Digital Utopias – Disruptive Innovation


Good afternoon, everyone. So, the post-lunchtime talk… I’ll try and engage you as much as possible. So, as Jose Luis said, I’m Lynn Scarff,
director of Science Gallery Dublin. Some of you might be familiar
with Science Gallery, some not. I’m just going to show you a short video to give you a bit of an idea
of what we’ve done so far. I came to work in the Science Gallery
as a mediator and it just sparked the love of science again and made me remember why I started,
why I’d done it in the first place. Often as a mediator, you see people walk in
and maybe they wouldn’t understand, and they leave with a feeling of inspiration. They feel like
what you’ve told them is important and it’s something they’ll remember
for the rest of their lives. Visually beautiful and there was
just so much to learn. It’s all creative and quite interactive. It’s good for everyone. It’s excellent. It really is. I’ve come to a lot of the exhibitions. To be honest, the Science Gallery
has kind of changed my life in a strange kind of way, because it allowed me
to engage with the general public. We ran an experiment here,
got lots of samples off the Irish population and examined their immune systems
in great detail. Nobody else in the world
had been able to do that. I love being in the gallery.
People come in and you talk to them. They ask questions
in ways I haven’t framed them, so it does help my research in a way.
And it helps my students. They get excited when they see
others excited by their work. I enjoy the interaction
and sharing my enthusiasm. It’s ended up
being a really great experience. You never know what’ll happen next
at the Science Gallery. The creativity of the team is amazing. We fund a lot of scientific research which can be regarded as ivory tower stuff. The thing about a location like this is it connects science
with the man on the street. With kids and your target audience 15-25, they’re learning stuff in an exciting way and it gets the passion back into it. The future of Science Gallery. I don’t know
what it is and that’s exciting. One great thing about Science Gallery
is how unpredictable it is, and every time they succeed in surprising
me with the way they do things. So I don’t know what it is
but I’m happy that way. So, hopefully that gives you
a little bit of an insight. To date we’ve done 33 exhibitions
and our exhibitions are on broad themes that we produce on the basis
that they can be interrogated from people. For example, Surface Tension
looked at the future of water. Hack the City looked at
the future of our cities. Human+ looked at
where we are going as a human species. Blood, which is on at the moment, brought artists, surgeons,
feminists, engineers together to explore blood and what that means. And we’re unusual, I suppose,
in the context of art organisations in terms of how we’re funded
and are part of partnerships. So Science Gallery is only 14%
funded by the government and the remainder of our funding
comes through partnerships that we have with a variety of science
and technology companies, in some cases. So you can see Google up there and also then through people
like the Wellcome Trust and also through
Science Foundation Ireland. And we do also get Department of
Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht help. So our funding model,
in as much as our curatorial model, is very mixed from lots of different areas
and lots of different disciplines. And that gives us a huge amount of freedom in terms of how we interact in this space
that we’re talking about today. So, Science Gallery is about…
It is a place, it’s about community, but it’s also about
creating compelling experiences. It’s all well and good
if we do this wonderful work, but nobody comes to see it. Last year our visitor numbers
were 406,000 for the year and our target audience
is 15- to 25-year-olds. So as Jose mentioned at the beginning, we’re not really interested
in the science museum model. What we’re really interested in
is creating compelling experiences for a very astute audience who know what they want
and know what they like, and creating repeat experiences. None of our exhibitions
last longer than three months. In the context of the conversation today, I thought this was an interesting aspect. We feel we very much occupy this space, this transition that’s been happening
for a number of years now. But moving into this
21st-century cultural model where you’re moving
from large institutions to small, from slow-moving curatorial processes to fast turnarounds
linking in with cutting-edge research and what’s happening
in digital technology spaces, from being very stable to agile, apart from being interactive, so not
pushing a button, but really participative, so that when people are coming
to your space or to some of the other spaces
that you hear about today, there’s a real genuine engagement. They’re either giving something to the
interaction or leaving something behind. It’s this idea of being very porous,
connected to other areas, being a creative platform, being a meeting place
where people come to share ideas. I would say one of the most important
things in the Science Gallery is our café, because it’s where people
from the university, from tech companies in the area
where we’re based in Dublin and from the local arts community
meet and share ideas. Sometimes that happens organically and sometimes it happens through the
events and programmes we put together. So, very quickly,
the things we feel make us unique. Experimentation,
this idea of a hacker spirit, do things, allow yourself to fail,
do them again, this repeat audience, or as we call them
our committed nerd core, that connect with us all the time, and an understanding
that our brand is more than a logo. That’s the idea that
everything we do in Science Gallery, we know that it belongs there.
We have a very clear idea of what we are. Our curatorial process, however,
is very open. I’ll speak more about that in a moment. But in the context of today and a lot
of the artistic community that are here, I just wanted to say briefly some of the ways that our art-science
and our art-technology experiences and relationships have happened. I suppose there are four kind of ways
that we see it happening in the space. One is engaging experiences. You could say it’s the instrumentalisation
of art by science, so artists… or scientists using art as a way to bring people in
to hear more about their research. You saw that in the video. Counter to that is
the instrumentalisation of science by art. Some works that we call canaries, so they’re kind of
precautionary art and design ideas. It’s based on this idea
that as consumers we make choices, so if you want people
to think about a future technology, you have to make it into
something beautiful that they want, and their desire for it is a way
of engaging them in the conversation over whether that’s a future
they want to explore. And then co-creation,
which is really the honey spot, which is an equal exploratory partnership. That’s really where Science Gallery
likes to play the most. And it’s the most difficult area because
it takes time and investment and thought. So you have a whole range of works. These are some things
we’ve shown in Science Gallery before. This wasKiss Plates,
which was a work by Maria Phelan, where people came in, they left their kiss,
the bacteria… The one on the right,
the person licked the plate, which is why there’s a lot less bacteria
as you’ve got antibodies in your saliva. But people could take these home,
they could turn them into placemats. People went on dates to see theKiss Plates.This is a work by Paul Vanouse.
