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Last week  I attended a talk (arranged by Skillswap Brighton) on the topic of persuasive design.

This is something of a buzz topic right now- from the ubiquity of Cass Sunstein’s Nudge (winner of my “desk-furniture for planners award 2009”), to the emergence of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, to the biggest advertiser in the UK‘s newly-stated ambition of ‘behaviour change’- it concerns bypassing the traditional ‘change-attitudes-first’ model of communications and going straight for the behaviour jugular by influencing an individual’s decision-making apparatus without necessarily engaging their conscious mind. A lot of this stuff builds upon the still-awesome exploration of human adaptation to environments in Jane Fulton-Suri’s photographic essay ‘thoughtless acts‘.

thoughtless

One of my favoutite books, that is.

The speaker I went to see was the fresh-faced Dan Lockton, a research student at Brunel University who has achieved no small measure of fame already for his compelling work in this area. His contribution to the field is the Design with Intent Toolkit (free to download and experiment with) which helps to stratify the various ways in which designers can influence people’s behaviour whether by ‘enabling’ choice (making an option more attractive by making it easier than alternatives) or by constraining choice (the opposite – think park benches that are designed to discourage people sleeping on them).

Here he is, giving the very talk I witnessed:

dan_lockton2

He also has a knack of coming with rather good analogies – particularly for design that failed to understand the behavioural ecosystem it exists within.

One I particularly liked was the vision of a fire door propped open by a fire extinguisher.

extinguish

Anyway, the Design with Intent approach is very interesting and I think enormously relevant to any communications practice in this day and age when everything is media, and the practise of embedding communications thinking in products, services, interfaces and interactions becomes ever more important.

Here’s an example image of one of Lockton’s Design with Intent Toolkit‘s ‘lenses’:

DwI Toolkit

These various ‘lenses’ are used to provoke a myriad of possible design solutions to a particular behavioural problem.

The example he used in the talk was the problem of household energy consumption, where behavioural ‘decisions’ (or more correctly, non-decisions)  account for somewhere in the region of 26-36% of usage. Kettles, for example, are routinely overfilled- even for the purpose of making a single cup of tea. This is a behavioural norm that is harmless routine at the level of the individual, but that has extreme and problematic ramifications at the state or global level.

So what’s the solution?

Is it a ‘2.0’ style social interface that uploads your kettle-data to the web and automatically compares and contrasts you with your neighbours, fellow citizens or global best-users?

Or is it a plastic filter that automatically shuts after 1 mug’s worth of water is detected?

Or is it a signalling system employing emoticons to provide a timely feedback loop at the point of filling?

We don’t know yet – but the point of this research is to generate enough good, different hypotheses to test, and then report back on the findings, because whilst it presents a very challenging design brief, reducing home energy consumption is at least easy to measure.

At the time of writing, Dan’s talk hadn’t yet been uploaded as a podcast, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find it here soon. In the meantime, there’s plenty of other interesting talks to peruse – big thanks to Skillswap Brighton for a thoroughly stimulating evening 🙂

Images sourced from event organiser boxman on Flickr, from Andreas Kirstensson on Flickr, and from Dan Lockton’s site
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So a few weeks ago I went to see Brian Eno have a conversation with his friend Jon Hassell as part of the South Bank’s Ether festival. I was going to write it up, but I actually think it’s probably more interesting (and less work) to just post the hurriedly-typed notes I made in-situ.

The stage was dominated by a giant screen that showed the table top the two men had arranged their stimulus on in massive scale- whether live scribblings, images or pages from Eno’s notebook.

enohassel

It was a broad, wide- ranging chat, but stayed within the realms of the type of things Brian Eno normally talks about- the weird sex stuff was all from Hassell, who I thought was a bit of a waste of space conversationally (maybe this is unfair – he just seemed to keep taking the dialogue into less interesting places as far as I was concerned).

