The Creativity of Things

the exhibition of the 2016 CreateWorld conference

About CreateWorld

CreateWorld is a project of the AUC. Our goal is to promote the sharing of information and experiences, and foster educational development activities, through a collaborative community of engaged members. CreateWorld is our 2 day performance, presentation, and professional development event, specifically for academic and technical staff who work in the digital arts disciplines.

The CreateWorld conference is hosted by the Queensland College of Art at Griffith University. For more information on the conference visit

Curator's Statement

The Creativity of Things was the conference exhibition for CreateWorld 2016, which was organised around the theme of the same name. Taking our cue from the Internet of Things, our goal was to highlight the many, various ways that contemporary creative practitioners—artists, designers, filmmakers—are bringing digital tools into physical experience.

For this exhibition I took as my guiding idea that contemporary "interactive" work is not about any specific technology, or even whether a work is immediately interactive or not; rather it's concerned with extended presence, the way in which humans move their awareness into the physical world in ways that allow the physical world to move into us. Contemporary digital tools make this possible in a way that has never been seen before, and for a much wider segment of human agents, but the work in this area pulls on a long history of creative toolmaking and use.

In collecting this work I had in mind several different strategies inherent in the tools created by artists and designers to interact with the physical and social world. These strategies are by no means mutually exclusive, or even comprehensive, but they can make some convenient categories to start thinking about how these projects are acting in their contexts.

The expressiveness of systems is perhaps the most famous use of digital tools and concepts in an artistic context. In The Creativity of Things, Phoebe MacDonald's delicate cubes, digitally created and manufactured, are the purest expression of this tack, echoing Sol LeWitt's systematic production. The system in Ross Manning's Bricks and Blocks is that of optical technology; it is an exercise in electricity watching itself, in an assembly of fluorescent tubes, mirror, camera, and television. Roland Graf's tiny solar cars are modules in a generative performance that users create for themselves, using the cars' sole desire to escape the sunlight that makes them move. To all of these explorations of system, Robert Andrew's machine-generated artwork adds history as material; historical documents from his family history are turned into wave patterns, drawn by rocks along the wall.

An extended sensorium expands the physical capacities of the individual human into the realms of the unseen and the intangible. This is what the telescope and the microscope do; this is what recorded sound does. Anastasia Tyurina's photo series Waterworks is the most direct expression of the impulse to see the unseen, using a electromicroscopy to photograph water droplets from Brisbane's waterways. Svetlana Trefilova took the additional step of injecting coloured water into plants; her videos track the movement of water through the plants as a kind of abstract painting. In contrast, Troy Baverstock's design object BD6touch re-imagines a very familiar non-tangible experience, listening to music, as a compelling physical experience.

Distributed presence extends not just the senses, but subjective being itself. Digital tools allow the artist to do this both literally and imaginatively, in active metaphor. Jenna Baker's VR interface recreates a childhood home, entirely from memory—a "realistic" reproduction of a place that no longer exists, and perhaps never quite did. Louise Harvey's virtual/physical performance Brutal Chassis extends artifice and identity into new realms. Jane Prophet uses digital scans of the inside and outside of her head to meditate on the ephemerality of life, in line with a long tradition of mementos mori. Paul Bardini's assemblage allows users to feel the current temperature anywhere in the world, a direct phenomenological experience removed from the data forms we are used to navigating.

Finally, several of these projects use physical experience to re-materialize the impulses behind social media, personal connection through objects. Sophia Breuckner's Empathy Amulet connects remote users through the sensation of body temperature—echoing Bardini's project, but the connection is between human bodies. Chris Cassidy's Golden Belt project is a prototype in local history and participation, suggesting a new way to "archive" story-laden objects without removing them from life. And Matt Kenyon's Tardigotchi lets the lucky user interact with a "virtual" pet—a tiny physical being, too small to be apparent to the viewer but with technology-assisted empathetic imagination.

Several of these projects were represented in the exhibition as video documentation—a fitting use of digital technology to extend presence. It was a pleasure for me as curator to be able to bring together work from around the world that is in dialogue with each other, and with the visitors to the CreateWorld conference. In all, these works and their overlapping concerns and objectives built a picture of a vibrant and important area of work, in which the real investigation has only just begun.

