost try' the installation II by Tarik Barry. Almost, as the two prototypes got overheated by way too much 'testing' and my dance with one of the two avatars never really started. Dancing? That sounds like a summer activity indeed – but dancing at Test_Lab could not be 'just dancing'. In fact, with a background in music making and composition, with this installation Tarik aimed to let the audience gain an intuitive and deep insight into musical structures. How? By moving in the 'real' space the two physical avatars he developed, both equipped with speakers and a video screen, it was possible to simultaneously move them around also in the virtual space. This movement was made visible by the screens on the two 'dancing' avatars. The audience could thus, by simply moving these avatars around, create music together with other participants and direct their own abstract movies at the same time. 

Acoustic Mirror_Moss

Keep track of Tarik's, Melissa's and David's work, and of the future development of their projects.. It won't all end with the summer!









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