A few thoughts from the recent Create World conference of clever, creative people.
Panel on place and creativity – how does digital alter the way we think?
Architect Richard Kirk made the point that perspective drawing as a tool is only a few hundred years old, so we are yet to reap the full benefits of new additions to our creative lexicon, such as virtual worlds. Performance designer Anna Tregloan commented that some people can quite naturally translate a 2D image to imagine it in 3D space, but for others that will always be more difficult, so the theatre tradition of building a little model of the set may endure. Continuing the theme of how we translate human experiences into digital form, and whether we can learn to think in a hybrid way between digital and physical, creative innovator (?!) Hael Kobayashi described the process of making penguins dance for Happy Feet. Humans danced in a warehouse, each one wired for motion capture. A set of screens displayed the merger of their movements with the digital penguins, so the director and key creatives could see, in real-time, penguins dancing on an iceberg.
Keynotes on photography, animation and the active audience
Tom Ang‘s keynote was an entertaining blend of a romp through the history of photography, some behind-the-lens information about particular shots, and some philosophical observations about value and power in photography’s new world:
- Photoshop has programmed us!
- Boundaries of what is shareable have shifted.
- The concept of the ‘still image’ is now a misnomer: they fade, zoom, slide – and fast. And the more abundant they become, the less we attend to each.
- Because images are so abundant, there are no longer iconic images of world events. (I’m not convinced of this point. The process by which images become iconic has changed, but I reckon crowd wisdom will choose images over time. Note, for example, the twitter #ows discussion of iconic imagery, and the meme of the cop casually pepper-spraying seated protesters.)
Ian Taylor’s story of the success of Animation Research Ltd – and his team’s down-home methods – was awe-inspiring. But my strongest takeaway from his talk was the importance of taking your time to learn – ergo the immense value of free education. Which we no longer have.
As a longtime advocate for participatory approaches to cultural representations, I was very interested in Ernest Edmonds‘ talk on art and the active audience. My favourite parts:
- Some early research found that babies less than one week old can learn – by controlling the turn of their head on the pillow – to switch a light on and off, and that once mastered, they become bored with it.
- Our vocabulary for interaction is developing. For example, there are many different kinds of play: danger, competition, camaraderie, subversion, fantasy, sensation, captivation, difficulty, simulation. And so on!
- Don’t assume that more is better. Performance and communication might be better with lower bandwidth. This is an intriguing point, and I wanted more from him on this. I wonder if he means, for example, that in some cases audio works better than video, because it gets inside your head but doesn’t restrict your visual attention. Or that pixelated imagery like in Minecraft, works in part because it’s low-res, so the player can more actively/imaginatively inhabit the scene and the characters. In short, I suspect this point relates to the value of leaving space within a representation, for the audience to fill from their personal creative sources.
An audiovisual meditation on gold
Not your average academic conference, Create World includes a range of clever, creative performances. Of the four, this was my favourite – it’s an audiovisual meditation on the mineral gold, and it made my heart hum. (I recommend: go full-screen and use headphones or big speakers.)
The quality of stream-session presentations was consistently good. I attended those on:
- a multi-disciplinary creative technologies degree (Judit Klein, Auckland Uni of Technology)
- iPads for music-making (Jamie Gabriel, Macquarie Uni)
- an iPad app for assessing teachers of music, art and drama (Julia Wren & Alistair Campbell, Edith Cowan Uni)
- EEG-mapping of artistic consumption and as artistic work (Jason Zagami, Griffith Uni)
- a weather-data-generated sonic sculpture in Sydney (Kirsty Beilharz, Uni of Technology, Sydney)
- kinaesthetic potential of educational gaming (Helen Farley & Adrian Stagg, Uni of Southern Queensland)
- serious games (Tim Marsh, James Cook Uni)
- digital research methods, including Wikipedia article-writing (Kerry Kilner, Uni of Queensland)
- Playtime, an animated movie (Thomas Verbeek, Uni of Otago)
- Ishq, an audiovisual work commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of its exhibition on Islamic art (Kim Cunio and Louise Harvey, Griffith Uni)