Seth Ellis

Queensland College of Art

Corrupting the Linear

Robert Andrew

Corrupting the Linear is a large two wall installation that explores the creative potential for the interaction of simple everyday elements, new technological platforms and the physical space around us. It is a performative, constantly altering, kinetic, computer programmed, machine-based work that converts text to pattern. The installation takes the form of mechanically driven undulating strings and suspended natural objects (Pearl shell, wood and stone). Text is fed into the machine and re-imagined from the physical tracing of text into seemingly random/natural patterns. The concept of the artwork begins from observances of linear and binary motion. I notice how the linearity of the mechanical components have the potential to be corrupted and changed through interactions with language and physical elements and speak about the corruption of denied and forgotten histories by the dominant technologies, perspectives and language of colonial Australian culture.

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Immersed in Memory

Jenna Baker

Recent Virtual Reality (VR) technologies has been the rst in which the sense of physical spatial immersion in virtual world has been effective enough to establish at least a partial suspension of disbelief in the user. For artists who wish to explore the medium, VR can provide a new platform, a space where we can position our audience within our work. My project explores the potential of VR as a new type of memory archive. The studio outcomes have resulted in the construction of a space that functions as a self-portrait of my childhood, demonstrating one prospective way VR can be used to (re)construct histories. The work also serves to explore the potential of VR as a medium to assist personal memory, and memory retrieval. Research into autobiographical and episodic memory systems has informed my studio process. The nal result is an immersive construction of my childhood home and associated memories, which can be explored and interacted with by a participant through a HTC Vive VR headset and controllers. The creation of the home that was lived in by myself as a child has been built solely from memory with no assistance from family, photos or video in the process.

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Paul Bardini

Temptouch is an artefact that makes us question our interaction with the vast amounts of open data, and how, we can respond meaningfully to this information and what alternative ways can we interact sensorially. Temptouch allows the audience to feel the current temperature of another geographical location. An audience member inputs a location, and is prompted to place a hand on top of the device; the user can now know the temperature - not by sight but by touch. This human-to-machine interface occurs through a screen, whereas the response is conflicted, and not within a typical digital manner. Temptouch does not supply the user feedback via a graphical display but through a physical connection; a temperature change on a touch plate. This artefact is designed to prompt the viewer to consider the movement of data and our interaction with the machine. Temptouch breaks away from the typical discourse of our modern digitally visual world. It draws attention to how open data is constantly transmitted throughout the internet, and the need to reimagine how this information is translated to humans.

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Troy Baverstock

BD6touch is a minimalist wooden music player that invites a tactile user experience through a series of interactive wooden blocks. After designing a simple music player for people experiencing dementia I was curious to extend the process of interface simplification further, tailoring this new design to my own music listening habits. Seeking to recapture some of the eternal tactile charm of vinyl records, each block when placed on the player reveals the music contained within, changing tracks is as simple as lifting a block and replacing it, akin to the action of a record needle. Up to twelve unique blocks can summon hundreds of user defined songs from local files, network files, internet radio stations or Spotify playlists. With the convenience of internet connected music streaming and an ability to play high definition audio files up to six times greater than CD audio, BD6touch can satisfy our modern music demands without the often accompanying complexity.

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Bricks and Blocks

Ross Manning

When you show a video through a data projector you have predeterminants that technology will produce your artwork out of. I like to start with the technology, start with the machine, and then try and get it to do the things I want it to do.

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Unfamiliar Configurations

Phoebe McDonald

Unfamiliar configurations: Corners of a cube is a series of small sculptures that explores the conventions of how we perceive and read space and form. Each sculpture appears to be a continuous line bending through space, and describes the volume of a cube in an unusual way. Rather than outlining each plane of a cube along its straight edges, the lines in these sculptures bend through the corner points of a cube at unusual angles. This complicates the way in which these forms are understood. Shadows cast by the works are also are integral to the pieces and - when shown in natural light - are transformed throughout the day. In certain lighting conditions it is difficult to differentiate between the sculptures and the shadows they cast, further complicating they way these works are read.

