Cinekid Installation Production – Bacteria Filming Starts

For the production of the interactive installation for Cinekid 2014 it is required to build a DIY bacteria filming rig.

This large cardboard box has been adapted with plenty of gaffer tape to provide a light controlled space complete with frontal insertion port and removable petri dish holder system.

  • Large cardboard box and gaffer tape
  • Canon 600d with Magic Lantern hack and external power
  • Manfrotto Tripod
  • Clip on light
  • Power extenstion
  • 12cm square petri dishes
  • Growth Medium: General Kitchen Agar by Simon F. Park

An afternoon with HARR1

My New Robot Companion BoredomNow in its third year, the Brighton Digital Festival conversation event aimed at older audiences will look at the world of robotics and consider what the future might hold for us.

How would you feel about a robot caring for you? How do you imagine a future where your relatives would be cared for by robots? Will robots aid or increase feelings of loneliness?

Join Lorenza Ippolito, Anna Dumitriu and Alex May to investigate the philosophical and practical questions behind robotics.

HARR1 (Humanoid Art Research Robot 1) is part of an art project entitled “My Robot Companion” by Anna Dumitriu and Alex May, made in collaboration with the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Research Group.

2014 – A Year of Two Halves

"Shadows of Light" at The Lightbox

Anyone looking at this news page would surmise that little has been happening here in 2014, but this would be greatly deceiving as much preparation has been taking place behind the scenes.

Predominately I’ve been working on new software art tools that I will be using extensively for my practise over the coming years.  They will allow me to create much richer narrative installations by controlling multiple video playback (including video mapping) with synchronised audio, lighting, and other hardware.

I am also developing my own tools (rather than using other existing software) as part of my own “digital preservation” strategy to ensure artworks that I (or others) create now will be able to be shown in their correct form in the future.

My plan is to make these tools available at some point after I’ve road tested them myself, which leads me nicely onto:

New Projects and Funding

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that I have been awarded a grant from Arts Council England to create a series of new works, exhibitions, events, and workshops over the next 12 months using the video mapping software and techniques  I’ve been developing.  I will be posting up details soon of what’s going to be happening , and there will be an open-call for December, but it’s going to be a very exciting run up to the new year (and beyond).

I’m also very happy to announce that I’m working on two collaborative projects with acclaimed bio-artist Anna Dumitriu that have also just received funding:

One will be to co-create a new interactive video installation exploring the human micro-biome for the amazing Cinekid Festival in Amsterdam this October.

The other is doing the programming for a digital artwork called “Sequence” that will interrogate the algorithms, processes, and ethics behind whole genome sequencing, again funded by Arts Council England.

And finally, I’ve just installed my interactive digital artwork “Shadows of Light” in the main gallery of The Lightbox in Woking in preparation for their first ever digital art exhibition, which opens on July 15th.  The piece was originally made in 2009 and has most recently been exhibited in the Tate Modern and at ICT2013 in Vilnius.

The Art and Science of Linen accepted into Museum Collection

The Art and Science of Linen” – a video artwork by artists Alex May, Anna Dumitriu, microbiologist Dr John Paul, with soundtrack by Martin A. Smith, has been accepted into the permanent collection of the The Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum.

The video looks at the whole ecology of linen production from the bacteria used to break down the flax in retting tanks to the industrial production of linen and its cultural importance.

It Includes images and footage taken at The Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum and McConville’s Flax Mill & Museum where these historical processes can be seen in operation.

The Institute of Unnecessary Research Meets the Egyptian Bioart Club – ISEA 2014

ISEA 2014“We aim to create a legendary three day intensive open lab, at ISEA 2014 in Dubai, in the form of a living artwork/happening at the cutting edge of DIY biology practices, bioart, the body and digital technologies, taking the form of creative interactions between artists led by The Institute of Unnecessary Research (IUR) and The Egyptian Bioart Club.”

“This paradigm shifting open lab will facilitate collaborative working practices and cross cultural dialogue, with a focus on ethical debates and the role of the artist working within science settings in the West and the Arab World. The three day intensive collaborative workshop, will include hands on “do it together” microbiology and bioart with Anna Dumitriu and Heba El Aziz, participatory video mapping activities with Alex May and brainwave/lucid dreaming performance art with Luciana Haill as well as other activities and presentations. The workshop will be followed by a final public installation, exhibition and performance of the outcomes, with show and tell presentations on the third evening.”

Read More:

“My Robot Companion” talk at Waag Society, Amsterdam

My New Robot CompanionI’m going to be giving a short talk about the “My Robot Companion” project at the Waag Society in Amsterdam on January 31st:

Politics, Ethics, Power and Propaganda – An ‘ICT and Art Connect’ Event by Waag Society.