This is calledLatent Figure Protocol.It’s using DNA plasmids, but it’s using
them to tell a story in this case. He has used it previously
to make out a copyright mark around a particular DNA plasmid that
is copyrighted by one research centre. This was an experiment we ran around
the ability of bees to detect UV light and it ran throughout the gallery,
so it was an unknown ending. It was a collaborative piece
between an artist and a zoologist, by Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, as well. This is that “canaries” piece
that I spoke about, a piece by Julijonas Urbonas. It’s calledEuthanasia Roller Coasterand it’s a speculative piece developed
around a roller coaster that would kill you, so delving into that idea of,
“We’re an aging population. How are we all going to handle that
in the future?” So a lot of the pieces
that we bring into the shows are riffing off themes that are being explored by
the scientific community at the same time. This pieceSilent Barrage
is a beautiful piece by Guy Ben-Ary working with
Steve Potter’s lab in Georgia Tech. This piece is really in that
collaborative space I talked about. It’s an ongoing experiment of robotic poles that react to people’s movement in the space, stimulating a Petri dish
of neuronal cells in Georgia Tech. It’s actually an experiment around epilepsy and the audience is interacting and is providing
the disruptive signal in the space. Many of you are probably familiar
with this work. We’ve worked with them a lot.
Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr. This isWorry Dolls.These are very simple cell-growth structures based on the idea
of the Guatemalan worry doll. You whisper your worries
for the future to this doll and that in some way assuages them. And this was around your worries
around what’s happening in terms of synthetic biology
and biotech at the moment. So how do we put things together? Our shows, as I said, are big themes. We have a group of Leonardos. These are 50 thought leaders
from the areas of science, arts, the media, and they…
And entrepreneurs and business. And they feed in ideas. We do four themes a year.
For each theme we run an open call. So we ask people to submit ideas. Artists submit their ideas. It gets curated. Sometimes you get 200 submissions and that gets curated down
to a show of about 25 pieces. But in the context of innovation
what does that mean? A lot of the work that we do
is about people submitting their ideas and it’s about Science Gallery
being this midpoint. So we never think of an exhibition
as being a finished product. We think of it as being a platform
where people, either the artist or the researcher
or the combination of two or the partnership, gets to explore their work, but gets the public to come in
and in some way interrogate that work or test it out. This is an example of a project
that we did for Infectious, the previous slide I showed you. We did a game in the Science Gallery
using RFID tags, where people could run around
and infect each other or they were immune. That project then was taken
to do an actual study in a hospital about how infections are passed
amongst staff and patients in a hospital in Italy. It turns out that nurses…
well, it’s not that surprising, carry the most, because they interact
with the most people. But this is only one example of the kind of innovations that roll out
of some of the exhibitions that we do. This is an example of a work that we did, again during Infectious,
where we were looking at… In this case, the innovation
is within the research space, where they were looking at a particular gene, tracking it across an Irish population. There was a presumption
of that particular gene and how it was placed across the population that turned out to be incorrect. That then led to a whole different direction
on the research project and now has been used further
for research into malaria, which is where the gene is connected. This is an example of Risk Lab where we worked with
a young tech company called Shimmer, who are doing work around signalling
emotional responses that people have. In Risk Lab people were playing poker and Shimmer got nine weeks of data
from the development. They were a young art and design
tech company starting up. So they got nine weeks of data from
visitors coming to Science Gallery. This is the kind of thing we set up. This is a community lab space
that was around a show calledGrow Your Own,looking at synthetic biology. We let residencies happen in the space,
week-long residencies. So we had La Paillasse,
a group from Paris, come over and they had developed
a way of extracting ink from soil and they were testing that out and getting
visitors to participate in the workshop, and getting feedback from that process. This action led to this,
which is human cheese, which was another experiment we ran
in the residency. It went completely viral. I’ve never seen something on Fox News
and Wired and Dezeen at the same time, but human cheese will do that, I suppose. So what works? Themes work, open processes. That it’s porous,
we bring in people from different areas, that we’re a creative platform
and that we genuinely are that, and this idea of cultural incubator. Also those things are tricky.
Sometimes scientists think it’s too fluffy, sometimes artists think it’s too sciencey. We’re free, which means we have a very busy funding
model that we’re working on all the time, and face-to-face interactions
and those conversations take time to happen. This beautiful diagram is a very intricate
way of explaining everything that we do. So, as I was saying to you, we see ourselves operating in this
public engagement space, this midpoint. That’s where our exhibition occurs. But there are lots of outputs from that. Sometimes they’re research papers,
sometimes they’re social projects, sometimes they’re actual products, sometimes it’s a touring show, sometimes it’s the artist developing
their work further or in a new format. What’s been really interesting for us
is watching this trough bit of this process. We don’t see ourselves as responsible
for that innovation piece. We see ourselves merely
as facilitators of that. But what we strive to do is to really get that public engagement
piece happening really strongly and you can see the different players
that come into play there. Some examples of this.
This is a project for Surface Tension, the feature on water, where an engineer
teamed up with a local designer. They were producing
this very simple-looking apparatus which actually cleans arsenic using sunlight. As part of it we worked with them
in setting up a funded campaign and they raised 23,000 euro, and they then went
to try the work out in the field.Protei 002,another project
in Surface Tension, which has gone on to develop further
over the last three years. And this was one of our first projects,
Playhouse.It brought together four people who developed this very simple project
around lighting up a building. But those four people about two weeks ago got two million in seed funding forDrop,a project
that they were working on, on a completely different idea and theme. When they were accepting the funding, there was a small presentation at one
of the companies that was funding them, and they credited Science Gallery as one of the spaces that was really
important in their development process, because it brought them together
and it allowed them to experiment. And it allowed them to experiment
and get feedback and experiment again. I think that’s perhaps where
the discussion today can go further, around that idea of,
what can we do as platforms to create these kinds of conversations. Thank you. Thank you, Lynn, for setting out
the context… Is this on? Our second speaker is Memo Akten. I don’t think it would be
an exaggeration to say he’s one of the most important names
in the global digital arts scene today. He has a background also
in the field of creative technology. He’s done commercial projects, both alone and in the context of his previous company,
Marshmallow Laser Feast. But he has also won
the most important awards in this field, like the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica
for his projectForms.I think Memo is one of the practitioners
today better positioned to show us the travel between
the different modes of production and the different models under which people are operating today
in this space. Thanks a lot, Memo. Hi, everyone. And thank you, Jose,
for that introduction. So my name’s Memo Akten
and I’m an artist based in London, originally from Istanbul, Turkey. I’m going to talk today about my work. But I’m not going to talk about the work, but the different production models that I’ve worked within. So I’ll use the projects to go through that. And then I’ll categorise the works by the production models. I want to start with an overview of all the range of projects that I’ve done and really talk about what I do in summary. What I do is I design systems
that abstract behaviour. What I’m really interested in
is I create tools. I write software, that’s mainly what I do, that allows us new ways of looking at things, and realise relationships and patterns
and harmonies and tensions, and then find ways of conveying these
to us, to people, and really reveal and amplify relationships that we otherwise might not have noticed. A big part of this, especially about
four, five years ago, not so much now, but I was very interested in exploring
new ways of interacting with these systems. I’m still interested in this,
but it’s not my sole research area right now. I was very much interested
in creating interactive systems and finding a way of creating systems
which are analogous to instruments. That was what I was interested in.