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Painting Under Microscope & Chromoplast

Svetlana Trefilova

As a part of doctoral research in Visual Arts I investigate Australian native plants at a microscopic level. I am exploring the dualities of the world around us, which is both visible and invisible. I am looking into microscopic world of Australian nature. My work is about internal and external systems, analysing systems and creating visual graphic equivalent of these systems. Maybe it is a fictional world, but it is another world.

I used the same optical microscope which I use to examine external plant structures to record the flow of watery paint under x100-200 magnification, building a graphic model of a plant living system, creating visual movements that happened inside of its cellular body. I used water, which is 90-95% of plant cells content, as a surface to paint on as an opposite to canvas or paper. Water movement in plant may be governed by diffusion, a directed movement between areas from higher concentration to lower, or by bulk flow, which is pressure driven. These two actions were the basic processes of painting on water surface in Petri dish under microscope. I created a painting as a model of movement, a model of life inside of the plant internal system. This painting does not exist in real life as a physical object. It has become a digital art video.

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Anastasia Tyurina

Not every image is art, and art is far more than just an image. The visual arts have become a powerful tool for alternative approaches to scientific outputs, but it is crucial that both science and art cultures are aware of their interdisciplinary capabilities and limitations.

It is appropriate to differentiate images captured by devices designed as resources for scientific investigation and 'visual elements' in scientific images. A great example of such a device is the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), which has expanded the boundaries of observation and representation of the micro world since it was introduced to scientific research in the mid-1960s. Images produced by the SEM are beyond light; captured by a focused beam of electrons, they are not photographs. The apparatus tries to recreate a reality that is not a visual phenomenon, which scientists then try to analyse through its visual representation: the photomicrograph.

The use of artistic manipulations in experiments with SEM fuses science and technology with art, and the SEM image proposes a new meaning for the concept data 'visualisation'.

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Empathy Amulet

Sophia Breuckner

Recent discoveries in the field of cognitive science force us reconsider many of our most fundamental beliefs about the self. In particular, I looked at how George Lakoff's theory of the embodied mind, which is the understanding that the majority of thought is unconscious and experienced through the body, can be used to design better interfaces. Lakoff explains that human beings rely on primary metaphors to understand abstract concepts. Primary metaphors arise from the conflation of sensorimotor and subjective experiences during early childhood because the corresponding neural networks become linked. Thus, primary metaphors can be used to both reinforce or undermine our subjective experiences. This suggests that designing for the embodied mind and leveraging primary metaphors such as "Affection is Warmth" have the potential to enhance our sense of connection with others and may be particularly therapeutic for the lonely. With the understanding that the aesthetic qualities of a technology greatly influence its effectiveness, the perspective of an artist, which involves expertly combining aesthetics and context to evoke meaning, is invaluable in the innovation of new technologies that interface with the self or that mediate relationships between people.

To explore these ideas, I designed and built two functional devices: the Empathy Box, a tabletop appliance inspired by Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick; and the Empathy Amulet, a wearable version of the aforementioned appliance. Both devices use shared physical warmth as a way to cultivate empathy and a novel sense of connection with anonymous others.

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Golden Belt

Chris Cassidy

The Golden Belt and Morning Glory neighborhoods of east Durham, NC, were built as housing for workers of the area's two large textile mills, the Golden Belt Manufacturing Company and the Durham Hosiery Mills No. One Mill. Both mill complexes have been recently developed as condominiums, retail spaces and artist studios. The predominantly African-American neighborhood is likely to see extensive changes under the pressures of redevelopment and gentrification.

One of the signs of this gentrification is the Carrack Art Gallery, an artist-run space newly moved from central Durham. But the Carrack is aware of these pitfalls, and is eager to find a way to become a part of the neighborhood, and serve the local community.

For this exhibition, only the second to be held in The Carrack's new location in the Golden Belt area, we invited neighborhood residents, or anyone with a connection to the area's history, to bring objects that have some story to tell about their life in the area or about how the neighborhood has changed over time. We use a portable 3D scanner to create a virtual museum display of visitors' objects, so we won't be keeping any physical materials, just collecting their digital image and the stories associated with them.

This work is projected to continue at the Carrack as a permanent installation/community project. Our hope is to create a sort of people's history of this specific place. Any object, heirloom, or tool, anything that people have touched or used while creating a life here, is a key to the particular history of this time and place.

