Another collaboration that has blossomed this year is Canute, with Matthew Yee-King. I’ve always been a big fan of Matthew’s spasmodic live coding and frenetic drumming, and got to play together occasionally.. But now we’re living in different cities it seemed like a bad opportunity to start playing together more regularly. We share an interest both in free jazz improv and old school techno and the hardcore continuum, and I think managed to bring these together nicely. We’ve had some great shows already including at algoraves in Amsterdam and in Corsica Studios, where we got an encore from a sweaty crowd so something must be going right. We just put up a quick website with a little bit of info and upcoming gigs.
I recently started collaborating with Adam Denton of Trans/Human, who has been helping make algoraves happen in Newcastle and Sheffield. Sharing an interest in undoing of technology, we’ve assumed the name “Lud”. Here’s some video from our first collaboration at the Sheffield Algorave:
Alex Keegan of Blood Sport (check this video) seemed to enjoy our improv and now we’re supporting them and the incredible Nissenenmondai at Tramlines festival in the millennium galleries in Sheffield this Sunday, at around 7pm. Always good to play on a big PA in my home town! Facebook event here.
It’s been a really great month, going back to Goldsmiths for the astounding NIME, including fine memories playing to a great crowd with Matthew Yee-King as Canute at Corsica Studios (including an encore), then enjoying the fine Brighton Algorave as a (slightly tired) punter, then the excellent discussions at the Live Coding and the Body symposium, and joining fantastic live coders for massively fun algoraves in Sheffield and Manchester.
Most recently though was the 24 hour Access Space Digithon. Last Saturday we spent all day and all night hosting performances in Access Space and remotely around the world (Ontario, New York, Mexico City, Minneapolis, Germany, Italy, plus Birmingham, Cardiff, and London). It was an intense 24 hours (ashamedly I stayed awake only for around the first 22 hours), but really rewarding, and we made over £1500 towards the Access Space.
Access Space is a really great community free media lab, which a helps lot of people who have highly challenging backgrounds and problems. They are the longest running lab of its kind in the UK, and are in need of funds to help stay open and expand their programme. If you have some spare cash, please donate – they have very low overheads and do great work.
This was 24 hours of many highlights, but here’s a few of them that you can enjoy in return for your donation:
- Me and Jake Harries having a pint in the pub “outside broadcast”
- Paul Granjon – one of my superheroes, coding algorave music on a BBC micro.
- Marco Donnarumma – One of the most ‘present’ remote performances I’ve experienced
- Norah Lorway – a super ambient set that was very welcome at the time, as was xname’s streaming from the darkness of an Italian beach, and Susanne Palzer streaming secret cinema from an attic in Germany
- A stunning set from the Juneau Brothers
- Kate Sicchio walking around New York City picking out connections with Sheffield
- Tanya Goncalves, Mike Hodnick, and Richard Eason providing showcasing Tidal :) And a lot of other fine live coding performances..
- Great contributions from Mexican friends – JoseCaos, Diego Madero and harmonipan, Elihu Garret and smellinstereo
- Scott Hawkins starting the whole thing off by playing a ceiling fan with his head until security came and asked him to stop
- Jake Harries with his famous spam songs
- Brian G Gilson with a calm and beautiful a/v performance (we set him behind the projection, on a net screen)
- Julio d’Escrivan with an astounding supercollider set
- Warning, explicit lyrics: Stuart Faulkner shouting at a dinosaur playing the bagpipes
- Hard Shoulder (almost) literally melting his face to live techno
Well it was all good, go and check the full listing. And please donate :) We’ll leave the free gifts up for a couple of days longer, so you could get yourself an algorave tshirt or stickers in return…
I’ve been putting extra effort into the janitorial task of community building over the last couple of years.. For example chairing the first “Live Interfaces” conference, and the 2nd FARM workshop, co-organising the Dagstuhl workshop on live coding, co-editing special issues, getting funding, organising events and establishing a presence for the live coding research network and TOPLAP, and helping make space for algorithmic dance music culture to grow and spread and maybe someday free discussion to flourish.
I love this stuff, but it’s been a distraction from what I probably “should” have been doing — writing my back catalogue of theses and papers up into journal articles, and establishing next steps, as a basis for my next fellowship application. I haven’t directly benefited from a lot of this work, being unsure about the morals of submitting to your own journals and programming yourself into your own academic conferences. It has been massively rewarding though, and I’ve tended to dislike career mindedness, and avoided thinking about measurement and end-points, rather than the substance of the journey.