Not just creating something interactive, but creating something
that’s an extension of our body that we can use to create
and express ourselves. So I worked with dancers, I worked with all kinds of input devices
and that kind of stuff. It’s a way of, like I said, exploring data, but data isn’t necessarily
the data that you find in databases. Data is everything.
Data is the behaviour of an ocean. It’s the sound of the atmosphere. Everything is ultimately data, if you manage to bring it down to that level. The other area I was interested in,
and still am, is exploring new canvases. Not being limited
to just a rectangular screen which is, as a visual artist,
what was kind of the norm, but thinking about how we can find
or reappropriate or invent new mediums, new ways of expressing ourselves,
of putting content into. So often when I do this kind of work, I find myself at a lot of events
and conferences which talk about or question
this relationship between art and technology, which is of course a topic which one could talk about for hours.
There’s countless examples. But I just want to…
I’m not going to go too deep into that. I just want to talk about or bring up when in the 12th, 13th, 14th century, when oil painting became more common, it brought along a whole new technique of blending colours and layering textures, and it changed the medium. Or in the 1800s
when the paint tube was invented and artists no longer were limited
to their studio with their pig bladder to make their paint. They could go out to the fields
and literally see the world in a new light. In fact it was Renoir who allegedly said
that if wasn’t for paint tubes there would be no Cézanne, no Monet,
no impressionism. And combine this with the chemically
made dyes in the labs of those days, it’s easy to see that technology
has always been an important part of art, it has always shaped art. Today we don’t consider paint tubes
as cutting-edge technology. But in the 1800s it was. And many purists
didn’t even accept that as art. So today, myself and many people
working in this field, we see lasers, lights, projectors, software, the Internet, social media as paint tubes. It’s new ways of expressing ourselves.
But it’s also a bit more than that. It’s also new ways of interacting
with each other, it’s bringing new paradigms
to social interaction. So in that way it’s very much
part of what it is to be human and as an artist you explore
what it is to be human. So it’s again very integrated. Personally for me,
I’m not inspired by technology. I should say that at the beginning. For me it’s not what motivates me
but it’s my medium. If I am excited about technology, it’s only because of what that technology
might allow me to understand about myself or people or our surroundings. But it is simply the medium. So now I’m going to go through
some of the models that I’ve worked within. I’ll start with the simplest one. This one I don’t do so much any more
because of certain limitations. This is self-commissioned projects.
I used to do a lot of this. Basically you don’t wait
for anyone to commission you. You just do it. So all I would really need
is the time to do a project. I might invest a little bit of money
just to buy a screen or a projector, or hire a little bit of help. So here’s a couple of projects.
The colourful one is calledBody Paint.I did it in 2009. It was exhibited… I finish the work first
and then I look for a place to exhibit it. That one I exhibited in Newcastle
at the Tyneside Cinema. It was later part of
the Decode exhibition at the V&A and it toured the world with that. The one next to it, the blue one,
is a project calledSimple Harmonic Motion,which, again, I just developed
in my studio on a monitor and here I was showing it
at the Roundhouse in London with Ron Arad’sCurtain Call.At the bottom, the two projects there,
one calledWavesand one calledEquilibrium,both of which I developed last year.
I took three or four months off.Equilibrium,with the touch screen,
in fact is still on in Moscow, I believe. I developed the piece and then I had
a relationship with FutureEverything, which Jose was mentioning, and so they had… They were co-curating an exhibition
in Moscow at a gallery called Laboratoria and I became part of that exhibition. So this is a model I still do. The obvious limitation is
I can only do projects that I can afford out of my own pocket, which limits the scale. But this model of working is the most fun, because obviously you just do
what you want to do. Linked to this is another model which is
what I call commissioned offshoots. These are projects which, off the back
of the self-commissioned projects… Someone sees one of those and says to me,
“I really love what you did there. I’d like you to do something similar for me.” And this time they do have a budget
and they do have a deadline and the context. So in that respect
these are not as open brief, because there are certain constraints
I need to fit within, but it’s still a really great model
to work with, because people have come to me
having seen some work that I’ve done that they like,
so I don’t need to do any convincing. I don’t need to tell anyone why I need
to do this. I’ll just be commissioned. So the project at the top there was commissioned
by the Rambert Dance Company. It was visuals for a ballet. And at the bottom
that’s a music video for Depeche Mode. So quite diverse projects. Related to this,
on a slightly different scale, there’s what I call commercial consultancy. These are again people
who have seen what I’ve done and they come, but they don’t say, “We love what you did there.
We’d like something similar.” They come with an idea
and they want me to realise this idea. This isn’t something
that I do any more that often. I will do it if I really like the idea and most importantly
if I will learn from this project, if there are problems,
technical or creative problems, that need solving on this project that I want to solve for my own work. So it becomes
what I refer to as artistic R&D. There’s two projects here.
