A stroll through the SIGGRAPH 2011 Art Gallery
By Ben Henderson, ACM SIGGRAPH Chapters Reporter
The 2011 SIGGRAPH Art Gallery, entitled “Tracing Home” is an exploration of the concept of home and how we connect to that idea in an age of digital devices, virtual networks and portable lives. Home may be represented in a thousand different ways and take on a variety of meanings for each individual. However, what remains the same and what so many of the gallery’s pieces reference is a sense of connection. Each piece explores that connection: some do so physically, others emotionally; each interpreting how that connection is affected by technology.
When first entering this year’s gallery you are greeted by Memoirs by Yunsil Heo and Hyunwoo Bang. What appears to be a simple retro 1950’s television actually captures your photo using a digital camera. It then displays this photo as a virtual Polaroid on the screen below. The exhibit is interactive, engaging and, in a way, nostalgic. Dating back more than half a century, televisions have been associated with “home.” Memoirs captures that era while concealing updated technology. The Polaroid photo that digitally/virtually develops and falls into the screen is shared worldwide via the internet, almost as if you are being developed and delivered to the world.
The idea of home can be interpreted in countless ways by different individuals. Reveries and Line Drawings by Georgia Wall and Nick Bastis plays on the concept of interpretation by showing the way two people, using different techniques, translate the same description of the narrator’s home.
Just around the corner, nestled in a dark nook, Hildepromenade 4 by Philipp Engelhardt continues this theme of interpreting memory. Here, a collection of found photos are displayed in an album. The piece imagines the path taken between the moments captured on film.
Resonating throughout the gallery, Peter Traub’s Itspace captures the familiar sounds of home that often go unnoticed. Step on up and push a button to hear the squeaking of a recliner, the ringing of an egg timer or the wrapping of banister rails; play them simultaneously and the soundtrack of home expands into a musical composition.
The 0h!m1gas: Biomimetic Stridulation Environment by Kuai Shen Auson also brings awareness to the unnoticed by giving a voice to the movement and communication of an ant colony. Oh!m1gas analyzes the motion of the ants, interprets the data and translates it to the scratching of turntables.
Continuing though the Art Gallery, the sheer size of MOSTON by Anya Belkina, is a statement unto itself. The piece is a reflection on the artist’s experiences as a transplant from Moscow, now living in Boston. A large inflatable sculpture, it conjures the image of a human heart or Russian nesting dolls.
Another large installation is the Garden of Error and Decay by Michael Bielicky. This oversized interactive piece displays up to 250 unique animations, each triggered by key words received through a live twitter feed. These key words relate to the world’s current political, social, and natural challenges. Michael even encourages viewers to take action by targeting and shooting these animations from the screen using a joystick. Though, in the end, it is not the viewer’s actions, but the rise and fall of the stock market, which brings about change.
Natural and man-made disasters are also the basis of Michael Cox’s Tomorrow Will Get Better. Consisting of graphite drawings and laser cut paper, the works are as delicate as the houses they depict. This piece also demonstrates how we have limited control over circumstances, though hope for a better tomorrow remains.
Out of even the most devastating conditions beauty can emerge – this is a theme explored in Transplant by Heidi Kumao. This piece is a mixed media artwork that depicts the story of Japanese families building a sense of home by cultivating gardens in the midst of the adversity and desolation in World War II internment camps.
Travel Stones by Jacquelyn Martino suggests, rather than rebuilding a sense of home, you can carry it with you wherever you go. Based on a fictitious ancient culture, these stones are used throughout generations to pass on a physical representation of the spiritual sense of home while exploring the unknown. They can also serve as a way to recount stories to travelers.
Traditions passed down through generations create culture; this can define home as much as any object. The Insatiable by Jawshing Arthur Liou captures viewers’ attention with a free form flowing depiction of an outdoor food market in Taipei. Using high definition video taken at night from an aerial perspective, Jawshing stitched together an intestine-like object that snakes across the screen. Stand close to the screen and viewers can actually see the individual people walking through the market.
With a quick turn to the left, viewers are faced with a bright white screen sitting upright on the floor. Go ahead and approach the display and a dog will approach the front of the screen and peer out. Wait, by Julie Andreyev and Simon Overstall explores the companion relationship between man and their canine counterpart. Viewers wait for the dog to react to their presence, and the dog in turn waits for the viewer to give a command. The piece thus challenges how we view our relationships with those who are reliant upon us.
The sense of presence is sometimes a welcoming one, even if it is only acknowledged subconsciously. RolyPoly by Design Incubation Centre is a hands-on, interactive experience that uses two large egg-shaped objects that are connected to one another by a digital network. If you place a hand on one egg and move it in any direction, the second egg will mimic that movement. The subtle movement of the egg offers a sense of home by allowing two people to connect in a physical way even when they are not in the same space.
And then there is the cool breeze that blows through the Gallery, the one created by Tele-present wind. In his piece, artist David Bowen reproduces the essence of home in a real-time experience by bringing nature indoors through the use of a digital network. Using real-time data collected from his home in Duluth, Minnesota, he creates a patch of dried plant stalks that blow in the wind in the middle of the Gallery. The imperfections in both the data and their delivery (to the mechanism that drives the movement) add to the authenticity of the fabricated natural phenomenon.
Third Skin by Andrea Zapp takes an impersonal collection of aerial and surveillance photography (that minimizes the individual) and stitches together a strong fashion statement. Through a series of hand-made dresses, the artist takes social ownership of otherwise detached data, making it both personal and wearable.
Finally, in the middle of the Art Gallery stands Open House by Patrick LeMieux and Jack Stenner. This hard-to-miss piece has a level of interactivity that puts the viewer in direct control of an actual home. This installation includes a large metal doorframe and two live projections; one of the interior and the other of the exterior of a house in Gainesville, Florida. When the viewer walks through the doorway, a digital signal is sent to a small motor that controls and then opens the front door of the house. Depending on the day and time, the viewer may even see someone run through the open door on to a slip-n-slide laid out in the front lawn. The home finds itself in limbo, a victim of the housing collapse. Viewers of the piece are in essence invited and encouraged to virtually squat inside.
This year’s Art Gallery provides attendees with insight into sixteen unique interpretations of “home” and what it means in today’s digitally networked age. Utilizing many different forms of media, the artwork embraces a wide array of engaging and often interactive ideas that will inspire attendees, as they leave the gallery, to ask the question “what does ‘home’ mean to me?”