Anyway, this is my record of the two hours:

“Stop moving the ohp!
Not just about making attractive things, creating new worlds
Systems + structures, music as a metaphor for collaborative society
‘Surrender’ a choice vs control
Surfing, bridge building
Human history is the surrender zone
4 areas: art, sex, drugs, religion
Not me, us, the flow
The north owns broadcasting (most powerful technology) an ideology of survival
Science makes opposites that are false
Media pipeline is narrow, demands caricature
Is there always a valid opposite opinion? Culture of agument
Elevate the nutter
Geometry makes equal makes opposite- these are abstractions_
misleading when applied to human affairs
Anus- wordism- desire to control by fencing language
Drug companies- inventing illnesses, not cures (paxil)
Creating by naming (WMD) propagenda
What exists before language? Is weird sex marginalised when it should
be lionised? How much is universal?
Porn does not equal happiness, equals alienation
Pleasure is evolution’s compass- now we’ve virtualised it
Scale effect- a qualitative as well as a quantitative effect. All
political systems work well on a small scale
Intrinsic/conferred value
There is no reality referred to in the credit crisis- it is a belief
system that propagates itself- conferred value is easily unconferred,
intrinsic value is not
Art is all about conferring value (creates something from nothing, is ephemeral)
Most art loses value
We are mixed up
Gold moves between real and abstract
Nearly everything happens in the middle ground, not at the poles
What is it that you really like?
Wanking as surrealist art
Art is valuable because its harmless
Eudemonic criteria
Navigating possible worlds
It exists because it’s non verbal
Charts are v useful!
Being blown off course- haircuts
Real information in cultural choices
Dialectic between control/surrender
Religion is like classical music- an attempt for ecstasy”
Read the rest of this entry »

I was in San Francisco last month. It’s really a little depressing that I’m not still there now. It was beautiful and hot- see?

sf1

Mmmmm… ice cream sherbet…

Anyway, I’m drafting a different post to round up all of the brilliant things I saw while I was there. This post is meant to single out one particular event for special bloggy attention; the 2008 SECA award at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

SECA is an acronym that stands for “Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art”; a local art interest group that bi-annually selects four local artists worthy of special attention and features them in an exhibition at SFMoMA. This year, the recipients were Trevor Paglen, Desiree Holman, Tauba Auerbach and Jordan Kantor.

Charlotte and I were just really lucky that this exhibition was on, as we stumbled into the gallery with no plan and only an hour until closing time (for anyone who can feasibly get there it runs until May 10th). Apart from Trevor Paglen who has achieved relatively substantial web-fame, I didn’t have prior knowledge of any of the exhibited artists; a fact of which I’m now ashamed as this was a thought-provoking and entertaining exhibition, choc-full of great work.

The aforementioned Paglen is probably best known for his photographic project ‘The Other Night Sky‘ where he meticulously locates, ‘captures’ and identifies classified US surveillance satellites as they orbit the earth. The image below exemplifies this series of works, which look like they could’ve been liberated from the pages of an issue of National Geographic.

Without the context supplied by their titles, these images appear to be well-crafted yet essentially innocent time-lapse photographs of celestial bodies. They look like nature photographs, and they evoke the appropriate set of associations and responses as a result (the sense of awe, the sense of one’s own inconsequence, etc) until the works’ titles- which are literal, scientific, flat and factual- impinge upon the reverie.

paglenons

Four Geostationary Satellites Above the Sierra Nevada

These are not marvels of nature, but man-made machines. Machines with a purpose.Machines constructed here on earth and forcibly blasted into orbit by millions upon millions of $$$ worth of political and military will.

Moreover, they’re machines that you’re not supposed to know about.

The image hanging on the gallery wall is a mute witness to countless hours of investigative effort: contacting amateur ‘spotter’ communities, matching sightings from enthusiasts all over the planet, building mathematical models of prospective orbital paths, eventually identifying a space and time window that might yield a photographic capture.

It is this effort that the art work – that Paglen’s whole practice, in fact- is really concerned with: the surveiling of the surveilors. The fact that the images recall the conventions of nature photography serves to make their tortuous back-story all the more sinister.

Paglen’s other project featured in the SECA exhibition is Symbology, which documents the rich visual language of ‘black operations’ in the US military. Given that the projects, places and departments immortalized in this work do not officially exist, these meticulously collected decorative patches (displayed single-file in one long horizontal frame) are a strangely kitsch physical remnant of an unknowable world.

pagleninsignia

They are surprisingly decipherable, demonstrating camaraderie, bravado and no shortage of black humour. They could be doodles on a schoolboy’s notebook.

They are all the realer for it – unexpectedly characterful, human and mundane where they ought to be secretive, obscure and glamorous. It is this supreme recognisability that unsettled me – their surfeit of everyday-ness seemed to crystallize a hard and frightening reality from the realm of playful, enjoyable conspiracy theories and harmless TV drama paranoia. These little objects are powerful- physically and culturally real in a way the sealed manila folder of popular imagination ever could be.

