Puppet Human

Last term I did a joint-lecture on maps and mapping with Rosie Gunn for her 2nd-year students in BA (Hons) Digital Films and Screen Arts and my 1st-year in BA (Hons) Media and Communications. The idea was that through some theoretical concepts (e.g., maps as texts, maps as political artefacts, psychogeography), the students can explore different meanings of maps and/or create different types of maps.

Yesterday, the DFSA students exhibited their works at the James Hockey Gallery with 10 pieces of interesting new media arts, featuring genetic music, an interactive brain, animated graffiti, a psychogeographic documentary, a video surveiling crikets, a sound installation subverting ‘laughs’, and the live performance ‘Puppet Human‘ by Rob Adams, who spent 24 hours in the gallery interacting with / being played by online audiences on twitch.tv, responding to their commands to move around a live-sized square board. When I saw Adams yesterday 7pm, he was shaving his hairs. He also cut his trousers.


When I saw Rob Adams today on midday, he was excited to see people as he hadn’t seen anyone for more than 3 hours, and was merely waiting for instructions given to him on screen. He talked about being lonely, bored, and his thought on ‘uncertainty’ – uncertainty only affects you when you think of it. If you are doing things, you seem to forget about uncertainty. He appreciated freedom even more after doing this project, something that was stripped of him over this 24-hour performance. Watching him on Twitch.tv also reminded me of Terri Senft‘s CamGirls. There are so many elements one can explore his project from the lens of ‘new media studies’: interaction, interactivity, playing vs. being played (who is playing whom? after all, Adams designed this game / show and we were all lured in to play him), power, liveness, temporality, embodiment, emotions.

In fact, not only the live performance from Adams, all the art works exhibited there are perfect examples for understanding ‘media convergence’ and Manovich’s ‘The Language of New Media’. There are common design patterns, shared forms and elements of which these art works are consisted. They are in line with the emergent convention of new media art (algorithmic arts, interactive arts, video installations).

NESTA has just shared their prediction for 2015, where they forecast 1) Digital art gets up close and personal 2) Crafts get a 21st century makeover 3) Programming a new generation of digital makers. All these three trends highlight the importance of understanding the role of new media and different “languages” and “grammars” of new media. The success of the exhibition ‘Innovation and Interference: Maps and Journeying’ has just confirmed that the courses we offer here at UCA provides great opportunities for achieving this because UCA is a specialist university focusing on creative arts. And that, is definitely our USP in this competitive higher education market.

Hats off to Rosie Gunn, her course team, the gallery curator Richard Hylton and his team of specialist technicians, and the exhibiting students upmost.


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