Posted by Elise Granata on November 6, 2013
As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR) Allie led an immersive aerial dance performance with visitors at GLOW: A Festival of Fire & Light on the Saturday, October 19th digital art night (click here for more info). Audience-generated data channeled into a responsive display of light and sound for Allie’s performance.
by Allie CooperLife has somewhat returned to normal a week after our Performance at Glow. I had been working closely with my collaborators, visual artist G. Craig Hobbs and musician LoWGritt, since early summer, and last week’s participatory performance was the culmination of countless hours of rehearsals, brainstorming, and trouble-shooting. Everything came together in the final hours. The lights, sound, projections, and interactive interfaces all worked in unison to create an immersive and atmospheric setting which inspired the aerial performance.
Our interactive tetrahedron looked beautiful as projected shards of color were generated as the audience touched it, and the Midi Fighter was constantly being used to alter the sound-scape. Unfortunately, the sound elements weren’t always noticeable due to the ambient noise in the room, so that is something for us to consider if we repeat the project. Overall, feedback was positive and I am very happy with the final product.
I am very grateful for my experience as an Artist in Residence at the MAH, because it allowed me to take on risks and to produce something out of my comfort zone. The technical side of this project was a challenge that I really enjoyed and one that I hope to continue exploring. More than anything, having the opportunity to perform in Santa Cruz was the most rewarding aspect of this project. So often I travel to perform my art that it is rare that I can share what I do with my community. It was a joy to have the support of so many friends and family in the audience. The PPAIR program is a fantastic resource for Santa Cruz and I am excited to see what other artists are able to share with their community as a result.
Posted by Nina on October 21, 2013
It’s Monday morning and my ears are no longer ringing. What an AMAZING weekend of GLOW. Over 100 artists and about 4,000 community members came together over two nights to celebrate the unique creativity of Santa Cruz County–cutting-edge innovation with a healthy dose of propane.
We hope that GLOW will continue to grow as an annual event for the MAH and downtown, and I wanted to open up this post as a forum for your ideas and suggestions to make it even better next year.
Here are a few of the questions and comments we’ve already received (with my responses below):
Why aren’t the exhibition galleries open during the festival?
It would be terrific to introduce GLOW participants to our wonderful exhibitions, but we just don’t feel like it’s entirely safe during such a wild event. We have every one of our staff members and volunteers outside managing the safety around the fire sculptures, and we don’t feel like we have the capacity to spare anyone to ensure the safety of exhibitions at the same time.
Why isn’t there a kids’ price for GLOW?
We priced the tickets for GLOW this year based on concerns about safety and capacity. Last year, tickets were cheaper, and we had to shut down admissions a few times to wait for the crowd to die down. This year, while it was packed, we never went over capacity or had to turn people away. We will think about this for next year, but we’re still going to put safety first when thinking about pricing and capacity.
The dancers on Friday night were not family-friendly (or, as a brave nine year old put it on our comment wall: “Don’t hire dancers for their willingness to dance around in bikinis!”).
I agree that hyper-sexualized attire and moves don’t belong at a museum event. Because we co-produce all our events with so many partners, it’s hard to know what they will bring to the table exactly (and what they will wear doing it). While some artists do work with sexuality, the art should come first. I promise that we will be more attentive to this in the future and more willing to ask the probing questions to ensure that our programmatic partners’ values are in alignment with our mission. We won’t always be perfect–but with input from smart members and participants, we’ll keep striving for better.
What questions or ideas do you have for the future of GLOW? Snap any good photos or video? Share them all here.
Posted by Marla on October 17, 2013
Like most people, I enjoy celebrating birthdays and all sorts of anniversaries of happy events. I dread remembering the sad stuff. I know you’re supposed to acknowledge them so you’re grateful for the good times, but sometimes I block out bad memories–store them in a box and close the lid.
A couple of weeks ago my fabulous collections volunteers (aka “The White Glove Crew”) and I decided to work on a new cataloging project. I chose a box in the collection room labeled “Communication, Documentary Artifact” (nomenclature for museum cataloging is awesome). Inside we found a brick salvaged from a building in downtown Santa Cruz after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It looks like an ordinary brick, but of course its history is extraordinary.
The very next day, a woman named Karen visited the Museum. She donated the earthquake brick years ago, and she came to bring me another one. I told her how I had just completed a new inventory of the artifact the day before. The timing was almost spooky.
