Get inspired: Resonate 2014

Like last year, Filip Visnjic and his team summoned up numerous of inspirational talents to give talks, run workshops and debate their views and ideas during podium discussions. Once again it was an extraordinary selection of specialists which is hard to find anywhere else in the world in such a high density and quality.

For those of you who don’t know about Resonate yet, it’s a 3-day art and technology event hosted in the idyllic south-east-european city of Belgrade, Serbia. The experience starts off with free workshops and screenings of digital art projects on the first day. The following days focus on talks and panels. During the entire time of the event, and in some cases also before and afterwards (exhibitions), artists get the chance to showcase and spectators the opportunity to explore their work.

For the night programme they brought together an interesting selection of national and international musicians to provide a relaxed atmosphere, which again was ideal for getting to know new people and finding potential collaborators for future projects.
One characteristic which is unique for Resonate are the seemingly non-existing hierarchies between those who present and those who consume. Most of the speakers and workshop leaders were then later on found amongst the audience during talks and next to you during the night events. This equality is one of the features I value the most about the festival!

All in all, it’s a heavy package filled with invaluable inspiration.

In contrast to last year, in 2014 everything was spread across multiple locations throughout the city. This had its advantages and disadvantages. The drawback was that it required a well planned schedule for the day in order not to miss an event you were interested in. The good thing about this division, however, is that you didn’t only get to see more of the city itself. But also because the people were scattered across different venues the atmosphere was more relaxed and there was more space to breath. Since the locations were larger, not as many people had to stand during the talks which made listening to them more enjoyable.

DAY 1 · WORKSHOPS & FESTIVAL OPENING
As usual, the conference opened with a number of full-day workshops which are intended to give the participants an insight into new emerging technologies and to show what’s possible, but also where potential limitations are.
In this year, the workshops ranged from an introduction about the usage of the Oculus Rift in conjunction with OpenFrameworks by Andreas Müller to face manipulation with vvvv and the Kinect by Joreg and Woeishi Lean.
Jonathan Puckey and Luna Maurer from the Dutch design studio Moniker showed how their Portrait Machine works. In another workshop the people got the chance to get their hands on the Ototo, the little board that lets you turn anything into a musical instrument. The London based designers Yuri Suzuki and Mark McKeague let the participants experiment with all kinds of conductive material, even a small tree got involved.
The Giorgia Lupi and Gabriele Rossi of the data-visualisation studio Accurat introduced their followers into the art of turning complex numbers into beautiful, easily digestible graphics.
ART+COM’s Max Göttner and Lucca Lolli explained shaders in their GPU based simulation techniques workshop in a very nice and accessible way. In Manuel Jimenez Garcia’s Programming Matter workshop participants used Processing to create 3D objects which they then printed.
The trio of Jakob Bak, David Gauthier, and Jacob Sikker Remin introduced their CFO board, the Cheap, FAT and Open.
The workshop that interested me most was held by one of Google’s creative technologists, Aleksandar Rodić. The announcement was that participants would get an introduction to WebGL and Three.js. However, the workshop then turned out as an ad campaign for Polymer.js. Don’t get me wrong, I think the library itself can be a great tool, but Google, please don’t trick people into using it like that.

Unlike last year I actively decided not to take part in a workshop this time. The idea was to instead wander around, to peek into each of them and hopefully get the best out of it. Unfortunately this didn’t work out as well as expected, because if you truly want to be able to follow what’s going on, you have to stick to one of them for at least a few hours. Otherwise you lose track of the progress.
On the other side I was lucky I didn’t apply for the workshop I originally would have liked to go to as they presented a completely different tool in the end.

