IndieCade, 5D and Zero1: Design Meets Tech and Makes Art

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On this DnA, we talked about independent gaming design, which explored how solo or small teams of designers are making small, but highly artful games. Guests Stephanie Barish and Sam Roberts, founder and festival director of IndieCade, talked about how the art of game design employs a range of skills, among them  story-telling, code-writing, visual design not to mention self-marketing (click here for a chance to win tickets to this year’s IndieCade).

Tonight and tomorrow, you can hear from a distinguished line-up of speakers who between them harness all the skills of gaming, story-telling and creating a visual universe. They will be speaking at 5D Institute’s, “Transmedia Summit”, entitled “The City and the Book”, and taking place over two evenings at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. According to 5D (image, right, from their web site), “architects who contribute to the narrative of a city, and writers who are interested in new kinds of publishing will talk about the design and engineering of a new genus of storytelling filled with variations of choice and surprise.” More than 20 luminaries from the worlds of film, architecture and production design will be there, including 5D founder Alex McDowell,  Brandon Oldenberg, Greg Lynn, Hernan Alonzo Diaz), Tracy Fullerton, and Habib Zargarpour. For more information about the ‘5D | flux’ The City and the Book transmedia summit, click here

ZERO1 Biennial is an art and technology showcase featuring 150 artists, taking place in San Jose and other locations in the Bay Area through December 8, with virtual art projects available online. Adelaide Chen is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism who divides her time between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. She went to the opening of the Biennial and made the video, above, of interviews with some of the artists, and wrote this report:

Having grown up in Silicon Valley, technology such as video and computer programming are not new, and companies headquartered locally such as Apple raise our expectations so much that we take innovation for granted. Why can’t they just make an app for that, I actually say sometimes, when I see a problem that needs a solution.

But at ZERO1, the artists have created projects not intended for high-tech ventures (although eBay did commission a film to be projected onto one of its buildings, just kidding).  Amy Alexander, associate professor at UCSD, and Annina Rüst, assistant professor  at Syracuse University, ventured to put a new twist on solar cells–replacing the mirrored tiles on a disco ball with the high-tech materia (image, above left)l.

Shine a light directly from a video projector and the ball goes round, multiple images reflecting off the solar panel tiles. The more light, the faster the ball revolves.

“It’s a silly idea to try to solar power a disco ball. From an energy standpoint it’s inefficient,” said Alexander, who said the point was to reignite passion for invention. After all, flying was considered wacky in the early 20th century. One of Alexanders and Rüst’s earlier discussions focused on hybrid technology, similar to the Prius. When the driver brakes, that energy is used to charge the battery and reclaim energy.  Discotrope: The Secret Nightlife of Solar Cells not only reclaims energy, it is a performance piece with music and video projections.  “We see it as serious artistically. Serious as visual performance. But wacky and fun at the same time,” said Alexander. “That’s something that’s valuable in the way we think about culture because creativity and thinking outside the box is something that everybody talks about.”

This is it, forever. It’s  a video, or several video clips put together, of people walking across the screen. Sensors tell the computer if humans are standing in front of the screens. An audience will trigger videos of more people walking by. If there a no people, that’s reflected in a video with nobody walking across. The resulting slices of video are stitched together by the computer in a seamless fashion.

“It’s not that technology actually makes the work better, but you can do things that were not possible before, although it might surprise you if you look back into history,” he said. Rosenfeld says there were examples of this kind of artwork going back into the ’70s running on LaserDisc. One artist, who had been experimenting with robotic cameras, wondered if he could achieve the same effect without plugging in.

Chris Reilly, a UCLA graduate student studying design and media art, got his desired effect for his art piece by going analog, not digital. Meditation Wall is a stack of boxes which comprise a human-scale wall. On the front and back sides of the wall, magnifying lenses inside the boxes create interesting optics.

Jaime Austin, lead curator of the ZERO1 2012 Biennial, says what’s important is that artists are always pushing the limits of technology further.  “They’re doing things with that technology that the inventors never imagined.”

For more information on the ZERO1 Biennial, visit Watch the video above for more art featured at ZERO1.