Desiree Holman was only showing one work, The Magic Window. This mixed media installation was a playful (if a little creepy) meditation on the role of Television in creating and fulfilling popular fantasy.

The centrepiece of the work was a video triptych. The centre panel was blank when we first walked in and sat down. The flanking panels each featured a roughly-assembled stage set designed to resemble the living room of a well-loved sitcom family; that of the Connors from  Roseanne on the left, and that of the Huxtables from The Cosby Show on the right.

In each set, actors wearing masks went about enacting typical interactions between these familiar characters: on the right, ‘Cliff’ and ‘Theo’ engaged in horseplay with a basketball, whilst on the left ‘Roseanne’ sat on the sofa, chatting to ‘DJ’ as ‘Darlene’ moved about the room.

What was immediately striking about these films was the deliberation with which Holman drew our attention to the artifice – to the tell-tale exposed edges of her representation. Her sketch of the ‘Roseanne’ mask below, clearly shows its ‘mask-ness’ as well as being recognisable as Roseanne Barr – as others in the gallery noted, the masks are more than a little reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The same attention to lack-of detail was true of the sets the action took place in.

Click on the image for a video clip:

themagicwindow

Holman seemed to want us to buy in to the fiction, but at the same time remain always aware of her purpose- her presence in the re-staging of these familiar (yet warped) scenes.

Soon enough, the two families invade each other’s worlds (oddly recalling the Run DMC/Aerosmith ‘walk this way’ video) and wordlessly interact via hand gestures and the domestic ritual offerings of cookies. Subsequently, the central panel of the triptych comes alive- showcasing a bizarre ‘third space’, a sort of space disco where the characters dance together in jerky, awkward rhythms to a pounding electronica track- whilst glowing green.

desiree3

It was pretty odd.

At the same time however, it was interesting and entertaining: the blending of these two sitcoms that both dealt with different forms of social prejudice in their different decades seems obvious in hindsight. Also, highlighting the role-play that takes place in family relationships (which also provides the dramatic impetus in sitcoms) via the donning of masks seemed to me to be asking more profound questions than the pantomime performance initially suggested. In its deliberately rough-shod presentation it referenced the DIY video aesthetic of Youtube, an important platform for video art and as prevalent a force in popular culture as each of these sitcoms were in their respective heyday.

Tauba Auerbach seems to be an artist fascinated by systems, whether visual, mathematical or cultural. I thought her work was completely brilliant.

tauba-auerbach

This image shows some pieces from a series dealing with Auerbach’s interest in randomness, particularly the difficulty associated with simulating randomness through algorithms. She has created a whole series of images of Television static – analogue noise that at first glance appears random, but when captured in a photograph…

taubastatic11

…actually contains patterns. Patterns which can be extracted and made into beautiful, decorative works in artistic media like paint…

taubacmy4l

…or through printmaking techniques like this aquatint:

a-half-times-a-half-times-a-half-coarsejournal

which are the antithesis of randomness – deliberate, precise and authored.

Another series also on display featured her various experiments with language; interrogating the alphabet as a visual system (as in The Whole Alphabet, from Centre Out, Digital V below) or playing with anagrams, letter subtraction games and the physical appearance of letters to highlight the essential ambiguity of these fundamental components of our culture.

wholealphafromcenterl

If you’re interested, the exhibition catalogue is available here, and Tauba Auerbach’s “50/50” book can be ordered here. Trevor Paglen has books to sell on Amazon.

Sadly, my rather lengthy enjoyment of Paglen, Holman and Auerbach’s work meant I had somewhat less than 5 minutes to look at Jordan Kantor’s stuff. I’ve got nothing to say except that he seemed to borrow more than a little from Gerhard Richter – but in an obviously deliberate way.

Anyway; a really great exhibition in a really great gallery. Also, if you are inclined towards podcastery, SF MoMA makes a generous amount of the audio guides to its exhibitions available for downloading, which aside from being edifying, can be used very effectively to transport oneself out of London bendy-bus hell to a calm, white-walled gallery of the imagination.

All images were sourced from the artists’ websites

I really ♥ Animal Collective.

Here is a last.fm chart to prove it:

smimarchies-chart1

Now you know this, you may want to not bother reading my review of their new album Merriweather Post Pavilion because of my obvious bias.

I don’t mind if you don’t- it is pretty much a celebration of my own fanboyishness, and I daresay that there are better-written reviews out there anyway.

However, if you are wondering why anyone might enjoy listening to their insane, childish racket (like my wife), then you might find the following interesting from a purely forensic point of view.

