Hackers are accustomed to prying open iPhones and Xboxes, but only recently have they begun to hack into the process of art-making itself. This was the mission of Art Hack Day— to bring together “hackers whose medium is art and artists whose medium is tech.” The 36-hour hackathon was staged January 26 to 28 at 319 Scholes, an Internet art gallery in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The event was loosely inspired by Creators Project/Eyebeam’s Art Hack Weekend; the difference according to 319’s curatorial director Lindsay Howard, is that Art Hack Day involved “no prizes, panels, or juries, and no limitations on the projects participants could create.”
The 50 (mostly male) participants hailed from all over the globe, and included the founder of 4Chan, tech-philosopher Kyle McDonald, Star Wars Uncut creator Casey Pugh, and members of open-source organizations like F.A.T. Lab and openframeworks. Fueled by the inevitable coolers of Red Bull, they took advantage of the available equipment, from DVD players and laser cutters to Technics turntables and MakerBot 3-D printers, which by Saturday night’s exhibition was cranking out replicas of the beloved anime character Totoro.
For Art Hack Day co-organizer Olof Mathe, who is based San Francisco, New York provides an ideal setting for art-tech collaborations. “Silicon Valley is very tech-focused, whereas New York is really liberal artsy,” he said. “There’s an interesting confluence between the art and tech scenes here that we wanted to take advantage of.”
Here, a rundown of some of the art/tech projects showcased at the event.
A Breath of Fresh Neon: Avery Max
A Breath of Fresh Neon is a working breathalyzer installation that visualized its results by illuminating a 12-foot-long row of rainbow neon. On Saturday night, partygoers blew onto a sensor that measured the quantity of alcohol vapor on their breath. The installation then translated that data into light. The drunker the participant, the more colors of the rainbow would illuminate.
Aliens That Looks Like Skrillex
Alex Ehlke, David Mauro, and Timothy Fitz, members of team Canv.as and team ScratchML, collaborated to make this shooting video game in which one player dodges bullets fired by a DJ’s scratches. A full synopsis of the project can be found at the site.
Kinect Russian Roulette
All the fun with none of the messy gray matter. Kinect Russian Roulette, from Theo Watson, is a speed project that allows users to play Russian Roulette with their hand and a Kinect.
To create No Clipping, James George and Alexander Porter recorded laser scan video of the participants with a Kinect-like game controller and a DSLP video camera. “With custom software,” George said, “we can change the camera angles virtually, re-photographing the scene from any angle.”
Sphere of Water
Embracing the analog side of things, Toby Schachman, a student at New York University’s ITP program, assembled a startlingly beautiful arrangement of water, air, and light, using laser-cut acrylic mirrors and waterproof LED ribbons purchased during several frantic trips to Chinatown.
18,154 Consistent And Regular Views Of New York
A two-dimensional printed a map of New York City composed of images taken by Google Street View. Creator David Stolarsky wrote a script that specified the camera angle, latitude and longitude, and assembled the resulting photographs into what he called an “arbitrary gridization.” “Google never blocked me,” he said, “so I just kept downloading images. Google doesn’t own the city, after all.”
For Storywheel, Johannes Wagener and Katharina Birkenbach selected 10 previously captured recordings of random people describing pictures they’d taken with an Instagram. During the exhibit, Wagener presented the images in a slide show, accompanied by the oddly poignant voiceovers.
Skippable Rope is a performance and communal game for three people to skip rope using their iPhones. “We used the iPhone’s accelerometer to determine when the ‘rope’ is being swung and whether the person skipping is in sync with the rope,” said Mathe. “Absurd? Yes!”