Tuesday, 17 June 2014

UoL Alumni weekend

photo by Kurt Ingamells

I was invited to the University of Lincoln Alumni weekend, so I went along to find out what that was about. 
My son, Brett, had been fortunate enough to have been to visit the University with his school, Lincoln Castle Academy, to have a go with the Oculus Rift virtual reality device, and I wanted to test it out.
This was unceremoniously demonstrated in the new library extension, and as I wear spectacles anyway, I had to remove mine to put on the Oculus Rift goggles, and I must point out that they're not configured to your prescription, so the images weren't as clear for me as they perhaps were for other alumni. 
The programme shown was a rollercoaster simulation, in which the carriage in which you were virtually travelling at one point goes completely off the rails and soars through the air. 
For those that could see clearly, this was disorientating, but as it was all a bit of a blur for me, it didn't quite work. 
I was shown a virtual gallery programme as well, however, this isn't how I would use the technology as an artist at all.
I was thinking of its potential to create virtual immersive environments as a simulacrum of reality - for instance, for the inevitable A-ha Museet in Oslo, if I had this technology when I did my degree, I'd have rotoscoped images or footage of Morten Harket and A-ha, and created the comic book world of A-ha in the software programme Unity, so that visitors could go into the installation space and literally go into the comic as in the video. If the Norwegians want an artist to work on this for the A-ha Museet, I'd be happy to collaborate with Steve Barron and Michael Patterson for an immersive visitor experience.

I'm also thinking of its possibility for Apparatjik, and a proposed installation at The Engine Shed next year.
We also had the opportunity to meet the School Of Computer Science emotional robot "Erwin" and the 3D printed robot, known as "Marc".
These are being designed by students with Dr. John Murray, along with the psychology department, as friendly robots for companionship for people with autism, adult social care, and the elderly.

"Marc" the UoL 3D printed robot

"Marc" likes to shake hands
 Meeting "Marc" - I asked if it was programmed with Isaac Asimov's Three Laws, and Dr. Murray said no! Next year it's expected that "Marc" will have 3D printed legs.

Jason Bradbury meeting "Marc"
 We were joined by Jason Bradbury from The Gadget Show, who was immediately as impressed as we were by "Marc", especially how appealing and non-threatening the face is, and its appearance.

checking out the mechanics with Dr. Murray

"Marc" with Jason Bradbury's specs on!

Never saw the owners of this van! Hmmmm....

Jason Bradbury lecture

Jason Bradbury gave a lecture, in which he showed his first Sinclair ZX80 Spectrum, and described how he built a hoverboard inspired by the film Back To The Future, in a house up the hill, along with sharing various world records he holds from Gadget Show exploits, including the rocket powered luge.
He said he was always this guy with loads of ideas that he constantly pitched enthusiastically to various people, but never had any luck until someone he knew recommended him for a new show coming to Channel 5, and now he has a budget to test out all kinds of technology. 
If BBCFour want to make a TV show about contemporary art, I have some experience with SkyArts...

Jason also showed his collection of 1980s synthesizers, one of which belonged to Vince Clarke of Erasure, and how he can replicate the synth riff from a Depeche Mode song, although all that was going through my head was "MOOG","I want a go with them", and "he should come and do something with us Apparatjiks". 

The above image is of Jason describing how the Gadget Show made a prosthetic head that was taken to Cannes Film Festival and caused quite a stir!


Elliott Morris live  at Tower Bars
Live music was scheduled after Jason's lecture at Tower Bars, however, this was somewhat spoilt by the world cup being shown in the same venue - I hope next year that the screen in Tower Bars will be used for something far more worthwhile than mere football, as there are plenty of pubs in the city centre that show football, and no one in our group had any interest whatsoever in it.

I was disturbed by a fireworks display distressing nesting swans along the Brayford Pool, as if anyone has money to burn, and with absolutely no regard for the wildlife - I could've put that money to better use.

Although discounts were included in the wristband for world cup events at Tower Bars, we went somewhere else to socialise, where there were no screens, and no misappropriated mass worship of mere ball shepherding.
This was the first year for the faculty of AAD exhibiting Degree Shows in the new building, and the shows were running to coincide with a small festival that now replaces the Waterfront Festival. This means that more people are likely to come and see the shows, and it was refreshing that students from other faculties came to appreciate the work. I also took the opportunity to show alumni from other courses around after a lecture with Mike Poole about 3D printing.

I imagine the Oculus Rift in a white gallery space, with a Matrix - style chair (of which I have one currently riddled with woodworm!) to create more of an impact, make it more of an experience.

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In other news, a copy of an unsolicited and unwanted "news" paper dropped through my letterbox last week. So I decided to make it into something for an art activism and to support a-n's paying artists campaign, between writing various proposals.