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State of the Art Influence 01: Biosensor Interface – Interactive Media Art

Thoughts About Artwork and Audience

Media art using biometric data, specifically pulse data, has been used in recent works that allow the audience to experience their body data as art in real time. This blog entry will look at selected works outlined in a paper from the Graduate School of Advanced Imaging Science, Multimedia, and Film at Chung-Ang University, whose outline is as follows:

“From the psychological viewpoint, real time and expression are very important because they can help self-recognition and expansion of communication based on understanding of ones own emotion and body.” (Kim and Kim 2014, p.129)

The purpose of this blog entry, however, is to evaluate state of the art research in context of my own project, that also uses a biosensor interface. Kim and Kim describe the relationship between artwork and audience:

“A subject’s pulse data is expressed through an object in real time and he or she views it as an artwork as an audience. For this process, interactive art acts as a medium and, naturally, the audience form relationship with the artwork and learns the intent of the artist.” (Kim and Kim 2014, p.129)

This is an interesting point to consider; does the audience become closer to the artwork by becoming part of it? And to what extent does the artist influence the spectator, if at all? Rokeby has discussed the role of the spectator in relation to the role of the artist in a non-interactive art work:

“As the role of the spectator is questioned and transformed, so is the role of the artist… Cage’s intent in reducing the control he had over the final result can be inferred from his suggestion that “the highest purpose is to have no purpose at all” (Rokeby)

Rokeby discusses this question in relation to Cage’s chance compositions, where the outcome is generated by a list of rules and a toss of a coin. Here, the intent of the artist is to have minimum control over the outcome. Here it can be asked, does the audience have more freedom as the artist has less control? This can also be linked to McLuhan’s light bulb theory, where the example of a lit bulb illustrates the argument that “the medium is the message”. Rokeby also discusses Cage’s work in relation to interactive art:

“Unlike Cage’s work, interactive work involves a dialogue between the interactor and the system making up the artwork. The interactive system responds to the interactor, who in turn responds to that response. A feedback system is created in which the implications of an action are multiplied, much as we are reflected into infinity by the two facing mirrors in a barber shop” (Rokeby)

Intrestingly, Rokeby outlines a kind of loop between the machine responding to the person which in turn generates an action from that person and then another from the machine. From this perspective, the audience is an integral part of determining the outcome of and thus the effect of the art work. So, as much as it is important to consider the influence of the artist, it is important to consider the influence of the audience. Another point to consider is the importance of audience experience with an interactive work. Rokeby argues that audiences expect ‘proof’ that the work is actually interactive:

“Because explicit interactivity is still a relatively new feature in artworks, the audience often approaches the works with scepticism. The audience requires proof that the work is interactive” (Rokeby)

With my own project in mind, this is very important. A piece of art may well take data from a person’s body to create a visual effect, but how would the audience know that? Unless they of course had some kind of knowledge of the working patch itself. From this point of view, it is important to make sure the pulse sensor generates an obvious outcome that allows the audience to see a clear difference between before and after placing their finger on the sensor.

Biometric Works

Two biometric works mentioned by Kim and Kim that interest me are as follows:

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – “Pulse Room” (2006)

“Pulse Room is an interactive installation featuring one to three hundred clear incandescent light bulbs, 300 W each and hung from a cable at a height of three metres. The bulbs are uniformly distributed over the exhibition room, filling it completely. An interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects the heart rate of participants. When someone holds the interface, a computer detects his or her pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of his or her heart. The moment the interface is released all the lights turn off briefly and the flashing sequence advances by one position down the queue, to the next bulb in the grid. Each time someone touches the interface a heart pattern is recorded and this is sent to the first bulb in the grid, pushing ahead all the existing recordings. At any given time the installation shows the recordings from the most recent participants” (Antimodular Research 2006)

As my project will be motivated by phenomenology – thus the interdependence between mind and body – it will see this as an example of the body influencing the mind, and in turn the mind influencing the body, also as a kind of feedback loop. What I mean by this is that an outcome from the body, the flickering bulb, influences an outcome by the mind, and in turn generates another action by the body either to eventually let go of the sensor or to feel own pulse to check it etc. The purpose of my project, however, will be to highlight this mind-body interdependence but also to perceptually distort the audiences experience, so that they will be, representationally, displaced from their usual way of experiencing this interdependence.

