Sunday, February 7, 2010

Canada CODE Live

Busy. It is very busy around these parts.

First of all, there's this big sporting event coming to Vancouver next week. You may have heard about it? And I'm sure you probably also know that there's been a great deal of controversy surrounding the winter games. The debates are complex; I have many friends who are protesting the games for a whole bunch of profound and valid reasons. I also have many friends who are gainfully employed because of the games. I have worked on a couple of films that will be playing at the celebration sites, and I also gave advice to a friend who was working on a protest film. It's a ball of wax.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't have a great time this weekend attending events that are part of the Cultural Olympiad. I saw some amazing work. And I did so knowing the Provincial government has just cut arts funding in a whopping 90%. Yes, you read that correctly. 90%. It's the most messed up thing I've heard of late. Clearly culture matters. The Cultural Olympiad offerings are expansive. Programming starts in the morning and continues into the night - and it's happening all over the city. The Cultural Olympiad is a HUGE piece of this big event.....

As I wandered the streets over the weekend and took part in the opening strains of the Cultural Olympiad, I was both filled with joy at the unbelievable creativity that is currently filling streets, arts centres, galleries and community halls of Vancouver, and filled with sorrow over the reality of arts funding in British Columbia after the party's over. It was truly, truly bittersweet.

I know I will write more about this later. And I will probably invite you to write letters and raise your voices against the dismantling of arts funding in B.C. But right now, let me invite you to peer into the creative minds that are congregating around the city. Here's a glimpse of the screens that will be showing over 70 short films by filmmakers from Coast to Coast.

It all started on Friday night. A couple of my colleagues and I headed to the preview of CODE Live, a part of the Canada CODE that features installations by some amazing visual and media artists. We were blown away as we wandered around looking, listening, touching, and soaking it all in.

CODE Live is billed as "State of the art. CODE live takes over three well known sites and rolls out a lineup of powerful interactive art and cutting edge music".

We attended CODE Live 1 at the Great Northern Way Campus. It's a large factory space that originally built industrial machinery and it features a series of amazing interactive works. As we arrived for the preview, they were still setting up. And despite the drying paint and drop cloths, one could easily see what an amazing exhibit it was.

The map on the wall shows you what's happening where.

I kinda wanted to paint my walls like this:

There was lots to see (and do) so let me share a couple of highlights with you.

The first installation we entered was called Vested by Don Ritter. A vest is available for the viewer to don, and it's wired for sound (and image). The program note says:

There has never been a time in the history of civilization where daily global travel is so ubiquitous. Every day, tens of thousands of people cross time zones, continents and oceans. The constantly migrating tourist is one of the predominant figures of the 21st century as well as the electronic nomad. Here, the two figures are constantly in touch, literally or metaphorically, with the exotic monuments of other cultures: prestigious art museums, government buildings, ancient architecture, towers, or well-known churches and temples. Designed as a wearable technological vest, Vested immediately transforms the visitor to this cross-cultural world of images, journeying from Vishnu’s temple at Angkor Wat to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Displayed on a three-screen array, and responding to sensors and cameras set up in the space, participants see themselves in these vast and varying cultural spaces. They can affect the panorama by pushing a red button which dramatically alters the images to produce new panoramic views. Questions of history, life, death, perception and identity are raised through this experience. What is civilization? What is worth preserving? What are our choices?

I didn't have my tripod with me, so I couldn't get a decent shot of my colleague when she was vested. Suffice it to say that it was an intense experience worthy of much reflection.

Next up, we spent buckets of time in the installation called Condemned Bulbes by Artificiel. Here's the program note:

In a world of wires, radio waves, satellites, radar, sensors and cellular fields to name just a few, a field of invisible electricity pulses through our environments and our bodies. As a result, unsolicited noises are created when unexpected juxtapositions occur, like a cell phone buzzing unexpectedly near a radio or a person receiving a radio transmission in a tooth filling. In Condemned Bulbes,this hidden energy field is deliberately brought to life. A grid of overhead bulbs tune into these changing wavelengths and charges, responding in sudden bursts of light and sound. Sometimes subtle and sometimes loud and overbearing, this installation demonstrates and speaks of the inconsistent, expanding and contracting nature of electromagnetic energy on Earth. The bulbs are sequenced through their own algorithmic event generator, and then tuned specifically for each presentation. By making this unpredictable power visible and auditory, Condemned Bulbes makes sense of prevailing forces outside our normal realms of perception, and makes us particularly aware of the intermittent scarcity and abundance of these wild fluctuations of influence.

And last but not least, here's the exhibit that was housed in the striped transport container. The photos don't do it justice because I wasn't set up to photograph the darkness, but it was truly delightful. This was an interactive landscape called Dune 4.0 and it came to us from the Netherlands from Studio Roosegaarde. Essentially, you enter a black space, and when you run your hands over the black wands that line the walkway, thousands of LED lights start to twinkle and shimmer. So use your imagination as you look at these photos, and imagine the sound of us laughing our heads off as we ran back and forth like kids in an art-based playground.

Dune 4.0 creates an interactive landscape where elements such as light and sound built into a space are further energized by the motions and sound of the visitors on its path. An abandoned shipping container creates a threshold experience welcoming visitors into a place where machines and humans are recognized as equal and responsive. Despite its highly sophisticated technology, Dune 4.0offers a gentle and subtle experience. The LED lights sway like reeds in a wind reacting to the pedestrian’s movements, becoming more intense when more people move through or darken when there is little movement. Like one part of nature answering another, Dune 4.0is dependent upon both its human users to become a significant aesthetic experience and on a computer program that allows for the interchange. The landscape of Dune 4.0is always sensitive in relation to the visitor, behaving playfully and “learning” from the visitors’ presence.

Oh, and about that letter writing thing? You can do it now, by clicking on this link. It's not hard, and it won't take long. And you could make a difference.


  1. Enjoyed this post Teri--things are complicated in the city right now. I'm definitely not turning down all this great art and music→we're all paying for it! CODE looks great.

  2. Thanks David! I hope you do check out CODE. I'm pretty sure you will love it. Let's compare notes later!