A track by track review follows after the jump:

merriweather1

1. With Flowers: This track combines acoustic guitar arpeggios with squelchy atmospherics to create a (typically) hazy and ink-washed bed for folksy-type lyrics about dancers with flowers in their hair. Naturally, halfway through it turns into a banging rave-out, powered by church organ.

Because Dave Portner and Noah Lennox’s vocal harmonies remind me of Simon and Garfunkel, I’ve branded this track a Scarborough Fair for the messy melange of our current decade.

2. My Girls: Quite possibly the most immediate and most ‘pop’ track I’ve ever heard the band produce. It has great call-and-response vocal harmonies, a brilliantly catchy chorus and perhaps most surprisingly a proper bassline you can dance to. The song seems to be a pean to Noah Lennox’s house – celebrating the fact that it protects his wife and daughter from the elements and anthropomorphising it into one of his brothers. Weird, but that comes with the territory, and the song is actually quite touching – and as heartfelt as a love song to a house could be.

3. Also Frightened: This song has a bassline that sounds kind of stumbling and drunk when you first hear it. In fact, it seems like it’s pushing the rest of the song around in a bossy and ungainly way. It’s okay though because after you’ve heard it a few times you realise that the bassline and the rest of the song are actually great friends and go really well together.

Besides that, it has a very rousing vocal harmony near the end thet will suddenly have you sitting up straight thinking ‘where did that come from?’ There’s a lovely melancholy edge to the melody all the way through this track, but it’s definitely the soaring title-singing moment that you’ll remember this one by.

4. Summertime Clothes: To me, this song channels a sort of 1950’s americana; doo-wop music and Archie comics somehow seem appropriate. Maybe it’s because the track rumbles and bounces along seemingly without syncopation (making it practically impossible to dance to without looking like an excited child)- but that’s also part of the slanted innocence that the song celebrates with a chorus that simply proclaims “I want to walk around with you”.

Obviously the track is still chock-full of strange samples and weird grumbling electronics, but at the same time it seems to issue from an earlier, more innocent era.

5. Daily Routine: This is a more classic Animal Collective track. The primary elements are pushing, insistent drums partnered with off-kilter percussion, and a looping, spiralling melody with vocals kept relatively low in the mix. The track holds its structure until roughly the 3 -minute mark, whereupon it begins to dissolve into a loose, droning hum. This is one of the few songs on the album that could possibly have fitted into an earlier album, but that’s no bad thing.

6. Bluish: This track feels dense and foggy, like you have to wade through it. It has a truly lovely chorus, and sounds like it was actually written on an instrument rather than being built up layer by layer using samples. It’s kind of a rock ballad, actually.

I know I’m making a lot of inappropriate comparisons here, but the lyrics, and vocal phrasing and melody make this track feel a bit like  an Animal Collective cover of Spandau Ballet’s True. Which in my estimation is an excellent thing.

7. Guys Eyes: In contrast to the previous track, this song is completely layered up from the bottom using what seems like hundreds of different fragments. An acoustic guitar strum gives impetus to the melody, but with even the vocal tracks denseley layered and phased between the left and right channels, the overall effect is to create  a mosaic of sound that you have to stand back from to make any sense of.

It’s another futuristic-sounding track of the kind that only Animal Collective seem to be able to produce- in terms of provenance it seems to come from everywhere and nowehere, to be exactly apposite for right now but also alien and timeless, like it could have been dug up in an archaeological site. This type of track is the reason that listeners became interested in them in the first place.

8. Taste: As the name possibly suggests, this track is rich, dense and sweet like a fruit cake. A singalong melody, toytronica samples and a minor to major chorus that just feels warm and comforting.

9. Lion In A Coma: This track is like a more ‘grown-up’ version of ‘who could win a rabbit‘ from Sung Tongs. It marries a ‘so-fast-it’s-hard-to-follow’ vocal phrasing with a powerful single-note bassline (played on a digeridoo no less) and nursery-rhyme melodies. It is rapidly becoming my favourite sing on the whole album because it’s so spacious and strange, yet childish and campfire-singalong accessible at the same time.

10. No More Running: Okay, many years ago I left a copy of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Music of My Mind‘ sitting on a record player in the sun, and the damn thing melted into a warped, undulating and ultimately inappropriate 3-D shape. It was a pretty crappy record player too- the speakers enjoyed a loveless long-distance relationship with the stereo where both parties were obviously more interested in pursuing other interests. This song reminds me of trying to listen to that album, post-melt, on that stereo.