George Zisiadis – “Pulse of the City” (2012)

“Figure 3 is George Zisiadis’s Pulse of the city, which was first exhibited in Urban Prototyping Festival in San Francisco in October 2012, and now in five areas of Boston streets as an interactive public art installation. It is made in a heart shape, and when the viewer holds the handle on the either side, it immediately detects and checks the heart rate in real time for one minute, which is then used as a beat to make music that will be played through the built-in speaker. In the confusing noise of the city, pedestrians listen to their biometric data and are entertained by it” (Kim and Kim 2014, p.131)

In context of my project, this will be reviewed with theory, specifically from Marc Leman, about embodiment and music cognition in mind. Leman considers the body as a mediator between mind and matter, and suggests that action is the foundation for music perception. Leman argues that embodied action by music is expressed through movement, and this is corporeal. Leman also argues that “mediation technology” allows the body, and mind, to become extended into a digital music realm. My practical project itself will allow the pulse biosensor to influence a pure data patch to change in correspondence with the audience’s individual heart beat, exemplifying the body’s influence over sounds that the mind is hearing.

Another example, connected with music, is the Heart Chamber Orchestra, who play music from a score generated by their pulse in real time. Their pulse also generates a visualisation.

Heart Chamber Orchestra – Pixelache (2006)

“The Heart Chamber Orchestra – HCO – is an audiovisual performance. The orchestra consists of 12 classical musicians and the artist duo TERMINALBEACH. Using their heartbeats, the musicians control a computer composition and visualization environment. The musical score is generated in real time by the heartbeats of the musicians. They read and play this score from a computer screen placed in front of them.
HCO forms a structure where music literally “comes from the heart” (HCO)

This is perhaps more literally relevant to Leman’s research, as a large part of his theory is modelled on the movement of musicians themselves and embodied action during performing. Of course, my project will not involve the literal performance of musical instruments, but it will involve the generation of sound from the medium of the body itself.

Antimodular Research (1992-2014). Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

HCO (2014) The Heart Chamber Orchestra. [Wordpress]. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

Kim, D. and Kim, H. (2014) Biosensor Interface: Interactive Media Art Using Biometric Data. International Journal of Bio-Science and Bio-Technology 6 (1) 129 – 136. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

Leman, M. (2008) Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

McLuhan, M. (1994) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. First Edition. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

MUTEK (2011) Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. [Vimeo]. Available from:[Accessed 2 July 2014]

Pure (2010) Heart Chamber Orchestra – Pixelate. [Vimeo]. Available from:[Accessed 2 July 2014]

Rokeby, D. (1996) Transforming Mirrors : Interaction in the context of Art. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

Zizaidis, G. (2013) Pulse of the City – Turning Heartbeats Into Music. [Vimeo]. Available from:[Accessed 2 July 2014]

Enterprise and Research Methods 07: Artist Inspiration (Donnarumma, Gross, and Von Bismarck)


The proposed project will be influenced by three major works.

1.’Hypo Chrysos: Action Art for Vexed Body and Biophysical Media’. 2012. Marco Donnarumma describes this work:

“During this twenty minutes action I pull two concrete blocks in a circle. My motion is oppressively constant. I have to force myself into accepting the pain until the action is ended. The increasing strain of my corporeal tissues produces continuous bioacoustic signals. The sound of the blood flow, muscle contraction bursts, and bone crackling are amplified, accumulated, distorted, and played back through 4 loudspeakers and 4 subwoofers using the biophysical instrument Xth Sense (Pd-based), developed by the author…

When the performer’s muscle vibration becomes tangible sound breaching into the outer world, it invades the audience members’ bodies through their ears, skin, and muscle sensory receptors. The sound makes their muscles resonate, establishing a nexus between player and audience. The listeners’ bodies, the player’s body, and the performance space resonate synchronously”

The way in which the proposed project will take inspiration from Donnarumma’s work will be as follows:

- It will take data through the medium of the skin of the body (the participant will be holding a biometric pulse sensor)
- It will produce a projected visual response to this data that will be surrounding the participant
- It will capture the sounds of the room, and the sounds/gestures of the participant within the room, via Pduino/PureData, and feed it back to them

It will differ in the following ways:

