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post getting ready to leave

July 18th, 2008

Filed under: CHAMELEON PROJECT — Tina @ 8:44 pm

We are now packing up the flat/ studio and equipment in London to head back to Port Douglas in Australia. The initial idea was to stop off and present at ISEA 2008 in Singapore, but it all got too expensive.

It has been a huge huge year, and the most wonderful time for research and life experience. The Chameleon project has catalysed into an exciting project, the collaborative partners seem to have been consolidated, and I have extended the project by bringing in new partners. Its been an incredible rewarding experience, one with implications that are hard to put into words. I find you need some time to realise the extent of how these residencies affect your life, your work, your future projects.

Late last year I was awarded the Wellcome Trust Large Art Award to build Chameleon. This was great news, as it meant, while undertaking the Synapse Residency, I could not only continue R and D, but move into production – hiring programmers, buying equipment. The timing was fantastic.

The Synapse Residency began mid January. I flew to london with my partner, Matthew Wild, and my son Pablo Wild from Cairns in North Australia.  He was less three months old when we left. In order to do the residency, Matthew took a few months out from working in order to help with Pablo. Matthew is a chef. I have traveled with my work for many years, but as a new mother, I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work, how Pablo would adjust to the travel, and how I would manage to be able to continue to work. I know I was going to enjoy Matt cooking for me though. I hoped Matt wouldn’t get bored having to take so much time off in order for me to work.

In London, I continued my role as Honorary Artist in Resident at the Wellcome Institute of Neuroimaging at UCL London, specifically working with social neuroscientist Chris Frith who is developing emotional algorithms to be used in the Chameleon Project. I also traveled to Brighton to begin my role as Artist in Resident at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, in particular working with long term collaborator, emotion neuroscientist Hugo Critchley. The flat in London was based only a couple of minutes walk from the institute of Neurology in London. We launched the project at the Dana Centre at the Science Museum, and I negotiated for the Science Museum to become a venue where all the collaborators can come together and discuss the developments of the project.

In February I travelled to Helsinki to present current work to Nokia, and try to establish Nokia as a partner in a future project that I am developing with Andrew Brown and Christian Jones in Australia. The project analyses prosody over mobile phone networks to drive new channels of communication. We are hoping to begin it in late 2009.

I  traveled to Dublin and Barcelona to meet with gallery spaces.

In February, I traveled to New York City to meet with a few galleries, and then up to Cambridge in the USA to work with the MIT Medialab to develop the mind reading technology used in the “Chameleon” project. I then flew to the Banff New Media Institute for a month to develop initial imagery for the project. I spent about eight days in the studio working with 3 HD video cameras. I enticed the other visiting artists to take part in the project. We ended up with some great footage, great performances. It took a while to understand how to direct everyone to elicit the best performances. Pablo managed the freezing temperatures, and his stroller getting stuck in the snow. He continued to sleep well and we also dragged him into the studio. I negotiated Banff to become a supporter of the project, and we are planning for a final residency in 2009.

We then went back to Cambridge in the USA to discuss development, and tour the media lab as it was sponsor week. We talked about how to exhibit the project for next years sponsor week. I met a lot of researchers.

We moved back to London to continue working with Frith and Critchley. I spent much time with Chris, and the programmer I was working with at the time, Evan Raskob, to develop the emotional algorithms of the work. These algorithms became a template for how people socialise together. I met with Hugo to mostly discuss recent experiments and research. I designed a front cover for Neuron magazine, and Hugo had written up an experiment that I had been involved with the year before. I had created a few sets of visceral video databases, which had been used to map disgust.

I flew to berlin to visit the Berlin Biennial, and back to Finland to further present to the Nokia Research Labs to negotiate support for my next project. This is now being finalised.

I organised a dinner at my place for all of the researchers on the “Chameleon Project” – Rosalind Picard, Helen Sloan, Chris Frith and Hugo Critchley. It was great for them all to finally meet each other. We discussed current versions of the project. We organised an exhibition of the work at the ICA in London while all the researchers were in town.

I extended the research group to include Nadia Berthouse, a researcher exploring emotions and human computer interaction. The project became part of her MsC program. I wanted the emotional algorithms that Chris Frith hypothesized evaluated. I extended the time in London to do this. We are currently carrying out the experiments at the Computer Science Department at UCL. I also met with Caravansai Studio – an acting group, to explore if we should use actors to great the content.

We have built six stages of the Chameleon Project since the residency started, which has lead to an established project where we can start seeing some great results. Its been an incredibly cross disciplinary project. Getting the timings right has been essential, and as much as I am creating new work, and building creative content, I am driving the research group, making sure that everyone is understanding each other, making everyone is aware what is going on, making sure that the timings for everyone work. The mind reading tech, the emotional algorithms, the video engine, the  visual content, the evaluation, and the space to exhibit them in. Its been a lot of work. But I have learnt a lot.

I was awarded Arts Council England funding from July to October.

While working on Chameleon, I became inspired to further conceptualize another project which could begin in late 2009 which looks at chat engines and texting. I took the opportunity of being in London to consolidate another research group of Jonathon Ginzburg (computer linguist – kings college), Pat Healey (computer Scientist – Queen Mary) Chris Frith, Nadia, Hugo and Helen Sloan. The project is called DIVULGE, a range of experimental mobile and internet based tools for the investigation of human interaction.The work will look to neuroscientific paradigms to experimentally manipulate mediated communication in real time. We haven’t found funding for it yet, but will relook at it in October. Everyone seems quite excited about its potential. It would take a few years to develop. But one of the hardest stages are getting the right people together. That takes years, and I first began the meetings for this in 2005. First started thinking about the idea at the IAMAS residency in Japan in 2004. I am glad that this project may be heading somewhere finally. 

I flew to Vienna in early July to present the chameleon project to Roy Ascott’s consciousness reframed conference. The paper is getting published. I met with a lot of researchers. I then flew to dublin to further meet with gallery spaces. I am interested in the Science Gallery – a new space opened at Trinity. They seem to back the project.

So now back in London, and packing boxes, and getting the family ready to leave. Pablo is a joy, and now nine months old. Babbling incessantly. But there is a lot of ma ma ma in there and da da da.  He has been a dream, and all the exposure to all these different parts of the world has created a really content personality. He smiles a lot, rarely cries and loves people. I thinks its been great for him. He is now on his 35th flight, and over the last 6 months we have visited about 20 countries. Matt, my partner, took the opportunity of being in London to do ‘chef in residences’ at some of London’s best restaurants, touring all the michelin starred venues, getting insight to how the kitchens run, etc.

Last week, to top it off, the Inter Arts board awarded my a self initiated residency award which this ANAT synapse residency was a template for.

On Tuesday, when we step on the flight back to Australia, I will take a deep breath, and hopefully a long sleep (if pablo sleeps). Its been a really busy and exciting time. The ANAT Synapse experience is one that take years before you can verbalise the extent of how these opportunities become part of who you are. Having the backing of ANAT has paved the way for a lot of other funding opportunities, institutions and residency opportunities, to come on board and support the work.

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