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INST-INT 2014: Conference Highlights

From the founders of Eyeo, this specialized forum focuses the spotlight on interactive art and technology

by Nara Shin in Tech on 30 September 2014

Conferences, Creativity, Designers, Innovation, Installations, Interactive, Speakers, Technology, Minneapolis

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From the founders of technology festival Eyeo comes a smaller, more tightly focused offshoot called INST-INT. Now in its second year, the stimulating three-day experience saw roughly 300 people gravitate to Minneapolis' Walker Art Center to glean insights from an international roster of artists, designers, architects and coders. In between talks on the challenges of creating technology-rich interactive installations and other related subjects were beneficial demos, workshops and show-and-tell sessions.

"With Eyeo, we had noticed that a lot of people who were coming were working in this field of interactive projects in the physical space, and that's something that we're really interested in," co-founder Dave Schroeder tells CH. "We like to create a place where people with similar interests can get together and meet each other and form a stronger community. As people make that kind of transition from working on the screen to getting out in the physical space—it's chock full of hurdles."

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While some of the talks naturally turned into portfolio presentations or became overly technical about the coding process, the majority of the speakers candidly revealed their own #fails, offered a fruitful message and—most interestingly—put out a call for collaborations or help with current projects. There were no boundaries between speakers and the attendees, and, as Schroeder notes, he could have a hundred more people from the audience presenting their own work on stage. Seeing how speakers (both intentionally and unintentionally) were referencing each other's works in their talks reveals the cogs of INST-INT in motion. While the conference is decidedly advantageous for those in the interactive fields, below are some highlights from this past weekend than any creative person can gain from.

Minimaforms: Enabling Frameworks

The brothers behind experimental architecture and design practice Minimaforms, Stephen and Theodore Spyropoulos, opened up the conference with the first keynote address. They referenced Lucio Fontana's 1946 work, "The White Manifesto," which declared a need for a new "spatialist" art form that would go beyond architecture, painting, sculpture, music and other traditional forms: "voluminous forms changing through a plastic, mobile substance" that would engage technology to be able to express the fourth dimension. From projects like "Memory Cloud" (merging one of the oldest forms of visual communications, smoke signals, with today's form, SMS texting) to "Petting Zoo," (robotic pets that interact with human participants and evolve or become bored over time depending on the level of engagement), Minimaforms is developing new models of interaction and communication that go beyond touching a screen.

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Sputniko!: Doradical Futures with Sputniko!

When Hiromi Ozaki, more commonly known as her alter-ego Sputniko!, created a fully functioning Menstruation Machine that dispenses blood and simulates pain in the abdomen—she didn't put it in on display in a glass case. Instead, she sings a story of a transvestite boy named Takashi who dresses up in women's clothing but also desires to dress up biologically, too. Through music videos, Sputniko! triggers discussions of social and cultural implications of technology outside of exclusive academic or museum environments; instead, they take place in YouTube comments, Twitter feeds and other social media networks. "Popular" has a very negative image, she says, and has mistakenly become synonymous with "not very challenging." But as platforms like YouTube have democratized who controls the media and added to the diversity of contributing voices, "pop" can be influential in pushing cultural norms—especially in Japan, which is "a little bit behind in gender equality issues." Sputniko!'s high-heel-stamping moon rover concept—the "Moonwalk Machine"—is, for example, a response to the fact that only white American men have walked on the moon.

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Kyle McDonald: Space Filling

You might have heard of media artist Kyle McDonald, whose 2011 Apple Store performance piece "People Staring at Computers" resulted in a visit from the Secret Service. He's worked on diverse projects since, from Social Soul (where TED 2014 attendees entered inside their social media mind and were matched with their "soulmate" at the conference) to an interactive listening experience for The xx. (Probably as a reference to his Mad Libs-like webpage Who Pays Artists, McDonald also openly shared a peek of the spreadsheet breaking down the budget for that large-scale project, though banning any photos.) But McDonald also disclosed that recently, he's been infatuated by light and the ray's seemingly infinite qualities. Exploring some of them in his recent project Light Leaks, where 50 disco balls were used to essentially reverse-projection map a space, McDonald raced through a list of inspiring artists such as Aram Bartholl, Jussi Ängeslevä, Toshio Iwai, Anthony McCall and more, who use light in their works to astonish and provoke.