Karen smiled and said, “Well these things happen; when you acknowledge it, it makes everything better.” She went on to tell me that reclaiming these bricks had been a labor of love. The Sunflower House (once on California and Rigg Streets) had cleaned the bricks. Then volunteers with Parks and Rec attached the commemorative plaques. Karen reminded me that even in challenging times, a community can come together and that’s worth remembering.
I was just out of college in 1989, and was in downtown Santa Cruz on October 17th. When I tell me earthquake story (many of us have them), I like to joke and say I was shopping for earrings when the quake hit. I still have my gold hoops, although I don’t wear them anymore.
That story is better to remember than envisioning people lying down on the sidewalk, some clutching their chests. I choose to block out the screams and the looks of panic on faces I immediately saw after the shaking stopped. Or forget the sight of cars with smashed hoods damaged from falling building bricks (these bricks?). Or the sound of broken glass I stepped on as I made my way down Pacific Avenue.
But sometimes you have to open the lid on bad memories to remember the good ones. I recall how I got home that night. I was about to catch a ride from one of my friends. As we made our way through the dust and rubble, my mom turned a corner, waving me over. Somehow she had managed to get downtown and find me moments before I left. These things happen.
A few weeks ago, I was assembling my daughter’s disaster survival kit for school. I packed a mini flashlight, a garbage bag to make a rain poncho, and some packages of tuna and applesauce because they’re less perishable food.
My daughter said, “I hate that stuff. What if there’s really an earthquake and I have to eat this?” I told her “Don’t worry, just when you open the lid of your applesauce container, I will be there to take you home.” Because that could actually happen; it had before.
Posted by Elise Granata on October 16, 2013
As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR) Drew Detweiler and Lyes Belhocine retooled a surfboard into an interactive interface for visitors to surf a digital wave for GLOW: A Festival of Fire & Light on the Saturday, October 19th digital art night (click here for more info).
Surfing in Santa Cruz has been a transformative experience for both of us. Paddling out together and sharing creative ideas while waiting between sets helped us form a really positive bond at the very beginning of our artistic collaboration. A career in the arts is extremely challenging and full of rejections so that sense that the next wave behind the one you just missed is going to be even better helped drive us to keep knocking on doors and applying for open calls. You never know when luck or creative inspiration will come your way. The original idea for the datasurf interface began when I found a broken longboard sticking out of a dumpster. I just wanted the fin off of it but then I was left with a 9’6” board that wouldn’t work for surfing but seemed wasteful to throw away. A surfboard interface that used an accelerometer to detect pitch, roll, and yaw seemed to be the next natural step in our tactile interface research and development.
The design challenge we face for PPAIR is that user input is limited in datasurf 1.0. It is a single user interface and requires a certain level of mobility and some athletic skill to “catch a barrel”. We are interested in making it easier to ride and adapting it in ways that encourage further participation. In one sense it is performative as an audience gathers to watch a “performer” surf, but we wanted more people to be able to interact simultaneously.
This design was an attempt to modify datasurf 1.0 from a single user interface into a collaborative multiuser interface. Each surfer would have the ability to manipulate video content based on the motion of the board. The design was site specific to Santa Cruz and included the iconic Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse as a centerpiece. Ultimately this design wasn’t really feasible due to the technical resources required, but it has stimulated our thinking on the future development of a multi-surfer iteration of datasurf.
Another limitation of this design was the fact that each participant would still need to have the physical mobility of a surfer to interact with the piece. We began to visualize a large wave/barrel projection surface as a backdrop that multiple users could interact with simultaneously. Our original idea was to construct this wave out of recycled materials such as plastic shopping bags and PET bottles that may end up in the ocean otherwise. This opened up the possibility of including environmental themes that go hand in hand with surfing.
datasurf & PPAIR
The Museum of Art and History’s Participatory Performing Artist in Residence initiative came at the perfect time in my career as an artist. I have been honing my skills over the past few years by exhibiting with my partner Lyes Belhocine (Algeria) in as many Bay area venues as possible. Having thousands of hands touch our interactive interfaces has been fantastic for prototyping and development, but this type of public exhibition has not provided us with enough opportunities to look at our work critically with museum professionals. The PPAIR initiative provides this type of collaborative input from the initial design phase through prototyping into exhibition and concludes with post exhibition evaluation. The insightful input from Nina Simon and Stacey Garcia has been invaluable as we strive to incorporate some aspects from the MAH’s contagious vision of community engagement into our work. When the residency began we were presented with an extensive package of information about participation that included several in depth references to help guide our research. These initial reading sources led us to ask questions, clarify our thoughts about participation, and helped us establish some collaborative design goals. Here are some of the initial questions we considered:
- How can we augment our designs by moving from interactive to participatory?