I’ve been far from alone in all of this, and these activities have grown their own life. Live coding communities are popping up everywhere, the 2nd Live Interfaces conference is being taken in a new direction by Adriana Sa in sunny Lisbon, and Algorave has gone crazy. Now that this exists, and my postdoc fellowship is coming to an end, it’s probably time to think more locally.
So I’m really happy to be starting the Weaving Codes, Coding Weaves project, stepping into a new direction with really inspiring collaborators. I’ll be working on that three days a week (it says here), which does leave me some time for other things, but I’ll be focussing more on local activities around Yorkshire, especially my home town of Sheffield. There’s still four or so more live coding research network events to collaborate on, including a conference which I hope will be really fun, but after that I think I’ll have paid my dues, and will be trying to explore some of the space we’ve created.
Just a shift in focus though, nothing major.. Maybe a reminder-to-self to carry on making things.
I’ve had an incredible couple of weeks, too much to blog.. So here’s a brief recap.
Maker Faire UK was incredible, so many stalls, huge robots, so much enthusiasm, and surprisingly diverse, my 6 year old Son loved it.. I joined some other TOPLAP representatives (Shelly Knotts, Holger Ballweg, Chad McKinney) to run some live coding activity there and did a live coding performance outdoors which was invaded by a clown making explosions. Shelly did a performance as well and was given the same clown treatment apparently. Something to be explored further, I think. We also took part in an algorave that weekend, late in the Old Police House in Gateshead.. Good times.
Torque in Liverpool FACT was mind-blowing in a similar way. The keynote from Lambros Malafouris, introducing his Material Engagement Theory rang a lot of bells, unifying many approaches while taking a long view on culture. There were a lot of great talks that day, and I enjoyed doing my bit on live coding. There’ll be a Torque performance evening in London on the 6th June, I’ll be performing there with Kate Sicchio.
Then Sonic Pattern and the Textility of Code in London. I had the pleasure of working with Karen Gaskill on this, curator with the Craft Council, and I think this is up there as amongst the best events I’ve had the pleasure of co-organising. A full day of excellent talks and discussion exploring the correspondences between code, craft and sound. It was an all day event, on a Tuesday, but was sold out with many people travelling from afar.. Really can’t wait to get started with the Weaving Codes project now.
Then I gave a talk at a British Academy event “External Engagement in the Arts and Humanities”. It was good to be in a room with a lot of other early career researchers, and share my view of engagement as something that should take place throughout all stages of research, in order to breathe meaning into the work. As I’ve been reading a lot of Tim Ingold lately, I argued against the word “external”, and that we should think about research as a strand running through life, rather than in terms being a separate space.
Then back up to Newcastle for Thinking Digital Arts, which was excellent and part of the huge Thinking Digital conference, always good to see these vibrant activities in the North. Although our Slub performance was slightly compromised by problems with the sound, Dave went on to do a well received talk at the conference and I sneaked off to meet with the Newcastle culturelab folks, to distract them from the show they were installing for thinking digital arts. Great people!
I haven’t done any of these activities justice above, each could easily be its own blog post, but I wanted to get something down for a change. In the coming months I’ve resolved to travel less (although you wouldn’t know it), so I might have time to think about and document what I do more..
I’m chairing this year’s FARM workshop on functional art, music, modelling and design, which is part of the International Conference on Functional Programming. The deadline is approaching, but there’s still time to put pen to paper.. Here’s the (updated) call for papers and demos:
2nd ACM SIGPLAN International Workshop on Functional Art, Music, Modelling and Design Gothenburg, Sweden; 6 September, 2014 The ACM SIGPLAN International Workshop on Functional Art, Music, Modelling and Design (FARM) gathers together people who are harnessing functional techniques in the pursuit of creativity and expression. Functional Programming has emerged as a mainstream software development paradigm, and its artistic and creative use is booming. A growing number of software toolkits, frameworks and environments for art, music and design now employ functional programming languages and techniques. FARM is a forum for exploration and critical evaluation of these developments, for example to consider potential benefits of greater consistency, tersity, and closer mapping to a problem domain. FARM encourages submissions from across art, craft and design, including textiles, visual art, music, 3D sculpture, animation, GUIs, video games, 3D printing and architectural models, choreography, poetry, and even VLSI layouts, GPU configurations, or mechanical engineering designs. The language used need not be purely functional (“mostly functional” is fine), and may be manifested as a domain specific language or tool. Theoretical foundations, language design, implementation issues, and applications