Research process about Thesis Project in Winter Break

In last semester, I started to think my thesis project and I already had some ideas assembling in a rough way. In general, my thesis idea will much related to space, vision, structure and interaction.

I am fascinated by the concept of space, and how digital media can  challenge spatial boundaries, encouraging audiences to suspend their sense of reality and become immersed in a new surreal space. The concept of space is an origin, from which I think about many spatial elements, such as light, vision, sound and interaction. In another way, I can replace the word “space” with “context.”

The book Brutal and Beautiful by Elain Harwood, an architecture historian, offers this thought: “Space is a consecrate place and no one knows the dimension and depth.” I was inspired by this sentence and these words also reminded me of some other influential installation artists such as Ann Hamilton, Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell. They are all masters of how to handle spaces and successfully leverage space with their artistic concept, visual elements, materials, sound and interactivity. Their works provided an immersive environment for the spectators, and more importantly, they provide a new impressive experience for viewers.

In my perspective, a space can be a canvas, and inside the space, as if on a canvas. I need put the installation, create the visual elements  incorporate the sound, develop an interactive function and guide to my audiences to a real immersive experience and make them generate some new emotion and perception.


Based on these elements, although I am not clear about what I need to do in a physically or practical way, but at least I already established the direction of my research. I will develop it through this semester. Through this semester, I need to prepare my materials, explore the technology, resolve problems in technology and constantly refine the artistic content.

Recently, I read a book, Picture and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings, by SAIC professor and art historian James Elkins. This books introduces why people cry in front of paintings. Although crying in front of a painting may be a “weird” experience for some, whichever part drives people to weep, they definitely be touched by personal experience, memory or encounters and shocked by the artwork. They may feel sad or excited, or they may feel they have been placed in a special environment and encounter a sort of new sense that they have never felt before. That’s my goal. It is a big goal, but I try to make something stimulating, powerful and thought-provoking, whatever through the visual content, interactive experiences or the space itself.

Similarly, artist Tatsuo Miyajima, who is a contemporary installation artist who has made many digital art installations. He always employs massive spaces to display his installations and presents infinite environments for audiences. Miyajima likes to use LED components as his screen and use large digital number as his main visual elements. These vast LED lights are installed on huge, flat wall without any other light sources, and diffuse the blue light which creates a mysterious an tight environment. I have been the spatial installation in UCCA in Beijing; Inside, I felt like surrounded by the digital elements, as if go in to a cyber and virtual world. Despite my attraction to the powerful environment, I felt uncomfortable with my eyes and after I had stayed in the space for a while, I felt fearful and nervous.

In addition, Jim Campbell also greatly inspired me a lot, especially in visual and interaction aspects. He is a pioneer artist of new media art, who has recently created many interactive light installations. His work always consists of bulbs and the bulbs arrays in cubic shapes like a screen, and the video on it is presented as a blur moving images, which looks emanational and touching in some way. I will try to use this method to present my video material, but I might not use the exact same form of LED screens. Campell’s concept just made me open my mind that anything could be my screen including velvet, LEDs, or even some natural things or new materials. I think these explorations might create new visual effects that have not ever seen it before; I need to explore materials further.

In term of interaction, I am fascinated with some interactive tools, such as web-cameras, sampling sound and video in real-time, and using tracking tools to make trails when people pass by in front of installation. I think I will work more on the technological aspects and find the most suitable approach to accurately convey my concept.

I am most inspired by Elke Reinhuber, a German artist who use panoramic screens to present her AR video work. I do like the immersive spaces and how she uses new technology to make the environment more immersive. Panoramic screen create 360° environment which can form a complete visual space and totally immerse the viewers in the stimulated world without interruptions.

In last semester, I have introduced another artist, Camille Utterback who made a landscape piece and employed bodies to change the video through walking pass the screen. I might use a similar method to make an interactive effect in front of my installation wall. Viewers may walk parallel to it from left to right and their bodies can be a reader and writer of the landscape. They leave their portraits behind which blend together with other in a mix of multiple, time-based layers.


Week12 Reading:Exhibitions, Institutions, Communities, Collaborations(Shanken)

In this part,the book introduces some important organizations and institutions. I want to talk about some of these which I have involved in or related to, or just interested in.


