New Media, Light and Movement

Robin Fox, Australia b. 1973 / CRT: homage to Léon Theremin (detail) 2012 / Interactive installation, cathode ray tube televisions, multi–channel sound, motion tracking system / Photograph: QAGOMA / © Courtesy: The artist

A significant element in the creation of new media art is the artist’s exploration into the unique possibilities that are still presented in working with every day and obsolete media. Both Robin Fox and Ross Manning, two artists in the Gallery’s 2012 National New Media Art Award exhibition, have a particular interest in established technology.

CRT: homage to Léon Theremin, by Robin Fox, is a highly responsive interactive audio-visual installation which recalls both the magical physicality inherent in playing a Theremin musical instrument coupled with the lurid colour fields of old CRT televisions.

Both elements can be traced to Russian physicist Léon Theremin, a flamboyant inventor who devised both the Theremin musical instrument and contributed to the earliest research which led to the development of the cathode ray tube television — specifically the interlacing vision to achieve a higher image resolution.

For Robin Fox the aesthetic potential of CRT television monitors has resulted in a playful celebration of old and new technology’s — in addition to the CRT television sets the work also incorporates a custom-designed motion tracking system — and an experience which teases out the connective elements between performer, space and technology.

Robin Fox, Australia b. 1973 / CRT: homage to Léon Theremin 2012 / Interactive installation, cathode ray tube televisions, multi–channel sound, motion tracking system / Photograph: QAGOMA / © Courtesy: The artist

In his work Spectra lll, Ross Manning combines off-the-shelf appliances such as coloured fluorescent lamps and motorised fans, to explore the aesthetic potential of the RGB additive colour model, the basis of screen based technology today. Manning’s elegant and mediative kinetic sculpture weaves a circular pattern at the point of balance between the twisted cables and oscillating fan heads, placed in the centre of a purposed built architectural space. The result is a conceptually rich investigation of video projection deconstructed to its basic components — light, aperture and screen. The sculpture recalls television resolution scan lines that have jumped off a screen and are twirling in space, overlapping different coloured wavelengths of light, or spectra, to produce new colours or, if by chance the lights meet and mix in equal measure, white light.

You can view the award exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 4 November 2012 which is accompanied by a richly illustrated publication.

Ross Manning, Australia b. 1978 | Spectra III (detail) 2012 | Installation, coloured fluorescent lamp, motorised fan, power board, extension cable, wood, rope | Photograph: QAGOMA | © Courtesy: The artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

New Media and therapeutic design

George Poonkhin Khut, Australia b. 1969 | Distillery: Waveforming 2012 | Screen capture of heart rate controlled iPad app | Signal analysis software: Angelo Fraietta (Smart Controller) and Tuan M Vu; iOS visual effects software: Jason McDermott (ARUP Informatics), adapted from original code by Greg Turner | Image: Courtesy the artist | © The artist

A prominent feature of the upcoming National New Media Art Award 2012 is the number of artists working with technologies that have been developed for therapeutic applications. Artists George Poonkhin Khut, Karen Casey, and Leah Heiss reflect this trend, often working in collaboration with medical research teams and industrial engineers. Through their art practices, these artists have found unique and exciting new ways to think about, and experience, the body.

In Distillery: Waveforming 2012 George Poonkhin Khut has been exploring the possibilities for an experimental relaxation system, delivered through an iPad ‘app’ prototype. This application was first developed to assist in the management of pain and anxiety experienced by children undergoing clinical procedures and has been trialed at the Kids’ Rehab Unit within the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney. Enabling the ‘sitter’ to interact with a live, abstract visualisation of the rhythm of their own heartbeat, creating pronounced wave-like changes in heart rate and breathing, Khut’s work encourages us to be aware of the world that exists uniquely within each of us.

George Poonkhin Khut, Australia b. 1969 | Distillery: Waveforming (Portrait of Rob) 2012 | Still from video portraits of sitters interacting with heart rate controlled composition software for iPad | Photograph: Julia Pendrill Charles | Stylist: Troy Brennan | Image: Courtesy the artist | © The artist

Karen Casey’s Dream zone 2012 provides another take on contemplative states. Drawn from her work with the Brain Sciences Institute at Swinburne University, Melbourne, Casey has recorded her EEG brainwaves and utilised them to create a three screen meditative environment. Through the custom program VisEEG, developed by software engineer Harry Sokol, Casey’s neural data is rendered into a unique audio-visual installation in real time. Drawing on the artist’s own theta brainwaves. Often associated with states of dreaming and inspiration, Dream zone literally creates from the stuff of resting thoughts and creativity.

