Peter Polaine at The Pin Mill Studio


Christmas Dinner by Peter Polaine

Quick plug for my dad, Peter Polaine, who has an exhibition of his woodcut prints on at The Pin Mill Studio in Suffolk at the moment until the 18th July.

If you’ve ever wondered what Playpen’s dad sounds like, he was interviewed by Georgina Wroe on local BBC Radio today. He told some anecdotes about his time at art college where he studied alongside the likes of Ken Russell and Peter Blake as well as surprising me (and the presenter) by his choice of Banksy as one of the contemporary artists he likes and Brandy Carlile’s The Story for his play-out music. (I’d not even heard of her over here in the 80s music wormhole that is Germany – sigh).

You can listen to the BBC’s RealAudio (why do people still use it?) version of whole programme here or my edited MP3 version with just the interview.

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre

Kinetic Theatre - photo: Chris O\'Shea

I’m super happy to see Chris O’Shea’s post about his visit to the Kinetica Museum to see the retrospective exhibition of the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre & The Ride of Life down at Spitalfields.

I remember visiting their museum in Covent Garden as a child and being enthralled by the automata and mechanical toys. (We still have a couple of small ones that we bought there all those years ago). For me they sum up such a beautiful mix of craftsmanship, ingenuity, wit, British rude postcard humour and surreal visions that are always playful. They are also really the origins of interactivity – much of what we do electronically now has its roots in these automata.

It reminded me of the fascinating presentation at the 2005 Refresh! conference by Gunalan Nadarajan. It was called Islamic Automation: A Reading of al-Jazari’s The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206) in which he examines interactivity and automata that are many hundreds of years old. You can watch the archived video stream of it if you’re interested.

Check out Chris’s Flickr set for more photos of the Kinetica exhibition (from which this one is nicked).

[UPDATE: I went to see it myself this week and it’s really great. Go to it!]

Invitation to play at the Game / Play exhibition

Game Play logo

I recently wrote a catalogue essay called The Invitation to Play (thanks to Mark Pesce for that phrase) for the Game/Play networked exhibition displayed simultaneously at HTTP in London and Q Arts in Derby.

The essay explores ‘art games’ and when and why they are successful at engaging players and when they are not (more frequent). This, more often than not, comes down to the artists ability to construct the ‘invitation to play’. That is, to seduce us into playful behaviour and playing with the work – if they fail at that any other message and idea is pretty much lost and why make an interactive artwork in the first place?

Some info about the exhibition:

Game/Play is a new collaborative exhibition between Q Arts in Derby and HTTP in London. Game/Play features goal orientated gaming and playful interaction explored through media arts practice.

The exhibition at Q Arts features works from Giles Askham, Low Brow Trash, Jakub Dvorsky, Paul Granjon, Long Journey Home/Q Club/PRU and Simon Poulter. At HTTP Mary Flanagan, Jetro Lauha, Julian Oliver, Kenta Cho, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern will be exhibting their work. For the duration of the exhibition networked exhibits by Furtherfield VisitorsStudio and Tale of Tales will appear in both sites and online.

I’ll post the article online soon once the exhibition has got started, but I can e-mail you a copy if you contact me. If you are interested in visiting the exhibition the launch is 22 July 7PM – 9PM and you should visit the HTTP and Q Arts websites for location details.

COFA Annual (2004)

COFA Annual 2004 interface

COFA Annual 2004 interface

Interaction Direction and Producer for the Annual CD-ROM of over 320 collected student works for the College of Fine Arts, UNSW. This interface worked on set-theory, allowing you to select subject areas and see the appropriate thumbnails. We wanted to show the range of work in one glance, hence the giant array of thumbnails. It was built with Flash and used an XML structure to describe all the works (which had been uploaded via a Web interface). Each student submitted nine works, resulting in over 2,880 entries – the logistics were complex.

JAM exhibition (1996)

JAM exhibition

JAM exhibition JAM exhibition

Nine screen video wall installation for the JAM Exhibition at the Barbican Centre, London. JAM was billed as a “walk-in magazine” and featured current trendsetters across the creative industries. The exhibition was taken on tour internationally. The six screens on the left were separated from the column on the right. The left-hand screens contained interactive video pieces, whilst the right-hand column contained a selection of interactive sound engines.