One was for the Science Museum in 2010, theWho am I?gallery, and the other is a project calledCascada
which I did with Nexus Productions. Both of these projects, they weren’t my idea, they came to me for me to help them realise the project. But the research areas were in line with what I was already researching
in my own work, except here I had the opportunity
to work on a scale that I wasn’t really able to explore
within my own options. So in that respect
this is a nice symbiotic relationship if you can get the relationship
working quite well. In 2011 the scale of my projects
was getting bigger and so I was doing a lot more collaborations, especially with two friends, Robin
and Barney, who you see there as well. And we set up… We decided to formalise
this relationship and set up a studio. And we set up this studio called
Marshmallow Laser Feast. We didn’t have a very clear manifesto. What we did know is we wanted to create
what we referred to as interesting work. We wanted to explore
new ways of making things. We just wanted to artistically explore
new mediums. And that was really our only thing
that we wanted to do. We were open to working with anyone. It could be commercial entities,
theatre, performance, dance, music. We’ve really disrupted all of them. But we also did a lot of work
with ad agencies, which is something which was new to me. I’d done commercial work before, but it was always…
It was not with ad agencies. So the world of ad agencies was new to me. And to be perfectly honest
I wasn’t very happy with it. So I’m going to talk a little bit
about a few projects which were good, because I think
that’s what’s important to understand, what bits did work, what bits didn’t work. First of all, the main problem
is obviously motivation. When I’m creating work, my motivation is
to create the best piece of work possible, whereas when you work with an ad agency somewhere along the line
someone’s motivation is to sell a product. Even though there can be a lot of overlap, if your intentions are not 100% aligned, then it often breaks down. I’m going to talk about a few projects
where it didn’t break down and why it didn’t break down. This was 2011,
one of the first projects we did as MLF. It was a projection-mapping project
for Sony PlayStation. They were launching
a Netflix-style video channel. And they came to us wanting
a projection mapping on a PlayStation. We had done a lot of projection mapping
in those days. We were getting a bit tired
of projection mapping. So we used this project as a vehicle
to pick something that we wanted to do, which is paint a whole room white… and just project a whole room, have a movie camera, track the camera
so we could align the contents, the 3-D with the field of view. So the camera effects worked really well. We wanted to have real-life props,
kind of theatrics, and really blur the line
between the virtual and the physical. We wanted to have these puppeteers
in white Morphsuits to add a bit of humour. And most importantly
we wanted to use this as a medium in which to tell a story
where we would place a person and have their PlayStation
transform their living room. We pitched this to the agency,
which was Studio Output, and to Sony, and they loved the idea
and then they just let us get on with it. It was a tiny team
and that’s what I think made it work. There wasn’t a massive chain.
We were dealing with one person at the agency and one person at Sony and that was it. When we had a meeting in the room
no one else needed to approve anything. So when we said something,
they could say yes and we’d go and do it. We were open.
We had a disclaimer saying, “We don’t know how to do most of this.
We don’t know how much is possible.” We obviously presented backup plans
so we didn’t look like complete idiots. But we did say, “We don’t know
what we’re going to be able to deliver.” But we’d worked with them before
and that was key. They trusted us. So that’s really the scene.
That’s the team there. Another project I’ll talk about very briefly. In 2012, McLaren had seen
that previous project and they wanted the same.
They wanted a projection-mapping job, because they wanted a viral and projection-mapping videos
were getting a lot of hits in those days. We didn’t want to do projection mapping.
We were quite fed up of it and we pitched this idea, which is… It’s more complicated than it looks.
It’s long-exposure light painting, stop-motion animation with a screen
on a motion-control rig, etc. Again we were interested in exploring
how to paint with light in 3-D, in space. This isn’t CG.
This is actually what the camera sees, but it’s long-exposure. So we pitched this idea
and there was no agency involved. I had the meeting with
the marketing director of McLaren and his actual words to me were,
“You’ve got a lot of balls coming in here where we asked for
a projection-mapping brief and you present this art film. I love it.” And we did it. And from that day on in our vocabulary
we now have “to pull a McLaren”. To pull a McLaren is
when we get a brief and we don’t like it and we throw it away
and we come up with a brand-new brief. And it hardly ever works because… It’s only worked when the team
at the client side is small. If you have a chain of command of 100 people, with creative agencies and their supervisors, and then it has to go
to the other agency, etc, someone along that line will say,
“No, let’s stick to this.” So that’s the biggest thing
that I think I’ve learnt. It’s just try to get to the end point. But both of those projects
I’m really proud of. But I wouldn’t call them my babies, because they are constrained by the requirements
of the brand or the client. It’s not what I would have done
had I had a completely open brief. This project is the only project
which I can say truly is my baby, or our baby, as the team who did it. This was for Saatchi & Saatchi,
the New Directors’ Showcase 2012. It’s a joyous celebration
of techno-spirituality. I won’t say much about the project.
It’s basically a bunch of quadrotors. And this was 2012. We pitched it in 2011 before drones were kind of hot property. No one had done a performance with them ever. This is quadrotors with mirrors, LEDs, and we were interested in
how we could use this as a medium to create volumetric floating
light sculptures dancing to music, and most critically how we could use this
to create an empathy between the audience and what looks like
post-apocalyptic machines of warfare, but try to create something
that’s alive and sensitive and fragile. That’s what we wanted to do. When we pitched this, we were working
directly with Saatchi & Saatchi, they loved the idea. The creatives there,
Jonathan Santana and Xander Smith, they not only trusted us,
but they inspired us. That’s when you know
a relationship is really working, when you’re having conversations and my job isn’t to try and convince the
creative director that this is a good idea, but on the contrary the creative director
is feeding me and getting me more excited. This is really rare.
It’s only happened to me once. That’s on this project. Our producer, Juliette Larthe,
who’s an absolute superstar, overnight became a world expert
on quadrotor show logistics. Again, this team was about trust.
Everyone trusted each other. No one had to convince each other
of what to do, but everyone just got on
with what they were doing. Again, when we pitched this project,
we said we had no idea what we can do. We started with,
“Let’s have 100 quadrotors.” Obviously we had no idea. But we basically got the sign-off
before we had a concrete idea, because we’d worked with them before and they said,
“We know you can deliver something. Here’s the money. Go and do your R&D.