Journal of the international society for the arts, sciences and technology. It is a very important organization aim to art and technology, and Interdisciplinary topic. In New York, every two weeks or 1 month, they will hold a critique salon about art  and Technology.

Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST) is a nonprofit organization that serves the global network of distinguished scholars, artists, scientists, researchers and thinkers through our programs focused on interdisciplinary work, creative output and innovation. From its beginnings, Leonardo/ISAST has served as THE virtual community for purposes of networking, resource-sharing, best practices, research and events in Art/Science/Technology.

-LISA Conference

On Nov.1, I have been LISA Conference 2013. It is a great and creative conference for new media art artists and coder. I think it is a good opportunity to inspired by those outstanding artists and leaders in the field.

“Leaders in Software and Art (LISA, @softwareandart) is a society of creative thinkers centered around monthly salons.  Founded by Isabel Walcott Draves in fall of 2009, LISA is a membership organization with the following

– To join interesting people together for fellowship, camaraderie and
good food and drink
– To introduce the membership to fascinating endeavors
– To become the first stop for the best new art in the world
– To advance the artistic and/or technology careers of its members
– To help creative software entrepreneurs grow their businesses”

-The Kitchen

The Kitchen is a very important art space focus on video, performance art and some new cross-disciplinary exploration.

-Ars electronica

Ars electronica is the most important award in new media field, it can be the “OSCAR” in this field.


ZKM is a leading international organization that support the creation and exhibition of work at intersections of art and provide related education programs for artist.

-Intel Corporation

Creators Projects is a young creative project sponsed by intel and collaborate with VICE magazine which is a art and design magazine aim to promote young artists culture.

W7-Reading: Bodies, Surrogates and Emergent Systems

In this part, author introduces a lots of artwork that related to robotic surrogates, artificial intelligence, cybernetics and so on. Robotic appeared in 1960-1970, artists sensitively used robotic/cybernetics hybrids as their creative media. Gradually,robotic becomes the intelligent agents of artwork and convert the identity of real life in virtual space.

In another book “Context Providers”(by Margot Lovejoy), the “intelligent agents” is also mentioned many times, because it is a significant strategy for artist which involves the body and electronic technology, and convey the relationship between man and machine, virtual space and real life. The “agents” whatever it is “robotic” or “second life” in virtual space, such as online game and cyber space, it is looked as a entrance to real life through a “third” prospective, because in many cases, artist like using camera or surveillance to capture the surrounding phenomenon.

“Artists have attempted to bridge the apparent divide between carbon-based organisms and silicon forms of intelligence and life, between the real and the artificial, suggesting that these distinctions are becoming increasingly blurry and permeable.”(p.38)

Nam June Paik is the pioneer of robotic artwork. He created one of the first art robots called “Robot K456” with 20-Channel Radio Control which connect the real information and the robotic system. Paik’s famous work called TV Cello, he collaborate with Charlotte Moorman who is a cellist, Moorman’s cello was wired to the electronic bra so that she was able to perform the video images emanating from her chest. Paik have a high level and deep comprehension of visual, music and body language. He also attempt a lot of his experimental artwork conveying the relationship between man and machine.


Secondly, this part also remind me the online virtual world “Second Life”. “Second Life is a 3D world where everyone you see is a real person and every place you visit is built by people just like you.”(second It is kind of a new social media, providing a new virtual society and new identity for individuals.

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Another, as the development of robots, more and more artist start to create the mechanical artwork, which combine the artistic beauty and extremely complicated mechanic technology. For example, U-Ram Choe is outstanding digital installation artist and created a lot of fabulous installation represent the beauty of mechanic and art, run by electronic system.

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According to Chapter: Charged Environments in Art and Electronic Media, I would like to talk about the artist Ulf Langheinrich and his collaborated work”Granular Synthesis-Modell 5″ with Kurt Hentschlaeger.



The four screen video installation impressed me a lot. Firstly, it is quite powerful, and give us visual stimulation. When we watch it in front of the video installation, the size as big as a wall, and magnify the expressions of performer, we can imagine we actually are surrounded by a overwheiming visual language and context. Secondly, Ulf used the sound design technique called “Granular Synthesis”. It is a new tech in 1990s. It could be a avant-grade audiovisual work in that time. I have been Ulf’s workshop which focus on sound design. He said, in his work, like Modell 5, he payed more attention to make the synchronicity between sound and visual. It is very important and strong concept of his work. Based on the synchronicity, audience can generate a sense of disorder about time and experience a complex psychological perception. Ulf used the performer’s expression to control the influence for audience’s reaction.