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I am more through this tool than I am without it.
Daniel Leithinger: Shaping the Future of Human Computer Interfaces

"I bicycle a lot," says Daniel Leithinger, a PhD candidate at MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group. He compares the experience to being a cyborg: "I am more through this tool than I am without it." He poses the question, "How can we feel this kind of empowerment and engagement that we gain from cycling, with computers?" The first step is envisioning human computer interfaces that are tangible, intuitive and engage our bodies more fully. Leithinger quotes Malcolm McCullough for inspiration: "Hands are underrated... they are not idle, just underemployed."

Instead of strapping yourself into a display like Oculus Rift or limiting the digital portal to a flat rectangular screen, Leithinger wants to bring "magic" into the real world. Thus far, he and his colleagues have been successful in giving digital information a dynamic, physical shape through projects like inFORM and Jamming User Interfaces (a moldable interface that "jams" or hardens temporarily by vacuum; you could knead an iPad, instead of touching it—and mold it into a tablet, game controller, watch and more).

Amsterdam sculpture project image courtesy of Janet Echelman, Moonwalk Machine courtesy of Sputniko!, inFORM image courtesy of MIT Media Lab, all other images by Nara Shin

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Illustrator Donald Robertson on Great Jones Street

The Instagram-famous illustrator opens up his work to interact with passersby

by Kat Herriman in Culture on 30 September 2014

Art, Color, Instagram, NYC, Illustration, Fashion, Paintings, Popups, Residencies

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In recent years illustrator Donald Robertson has made a name for himself with technicolor drawings of toothy lipstick smiles, cartoonish animals and fashion industry icons like Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld (as well as his coworkers at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, where he's Head of Creative Development), which he posts on Instagram in a constant and colorful stream for all to admire. Though Robertson's social media presence has garnered quite a following, it wasn’t until this summer when he met gallerist Eric Firestone that the artist finally had a formal art setting to show his work. “Eric sort of took a gamble on me,” explains Robertson. Though the gamble payed off, as the Eric Firestone Gallery show in East Hampton was a success. "What I was able to do through Instagram was drive a lot of people through his gallery, and what he was able to do was to take all these images that look kind of dinky on my phone [and] set them up in a space that gave them a new sense of weight.”

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After the success of the initial show, the duo decided to expand their efforts into NYC where they’ve collaborated on a two-month residency on Great Jones Street, which will be open to the public with walk-in hours and appointments. Their unorthodox open door policy is a testament to Robertson’s gregarious personality and also the nature of his process, which can only be described as frenetic and incredibly absorbing.

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“Working on pieces like this gets a little lonely, when you are by yourself in a studio,” says Robertson as he works his way across a piece armed with a paintbrush. “What I love about this is that I can be chatting, or creating, or shooting with people here and the whole studio becomes this kind of dynamic art Instagram hang out.” Robertson's unique stream-of-consciousness style enables him to bounce from creating cartoons for major labels to playful interpretations of ready-to-wear looks before they make it all the way down the runway.

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While never restricting himself to just one thing, it seems Robertson’s latest fascination is Canal Street knockoffs and the peculiar double-standard that enables artists to appropriate brand labels while hawkers in Chinatown are forced to sell their wares in back rooms or from their bedsheet galleries. “I am doing it for all the guys who can’t,” laughs the artist, who is styling an Instragramable shot of his latest piece, a bright green wall dotted with dripping Comme des Garçons hearts.