Go and deliver.” So the critical aspect of this project,
why this is my baby and not the others, is because every aspect
of this piece of work is how it is because we creatively decided
that’s how it should be. There isn’t a single thing which is there
because it benefits the product. Even though this is promoting
Saatchi & Saatchi, because it’s on their stage, there’s nothing in here
which was designed to promote them. In fact, this ending here, we thought, as soon as we put this video out, all the ad execs in the world will ask, “Could that logo at the end be our logo
instead of a smiley face?” And, sure enough, we still get emails
from people wanting that. So these were the positive stories
that I have in the commercial world. I want to end on a completely
different type of project. I’ve also been doing on the side
about one a year or one every two years, not as often as I’d like,
arts-funded projects. I’ll talk about one which isForms,which I did in 2012. This is the one Jose Luis mentioned
that got the Golden Nica. It’s a collaboration with a good friend,
Quayola, who’s based in London as well. It’s commissioned
by the National Media Museum and it’s part of the Cultural Olympiad. So it was funded by imove,
from the Cultural Olympiad project. And… this was the context. They were basically curating an exhibition which looked at the historic study, or the history of artistic study
of movement. And they had original zoopraxiscopes,
zoetropes, Muybridge prints, Etienne-Jules Marey,
Tim Macmillan’s original time-slice rig. They had all of these amazing artefacts,
some dating back hundreds of years, and they wanted to commission
two contemporary pieces that would fit within this trajectory
of artistic study of movement. It was an open call. Quayola and I hadn’t
worked together but were good friends. We decided, “Let’s give it a shot”, and we won the commission. And this was
an amazing experience again, because every conversation
you were having with the curator or the commissioner wasn’t about us trying to convince them
we should do this. It was us telling them,
“We’re thinking about doing this”, and them bringing their wealth
of knowledge to the table and they were pulling us forward instead
of us trying to push the project forward. A lot of the time in the commercial arena,
especially with ad agencies, it feels like we’re trying
to push the project forward, and it’s such a relief to be pulled forward. So the project we pitched wasForms.
I’ll show some excerpts from it. It’s a very abstract deconstruction
and reconstruction of athletic movement and trying to understand the qualities
and the nature of the movement. Instead of tracing
the trajectories of the movement, which if you study the history
of artistic study of movement Etienne-Jules Marey at the end
of the 1800s had done stuff… If I had more time I could go into it,
but insane, amazing, amazing work. If you saw it today,
you would think it’s contemporary, but he was doing it over 120 years ago and inventing devices to do this. Pioneering chronophotography, pioneering chronophotographic guns
that could take multiple exposures. So we really didn’t want to do
a tracing of movement. But we wanted to imagine the effects
the movement might have on an imaginary environment, depending
on the different types of the movement. And… Yeah, so this was
at the National Media Museum in Bradford. I don’t think it’s on right now,
or maybe it is, but it’s touring as well. And that’s all I have to say for now. More in the questions later. Thank you. Thank you, Memo. The title of this panel is centred
around disruption and the last speaker is going to explore the meanings and the implication
of this word. She is Tatiana Bazzichelli. She’s been the curator
of one of the most relevant and longest-running new media festivals
in the world, transmediale, for the last four years. She also wrote “Networked Disruption”, a publication
that was the basis of her PhD. Her next upcoming project
is the Disruption Network Lab, a programme based in Berlin.
Thank you, Tatiana. Hello, everybody. Thanks very much for inviting me here,
especially Ruth and Gaby. I’m really happy to be especially
in this track related to disruption, because I’ve been working with the topic
of disruption for more or less six years. I started to analyse the concept especially in the context of my PhD at Aarhus University. I’ve tried also to bring this concept into my activity as curator. At the moment, I am, as said in the introduction, in the process
of starting a new curatorial programme that is called Disruption Network Lab. But in this specific presentation,
since we are also in the context of disrupting innovation,
of disruptive innovation, I would like more to focus on
my previous research that is still ongoing and also how it is possible
to bring this research into a curatorial artistic context. So I will go then to the specific project
I’m working on at the moment. So, I think,
since we have been part of this panel we have not really defined
the notion of disruption. I thought it perhaps was good
to start like that and especially if we speak about
disruptive innovation. That is actually different
from disrupting innovation. We could refer to the work
of Clayton Christensen at the Harvard Business School, who started really to work
on this specific notion in the ’90s. For example, he was defining
disrupting innovation in this way, like a process that disrupts the market
in an expected way to generate a product
that the market does not expect. So if you generate a product
that is creating an innovation, then you are also creating a disruption. So my specific point of view, since I don’t come from a business school
and I’m mostly a sociologist, has been how to bring
this concept of disruption into the art field
and the technology reflection. So this is actually the cover of my book. I wanted to show you
not really to do advertising but because I wanted to focus on the title. That is exactly related
to rethinking oppositions in the context of art, activism
and the business of social networking. So the starting point
of my reflection has been: why do we need to rethink opposition? So here I start going through. And this is a model that I created in 2011 that I call the disruptive feedback loop, because the point of view was that
if we try to imagine in a business perspective a process or a product that is introduced
in the market in an expected way, then what happens if we introduce
a practice, an artwork or even, you know, a thought
into the context of art that is able to disrupt
the process from the inside? So in this specific model that I created I’m generating a loop, because from my perspective
it’s possible to analyse that artists, hackers, activists,
entrepreneurs and also networkers are people that from one side
are creating disruption to generate art. But at the same time
they’re also feeding a certain economy that could be a disruptive economy
to generate business. Unfortunately this has been true
for much of the history of hacking, especially if we refer to the history
of the development of Silicon Valley and the bits back
in my personal experience. I started to analyse in this research
different projects that were working with
the discourse of disruption as a form of unexpected intervention
into a closed system, and I will also show you
some specific examples, to try to imagine
if disruption could be also connected to the discourse of art development, so how disruption could be an art form. But by analysing that, since there is
the loop that I was mentioning before, I think we always have to analyse also
what is the development of business, especially in terms of network economy
and information technology. These are actually machines
that are feeding each other. And especially if we want to reflect
about digital utopias I think perhaps we should also question
what utopias are, what digital is, and at the same time if we are still in the process of imagining
utopias and what they could be, since we could say that business
and disruptive business have been part of the development
of digital culture, network culture, for many years. So my background comes from the hacker
culture and the activist field of Italy. I’m Italian and in the ’90s
I was part of a hacker collective. At the same time I also started
to work with the discourse of curating as a network practice. I always like to show this specific image
