DIY Lava Lamps at Exploding Cinema

May 6, 2012

We carried on experimenting with our DIY lava lamp project – this time using oils, food colouring and Alka-Seltzer as a frothing agent. We created several dramatic projections until Nicola dropped a whole tablet in and covered everything in oil. We used a range of gels and lights to illuminate the jars in a way that complemented the green theme of the night at Exploding Cinema.

Here’s a video of what we are calling “The World, The Flesh and The Devil”.

[vimeo 41648203]



The world, the flesh and the devil.

April 5, 2012

Here’s some more documentation of the kinetic art piece we showed at Exploding.  Each image is from a different prepared jar. The working title for this project is “The world, the flesh and the devil”, which references J.D.Bernal’s book on the future of human evolution. In one chapter he describes a collection of humans hurtling through space inside a hollowed out meteor.

Rotating jar projection at Exploding Cinema

March 17, 2012

Enjoyed the Exploding Cinema event last night. We tried out something different and analog. Filled jars with oils, strange food and miniature figures, then attached it to a rotator (as used on glitter balls) and then setup a camera directly attached to the projector. A little hard to document because it was moving so fast and there were a lot of other projections going on, but here is a photo. Looked a bit like something from the film Fantastic Voyage (1966). We’ll develop this further and post more images on here.

Nautilus video

February 15, 2012

The nautilus program was designed to capture a frame every minute – here they are compress down to one frame per second. The video is in HD so expand fullscreen to see the sand pixels in detail.


Bringing an interactive video installation to Papay: A review of Papay Gyro Nights 2012 festival

February 14, 2012

This last week we presented Nautilus, an interactive video installation, on Papay a remote Orkney island. This was part of an artist residency for Papay Gyro Nights 2012 – an independent video and art festival. The entire population of the island is under 100 people, many of which attend the screenings, music nights and other festival events. Given that much of the art shown consists of complex short art films from around the world, and the temperature of the venues regularily dips below zero, the dedication to pursue a more unconventional festival presence is clear for all to see. The screenings included seminal works and UK premieres, and the work is of an extremely high quality sometimes demanding concentration but generally rewards perserverence. This reflects the curators’ desire to give this festival a unique and perhaps ‘northern’ sensibility. The richness of the festival content reflects the depth of history and myth on this island, which happens to host the oldest and best preserved neolithic standing building in Europe – the Knap of Howar.

This year the theme of the festival was repetition, transformation and myth and the opening event reimagined the Gyro night procession which was celebrated 100 years ago where the youth of the island went out with flaming torches in search of the Gyro (as represented by the older males dressed as hags ready with their seaweed whips). Post march, the islanders threw their torches into a fire by the pier as resident artist Armando Seijo managed to capture the revelries though in a forceful gale. This was followed by a short film from the Faroe islands of a traditional 14 hour dance marathon, documentation of a French performance artist Olivier de Sagazan who smears himself into a series of hysterical clay and paint contortions, accompanied with free Bloody Marys, Korean pickles and Banana yoghurts. And so the festival went on – each day bringing new screenings, feastings and discussion.

This was all made possible by the superhuman efforts of Ivanov and Chan (above top middle in Armando’s painting), two islanders who have set up an art centre on the south of the 4 mile island. Originally from Central Asia and Hong Kong they seem at home in such a remote place where up until the 1970s all houses had their own generator to deal with the vagaries of the electricity supply. The artists at the festival were put up at the art centre where the free wheeling atmosphere and open kitchen made for some intense interactions. Each morning open seminars were run discussing last nights events and looking at back up material with free home made bread and coffee and mythical comparisons made by Stuart McLean the resident anthropologist. For the festival visitors the Beltane hostel turned out some hearty evening meals and a full house of 12 residents, included visitors from France and America. The local pub usually open only on Saturday was open for the whole week and almost ran out of beer and formed a vital meeting point for discussion of what exactly the days films meant. Several festival visitors, perhaps more accustomed to viewing art films, could share their ideas with the locals. The community of Papay is very tight knit and is used to being left to sort out its own affairs but many of the residents greeted the chance to see their local buildings, including the medieval Kirk, the grain loft and the Kelp store, brought to new life with multiple projections, surreal folk music, storytelling and interactive installations. Workshops run by the artists throughout the festival gave a chance for the children, and others, of Papay to try out new skills.

Sunday, the last night of the festival saw everyone come together for a fish and chip supper and closing party at the art centre which was exhibiting prints and slides of architectural works and Armando’s ‘still wet’ oil paintings of the week’s activities.

Highlights of the festival included a multiple projection ‘Madrigal of the Exploding Wise Whale’ by Spanish video artist Filippos Tsitsopoulos, fighting against the freezing conditions Ivanov and Chan managed to get one, then two, then three and finally four projections simultaneously running in the kelp store. As each one is a talking head shot covered in protuberances, e.g. crustacea, the gradual synchronisation gave the impression of a magical conversation building in multiple languages between monstrous beings.

Bokanowski’s 70 minute masterpiece L’Ange was projected in its original 16mm format and left a lasting impression on the many that saw it. Its simple tableux of tiny curious figures seemingly struggling in time against their surroundings, struck a chord with even the most reticent islanders.