- The proposed project will not be a performance for an audience to watch; instead, it will be an experience in which an audience member will be within as a participant
- Its focus, unlike Donnarumma’s work, will not be on pain, but it will be on the body state as it is
- The theoretical framework will be about how the body can affect conscious experience, and how artwork can transform normally transparent perceptual awareness into something visible and listenable in the exhibition space

2. ‘Fractured View: Critical Design for Channeling Stress into Creativity’. 2013. Shad Gross describes his research:

“As a whole, I am interested in research-through-design, and how the process of designing artifacts and probes can not only be used to generate new information through testing, but can also be a source of understanding in and of itself. As such, what is presented here is a collection of not only research concepts, but also reflections on design concepts and how they created understanding.”

Particularly, the idea of research though testing in relation to understanding concepts is inspirational regarding methods. The artefacts that Gross produces are tested by audiences, who, for example, squeeze the artefacts and the amount of pressure exerted can be said to measure stress levels. This data, which is a form of testing, generates images (below), transforming the anxiety into art.

Proposed project similarities:

- Data from the audience member will be transferred onto a visual display, via the biometric pulse sensor
- The audience member will have an object to hold
- The audience member will be able to see the visual effect that their own data produces

Project differences:

- The image of the audience member will only display effects in correspondence with the pulse; after the audience member stops holding the pulse sensor, the image will return to the way it was
- The object will not be cracked or squeezable in aesthetic; it will be smooth and minimal
- There will be audio that is influenced by the audience member’s movement

3. ‘Top Shot Helmet’. 2007. Julius Von Bismarck created this design allowing the participant to see their walking from a birds eye view.

Project similarities:

- The audience member will be able to see from a point of view that is allowed through the means of technology
- The audience member will experience an acute sense of perceptual distortion

Project differences:

- The audience member will be able to see themselves in the projection
- They will be able to see where they’re going (their vision will not be limited)
- There will be two projections or views (front and back)

Practical Ideas:

Below is an example of a Pure Data patch that takes live sounds from the room and feeds it back with effects:

Here is an example of a Pduino patch that changes sound depending on proximity:

The biometric pulse sensor will allow the following functions:

“Simply clip the Pulse Sensor to your earlobe or finger tip and plug it into your 3 or 5 Volt Arduino and you’re ready to read heart rate! The 24″ cable on the Pulse Sensor is terminated with standard male headers so there’s no soldering required. Of course Arduino example code is available as well as a Processing sketch for visualizing heart rate data.”

“It essentially combines a simple optical heart rate sensor with amplification and noise cancellation circuitry making it fast and easy to get reliable pulse readings. Also, it sips power with just 4mA current draw at 5V so it’s great for mobile applications.”

Anon. Marco Donnarumma. DigitalArti: Digital Art and Innovation. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 8 May 2014]

Donnarumma, M. Hypo Chrysos: Action Art for Vexed Body and Biophysical Media. [Vimeo]. Available from: [Accessed 8 May 2014]

Donnarumma, M. Hypo Chrysos: Action Art for Vexed Body and Biophysical Media. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 8 May 2014]

Gross, S. 2013. Fractured View: Critical Design for Channeling Stress into Creativity. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 5 May 2014]

Von Bismarck, J. Top Shot Helmet. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 5 May 2014]

Volker racho. 2011. Top Shot Helmet. [Vimeo]. Available from: [Accessed 5 May 2014]

Enterprise and Research Methods 06: Research Proposal Thinking


Click the image then zoom in to navigate brainstorm.

The proposed project will be an interdisciplinary investigative representation of an aspect of the conscious mind’s potential. The mind’s relationship to the body will be depicted in a visual format. It will consider, to some extent, theories about the phenomenological unconscious, and the psychoanalytic pre-conscious in relation to embodiment, perceptual awareness, and the way these experiences can become visibly represented, and thus conscious, in a sense, in the exhibition space. It will also consider the concept of the artist as an “experience engineer”.

There will be two aspects to the artwork, the first being a pulse detection system to reference body response, and and a projected image of the audience member that will be transformed in correspondence with their detected pulse. Theories about experience becoming “sedimented” onto the body will be represented by the heartbeat’s relationship with audiences visual perception of themselves, referencing the concept that embodied unconscious memories will affect the way in which the conscious mind perceives its live experience: the heartbeat belongs to the body, but in context of the exhibition space, it is perceived visually by the mind.

