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post Reflection on MIT and BMNI residencies.

April 3rd, 2008

Filed under: CHAMELEON PROJECT — Tina @ 1:39 am

We are back in London, here to restart the Synapse Residency at the Wellcome Department of Neurology to work with social neuroscientist Chris Frith and also to work with emotion neuroscientist Hugo Critchley at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Together, we are working on a video installation project that explores emotional contagion. London is a touch greener than when we left. A touch warmer.

I have been away from London for over six weeks. I am travelling with my partner, Matthew and my young son, Pablo. When we left London, we flew to NYC for a week, meeting with MOMA and Eyebeam and a few other friends. We then trained it to Boston to work with the affective computing group at MIT Medialab. We then headed to Banff New Media Institute (BMNI) for a month for the Liminal Screen Residency where I spent a lot of time in the studio shooting new footage for the project. We then headed back to MIT, and now we are back in London.

It was a great time away. The project has grown incredibly. It makes a lot more sense to me than it did six weeks ago – just how the technology will actually work, how to build the project. I can see how the collaboration is beginning to work (and not work). The first visual directions are being explored, and I like where its at right now. Its already grown in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. When in the studio at Banff, I shot using 3 cameras, which I wasn’t expecting to do, but it was an important choice, both to create engagement and dynamic with the interaction. Also, while directing the participants to act out the emotions in front of the camera, some were more comfortable talking about their emotions. I asked them to talk in a way that they were addressing the camera as ‘the other’ that they had an emotional issue with. This was great, as I find the narratives and the intertwined stories quite compelling. Also, it automatically implicates the audience into the emotional drama. This is important, as it brings engagement – essential for people to WANT to be bothered to interact with the work. Over the month at BMNI we worked through a few interactive prototypes both using Max MSP and Processing, and slowly its revealing itself to be quite engaging. There is a lot more work, but its a great beginning. The time spent working in Banff was fantastic, and I walked away with better footage than i imagined.

I am trying to organise to come back to Banff for another residency to work through the visual side of the project again. This time, I would like to take a few of the collaborators as well so we can spend some intensive time together working on ideas. The beauty of Banff itself is a great drawcard to getting them there. During this residency – at times it felt a bit isolating, working through these ideas with out being able to discuss them through with the other collaborators. Also, it would be great to be able to work through the interactive elements more intensely and also have space to test them while everyone is there to make sure we are all on the same page.

The Liminal Screen residency was my six or seventh visit to Banff. I always walk away from the Banff residencies thinking what a great place it is too produce work. To be there with the other artists, embedded into a themed residency was really beneficial. The quality of the artists was high, and a lot were searching for more critical discussions. It is important to go back. Banff are positive about it and trying to organise timings at the moment.

My visits to the MIT media lab was too quick to really understand what is going on, to have any presence, to have the time to meet with all the people I would have liked to. My role at the MIT Media Lab with the Affective Computing Group is ‘visiting artist’, which is a great opportunity – both to collaborate on projects, and to get a sense how such an institution works. In the future, I will go back for atleast a month to six weeks, maybe in the fall. It would be great to be there for sponsor week again, but this time to present the project. In the future, I will try and stay away from such short visits. Originally I thought the short trips could work, but realistically, you need time to work out how the place works and what your role is. Also, Ros Picard, who runs the Affective Computing Group is an amazing woman, with a great critical mind. I would like more time with her to discuss research and writing. I would learn a lot.

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