Bird Radio, an up and coming electronic folk musician, wowed the saturday crowd with his powerful performance. Starting with traditional poetry and folk singing, he gradually introduced modulated flute music and then a digital loop effect. All hell broke loose by song four as his electronic sound loops piled on top of each other creating a maelstrom of folk rock that sounded as if it was produced by four or more people. By the end, with the bizarre and wild rendition of ‘who killed cock robin’ the audience was fully entertained.

Our own contribution to the festival was an interactive video installation called Nautilus which was presented in the splendid grain loft above an Aberdeen Angus bull. We must thank the farmer and his wife for the use of the space. The piece projected on a 6m wide screen, consisted of a triptych – on the right a webcam displayed the users, whose coloured clothing triggered a cascade of ‘sand’ pixels across the screen to the left to form strata of activity in the middle. Each day the strata would compress down giving an indication of the interaction over the week. By the end several different layers had formed of eroded fractal textures and shapes. These were strangely familiar, to an island community battered by both the North sea and Atlantic oceans. On the left and seemingly oblivious to the action, lived the mutated human version of the ‘living fossil’ Nautilus, which builds up its shell over the course of its lifespan. The themes of deep time and an eroded sea monster tied into the festivals concerns and it was gratifying to see people come back day after day in different coloured outfits to add their contribution to the evolving form. The work also documented itself by taking and saving screen grabs every minute and at the end of the festival party we were able to immediately show a short film of the weeks build up of activity as a stop motion film. The considerable feedback from the festival goers was much appreciated and encouragement to expand the piece further.

We thoroughly enjoyed the festival and the hospitality of Ivanov and Chan and the island of Papay. The festival is only in its second year but already it is providing an interesting space to try out new ideas and present old works in new contexts. Given the conditions the festival is both easy going, and improvisational, with everyone helping out, and we can’t begin to estimate the amount of extension cable we have wound in and wound out, but it also has a hardcore element with Ivanov and Chan determined to present the best possible video (and other art) to the community. If some of the art is challenging to comprehend this is made up for by the willingness of people to try out new visions. We would recommend the experience to any artist excited by working in such a remote and tricky place and to tackle the themes suggested by this unique island festival.

Genetic Moo reporting from Papay Gyro Nights 2012

Last day of Papa Gyro Nights festival

February 13, 2012

A new element we’ve added to this piece is self documentation – it takes a screen grab every minute. By sequencing these together we can easily produce a filmed record of each days activity, showing the slow build up of sand particles.

We’ll be showing these films tonight at the closing event alongside selections of work shown throughout the festival, and a fish and chip supper.

We’ll post the film online on Wednesday. But in the meantime here is a final frame of the work – recorded at 4pm on Saturday.

Nautilus day 5

February 11, 2012

We ran the Nautilus for its last day in the grain loft. You can see the record of the previous 4 days in the coloured layers as different islanders arrived in different colours. It was interesting to watch the piece develop and produce natural looking formations – rocks, shorelines, erosion, coral, fractal effects  – all from a very simple rule set. The toxic yellow to the right was Nicola’s waterproof coat. Some people sat with the Nautilus for a long time happy to see their colour being contributed to the whole.

Tonight some live music from Bird Radio and then tomorrow the last night party where we will be showing the slides made at the workshop and also the self documentation from the work.

Nautilus day 3 – workshop

February 9, 2012

We ran a 2 hour workshop today for the Papay islanders and festival visitors.

We demonstrated various simple techniques for creating 2D and 3D spirals: lines; paper folding; and plastic straws, and we also made 35mm slides from assorted  craft and found materials, including sheep wool, sweet wrappers, onion skin and lichen.  Here are some shots of the workshops and the handmade slides.

The Nautilus carried on ticking away despite the distraction of the workshop.

Nautilus in action on Papay

February 9, 2012

Here is a sideways view (to fit on this blog) of our Nautilus ‘triptych’ on it’s first screening.  Several festival goers and islanders engaged with the piece for an hour or more – using the colours of their clothes and found objects to create streams of interactive ‘sand’ pixels to build up the shell.

Below is our developing Nautiloid shell.  We will be adding projection surfaces this morning and then this afternoon we have a spiral and slide making workshop.

Setting up the Nautilus

February 7, 2012

We’re back on Papa Westray to participate in Ivanov and Chan’s – Papa Gyro Nights – an international contemporary art festival.

Inspired by the island and the people we met during our short residency here in August, we developed the Nautilus, which we are premièring at the festival.  This interactive work will gather the colours of the islanders over the week of the festival to build a shell for our Nautilus – this data is represented like geological strata.

Winter in the Orkneys is a time of short day light hours and cold wet weather. So how lucky were we to leave London shrouded in snow and arrive on Papay in glorious sunshine.

We’re setting up the Nautilus upstairs in the grain loft, the down stairs occupant is an award winning Aberdeen Angus bull. Needless to say, we’re trying not to make too much noise.

Today we’ve been setting up and testing the interaction. The lighting has been tricky as we’re working with whatever’s to hand.

Setting up the lycra screen.

Nicola adjusting the lighting with a broom. Note the Nautilus’s tentacles are misbehaving.

Some Islanders pop in to help us test with their colourful jackets.

Tim changing the lights. The erosion effect can be seen on the sand to the right.

With a bit more programming tonight, we will be ready to present our new creature tomorrow at 2pm.

We shall then be able to start work on its companion piece – the Nautiloid – with the help of the Islanders we will build a three dimensional boat shaped spiral surface in lycra, string and wood. This will act as the screen for slide projectors. The slides will be made from found Island materials.