Upon entering the space, the audience member will hold an object containing a pulse sensor. A hidden camera will be facing the audience member, who will see themselves projected as a mirror image on the wall facing the entrance. The pulse sensor will transform the image in adding effects that correlate with the pulse. At the same time as this, a hidden proximity sensor will be attached to the camera, and, upon detecting the audience member’s presence, it will influence sounds generated by pure data: the closer the audience member gets to the mirror image/proximity sensor, the louder/faster/higher/lower the sound will become. When the audience member turns around, the second projection will allow them to perceive themselves from behind.

On one level, the pulse influenced image of the audience member will allude to the phenomenological concept of consciousness as body intentionality, and also about experience becoming stored in a kind of body memory. On another level, the proximity influenced audio will allude to the way that the mind perceives its perceptual awareness of its body in its seemingly transparent relation to and experience of the space around it. As such, there are two elements to the project: a) the study of phenomenology, consciousness, and embodiment b) perceptual experience and the role of the artwork making its experience known to its audience.


Ultrasonic or Infrared – Used for audience presence detection to influence sound.
Biometric – Used to detect and read audience heartbeat and transform visual component.

Pure Data…

Starting Pduino
Reverb and Delay
Basic Amplitude Modulation

Seminar Discussion 04: Dourish (2001)

• HCI draws upon human skills and abilities, exploiting familiarity. Because embodiment is present at all times, it is not only necessary but both fundamental to and constitutive of interactive design, transferring social/perceptive phenomena to tangible computing. Embodied phenomena are encountered directly: occurring in real time and space, embodiment is that which happens when a subject’s focussing on another person or object causes them to become unaware of the connecting process (ie. a person writes with a pen; a person shakes hands with another person but is not consciously aware of this embodied object). At this point the person a) momentarily loses focus of his or her own body and b) participates in the embodiment of the connecting object in order to focus on the outcome.

• Familiarity is the central focus with these HCI technologies. For example, metaphors from our real world are used in programmes such as adobe photoshop (paintbrush and pen tool etc.). Dourish outlines a distinct difference between ‘using the real world as metaphor’ and as ‘medium’ in terms of design products or interactive technologies: using the real world as a metaphor involves representations of the real world in afore mentioned programmes, but using it as a medium could concern virtual realities wherein the participant interacts and acts with technology in the real word (the two worlds meet).

• To provide a theoretical backdrop, Dourish turns to phenomenology in a broad sense, that is, objects of consciousness and our mental experiences of those objects. Elaborating on Descartes’ subjective consciousness and its uncertainty about external reality, Dourish reads Husserl’s noema (objects of consciousness) and noesis (our experiences of those objects). In order to examine this, Dourish argues, it is important to recognize that the world assumes the existence of “perceived objects on the basis of perception”; it is the outcome of phenomenology to “explore how the natural attitude comes about in the first place”. Dourish references Husserl’s parallel between acts of perception and objects of perception; to remember something is not the same as to experience it.

In terms of my own research I could relate the concept of embodiment to memory and experience. And also on the practical side through live performance that is connected to forms of media.

Media Art 06: Nightingallery (Schofield et. al. 2011) and Animatronic Heads (Mellors 2011)


Some works that use interactivity to a sophisticated degree are inspirational in terms of looking at how my idea could possibly be developed in (some distant) future…

“The Nightingallery is a responsive animatronic bird enacting the interactor’s voice.
The Nightingallery by Guy Schofield, John Schearer and Robyn Taylor is an interactive musical installation featuring an animatronic bird. Members of the public are encouraged to approach and talk to the bird. The human voice is processed to drive a synthesiser that makes the bird talk back, both by mimicking the participant in bird song and by adding its own sounds from what it had previously heard.Participants could interact with the bird both through use of a standard microphone, which facilitated a standard conversational interaction scheme, or through a telephone, which enabled the bird to “ring” for attention and which allowed for a semi-private conversation with the bird.The bird was displayed at the Maker Faire UK exhibition in 2011.” (Digital Media @ Ncl 2012)

“British-born, amsterdam-based artist nathaniel mellors displays ‘hippy dialectics (ourhouse)’ in ‘illuminations,’
the international exhibition curated by bice curiger at the venice art biennale 2011. a double-headed animatronic sculpture,
the work delivers a short schizophrenic dialogue which is both humorous and disturbing.