Karen Casey, Australia b. 1956 | Dream zone 2012 | Technical collaborator & software interface designer: Harry Sokol | 3 channel projection exhibited from computer, audio-visual data rendered in real-time (production still, detail) | Image: Courtesy the artist | © The artist

For Leah Heiss, the connection between technology and creativity has led to an interdisciplinary practice concerned with the humanisation of technology. As Heiss has stated:

‘Artists tend to think beyond technology to consider whole-of-life human experience — the users, situations, environments etc. — in which the technology will be used . . . Artists ask ‘human’ questions that allow technologies to become more sensitive to users’ needs’.

In Heiss’s work Polarity 2012, the artist has repurposed a nanotech material that is usually applied in electronic devices and advanced medical technologies, and transformed it into unexpectedly vulnerable organic forms. Captured in constellation of tiny glass vessels, the high-tech liquid lies inert until activated into an array of pulsing spikes through the activation of a concealed magnetic field.

Our next National New Media Art Award post will focus on light and movement and the works of Robin Fox and Ross Manning.

Leah Heiss, Australia b. 1973 | Polarity (detail) 2012 | Installation, magnetic liquid, propylene glycol, ethanol, glass vessels, motors, rare earth magnets, table | Image: Courtesy the artist | © The artist

New Media, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Ian Haig, Australia b. 1964 | Some Thing 2011 | Concept, development, direction and original model: Ian Haig; Production and fabrication: Fiona Edwards; Robotics and electronics: Martin James; Sound: PH2 (Philip Brophy and Philip Samartzis) | Robotics, electronics, latex | Funded with the assistance of the Australia Council, Inter-Arts Office, 2011 | © Courtesy: The artist

Opening 3 August, the ‘National New Media Art Award 2012’ is an exciting overview of Australian artists working at the intersection of art and technology.

Selected from across Australia, the exhibition profiles innovation made possible through the use of advanced medical apparatus, motion-tracking sensors, increasingly sophisticated custom programming and even nano-technologies.

An interesting trend to emerge from the Gallery’s research this year is the many different ways in which robotics and Artificial Intelligence have been incorporated into the field of art, and the range of social and cultural perspectives highlighted therein.

Kirsty Boyle, Australia b. 1975 | Tree ceremony 2010 | Robotics, micro controlled, infrared sensors, custom software, wood, textiles, straw, bonsai | Commissioned by the Tinguely Museum and the Kunsthaus Graz 2010 | © Courtesy: The artist

Kirsty Boyle’s Tree ceremony 2010 approaches the integration of robotics from a Japanese perspective, a country which holds a holds a widespread fascination and affection for technology. Boyle’s kimono clad robot Suki executes a peaceful and rhythmic performance honouring the living bonsai tree beside her. The work draws on the artist’s comprehensive knowledge of advanced Artificial Intelligence and traditional Japanese mechanical doll making known as karakuri ningyo. This gentle approach to robotics also reflects the karakuri ningyo association with Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan.

Petra Gemeinboeck, Austria b. 1971 | Rob Saunders, United Kingdom b. 1971 | Zwischenräume (detail) 2010–12 | Robotics: electronics, custom artificial intelligence software, aluminium, steel, wood, plasterboard | © Courtesy: The artists

Zwischenräume 2010-12 by Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders is similarly a work for contemplation, but is more restless and questioning. Hear that knocking on the wall?  The artists have implanted advanced robots, with the capacity to study and respond to their environment, behind the plasterboard and they are breaking through to watch you.

As the robots possess the capacity for creative learning: not only does the audience interact with, and contemplate the work, it also interacts and considers the audience. Friend or foe? It is hard to tell — but they point to a very different future on the horizon in which we share our space, both physical and cultural, with cognizant creations of our own design.

Ian Haig | Some Thing (detail) 2011

This more western, potentially darker, take on the future of robotics, as is often seen in Hollywood blockbusters, can also be seen in Ian Haig’s ambiguous visceral form Some Thing 2011. Inspired by the prosthetic designs found in the B-grade ‘body horror’ films of the 1970s and 1980s, this twitching, jerking and pulsating robotic sculpture, confronts our fundamental fears surrounding the vulnerability of our fleshy vessels and the effects of aging, sickness and mutation. It makes visible our unconscious horror that, within our form, we carry the biological seeds of our own destruction.

Our next National New Media Art Award post will focus on New Media and therapeutic design, the works of Karen Casey, George Poonkhin Khut and Leah Heiss. What are you thoughts on art and technology?

Manga Boy meets Anime Girl


Welcome, sit back and enjoy 30 minutes of pure escapism! Relive the video highlights from our recent Cosplay competition.