-Ulf in Workshop


Reading 2 (Shanken): Kraftwerk’s Original 3-D Animator, Rebecca Allen


Rebecca Allen is an international artist inspired by a variety of media to create work from 3-D computer graphics, animation, music videos, video games, performance works, artificial life systems, multisensory interfaces, interactive installations, virtual and mixed reality.( One of her important achievement is she designed the original 3-D characters in animation and music video for avant-garde German band Kraftwerk.

Allen’s work is acknowledged for its unique aesthetic from both fine art institutions and popular culture venues. She is the pioneer of computer art, she work connect with electronic music culture and collapse the boundary between art, pop culture and entertainment event. Her work not only had exhibited in museum and art galleries internationally, but also was seen by millions on mass media such as television channels MTV and so on, “gaining substantial recognition with both artistic and popular audiences.”(89. Art and Electronic Media)

Her work “Musique Non-Stop” created in 1986 is notable. When Kraftwerk needed a video to match its electronic music nearly three decades ago, the band

turned to Rebecca Allen. Allen was the creative genius at the helm for 1986′s “Musique Non Stop,” one of the earliest examples of rendered 3-D graphics in a music video. Rebecca Allen used state-of-the-art facial animation software developed by the Institute of Technology in New York. The slow rate of the album’s progress, combined with rapid changes in software animation, meant that Allen had to archive the animation. In 1986, she travel to New York to edit the images to the final version of “Musique Non-Stop”.

Phatt-B Panel Discussion

Phatt-B Panel Discussion

On Saturday, I attended two panel discussions of Phatt-B digital art festival in Pratt-DDA. The first one was presented by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy(New York based artists), Megan Heuer (a New York based Art Critic), and Laura Blereau (director of Bifrorms Gallery), and they mainly talked about the boundary between mainstream electronic art marginal electronic art.

They discussed the topic about how to define the “new media art” and “digital media” from their different standpoints as an  artist, curator and a critic with history background. It was an interesting and provocative discussion. From Laura, as a curator of Bitforms, she said “exhibition is like a conversion between art and technology”, and the “gallery always works as a practical venue” used for artists and art experiment. Actually, gallery is also a commercial organization and they should figure out how to keep and sell the artwork to collectors, so Laura mentioned digital artists sometimes sell their customized software to her  gallery. In the future, maybe one work will be presented in different formats, such as video, interactive installation or some other form still to come. Maybe they will only be able to be kept in documentations and archives.

Kevin McCoy, as a digital artist, had a very different viewpoint. His work has been active in digital art field from 2001 to the present. He said artist always pursue the artistic meaning behind their work and continue to explore more new tools and technology, especially digital artists. But the most important concern of artists is “what’s next?” ”What you will do next?”. As the artwork has a kind of continuity, it always represents its‘ artists’ experience and is a part of contemporary society’s history.

The Second panel was more inspiring to me. The four panelists came from four different universities and collages, they talked about Augmented Reality(AR). They all simultaneously focused on the social media and the smartphone. Smartphone as an important tool in our daily life and is used for multiple (a myriad of) functions. Through our phone, we can transform our identity in social media; we view and record our surrounding and sometimes we immerse ourself in virtual space through our smart. This topic remind me an artwork called ALTER BAHNHOF VIDEO WALK(2012) by JANET CARDIFF & GEORGE BURES MILLER. They used a smartphone to make a fake landscape and connect it with reality, which combined to represent a virtual space, event and some mystery stories. In my opinion, It is very new concept and a unique idea to convey the influence of smartphone and the augmented reality.

Research Topic about Digital Art

First Version:

Q1:How to define/categorize the different forms of digital art work(through material,interactivity or time-based…)?

So far, How many types of digital art work appear in museum/gallery context?(video, installation, interactive, performance(VJING/real-time)……)

Q2:Digital art as a discipline is more incline to Fine Art or Applied Art?