In parallel to the workshops, visitors got the chance to view a number of sound-visualisations and other art works during screenings. Amongst those were also pieces of the Punto y Raya festival that was hosted in Reykjavík, Iceland this year.
The piece I liked the most was Sperikal by Ion Lucin:

In the late afternoon the festival was officially declared open by organisers Filip Visnjic and Maria Jelesijević. Following their short announcement Theodore Spyropoulos started the first talk of the event by presenting his computational architecture, some of which he also created in collaboration with his students at AA DRL. He investigates how behavioural patterns can be fed into architectural design.
Douglas Edric Stanley then introduced us to his world of games and play. And Kyle McDonald, Klaus Obermaier and Daito Manabe blew our minds with the first talk about their live installation Transcranial they created especially for the festival.
Transcranial at Resonate 2014

DAY 2 · TALKS, TALKS, T... INSPIRATION! WOAH!
We started off our day listening to the talk of Cedric Kiefer, one half of the Berlin based studio Onformative. I knew a bit about their work so it wasn’t entirely new to me. I still found it interesting to get a peek behind the scenes and to see which steps they took to achieve their final result.
As I’m very much interested in enhancing dance performances with visual generative and interactive arts, I loved the Unnamed Soundsculpture which is a piece where they recorded a dancer from 360 degress simultaneously in 3D using 3 Kinects aligned in an equilateral triangle. Since each Kinect has a field of view of 60 degrees, the three of them covered the whole area perfectly.
Another one of their projects which I really liked is Google Faces, where they created an openFrameworks application that scanned Google Maps’ image data and looked for faces in there. Some of them seemed to intent on telling a story even.

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Unnamed Soundsculpture by Onformative (Ⓒ Image: Onformative)

This first very inspiring talk was followed by another nice presentation of sound-visualisations by VJ Paul Prudence. He finds his inspiration in research papers such as Superformula by Johan Gielis. For me it was very interesting to see how he works, when he first goes out and records in the field, then comes back home to listen to his audio-footage and mentally starts visualising them. Afterwards he creates a storyboard and sketches. During that whole process he constantly switches and removes one of the dominants: In one moment he focuses purely on the sound, in the other merely on the visuals. Paul predominantly works in vvvv and with OSC.
After our lunch break we went to see Berlin based artist Eno Henze. For me, his most inspiring works were the Mercedes booth for a motor-show in Frankfurt/Main, Germany where he applied force fields to cars as they moved on stage and with this data created interactive generative graphics. The other piece was Timelapse/(Mnemosyne), again interactive generative art, this time for a beautiful ballet performance.

I also saw Travis Kirton’s introduction to C4. After that, Matthieu Cherubini provoked thoughts and reflection about ethical aspects in relation to robotics he investigates about in his research project for RCA, London.
And Pitch Interactive’s Wesley Grubs impressed with the most beautiful data visualisations he created with standard tools like Illustrator and Processing. What was also very interesting to see was the visualisation of the professional lives of a number of leading artists.

DAY 3 · MORE TALKS AND FAMILIAR FACES
We woke up with Justin Windle’s talk about his personal WebGL projects. Originally an illustrator, Justin started digging into CoffeeScript, CoffeePhysics, and ActionScript. He then moved on to the more flexible WebGL and used Web Physics to, for instance, make interactive Jingle Balls so you can create and play your own little Christmas song. They really showed how much he enjoyed his work and how much fun he put in.

Elliot Woods from Kimchi & Chips then let us peek inside the magic that’s happening behind their live installations. They specialised in combining projection mapping and 3D-scanning where they project selective pixels defined by 3D coordinates onto physical material. This “Digital Emulsion” uses the projector as both a scanner and an augmenter. They therefore define it as reprojection scanning. The projected pixels become active sensors, so-called sexels.
Another more generic aspect Elliot addressed was his reflection about the “scale between imagination and opportunity”, where imagination stands for self-initiated work and opportunity the work lead by the peripheral world. It’s important to find the right balance between the two to not lose motivation and inspiration.
In collaboration with a multitude of artists and developers such as Andreas Müller, Kimchi & Chips were asked to exhibit their Line Segments Space installation at the 3-day event. It’s one of their Digital Emulsions projecting onto white nylon strings aligned in a dark 3D space. Unfortunately, setting up the installation took almost the entire duration of the event so they only finished on the last day to then have it up and running for about two hours before they had to remove it again.