Presented in conjunction with the Gallery’s ‘Drawn to Screen: Graphic Novels, Comics and Serials‘ film program, Cosplay celebrates the art of ‘costume play’ and those dedicated practitioners who work tirelessly to transform themselves into their favourite characters from page and screen.

GOMA’s Cosplay draws in the crowds


We celebrate our first-ever Cosplay event showcasing the costuming talents of our local Cosplay community. Congratulations to all those who rocked the day!

Presented in conjunction with the Gallery’s ‘Drawn to Screen: Graphic Novels, Comics and Serials‘ film program, GOMA celebrated the art of ‘costume play’ with an eruption of colourful costumes, gravity defying wigs, props and excited cosplayers of all ages.

Our contestants sashayed across the stage — stopping frequently to pose for a delighted audience — before sharing the secrets of their fantastic character recreations with host John Robertson. With an audience overflowing from inside the cinema into the Gallery foyer — GOMA celebrated Australia Day 2012 in pure Cosplay style.

With the help of Judges Jeremy Sue, Sabina Myers and Zimiel (Shona Gray) GOMA would like to congratulate the winners from the following categories.

Best Overall and Best Role-Playing/Performance (Solo) | Portrait photography by Adam Sebastian West

Best Overall and Best Role-Playing/Performance (Solo) | Frances as Alexiel from the graphic novel Angel Sanctuary.

‘Alexiel is one of the key characters in the graphic novel Angel Sanctuary. An Organic Angel, Alexiel is sickened by the growing corruption of Heaven, she starts a rebellion and in doing so her soul is cursed to suffer tragic lifetimes as a human.’ (Frances)

Best Role-Playing/Performance (Group) | Portrait photography by Adam Sebastian West

Best Role-Playing/Performance (Group) | Andrew and Erin as Kamina and Yoko from anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

‘Kamina is the enigmatic leader of Dai Gurren in the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. His sheer tenacity to fight, survive and be manly has earned him the title of manliest man in all of mandom. Yoko is the girl in the picture. She supports Kamina in his shenanigans.’ (Andrew and Erin)

Best Costume (Technical Design – Solo) | Portrait photography by Adam Sebastian West

Best Costume (Technical Design – Solo) | Michael as Ezio Auditore Da Firenze from the video game Assassins Creed 2.

‘Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, an Italian assassin from the early Renaissance, and main character of the video game Assassins Creed 2, He’s a flamboyant but incredibly talented assassin who devoted his life to the war against the Templars.’ (Michael)

Best Costume (Technical Design – Group) | Portrait photography by Adam Sebastian West

Best Costume (Technical Design – Group) | Matthew and Jessica as Atlas and P-body from the video game Portal 2.

‘Atlas and P-body are testing robots from the video game Portal 2, our cosplay is based on a humanoid version of the robots.’ (Matthew and Jessica)

Best first time Cosplayer | Portrait photography by Adam Sebastian West

Best first time Cosplayer | The Pyro from the video game Team Fortress 2.

‘A mumbling, suited psychopath of indeterminate origin, the Pyro has a burning fondness for fire and all things fire-related in the video game Team Fortress 2. (Joel)

Honourable Mention | Portrait photography by Adam Sebastian West

Honourable Mention | Raniera as Commander Shepard from the video game Mass Effect Series.

‘Commander Shepard is the main character in the video game Mass Effect series. I am presenting myself in the default battle armour of Mass Effect 2 with a matching modified Nerf handgun.’ (Raniera)

So, who would your Cosplay character be?

From page to screen: Graphic novels, comics and comic strips


While often thought of as a modern Hollywood phenomenon, the adaptation of graphic novels, comics and comic strips to screen has roots buried further back in history.

Among the earliest adaptations to screen was the British comic strip ‘Ally Sloper’ (above) — a tale by Charles H. Ross about a lazy lad who expended his energies avoiding debt collectors in the alleyways of London — adapted to film of the same name in 1898 by George Albert Smith.

In France, Rodolphe Topffer’s lovelorn Monsieur Vieux Bois (above) was brought to life through the animated adaptation Histoire de M. Vieux Bois 1922.

In North America Windsor McCay adapted his own newspaper comic strips to animations of which Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Flying House 1921 (above) is featured in the ‘Drawn to Screen’ program.

From 6 January until 4 March 2012, the Gallery’s Australian Cinémathèque presents ‘Drawn To Screen: Graphic Novels, Comics and Serials‘ exploring the crossover between the drawn narrative and its adaptation to animation and live—action films. From classic comic serials to graphic novels, the program brings together over 60 films from around the world that chart the shift from the printed page to screen and the way comic genres and themes challenge personal and cultural expectations. From morally complex superheros through to satirical reflections of the mundane, these films capture our imagination, engage our empathy and prick our social consciousness.