So it sounds like a gospel-soul ballad played on a warped record through damaged speakers.

On a rainy day.

11. Brother Sport: What a closer! This track combines African melodies, panpipe synthesizers, tribal rhythms, masses o’ maracas, and a simply huge singalong coda. It pretty much removes Vampire Weekend’s reason to exist. Please leave the room Vampire Weekend.

Overall, the album sounds cleaner and more polished than previous releases- even Strawberry Jam didn’t have this sort of production sheen that actually recalls the sound of the 1980’s in places.

Also, the singing is more restrained- which adds to the sense that this is a more mature album from a more mature band. However, the fact that the album sounds cleaner doesn’t mean that the band’s output feels any less unique. They retain the ability to create odd noises, build medlodies and juxtapose disparate elements in ways that I’ve never heard another band do. In fact, the essential strangeness of their aesthetic is not diminished but enhanced by the move to a more polished production style; it’s just that now you can hear how weird they really are.

I also saw the the band live last week- with all the sensorial stimulation that a packed, sweaty gig provides. Needless to say, they were great.

I urge the musically curious reader to try them out- you might find something truly awesome in their muddlings.

I don’t make a big thing out of it (naturally) but I happen to hold a first-class degree in History of Art.

(Interestingly enough, I know of at least two other History of Art graduates also employed in the world of media strategy- an opportunity the rather inadequate careers department at UCL should probably include in their very thin folder of potential careers for directionless graduates.)

Anyway, when I came out of college – back in 1998- I was heartily sick of Art.

I’d spent three years reading and studying all sorts of theories; from formal analysis to feminist and queer theory to psychoanalysis to class struggle to semiotics to economics and back to formalism again, and had started to percieve the whole thing as a house of cards. It was the year of sensation at the Royal Academy, which was a pretty good metaphor for how I felt about the whole subject- it all seemed vacuous, overtly concerned with the market and fascinated by it’s own cleverness. I pretty much wanted nothing more to do with it.

Anyway, over the last few years I’ve experienced a bit of a rennaisance (l0lz) regarding Art,  largely down to the sterling work of Regine and her incomparable site, and Brighton artists Blast Theory.

I’m enthused again, and I’m enthused because the way that artists think of and utilise the media that I work with every day are so much more vibrant, so much more necessary and so obviously more concerned with how people live than the ubiquitous blandishments of the advertising community (and the meta-industry of consultants/journalists/authors on which it thrives). Seeing artists work with with digital media has helped me to see it afresh, and see possibilities I wasn’t seeing before. Which is what art should do, I suppose.

Whether it’s creating a ‘dislocative tourism agency‘ to connect physically and culturally disparate cities, or designing an alarm clock that mercilessly exploits social-connectedness to create powerful new incentives to get out of bed, it is thrilling to see digital media being employed with such an innate understanding of how it fits into people’s lives and such fertile, curious and fearless imagination.

As far as I can tell, the future of media is not being nurtured within media companies of any stripe- be it Nokia or The New York Times. In my opinion it is most definitely being imagined at the RCA, in Portslade and in myriad warehouses, co-operatives and studios the world over.

Anyway, seeing all this wonderful stuff that seemed to ‘get’ media in a manifestly different way to how I’d been seeing it actually got me excited about artists again – about how and what they think. It got me excited about going to see exhibitions again.

In fact, I got so excited about all this stuff that I actually presented a slide about Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca project to the company’s UK sponsorship department for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES.

This was perhaps ill-advised.

Nonetheless, I have regained a passion for seeing Art again, primarily because it helps me to think in a less-trammelled way about how things are or might be or might have been. So in a long and rambling manner, I thought I’d post about some of the stuff I’ve seen recently (towards the end of last year) that got me all hot and bothered: the Domestic Appliance exhibition at Flowers East in Shoreditch and the Heart of Glass exhibition that was part of Concrete and Glass, also (surprise surprise) in Shoreditch.

First up, Domestic Appliance.

I actually got to see this as part of our frankly kick-ass strategy team ‘awayday‘. What I loved about this – apart from all the great exhibits- was the fact that none of my colleagues realized that the stuff they were looking at spanned decades of artistic production. The excitement and playfulness of the exhibition had rendered studying the little plaques on the walls irrelevant. The objects themselves were enough; the  curator’s vision defeated the audience’s impulse to try and ‘own’ the exhibits by naming and categorising them into some sort of taxonomy. Domestic Appliance wasn’t an edifying lecture on the canon of kinetic art, but rather a brief glimpse of the weird and wonderful other lives of the objects inhabiting our homes – a Toy Story for grown ups who like their fairytales a little askew.