“This special evening of short talks, discussions and networking brings together artists, scientists and technologists to investigate the role of art and public engagement in science.”

Shadows of Light at ICT2013

Shadows of Light at ICT2013
Shadows of Light at ICT2013
November 2013

ICT2013 was held in Vilnius, Lithuania and Alex May was part of the “ICT & Art Connect” team, where he exhibited “Shadows of Light” and co-hosted a “My New Robot Companion” robot head making workshop with Anna Dumitriu.

ICT & ART Connect sets out to bring together artists and technologists to explore new ways of working. Collaborative acts of co-creation, together with an open and multidisciplinary discussion, will foster the bringing together of art and technology.

The initiative stems from the EU FP7 funded support action FET-ART, addressing the FET (Future Emerging Technologies) objective of the FP7 ICT Theme.

The project partnership includes Sigma Orionis (coordinator), Brunel University, Stichting Waag Society, Stromatolite and BCC.

ICT & Art Connect Team at ICT2013
ICT & Art Connect Team at ICT2013

Our stand won an award as the favourite exhibition stand of cluster 5 – Culture, science and creativity,

ICT & Art Connect stand receiving Best Booth Award at ICT2013
ICT & Art Connect stand receiving Best Booth Award at ICT2013

Painting With Light in Caracas Venezuela

The British Council arranged for Alex May to run a two day Painting With Light workshop in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela.
The British Council arranged for Alex May to run a two day Painting With Light workshop in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela.

Caracas is a tropical and vibrant capital city overlooked by the imposing Ávila mountain to the north.  Cable cars and power lines thread across the roofs and up the steep mountainside from where the poorer barrios neighbourhoods nestle at the edges.  These makeshift dwellings are beautiful to look at from a distance, with brightly painted exteriors by day, and forming sprawling blankets of lights by night.

There is an infectious intensity to the city and its people.  Proud of its heroes and in political furore emerging from the mourning for its leader, there are shortages and protests, and regular reminders of guns, drugs, and crime, where petrol is cheaper than water, here in the third most dangerous city in the world.

Looking north west across Caracas to the Ávila mountain
Looking north west across Caracas to the Ávila mountain

This dark fact is unfortunate, but with the diligence and care of the British Council it was not in the least apparent during the visit.  It’s not the first time I’ve been somewhere for the purposes of art where care must be taken (I was in Cairo when the second revolution started) though here I was advised not to leave the hotel unless by arranged car.

I was first invited to give an introductory talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art to explain a little about my artistic practise and Painting With Light.  Afterwards I met some people who sadly hadn’t been able to get places in the workshop as it had been somewhat oversubscribed.

Painting With Light at Museum of Modern Art Caracas

I then met the participants and we spent the first day of the workshop getting to know each other a little and learning the various features of the software.  While the talk had simultaneous translation, the workshop required two diligent translators taking shifts, which slowed proceedings down though with patience all round we got through a long day.

For the second day of the workshop, I invited the participants to think about what aspect of Caracas was most aesthetically interesting to them.  Some chose the architecture, others the flow of people and the transportation routes, and others chose nature.  Groups were formed between people with common interests, and we then visited the gallery space inside the museum where we would be creating an video mapped installation for show to the public that night.

The packing crates had just returned from transporting an exhibition of Venezuelan art around the world, and now we would make them into art themselves!

Each group spent the afternoon organising and creating video content before we moved downstairs and set up the projectors.

As the groups began to map video onto the crates, they formed single installation: an impression of Caracas from different viewpoints by the participants, as people who live and work here.

I used a single video projector off to the side to fill in any areas where there were gaps between the groups projections.

We let the public in to see the finished installation and while I sidled off to the bar for a well deserved glass of wine, several of the participants kept working and adding to their projections.

It was a fantastic experience to be given the opportunity to visit Caracas and run a workshop there.  Everyone was very friendly and enthusiastic about the Painting With Light project, and it was very exciting to work together with the participants to create an installation together in such a wonderful venue.

I would like to say a few thank you’s to:

VJ and Video Artist Ionee Waterhouse for the initial invitation and liaising with the British Council

To the British Council for facilitating my visit, especially Andreina Gómez for organising and looking after everything while I was in Caracas.

To the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, especially Auramarina Lazarde, for their time and facilities.

To the British Ambassador and Director of the British Council in Venezuela for their time and hospitality.

And to all the participants of the workshop who I hope enjoyed it and will go on to create more marvellous video mapping art.  I look forward to seeing what you all get up to!