in industry or the arts are all within the scope of the workshop. Submissions are invited in two categories: * Full papers 5 to 12 pages using the ACM SIGPLAN template. FARM 2014 is an interdisciplinary conference, so a wide range of approaches are encouraged and we recognize that the appropriate length of a paper may vary considerably depending on the approach. However, all submissions must propose an original contribution to the FARM theme, cite relevant previous work, and apply appropriate research methods. * Demo abstracts Demo abstracts should describe the demonstration and its context, connecting it with the themes of FARM. A demo could be in the form of a short (10-20 minute) tutorial, presentation of work-in-progress, an exhibition of some work, or even a performance. Abstracts should be no longer than 2 pages, using the ACM SIGPLAN template and will be subject to a light-touch peer review. If you have any questions about what type of contributions that might be suitable, or anything else regarding submission or the workshop itself, please contact the organisers at: email@example.com KEY DATES: Abstract (for Full Papers) submission deadline: 7 May Full Paper and Demo Abstract submission Deadline: 11 May Author Notification: 30 May Camera Ready: 18 June Workshop: 6 September SUBMISSION All papers and demo abstracts must be in portable document format (PDF), using the ACM SIGPLAN style guidelines. The text should be in a 9-point font in two columns. The submission itself will be via EasyChair. See the FARM website for further details: http://functional-art.org PUBLICATION Accepted papers will be included in the formal proceedings published by ACM Press and will also be made available through the the ACM Digital Library; see http://authors.acm.org/main.cfm for information on the options available to authors. Authors are encouraged to submit auxiliary material for publication along with their paper (source code, data, videos, images, etc.); authors retain all rights to the auxiliary material. WORKSHOP ORGANISATION Workshop Chair: Alex McLean, University of Leeds Program Chair: Henrik Nilsson, University of Nottingham Publicity Chair: Michael Sperber, Active Group GmbH Program Committee: Sam Aaron, Cambridge University David Duke, University of Leeds Kathleen Fisher, Tufts University Julie Greensmith, University of Nottingham Bas de Haas, Universiteit Utrecht Paul Hudak, Yale University David Janin, Université de Bordeaux Richard Lewis, Goldsmiths, University of London Louis Mandel, Collège de France Alex McLean, University of Leeds Carin Meier, Neo Innovation Inc Rob Myers, Furtherfield Henrik Nilsson, University of Nottingham (chair) Dan Piponi, Google Inc Andrew Sorensen, Queensland University of Technology Michael Sperber, Active Group GmbH For further details, see the FARM website: http://functional-art.org
Very happy to share the news that “Weaving Codes – Coding Weaves”, a collaborative project with Ellen Harlizius-Klück, Dave Griffiths, Kia Ng, Emma Cocker, Lovebytes + many others has been funded, by an AHRC Digital Transformations Amplification award. It starts September 2014 and runs for 18 months. Here’s a snippet from the synopsis:
What are the historical and theoretical points at which the practice of weaving and computer programming connect? What insights can be gained if we bring these activities together, through live shared experience? How do digital technologies influence our ways of making, and what new digital technologies can we create to explore their social use in creative collaboration?
Our research challenge is to unravel industrial and contemporary technological developments in weaving and computer programming, in order to expose and challenge assumptions, and make the human processes involved visible. In particular, to explore and communicate the nature of mathematical thinking in ancient weaving, and creative thinking in contemporary computer programming, bringing key contributions to discussion of making in the humanities.
This is going to be a lot of fun!
Here’s a room recording of my solo set at IFAI Leeds last Friday:
Room recording courtesy of Ash Sagar
I’m leading a new collaborative project, “Weaving code:learning computer programming through pattern and craft”, with Becky Parry, Kia Ng, and the good folks from LoveBytes and ArtBoat. Ellen Harlizius-Klück and Dave Griffiths are advising as project partners, and Chris Carr will advise on progress too. Here’s the introduction from the proposal:
There is national policy drive to teach computer programming in schools. However, there is a disconnect between programming, and socially-situated learning through play. Our research will bridge this gap, recognising the needs of people, particularly of children, to engage with the social and tangible in order to understand the abstract. Our core aim is to bring pattern making in weaving, together with pattern making in live coding of music, in a pedagogic context. This will ground abstract thinking in social activities, as a springboard for learning. We will reconnect computer programming with its origins in craft, drawing from the inspiration which Babbage and Lovelace took from the Jacquard loom, as well as the development of formal mathematics in Greek antiquity using loom metaphors.
Our first step will be a visit to Masson Mills working textile museum, should be an inspiring trip. This ignite funding came through the Cultural and Creative Industries Exchange in the University of Leeds, and will hopefully feed into bigger things.