After another luscious lunch we went to see our friend Jaume Sánchez, a creative developer from Barcelona who works for B-Reel and Google. He performs WebGL magic using ingredients such as Mr.doob’s Three.js, fragment shaders and Perlin noise. Together with Eduard Prats Molner he was one of the pioneers developing some of the first WebGL experiements in 2010, The Wilderness Downtown, which was directed by Aaron Koblin.

We only got to see the second half of another very inspiring talk by Sunni Paylovic, studio manager at That Game Company. With the presentation of their indie games such as the highly successful PlayStation 3 video game Journey, Sunni showed me once more, the further we get sucked into adulthood the more we lose the ability to dream freely and to imagine things that go beyond our own reality which has been shaped by our experience. When growing up everything becomes serious, something to worry about or to take care of, and tends to be tightly tied to the dullness of reality. We’re trapped in the cage of our own limitations looking at life in a rather realistic or even negative way. We need to make sure we don’t lose that ability of seemingly boundless creativity and imagination we used to nurture inside us when we were kids.

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Journey by That Game Company (Ⓒ Image: Jenova Chen)

Like Sunni said,

… it’s all about “[...] making something meaningful, memorable, and positive.”

The talk by Joe Gerhardt who works with his partner under the name Semiconductor wasn’t quite my cuppa tea. However, he gave a good hint. In case someone is looking for scientific geophysical data, IRIS makes theirs freely accessible: http://www.iris.edu/hq/data_and_software.

Then Daito Manabe was back on stage, the guy I mentioned ealier who experiments with myoelectric sensors and makes sperm dance (Music Saves Tomorrow). I admire his attitude. He’s not too scared to try things no-one else or only very few people have tried before. In his experiments he uses electric impulses to control facial expressions and vice versa, uses the face to control something else, e.g. Sound.
For music videos and performances such as Perfume he created wearable tech and interactive laser projections.
For another project Daito created interactive holo-projections: The holographic film is projected onto a transparent screen placed in front of the stage and for the audience invisible. With the help of an opti-graphic camera the presenter’s gestures is tracked and the holographic film played accordingly. It seems as if magic is happening.

This year, Aaron Koblin closed the array of immensely inspiring talks, by presenting the most recent project he was involved in. I’m sure most of you have seen at least some of the projects he directed, to name just a few: 3 Dreams Of Black, The Johnny Cash Project, or The Wilderness Downtown which I mentioned earlier when talking about Jaume. He and his teams work with tools such as dat.GUI, Tailbone and, of course, Three.js.
A more recent work is the interactive art installation Unnumbered Sparks, a massive, reactive, colourful, spider-web-like sculpture launched just outside this year’s TED conference for its 30th anniversary and controlled by the visitors’ mobile devices.

 
THE END · BRAIN FULL, FUEL EMPTY

And then it was over. 3 ½ days and nights filled with inspiration, innovation, networking conversation, and food, loads of food. People from all around the world came together and shared their ideas. Only from the people I’ve met (excluding me) we covered over 10 countries: UK, Germany, Spain, US, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Japan, and, of course, Serbia. We all met again for one last immoderate supper to then celebrate the festival good-bye amongst the local Serbians in the dodgiest location with electronic beats, drug dealing in the male lavatories, sex in the ladies’ (compared to which portaloos are luxurious), plenty of cheap watered-down alcohol, and a glowing fish. We had a blast!

Good and plenty of food, lovely, hospitable people, high-quality talks and workshops, relaxed networking events with diverse music, art, technology, and culture all sum up Resonate, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t come again next year.

Thank you Filip, Maria, Edu and the rest of the team!

 


Further resources:
Resonate’s Website
Tumblr posts about Resonate 2014
Photos of the event
More recent updates on Facebook

Other blogs:
Blog post by Tim Murray-Browne
Article on It’s Nice That