The parenthetical ‘ourhouse’ in the title refers to a video work by mellors, a surrealist sitcom about an eccentric family featuring two central figures,
‘daddy’ and ‘the object.’ ‘hippy dialectics’ features two versions of the ‘daddy’ character – one blue, one yellow – connected by a ribbon of hair.
cast from the face of the actor in the film, the latex heads are brought to life by means of electronics and software.
they deliver a looped kind of pep talk, including a range of compliments (‘god, you’re looking buff. no seriously, you look great!’ and ‘cool, you are cool!’)
before reaching an absurdist conclusion of rebutting ‘yes’ with ‘no’. ” (Lee 2011)


Anon (2012) NightinGallery [online] UK: Newcastle University. Available from: [Accessed 8 January 2014]

Lee, J. (2011) nathaniel mellors at venice art biennale 2011 [online] Italy: DesignBoom. Availablefrom: (Accessed 8 January 2014]

Media Art 05: Incorporating Electric Lights

Vectorial Elevation

Vectorial Elevation (1999 – 2004)

“The 3D interface for participants to make their own light designs over the internet”.

Point Counterpoint (1986)

Point Counterpoint makes “use of electric light for illumination from within an object”. This is an effect which I wish to achieve in the prototype. It also rotates which is of a similar aim though the mechanisms are quite different.


Anon (2014) Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – Project “Vectorial Elevation” [online] Spain: Antimodular Research. Available from: [Accessed 5 January 2014]

Peterson, J. G. (1974) Sculpture Incorporating Electric Lights. Leonardo. 7 (1) 13 – 17.

Popper, F. (2007) From Technological to Virtual Art. London: The MIT Press.

Media Art 04: Language in Art, Nauman (1974) and Emin (1995)


“Nauman’s drawings and titles often include wordplay like the anagram DEATH HATED, HATED DEATH, 1974. He thus still shows a clear interest… in language itself.” (Lerm Hayes and Nauman 2003)

(Modern Matter 2013)

“I am an evil man, reads some of the text in Bruce Nauman’s Good Boy, Bad Boy. I am an evil woman/we are alive. I was a bad boy, I was a bad girl, You were a bad boy. It’s easy to feel, when staring at this cycle, that you’re going insane, but the easiest option is this: that Nauman, the artist-psychologist, is making the distinction between simple badness, and real, transcendent evil, where one of these qualities makes the subject a boy; the other, a man. The evil man is as an untouchable God, and the bad boy is impotent – a nervous, pissing wreck. The twitchy madness of mental uncertainty is all here: the feeling of flared-nostril, pounding-heart hyper-anxiety, beyond all awareness of hunger or sleep – insane invincibility and self-flagellation in equal measure.” (Snow 2013)

(Contemporary International Artists and Art Works 2011)

“Looking at issues of interdisciplinary collaboration made it apparent that language was a fundamental issue. It has been well argued that language has material effects. Language embodies our view of the world – how we understand others and ourselves, as well as social, natural, and cultural forces.” (Pearce et. al. 2003)


Beam, M. Diamond, S. and Pearce, C. (2003) BRIDGES I: Interdisciplinary Collaboration as Practice. Leonardo. 36 (2) 123 – 128.

Lerm Hayes, C and Nauman, B. (2003) Beckett. Nauman: The Necessity of Working in an Interdisciplinary Way. Circa. 104 (Summer) 47 – 50.

NAYAK, A. (2011) Marni Kotak the woman who gave birth in an art gallery!!a look at some of our favorite controversial artworks of the last century [online] Contemporary International Artists and Art Works. Available from: [Accessed 1

Snow, P. (2013) Bruce Nauman/ mindfuck at Hauser & Wirth [online] London: Modern Matter. Available from: [Accessed 1 January 2014]

Media Art 03: Violent Incident (Nauman 1986)

Violent Incident 1986 by Bruce Nauman born 1941

“Nauman has continued to work on the darker side of life. His videos show falling clowns, spinning heads screaming… and styled violence in a domestic setting.” (Lerm Hayes and Nauman 2003)