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Burly Chassis

Louise Harvey

A 3D-animated singing diva (Ms Burly Chassis) performs the 1964 Zombies song She's not There at the QLD Conservatorium of Music to a live audience and with live musical accompaniment. In real time, the framing of the animation (which the audience can see on a screen situated above the stage) is controlled by a camera operator clutching a high tech device known as a virtual camera. As the operator walks around the stage, the camera's position is tracked by motion capture cameras dotted around the perimeter of the stage, feeding positional data to a designated camera in the 3D animation software (Unreal Engine). This means that the on-stage screen that displays the animation to the audience is the view from the virtual camera, which is also the view into the 3D world where the diva exists.

But the 3D diva's domination of the performance space is short-lived, when a 'real' diva steps on stage, and, after a brief remote-control duel, removes Ms Chassis from the screen and completes the song herself.

This interplay between real and virtual prompts the viewer to consider the relationships that arise in this unique space. Does it trigger a connection between human and non-human entities that would not otherwise occur? If 'She's not There', then where is she?

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Matt Kenyon

Tardigotchi is an artwork featuring two pets: a living organism and an alife avatar. These two disparate beings find themselves the unlikely denizens of a portable computing enclosure. In one half of the brass sphere is the alife avatar depicted on an LED screen, and in the other half is a tardigrade which lives within a prepared slide.

A tardigrade is a common microorganism measuring half a millimeter in length. The alife avatar is a caricature of this tardigrade. Its behavior is partially autonomous, but it also reflects a number of the tardigrade's expressions that are derived from daily activities like eating.

This portable sphere playfully references the famous Tamagotchi toy from the 1990's. What is interesting about this toy is how it encourages pet-owner behavior through a device that is ostensibly more like a cell phone than a Chartreux. Does simple interaction engender emotional attachment? Can feelings of affection blossom from the ritual of assisting the persistence of a pattern? Does biological life make a difference?

A Tardigotchi owner tends to the real and a virtual creatures simultaneously. By pushing a button, the virtual pet is fed, which in turn will feed the tardigrade. Tardigotchi has a social web presence: Sending an email to the virtual character triggers a heating lamp that relays a momentary signal of warmth to the tardigrade. At the same time, the pixelated tardigrade is prompted to recline and soak up animated sun rays.

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Neuro Memento Mori

Jane Prophet

This ongoing series of works (2014-) emerge from a collaboration between Jane Prophet and neuroscientists Zoran Josipovic (NYU), Andreas Roepstorrf and Joshua Skewes (Aarhus University).

Neuro Memento Mori is inspired by an object in the Wellcome Trust Permanent Collection, "Wax model of a Female head depicting life and death" (Unknown 1701-1800). It shows a woman's bisected head, the left half apparently a detailed portrait of a living woman, open—eyed, with painted lips and blond hair arranged in ringlets. Her left hand frames her face while the right half of her head is shown in post-mortem decay. Resting on her skeletonised right hand, her skull crawls with insects, maggots and worms. A snake emerges from her empty eye socket. This compelling object prompted me to question whether, as we look at memento mori artworks, we do 'remember, we must die'.

In collaboration with Josipovic and Roepstorrf, I looked at representations of memento mori while in a MRI scanner that records my brain function. Neuroimages were processed to produce 3D data of my brain, to make 3D printed sculptural objects. The form of the life-sized portrait sculpture refers to the Wellcome Trust object, the artist's head is dissected, revealing the skull and brain. Video and computer animations are then projection-mapped onto the sculpture to create a contemporary memento mori.

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Rolling Shadows

Roland Graf

Rolling Shadows is a solar-powered project that showed at, around, and after the CreateWorld project. The cars remain in Brisbane, and will be out and about from time to time.

Hundreds of miniaturized solar toy cars fill the shadows of pedestrians who are standing still. When the pedestrians walk away, the sun hits the solar cells on the cars which causes them to move. The carefully arranged pixelated silhouettes disappear leaving chaos and toy car accidents behind.

Rolling Shadows shrinks the fetish "automobile" down to the scale of an interactive sidewalk spectacle. It is an electronic flea circus of sorts—that uses tiny solar toy cars to play with our shadows and the image of our inventions.

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