that was made in 1992 from postal artist, Vittore Baroni, because I think that already at that time
he understood pretty well a lot of creative networking processes
that happened later, not only himself
but also many postal artists, the people who were part of mail art
even before Fluxus. In this specific image we can see
that networking as a practice comes from different artistic roots that are basically avant-garde projects,
but not exclusively. Also punk, counter-culture, hacking… And at the same time it’s informed
by the combined use of media. Of course, in the ’90s
they were not the same as today, like photocopies, phone, fax,
computer, cassette and so on. This for us was actually a utopia because we really understood
that it was possible to create art
and to create political practices by using media in a certain way
and also by appropriating media. So the whole idea of do it yourself
at that time really meant creating projects
that were collaborative projects in the context of participation and most of all they were a specific way
of using media in an interlinked way in which you could basically
create your own medium. And then in 2003 I moved to Berlin. I still remember in 2004 when I went to one of the
first conferences about Web 2.0 and Tim O’Reilly
was actually speaking about the whole concept of Web 2.0
in that specific time. And I was really surprised because
he started to use a lot of notions that for me in the years before
belonged totally to artists, hackers and activists. For example, the idea of openness,
do it yourself, sharing. I had never heard them so much used
in the business context like at that time. I have to admit my first reaction
was kind of anger, because I wondered how it was possible that there were so many people
that worked in these fields using certain topics
that were highly political and there was absolutely no mention
of these practices. But of course
there was mention of hacking. This also caught my attention, because, coming from Italy, for me
hacking was a really political practice. Of course, I was getting
more and more interested in how, especially in California and Silicon Valley, this concept was instead applied
to business development. So I went to California
and I went to meet Fred Turner, who wrote a really interesting book called
“From Counterculture to Cyberculture”. And he wrote,
that is why there is an image, a paper related to Burning Man at Google. I found it really interesting because
he was saying that actually Burning Man… I don’t know if you know,
it’s a festival happening every year in the desert of Northern Nevada, where a lot of people meet in the desert
and create basically do-it-yourself camps and it’s an event totally based on sharing. Quite a lot of people share their goods and at the same time there is no currency. You can only buy coffee and ice
but you cannot buy anything else. And people produce
really wonderful art pieces, really huge, massive art constructions. So Fred Turner in that specific paper
says that this specific event, that according to other studies I did is also coming from totally underground
and avant-gardistic practices, like the Suicide Club
and the Cacophony Society, is today really functional to the
development of the ethos of Silicon Valley, because basically people go there
to experience a moment of freedom, but they also are still,
if you want, working, because it’s the place
where many of these companies go. So for me this was a perfect example. It’s also a perfect image
because it’s pretty centralised. It shows that the man that is usually burnt
at the end of the festival is at the centre of the camp. Speaking with people
that had previous experience of it, they told me that the man was constructed
and put up by many people that were raising up the man together and then burning it when Burning Man
was still in Baker Beach. I think this image is perhaps
the symbol of a lot of change in terms of hacker culture
and also sharing that, so perhaps we are getting more and more
into a centralisation of these practices. This is not a surprise,
because, as Fred Turner writes, business and counterculture have always
been the two faces of the same medal, especially in California. But I would say that in Europe, maybe in
Italy most all, because I come from there, we always created a separation
and this was a bit of our digital utopia. I think this utopia doesn’t exist any more. So what could be the new utopias? I’m actually a bit critical
of the word utopia today, because I think it’s a context that implies something happening in the future that is great but still could be
really easily appropriated by people that want to fill up this concept. So my question would be, how could
we imagine new artistic practices that are not merely based on opposition? Because we understood that opposition
basically doesn’t work any more since there has never been
total opposition. There has always been a feedback loop
of practices feeding each other. The idea is therefore
to work on disruption and the concept of disruption
for me means to try to imagine practices that are
happening from the inside of the system. So they’re not creating an opposition
from the outside, but they’re trying to transform the system
from the inside and in that sense create
new forms of artistic practices that are not only feeding the machine but are maybe inventing new machinery that is not only related to
appropriation of certain practices. This specific project that I wanted to show
is made by Telekommunisten collective in collaboration with Raumlabor
and transmediale festival. Also the Mail Artist Network is something
that I curated in transmediale 2013. It was calledOCTO P7C-1.It was a system of pneumatic tubes that were created at
the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the place where transmediale happens, and was also a criticism
of a centralised social network. The idea was
how a centralised social network works and how it’s possible to create a sort of
miscommunication technology with it. That is also part of
the theories of the Telekommunisten. So the idea was also going back
to the historical Rohrpost in Berlin, the pneumatic postal connection. It was really a perfect example
in which we were analysing how a centralised system can work
with different peripheral stations and how the visitors were interacting by sending different capsules
that were travelling. The whole system was just developed
with vacuum cleaners. So this is also showing you
that it’s possible to create a social network
that is not necessarily digital. And another really good example for me that could reflect on
the discourse of disruption is to imagine disruption
as a viral inflexible strategy as the contemporary networking
business actually does. So basically instead of
looking for this enemy, because we don’t know who is the enemy, the idea is to stop claiming to have
the truth and try to create your own truth and also trying to learn from business
how to be totally pervasive. I think the Anonymous Network
is a perfect example of that, because it’s playing with
the discourse of disruption but at the same time
is based on total anonymity, so in that sense
it disrupts the system from the inside because you don’t know
who these people are. But it’s also creating a constant
coexistence of opposition in a sense. It’s not just a frontal opposition
but a distributed opposition that is based on dismantling
the concept of truth by itself and also the concept of centralisation. In that sense I think
it’s a way to change our strategy and also to expose contradictions,
disturb and generate confusion. I think this is a specific way
of creating disruption if we go back to the definition: “the process that disrupts the market
in an expected way”. So in this sense we could imagine
what is the art of disrupting business. Another example
that also goes to my present… the last event I organised… For example, at transmediale
I curated last year a conference track namedHashes to Ashesand there was a panel with Trevor Paglen,
Laura Poitras and Jake Appelbaum named Art as Evidence. I think this concept of art as evidence is pretty interesting
to understand the form of disruption that is also not just oppositional but is really trying to understand
how the system works from the inside. This is a work of Trevor Paglen
that of course is difficult to see because this is the point.