(Tate London 2002)

“In 1973 Nauman employed professional actors for the first time in his videotapes, previously having used his own body. He then stopped working with video for twelve years, returning to it in 1985 (see Good Boy, Bad Boy Tate T06853). He has said that the confrontational work he made around this time stemmed from his feelings of ‘anger and frustration … My work comes out of being frustrated about the human condition. And about how people refuse to understand other people. And about how people can be cruel to each other. It’s not that I think I can change that, but it’s just such a frustrating part of human history.’ (Quoted in Simon, p.148.) Nauman has stated:

Violent Incident begins with what is supposed to be a joke – but it’s a mean joke
… I started with a scenario, a sequence of events which was this: Two people come to a table that’s set for dinner with plates, cocktails, flowers. The man holds
the woman’s chair for her as she sits down. But as she sits down, he pulls the
chair out from under and she falls on the floor. He turns around to pick up the
chair, and as he bends over, she’s standing up, and she gooses him. He turns
around and yells at her – calls her names. She grabs the cocktail glass and throws
the drink in his face. He slaps her, she knees him in the groin and, as he’s
doubling over, he grabs a knife from the table. They struggle and both of them
end up on the floor.
(Quoted in Simon, p.148.)
In the installation, the short sequence described above is repeated in three other versions: the couple exchange roles; it is played by two men; it is played by two women. Each version has been edited with slow-motion, colour change, and the addition of footage filmed during the rehearsals in which the action was deconstructed by a man’s voice shouting out instructions. The four looped videotapes are played on twelve monitors stacked up in four columns of three. This results in a wall of staggered action, sound and motion which intrudes aggressively into the space around it: ‘The images are aggressive, the characters are physically aggressive, the language is abusive. The scripting, having the characters act out these roles and the repetition all build on that aggressive tension.’ (Nauman quoted in Simon, p.148.) The viewer is presented with a hypnotic repetition of pointlessly cruel and destructive violence which is both seductive and alienating.” (Manchester 2000)


Lerm Hayes, C and Nauman, B. (2003) Beckett. Nauman: The Necessity of Working in an Interdisciplinary Way. Circa. 104 (Summer) 47 – 50.

Manchester, E. (2000) ‘Violent Incident’: Bruce Nauman [online]. London: TATE. Available from: [Accessed 31 December 2013]

Media Art 02: Idea Inspiration for Creative Project: Windows and Mirrors, Dirk Bell (Plus Related Artists), and Active Reading.


Note: I am somewhat conscious that this blog entry may appear fragmented; but it is my attempt to make sense of ideas as they come to me.

Windows and Mirrors

The text Windows and Mirrors argues, “every digital artifact oscillates between being transparent and reflective.” By transparent, it is meant that the technological device appears invisible; “the best interface is always clear, simple, and natural.” (Bolter and Gromala 2002, p.6). By reflective, it is meant that the audience will actively read the text, or make meaning from the text. (Bolter and Gromala 2002).

As described, Windows and Mirrors plays on the metaphor of transparency (windows) and reflectiveness (mirrors), stating it is important to be aware of the presence of a technological mediator in order to read it:

“Many people today… choose to surround themselves with complex media forms… Even if they are watching a single media form (say MTV, on television), that form itself is fragmented and multiple… the various media forms constitute the experience for us. This is a contemporary alternative to transparency: it is the mirror rather than the window – the strategy of reflection, multiplicity, self-awareness in action.” (Bolter and Gromala 2002, p.66)

So, then, it can be suggested that postmodern stylistic techniques such as bricolage, montage, and fragmentation contribute to the multiplicity of new media objects. With this in mind, I have chosen to experiment with a variety of technological media, starting with the software Arduino.


In the seminar, it was our task to create a number of objectives through writing coding in Arduino and attaching via USB an LED device (and all its electronic counterparts). Following the given instruction, we achieved the first outcome, to create continuous text reading “Hello world!!!!”

Following this, we created a variety of scenarios that would change the frequency of the flashing LED, attaching components such as a turning switch that then alters the light frequency, and a button that switches the LED on and off.

LED Switch

LED Button

As a complete novice to Arduino – and indeed any form of programming – I found this activity insightful and productive. At the moment I feel I will pursue my creative practice project through Arduino, in the context of fine art, perhaps using continuous text and/or LED frequency to enhance a sculpture.