Jean Tinguely’s Mouton, the scariest and  most deranged thing on show (like a little piece of  Silent Hill somehow existing in Hackney) was from 1962:

mouton-jean-tinguelyjpg

Theo Kaccoufka’s quietly obscene Fountain dated from 1994:

fountain-theo-kaccoufa

And bringing us bang up to date were Tim Lewis’ bewithching, gracefully moving (and heavily photographed) Pony

pny-tim-lewis3

…and Ian Burns’ The Way We Know It – Surrounded Islands (Version 1) – Keep it clean and organized which created a sense of drama by using live audio/visual feeds to magnify the changing light that was being reflected onto a tiny diorama of found objects.

the-way-we-know-it-surrounded-islands-ian-burns

A special mention also has to go to Max Dean, Raffaello D’Andrea and Matt Donovan’s Robotic Chair which held audiences rapt as it repeatedly assembled and disassembled itself. The BANG it made when losing it’s limbs made me jump at least three times.

robotic-chair-max-dean

A fantastic way to spend a few hours and a powerful hit of mental wasabi for me.

Right, now onto Heart of Glass.

I actually got a ticket for the Concrete and Glass mini-festival by entering a competition via email on the opening day (w00t, go me)- which meant I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, of course.

As a result I skulked around, smoked cigarettes to look less lonely (pathetic) and went home waaaay before TV on the Radio got started.

Nonetheless, one of the things I did manage to do was visit the brilliant Heart of Glass exhibition in the creepy basement of Shoreditch Town Hall. I’m not sure whether it was this awesome setting, or the head-rush from the fags, but I had a really fantastic time exploring the nooks and crannies of this impromptu gallery.

The exhibition was also a competition – one lucky artist of those exhibiting would be awarded the prize of a solo show at next years event. For what it’s worth, my highlights included Alistair Mcclymont’s The Limitations of Logic and the Absence of Absolute Certainty, a swirling shifting tornado of water vapour that would repeatedly coalesce into a powerful, visible form and then become loose and unstructured again. It was like a ghostly apparition, moving in a natural and yet weirdly unnatural way that seemed brilliantly otherworldly in the dilapidated dark setting.

the-limitations-of-logic1

There’s a video of it doing what I was trying to describe here.

I also loved Kate Terry’s Thread Installation #19, another work that visitors felt compelled to move through and around, the lines of thread changing from visible to invisible depending on your relation to the light source. It’s geometric beauty seemed to come from the digital realm – something created by an algorithm rather than by an artist fastening resolutely analogue thread to tacks hammered into the walls. The smoothness and regularity was thrown into sharp relief by the crumbling walls and dirty, sandy floor of the room that housed it.

thread-installation19

Paul Archard’s Horseplay was unsettling, in a slightly-scary-fun sort of way.

horsebox

The horsebox dominated the low room in which it was diplayed. People (me included) attempting to peer in were unnerved by the powerful, reverberating sounds of a stallion’s breathing- and left with the sense that the box could hardly contain it’s inhabitant. Every three-minutes or so there would be an explosion of whinnying and snorting that made the box shudder and shake, giving everyone a start. It created a genuinely physical response from those milling about the room, and is a great example of a ‘site-specific installation’ properly doing what it says on the tin.

Lastly, my personal favourite was Kate MccGwire’s Vex.

Caged within a victorian curiosity cabinet, it was a kind of stuffed nightmare- a mutant mess of serpent and bird, sinuously turning in on itself.

vex1

Up close the individual feathers (gathered over a period of months from London pigeons) made attractive (pretty, even) patterns and yet backing away from the thing, I felt disturbed by it, but never able to take my eyes off it.

Compelling stuff, and worthy of winning I think.

I feel a bit sad posting about these exhibitions given that they’re both over. However, if you happen to stumble across a mention of any of theses artists or works featured in an exhibition near you I reckon you could do a lot worse than checking them out.

Images credits: flickr users David Emery and turn towards the light

me

I work in media as a strategist. I like art, robots, comics, interaction design, karaoke, wildlife photography, indian food, campari, gaming, American TV (teen drama included), reading non-fiction, reading fiction and listening to music. I also have a tenori-on because I'm so rad.

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