I mean, it’s about drones. Usually Trevor creates
really great photography using a system that allows you to take photos of,
for example, hidden military bases or drones that are in the sky. Theoretically you don’t see them,
but you know they are there. You can only see them if you make
the resolution of the photo so high that you can see a cloud. And this concept is highly interesting because it’s showing
that nothing is neutral in our reality. And actually things are happening
under our eyes and often we don’t see. But if you understand
how the systems are working and in which way it’s possible
to unlock the secret, then it’s still possible
to create artistic projects that are also revealing the people… There is a form of evidence
that it’s possible to discover. In that sense his works are really related
to the discourse of art as evidence and also we could say that it’s a way to expose
the surveillance machinery as well by exploring its strengths
while testing its limits. And I would just like to conclude now
by telling you the latest things I’m doing. This is the new project
that I’m launching in Berlin at the Kunstquartier Bethanien,
the Bethanien art quarter. It’s a cycle of conferences that are related also to the concept
of disruption as a feedback loop between art, technology
and digital culture, especially with a political approach
in the use of technology. The first events will be 17 and 18 April and will be based on
the reflection on drone technology. So I hope you will come. And the others will go on more or less
every six weeks until December, pointing out in each event
a different way to reflect on disruption by bringing together artists,
hackers, whistle-blowers, activists and researchers. At the moment another project I’m doing,
and with that I will conclude, is an exhibition
called Networked Disruption, so it’s the exhibition
of my book “Networked Disruption”, and for me it was really interesting
to try to imagine how this research could actually be brought
into a physical space. Often when you write a PhD
you write a book, you imagine a lot of concepts theoretically even if you’re based on practices, but then trying to transform that
into an exhibition is totally different. So the technique I’m using, since in the exhibition
there will be many collectives because, as I said, I’m also going
historically back into projects that were using the idea of disruption
to produce art and also trying to create
a sort of infiltration in systems… So, for example, we have the early
Burning Man, the Cacophony Society, the Suicide Club, and Anonymous, Luther Blissett, Neoism, mail art in the line of disruption, but also contemporary works from
Julian Oliver, the Punk Collective, the Telekommunisten, Trevor Paglen, and also Laura Poitras
who’s not listed but she’s there. And this exhibition is also
in collaboration with the AND Festival, so it’s produced
by Aksioma Project Space. We open on 11 March
at the Skuc Gallery in Ljubljana and then we’ll travel to Croatia to
the Museum of Contemporary Art in April. So we’re also discussing
with the AND Festival how to bring into this context
this kind of work. So with that I’ll finish. So if you are interested
in going more into this discussion if you go to disruptiv.biz,
that is my website, you can download all my publications. I usually have everything
totally open to be downloaded, and so thank you very much. So the audience can join the discussion. We have a little bit more than 15 minutes. I think together you are actually
defining different vectors of a territory. I started the presentations
saying there is not one model. Today there are many models and we are seeing how we’re operating
in different spaces to define this possible context
of disruption in innovation in the way that culture operates
and art operates within a space of other agents. I have a couple of questions
before opening up for the floor. There was something, Lynn,
in your presentation which was that instead of actually not… being afraid of explaining
how in the context of Science Gallery the relationship between
scientists and artists, science and art, can be in a way… How would I say this? This notion of instrumentalisation. It was something that you put up front, how art can instrumentalise science
and science can instrumentalise art in a context where probably
many artists could be afraid of the fact that they’re here just to make a point and make the words of scientists
more understandable and at the same time scientists are afraid
that their work could be trivialised. So how do you operate in a context
where both sides can really understand how in this space there’s
a mutually beneficial relationship but also there are these possibilities where sometimes you are being used
and you have the possibility of using the resources
and the discourse of the other? Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I suppose I put those up, because
in the context of the conversation today many people maybe
have experience of such or that’s sometimes
the way they think about it. In terms of Science Gallery, I suppose
the way we have that conversation is really about the curatorial process
that we enter into. So because the way that we curate
exhibitions is very open and we’re asking people
to submit their work and to develop their work collaboratively,
if that’s the suggestion, in some ways we put
that conversation up front. So in no way do we see ourselves as
being referees of that process, if you like. It’s more an acknowledgement that
these are the kinds of relationships that are out there. This is some of the different ways
that they operate. One isn’t… In terms of the conversation
around innovation, the kind of creative,
collaborative piece of… process is probably the most innovative in terms
of what comes out of it at the end, but the others exist, I guess. It doesn’t really answer your question,
but yeah… Memo, we were discussing before how these experiences artists have
in the context of commercial commissions are in many cases
a territory of continued frustration around something
which is never defined necessarily because both sides feel they can
be engaged in a collaboration but by other sorts of factors. But you were also telling me your
commissions need to be like that, but there are possible models where the reasons that an artist
would have to look for, situated in the context of art and
in the context of commercial or industry, were not just to pay the bills, but because
that’s the context to do a kind of work that wouldn’t be reached any other way. Exactly how did you imagine
that this evolution would be possible? Also I think that recent years
have set a path of both promising and encouraging
science and also big disappointments. Yeah. So, I think it’s the motivation
which I’ve come to, and if I have to simplify
the problem down to one word, it’s a problem of motivation, in that what is it that motivates me
to do a project, what is it that motivates a curator
of a gallery or an art institution that wants to commission that project. Usually that’s in line with…
The artist is usually in line with that. That’s why, when you have conversations,
the conversation is always constructive. I mean, the conversation
between the artist and the curator is constructive to the project. If you’re… I’ve actually left
Marshmallow Laser Feast now. They’re still my best friends. But you wouldn’t believe
the number of emails that we would get on an almost daily basis: “We want
something that’s never been done before.” “It’s got to get a million views
on YouTube.” And this is not
a very inspiring conversation. You want to talk about
going a bit more in depth. Where it can become promising
is if your motivations are aligned. And in the case of the Saatchi & Saatchi
project, that was 100% aligned. We weren’t trying to promote
Saatchi & Saatchi. We were trying to create this performance
that did everything we wanted it to do. So I think where
there could be hope in the future is if… this culture becomes more ingrained
in commercial entities, where ad agencies… I should also say I know
a lot of amazing people in ad agencies. The problem isn’t the people,
the problem is the process. There are so many people,
it’s such a big wheel that it’s only as strong
as the weakest link. So you can have 10 people
who are amazing, but then someone somewhere
breaks that link. So as this culture gets more ingrained
in those kind of environments where more people have… It becomes more satellites
and localised small teams who have power and budget to realise things,
as happened in Saatchi & Saatchi. The guys we were dealing with
had the power to sign off anything within the budget. So we could make decisions and move forward. They didn’t have to go back and get sign-off. So if that model starts
to become more the norm, then I think we can do
more interesting collaborations. Tatiana, a question
that is also a bit of a provocation. When you talk in the context
of tech industry about disruption and innovative disruption
and the effect of disruption, beyond the initial positive read of it, behind there are always winners and losers. For every disruption that reshapes a market there are people who win
and people who get left beside the tracks. So who are the winners and losers if you take the notion of disruption
within the context of the arts and culture? I don’t know. I think if you speak about winners or losers it depends what is your perspective. From a certain perspective
you could think somebody’s a winner and instead they’re a loser and vice versa.