Dirk Bell

On reflection of the Arduino seminar activity, I was prompted to remember a Dirk Bell exhibition I visited some years back at The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art:

“The exhibition includes the major installation Revelation Night Sun 2010 comprised of 64 fluorescent tubes that produce a pulsating, inescapable light that dominates the larger of two exhibition spaces. The work generates signals, patterns of light or meditations that reveal a variety of symbols and in doing so radiates a dense network of meanings and associations.”
(BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, 2011)

Bell’s exhibition MADE IN GERMANY explores light in relation to the sun, the immense power of the universe and the sublime. Intrigued by Bell’s themes and approaches I researched other works through a Google search ‘Dirk Bell mixed media.’

The search brought many of Bell’s works that appealed to me aesthetically, which prompted me to consider producing a variety of mixed media sketches. Additionally, the Bell search allowed me to discover related German artists whose work I found intriguing. Some examples include works by Albert Oehlen.

Dirk Bell, Untitled, mixed media on paper, 2003, 75 x 50 cm

Albert Oehlen, FM 17, 2008

Dirk Bell, 2007

With all of this in mind, my current idea is to attempt to create a variety of mixed media works in order to produced an LED enhanced sculpture, inspired by that of Dirk Bell. I will next explore the idea of incorporating words into my design using Arduino.


Bolter, Jay David and Gromala, Diane. (2002) Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency. The MIT Press: London, England.

Montgomery (2007) Der Silberne Koffer [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 1 November 2013]

Stevens, Molly. (2011) Art On My Mind: On Oehlen [Online]. Available from:

[Accessed 1 November 2013]

The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (2011) MADE IN GERMANY 8 OCTOBER 2010 – 16 JANUARY 2011 [Online].
Available from: [Accessed 1 November 2013]

The Changing Room: Stirling’s Contemporary Art Space (2003) Dirk Bell, Kate Davis, Alan Michael
25 January – 15 March 2003 [Online].
Available from: [Accessed 1 Nov 2013]

Media Art 01: An observation on both the theories of Lev Manovich and the art of Heather Phillipson: (New) Media Art Consciousness


Cardiovascular Vernacular (as in ‘it’s time for my regular cardiovascular vernacular’), PROMO vid from Heather Phillipson on Vimeo.

Note: Slightly long post – excuse the tautology!

With a personal interest in consciousness and its visual representation, one theoretical aspect of media art that directly appeals to me is a clearly identified transgression of physical space through a subject’s interaction with virtual space. Firstly, it can be noted that in The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich outlines this principle of spatial distance as argued by Benjamin and Virilio:

“They equate nature with spatial distance between the observer and the observed, and they see technologies as destroying this distance.” (Manovich 2001, p. 171).

In other words, the boundaries between consciousness, the surrounding physical environment, and the desired object can be surpassed in the relationship between the body of the subject and a virtual screen (which displays a representation of said object) that the subject focuses on. The screen allows the subject to submerse him or herself in its virtual world at the same time as being present in “real time.” (Manovich 2001, p.55)

To elaborate, I will briefly summarise my understanding of the differences between that which has become recognized as ‘new’ and ‘old’ media. “Old media” is characterized by linear organization and the cataloging of information stored in formats such as film, articles, music, images etc. (Manovich 2001, p.19); “New media,” on the other hand, can be identified as a reorganization and digitization of a variety of old media. (Manovich 2001, p. 30). Manovich uses the metaphor of a disc jockey to explain this principle: ‘new media’ being a “selection and combination of pre-existing elements” of ‘old media’ that has become “digitized.” (Manovich 2001, p. 134).

This cataloguing of ‘old media’ allows for simultaneous access of media files through the medium of technology. To put it another way, operating systems like Windows or Mac OSx allows for the organization of a number of file types that can be accessed at the same time – one example being to produce an audio-visual compilation of existing footage that can be layered in programs such as After Effects or Adobe Premier Pro – as opposed to old media where only one document at a time (one film or photograph, for example) can be accessed readily at once.