- Can each person that interacts with the piece have a lasting impact or somehow change/augment the piece?
- Public participation can take many forms: can the piece can begin with crowd sourced or workshop produced audio/video footage that is then manipulated in realtime at the event?
- How can we involve the public in the design process?
After our second meeting with the MAH our thoughts on the design became focused on three components; a multiuser interface, our datasurf surfboard interface, and a 3D projection mapped surface.
We have been experimenting with multiuser interfaces since Lyes Belhocine first created Sounds Interesting in 2010. Sounds Interesting allowed up to eight participants to simultaneously mix audio in a spatialized audio environment. We modified his original interface to create soundSONIC, a collaborative piece with artists Barney Haynes and Jennifer Parker, for the 2010 ZERO1 Biennial. In addition to the eight mixable audio tracks, we added four video sources that could also be manipulated with realtime fx. The video mix was projected through a central fog bubble source onto an overhead dome and replicated on a large screen.
We really liked the additional level of social engagement that occurred around the somewhat mysterious interface as people shared ideas about how their individual input affected the outcome. This worked well as participant users were facing each other across a centrally focused interface. There are aspects of this design that still have not been fully realized although we did further develop it as a multiuser audio/video mixer known as Zeum Mix for a residency at The Children’s Creativity Museum of San Francisco. Our CUE BIT proposal for The Tech Museum is another example of this type of centrally focused design.
In this iteration of our CUBIIC interface, the position of the cubes on the corners promotes social interaction as users from either side need to manipulate them to complete their portion of the projected video “puzzle”. Cooperation is necessary to see a full frame image on each side of the screen as users help create a portrait of the Silicone Valley from multiple perspectives. This was a step towards adding more meaningful video content with an underlying message to a playful and intuitive interface that requires no instructions.
This is a brief summary of the process we have been through as we develop the next phase of the datasurf interface. It is still very much a work in progress as we learn by observing each person that interacts with it. We only have one week until the piece premieres on Saturday October 19th during Glow A Festival of Light. We are thrilled to be sharing our work with the enthusiastic Santa Cruz community again and look forward to your feedback. We hope you will join us and twenty-five amazing artists as we light up the MAH and Abbott Square.
Posted by Nina on October 14, 2013
We have just published our annual report for the fiscal year that goes from July 2012 to June 2013. It is full of the people, stories, projects, and numbers that defined an exciting year of growth at the MAH. You can explore the annual report online (yes, it’s interactive). I am especially proud of our wide-ranging community partnerships, our new mission statement, and the commitment of staff, trustees, and members to the museum’s future. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any aspect of the report, please let me know.
Vance Landis-Carey, our Board President, introduces the annual report this way:
On behalf of the MAH Board of Trustees, I am proud to present the museum’s annual report for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. This was an incredible year for us, marked by continued increases in attendance and membership, strong financial performance, and powerful exhibitions and educational programs. Our board is excited about the innovative programs that have brought inspiration and energy to our community and have had an impact on museums worldwide. We are grateful to everyone who has made this work possible with your ideas, your donations, your creativity, and most of all, your participation. Thank you for being part of our community. These stories and successes belong to all of us.
I want to share my own thoughts about our new mission statement “to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections.” Some people have expressed concern that this mission statement does not refer specifically to content (art and history) or methodology (exhibitions and educational programs). In crafting this mission statement, our board and staff focused on finding a short, motivating phrase that could give us the “why” that underpins the “what” of our longer vision statement and strategic plan. Our vision is to be a “thriving, central gathering place where local residents and visitors can experience art, history, ideas, and culture.” We wanted to redevelop our mission statement to drive us towards that vision.
We were inspired by mission statements at organizations like the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County (“Promote. Connect. Invest.”), the Monterey Bay Aquarium (“to inspire conservation of the oceans”) and the American Visionary Art Museum (“to expand the definition of a worthwhile life”). Each of these mission statements is short, motivating, and powerful. It does not describe what each organizations does but why they do it. Our new mission statement–to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections–helps us focus every day on bringing people and ideas together through dynamic art and history exhibitions and educational programs. We remain committed to our core art and history content, even as we explore new ways to help people share experiences and enjoy unexpected connections around it.