Decode: Digital Design Sensations

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Decode Exhibition

I just got back from the Decode exhibition at The V&A, and what a fantastic collection of engaging, thought provoking, fun digital art. The exhibition is a joint verture between The V&A and onedotzero. It is split into 3 sections; Code, Interactivity and Network and features work from many of the major players in the world of digital art. There was so much impressive work and I could write at length about most of it but here are a few that particularly stood out for me.

Body Paint by Mehmet Akten

Being a keen follower of Akten’s work, and having seen the video footage of this artwork a few months ago, I was looking forward to interacting with it. Body Paint is an interactive installation which allows the participants to use their gestures to seemingly fling paint across the wall. This is achieved by tracking the audience using an infrared camera and converting the movements into brush strokes. This was definitely the most immersive piece in the show and I found myself spending a lot of time getting lost in it.

Body Paint by Mehmet Akten

Body Paint by Mehmet Akten

Venetian Mirror by Fabrica

This is quite a haunting interactive piece which demands a degree of patience. Sitting in front of this curious mirror doesn’t provide an instant response, the participant must be still in order to see their image slowly appear, much in the same way as a developing photograph. This delayed feedback sets the piece aside from the other interactive work at the exhibition as it responds to stillness rather than motion. This allows for time to relax and contemplate the experience rather than reflexively interact.

Venetian Mirror

Venetian Mirror by Fabrica

Solar by Robert Hodgin AKA Flight404

I’ve been a regular visitor to so it was great to play with an interactive version of one of Hodgin’s best visualisations; Solar with Lyrics. This piece reacts to audio input in real-time. I spent a fair amount of time whistling, shouting, hissing and tapping whist having fun with this one.

House of Cards: Interactive version by James Frost

This is an interactive touchscreen version of Radiohead’s stunning House of Cards music video. Frost employed two technologies to capture 3D images in real-time. These were geometric informatics and velodyne LIDAR. This was not only one of the best digital artworks of last year but also one of the best music videos. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to interact with it

VideoGrid by Ross Phillips

VideoGrid is a playful installation which allows the visitors to record short video clips of themselves performing. These clips are then looped and arranged into a hilarious grid. This is definitely the most entertaining piece at Decode.

VideoGrid by Ross Phillips

VideoGrid by Ross Phillips

Audience by rAndom International and Chris O’Shea

This is a peculiar piece in which a collection of small mirrors appear to adopt human characteristics. They curiously look around the room and interact with one another in a chaotic manner. When a participant enters the space, the mirrors all sharply turn to stare at him. This provides the unnerving feeling of not only suddenly being the centre of attention, but also seeing your face reflected by each member of your surreal new audience.

Audience by rAndom International

Audience by rAndom International

Weave Mirror by Daniel Rozin

Rozin is known for building elaborate abstract mirrors from a variety of materials. Weave is one of the newest pieces in his collection. A camera scans the viewer and recreates their image using 768 motorized planes that vary in tone, producing a smokey representation.

In addition to the exhibition there are several other initiatives taking place. Karsten Schmidt AKA Toxi was commissioned to create a generative marketing identity for the exhibition. Schmidt used Processing to create an ever changing abstract 3D logo. The application is open source and visitors are encouraged to download and alter it with a chance to see their version on the London Underground. The artwork can be edited using the built in control panels, or by downloading and playing with the code. You can download the source here and view the submissions at the Recode gallery.

There are also a great deal of talks, labs, workshops and networking events that run from January to March. I’ll be attending several of the talks and the openFrameworks and Arduino workshops. See the full list here.

On a final note, it’s great to see such a respected museum such as The V&A taking digital art so seriously. Hopefully this will inspire those at other high profile institutions to follow suit.

2 Responses to “Decode: Digital Design Sensations”

  1. 1 shane walter December 21, 2009 at 2:24 am

    very interesting write up. very pleased you saw the show and found it interesting! lets hope more institutions let us in to show great work from a new generation of hybrid, digitally active designer/artists!

  2. 2 jamesalliban December 21, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Thanks Shane. And congratulations on such a great show.

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