With this in mind, I will discuss Heather Phillipson’s audio-visual walking tour Cardiovascular Vernacular (2013) as a self-conscious projection of subjectivity, spatial transgression, and a demonstration of techniques in new media. In this blog I will attempt to interpret Cardiovascular Vernacular as an illustration of some of the key features in new media art.

Phillipson addresses subjectivity during representing her own stream of consciousness as she walks through the streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, verbally articulating her thoughts as they evolve.  Commissioned by the BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Cardiovascular Vernacular is part of Phillipson’s solo exhibition currently on display. The tour is designed for the viewer to position him or herself at the entrance of the BALTIC, watching the video with headphones as they walk following Phillipson’s verbal directions and path. This:

a)    engages the subject through interactivity; and

b)   places the subject in a virtual representation of his or her physical location, so that he or she experiences their current geographical location both virtually and in ‘real time’ simultaneously.

Phillipson’s internal view is constantly intercepted by images of an iPhone that centrally obstruct the screen and well-known Apple noises that interrupt her speech; it becomes self-conscious of the way in which people experience real life through the mediator of technology on a daily basis.

As well as this, Phillipson comments on people taking photographs on their phones in the street, referring to this as ‘life documentation.’ (Phillipson, 2013). The camera frequently cuts to a shot of bananas in Phillipson’s bag, and acknowledges her love for Greggs the bakers as she articulates her stream of consciousness, involving the viewer with her own subjectivity. Cardiovascular Vernacular, then, can be viewed in context of theories about spatial presence and subjective virtual interactivity; or “telepresence,” which “allows the view to manipulate reality through representations.” (Manovich 2001, p. 164).

Thus, Phillipson’s tour (as new media art) combines representation with interactivity. Additionally, it is worth noting that “teleaction” is the ability to act upon, alter, or influence a piece of media art in real time through virtual ‘fake’ realities in a separate location, or “acting over distance in real time.” (Manovich 2001, p. 165). Teleaction is a transaction works both ways: virtual spaces can influence physical spaces in real time through representation as well as being influenced by the subject; in other words, the subject gains a sense of control. In the case of Phillipson’s audio-visual tour, the subject is given an acute sense of control in that he or she has the power to stop/start/pause/play the tour at his or her own will, in order to follow Phillipson’s instruction.

It seems valid to suggest that Cardiovascular Vernacular is reminiscent of virtual platforms such as Google Maps, which utilizes a particular kind of [mis]representation that allows one to interpret space in real time through a virtual screen representing that same physical space. Phillipson’s tour, however, speaks to the subject, adding the extra layer of music, sounds, and speech. The participant experiences their surroundings in a way that is controlled by Phillipson’s piece, a recorded track that commands the participant of where to go, when to move, how to position themselves, etc. all through visual signs we associate with electronic gadgets such as satellite navigation systems, presenting us with a codified system of what we understand as ‘left,’ ‘right,’ and ‘straight ahead,’ arrows.

An example (above) of the way in which technology is integrated into society: iPads fixed onto the walls of modern clothing stores (Urban Outfitters).

A self-conscious commentary on the role of technology in present day, its theorization, and the possibilities of technological interactivity, Phillipson’s tour not only explores subjectivity through stream of consciousness but demonstrates an integration of technology with contemporary society. A recent article has summarized the subjective and involving nature of Cardiovascular Vernacular:

“Phillipson’s voice is knowing and laconic, funny and disturbing, a stream of consciousness that keeps losing its purpose and finding it, remembering that she has a duty to her listeners, then getting sidetracked by the random musings and repetitive mental patterns that waylay us.” (Adrien Searle, 2013)

With Searle’s view in mind, I argue that CardioVascular Vernacular is both an honest account and active demonstration of new media in every day life. An endearing representation of her own stream of consciousness as it forms; Phillipson’s tour is an exemplification of the way in which technologies allow physical locations to “meet within a single electronic screen.” (Manovich 2001, Foreword)


Manovich, Lev. (2001) The Language of New Media. [e-Book] Leonardo Book Series. Available from:

Phillipson, Heather. (2013) Cardiovascular Vernacular. Audio-visual tour. Vimeo. 3 June 2013.

Phillipson, Heather. (2013) [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 20 October 2013]

Searle, Adrien. (2013) Weird journeys with Heather Phillipson on the Tyne’s wild side [Guardian] Available from:[Accessed 20 October 2013].