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“I have yet to receive a cease and desist notice.” And, from the constant inquiries that have been bombarding both Robertson and Firestone’s inboxes, it appears more likely that a brand would want to buy one of his imitations rather than proceed with legal charges. “A lot of brands try to make themselves seem artsy, but they fake the art part,” says Robertson. “But here, we are making art and seeing how brands and new sources of inspiration can be folded into the mix.”

Donald Robertson's open studio is located at 9 Great Jones Street, #2 in NYC, and will remain open through 19 November 2014.

Images by Kat Herriman

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Bulgari Octo Maserati Chronograph

Two iconic brands celebrate their respective anniversaries with a luxe collaboration

by Paolo Ferrarini in Design on 30 September 2014

Bulgari, Bulgari Octo, Chronographs, Collaborations, Maserati, Timepieces, Watches, Limited Editions

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This year innovative Italian automaker Maserati celebrates 100 years and coincidentally, fellow Italian Bulgari are commemorating 130 years of advanced watchmaking. The iconic brands' simultaneous anniversaries have led to the launch a fancy collaboration: Bulgari created a limited edition of their architecturally driven Octo timepiece specially for Maserati.

The watch maintains the original (and recognizable) octagon shape, but several new details have been added for the collaboration. One terminal of the chronograph hand is shaped like Maserati's trident logo, while the dial is now in the automaker's iconic blue—which is also used for the semi-transparent case-back and the alligator leather strap.

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Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari says of the two brands teaming up, "The main reason why you buy them is the craftsmanship, the beauty, the sophistication." As such, the collaboration made perfect sense on both sides. “Bulgari and Maserati are two of the most emblematic icons of Italian luxury bound by two very similar drivers," Babin tells CH. "On one hand: design. It’s a very Italian element because Italy is a reference country when it comes to design. At the same time, Italy has demonstrated to be really advanced technologically. We see it in the industry, and of course in Maserati cars, which are very sophisticated not only for their beauty, but also for the technology inside."

While the Italian influence is undoubtedly strong, Babin explains why Swiss manufacturing is also intrinsically important to Bulgari. “We are an Italian brand—born in Rome—even though we manufacture our timepieces in Switzerland. Probably we are one of the most integrated watch brands when it comes to creating a masterpiece. We have workshops internally manufacturing the cases, and the Octo shows our extensive know-how because to manufacture an Octo is extremely difficult. Bulgari watches bring to Swiss watchmaking a total breakthrough in terms of designs, but at the same time, high technological content, because when you are able to develop and manufacture Finissimo Tourbillon, you are really at the forefront of the best of the best manufacturers.” Interestingly, Finissimo Tourbillon is at the heart of the Octo's movement and happens to be the thinnest tourbillon ever created.

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Babin also believes that Bulgari and Maserati are both frontrunners in their respective fields—pioneering paths and breaking new ground for others. "Maserati has been the first brand to create luxury GT cars and racing cars in Italy, well before other famous Italian names. [Bulgari] pioneered our sector in Italy—and later also watches," he says.

What speaks to your heart, not only to your mind, is the ultimate of pleasures.

History and branding aside, the goal was to create a beautifully crafted, high-quality timepiece that channels Italian refinement. The concept of luxury was always at the front of the designers' minds. "We agreed that it should be understated. This watch is not an ultimate sports watch, but it’s a very elegant and noble watch with sporty dimensions. So it’s very much Maserati; it’s “grand tourisme” which is really enjoying potentially high performance—when most of the time you don’t need it. It’s an elegant kind of luxury—a luxury that you enjoy for yourself, which doesn’t necessarily show off. Luxury is the pleasure to possess exclusive, beautiful, very well-crafted objects—this can be paintings, exceptional cars, remarkable watches, great jewels, much beyond the function. What speaks to your heart, not only to your mind, is the ultimate of pleasures."

The Bulgari Octo Maserati Chronograph is available for purchase in Bulgari stores.

Lead and final images by Paolo Ferrarini, others courtesy of Bulgari

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