So I don’t know. In that sense
we are also creating a dialectic that is exactly the kind of way of thinking
that I’m trying to criticise, because my point of view is that, as I say,
we are speaking more about layering instead of an oppositional perspective. So by assuming that there have always
been developments and an interlink between art, business,
technology developments since forever, then I think it doesn’t make sense
to speak about winners and losers, because from one point some people are
winners that have lost and vice versa. So I would say I prefer
to shift the point of this conversation and by assuming that
this disruptive feedback exists among art, business and disruption, then what is the role of the artist today? I don’t think… OK, some artists
could decide they want to do business and of course I’m not criticising. This is absolutely not
an ideological perspective. Of course I have my ideologies, but it’s not what I want to bring into
this specific perspective about the loop. The idea is that if you want to be an artist
and you want to be critical, I think then you have
first of all to understand that perhaps you should try
to create new tactics that are not necessarily being opposing, because we know that for many years
this opposition actually never existed. But still it’s important to be critical. Otherwise you just enter into
this chain of appropriation that is part of the new liberal economy. So for me it’s more like a big question mark. It’s not that I have a solution, but with
all my research I’m trying to demonstrate that new kinds of strategies are necessary that are not only accepting the status quo, so saying, “OK, we’re doing business”,
because I think it’s a bit too easy. But if you really want to make a criticism, it’s also too easy just to say,
“I’m going to oppose everything.” It doesn’t work any more and you are basically legitimising
who you’re going to oppose. So that is why I speak about disruption, because I think disruption
goes inside this loop and tries to show the contradictions
that are part of this loop, and tries to play with them,
tries to create them, and in this way create
new forms of imaginations that could be what the artist can do. I’m going to open for questions. I don’t know if we have a mic… Yeah. We have some people over there. Ashok Mistry, artist that’s
disaffected by digital at the moment. One… I suppose… If we… Just picking up on your ideas
about the liberal economy… If we see populations
moving from citizens to consumers, where does disruption kind of fit within that new model
where corporates have more grip? A lot of the platforms that we have now
are corporate platforms, so where does that disruption actually
exist now in a consumer society? We have many examples of artists
that have worked with that. For example, I could mention
a work of Les Liens Invisibles from 2009 that was calledSeppukoo.They were also questioning, for example, how in Facebook
you’re creating a chain of friendship that is based on your relationship
and your identity, and your identity
starts out commercialised. So basically they understood
the mechanism behind that and were really trying to study the codes
beyond the interface of Facebook and created this really interesting
project calledSeppukoothat was a virtual suicide
that people were invited to generate. And of course they were not interested
in the suicide itself but it was more to try to create
a public opinion and a discussion about how the identities of people
are becoming part of doing business. So I think this is something that hackers
have already thought 30 years ago. So if you want to criticise something you have to understand how
this machine works, what are its rules, what are the codes behind it, even the terms and conditions that
you are signing should be understood, and then playing with this materiality
could become a new form of art and actually have already come about. There have been a lot of artists
working with that. I think especially now, for example,
in Berlin there is a big debate relating to the Snowden disclosures
and the NSA surveillance programme. I think in that sense many people
are working with cryptography, understanding how you can protect your data. But I also think perhaps we need
a new form of imagination related to that. So you don’t need just to hide yourself. Maybe you can also be proactive
in generating a new imaginary. But I don’t have the answer.
This should be done by artists, I think. Any other… Yes, over here. There. It’s just a comment
from Tatiana’s presentation. It’s about disruption from within,
but why are you being enterprising? The term there is not an entrepreneur, it’s an intrapreneur
in social-organisation speak. I-n-t-r-a-preneur. You’re an enterprising person
within an organisation and you change the organisation
or that part of it from within. That again links to the arts. It can be an artist in residence within. Intrapreneur. It’s an enterprising person
within the organisation. Yeah, I didn’t reflect
on the discourse of intrapreneur. Maybe it’s a new concept, but still I think I’m actually
appropriating this concept from business, because, as I say,
the first person using disruption in that specific business concept
was Christensen. And the point is that since many business concepts
have been appropriating the concepts and discourse
of the counterculture, we know that is a chain that always works. I think perhaps artists could
appropriate business language and start to work with disruption themselves. Then maybe there could be,
as you say, intrapreneurs, but… I say that I don’t think there is a strong
division among artists and entrepreneurs, and especially going to Silicon Valley
you understand that. So I don’t think
the two words are so separated. I think maybe the new challenge
should be considering that, and then what the artist can do. In that sense we should create
new forms of the imaginary, but I don’t think that they are really
two different hemispheres. That is why this morning we were
speaking about post-digital and because the post-digital definition
is pretty relevant today because it actually shows
that digital is everywhere and certain dichotomies don’t exist any more. So what is it that the artist can do today
to create new forms of criticism? I think that is the challenge. We are actually out of time. We just reached the moment
for the next session. Thanks a lot, everybody,
and thanks to my speakers. Thanks for coming. Captions by
www.subtext-berlin.com

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