OFFF FESTIVAL 2006

HAPPENING

The sixth edition of the OFFF festival is about to open the doors. This year the small market “el Mercadillo” is set up outside next to the bar making the patio accessible to everybody and not only to the OFFF visitors.

Once again, the festival takes place at the CCCB, the Center of Modern Culture of Barcelona which shares a big backyard together with the MACBA, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.


The festival is divided into 6 different spaces: The mentioned “Mercadillo” located outside, the exhibition space (“Showplace”) in one of the buildings, the “Roots” (conference hall), the “Open Room” (a space showing the work of new talents), the “Loopita” (dedicated to experimental electronic music) and the “Cinexin” (a projection room) located at the main building.

The opening ceremony is supposed to begin at 12:00 am and the doors finally open 20 minutes before. Unfortunately, the organization is having some technical problems with the projectors in the main conference hall, but everything gets finally fixed with some delay.


The user as the Interface, Craig Swann. © Borja Delgado

The festival is opened by Craig Swann with a conference called “Interactive Imagination”. Craig shows his looplabs project, an easy-to-use audio mixer implemented for the PSP.

Craig also shows alternative ways of interaction based on visual responses to motion capture. He explains how the users themselves can be used as an interface, and how “close” we actually are to futuristic Hollywood productions such as “Minority Report” just by using a webcam within a Flash application.

Some of his other interface experiments are based on very rudimentary hand-made peripherals such as iLock or Etherwatch, where the interface is created by the users’ finger tracks. Craig concludes his speech showing a generative audio CD, a never-ending, unique piece. No matter how many times you play it, the sound will always be different and infinite. Craig also tells us about his philosophy of keeping it small and his belief in independent studios where people are able to create more personal work than in big agencies.


Visualization project by Santiago Ortiz

The next speaker is Santiago Ortiz, who talks about bio-digital art and the analogy of “the three codes”.

With his background in maths, music and literature, most of Santiago’s work moves between research and education and is primarily focused on artificial life and biological data visualization experiments.Santiago talks about a world where programming, genetical and linguistic codes coexist and are related to each other in different ways.With a simple example of virtual cells reproducing themselves by duplication, Santiago illustrates an example of the evolution of a species where, due to OO programming, the programming code is actually duplicated (and can be mutated) every time a cell reproduces by duplication, exactly as it happens with real microorganisms and their genetic codes. In a similar way, he shows a more complex system where each cell contains some linguistic code: a sentence which is grammatically correct. In this case, any cell can grow by acquiring another cell which contains a sentence that can be part of the sentence of the first cell. While the acquired cells obviously die, the other cells grow and tend to contain more and more complex sentences (linguistic code) each time.

Santiago also shows a project based on the genome visualization; a project which was exhibited in a medical congress although it was actually developed as an artistic piece.We should also mention one of his educational projects, “From microcosms to Gaia”, an exploration of the history of the universe, which is divided into different interface and navigational experiments. As the complexity resides in the timeline Santiago explores the ability of showing very different time scales within the same interface.

One of the best conferences this year is an experiment by the organizers of the OFFF themselves. They arranged a joint conference called “How to do things with data” by Jonathan Harris and Marcos Weskamp.


wefeelfine.org presented by Jonathan Harris

Jonathan shows an amazing application called “We feel fine“. We feel fine is a community project where the user can leave a message attached to a feeling. This message can also contain a picture. The application visualizes all users as colored dynamic particles smoothly moving on the screen. Each particle represents the nature of the feeling as visualized by its properties (color, size and opacity). The visitor can filter the data and visualize the filtered results such as all feelings by men in theirs 30s on a cloudy day. One of the most impressive features of this application is the way how Jonathan reuses the particles to visualize live different process stages, thereby creating a very nice flow through the application.

We feel fine also has an open API based on XML. This API lets other developers visualize data in other applications such as a Flash by accessing and parsing the XML data. Marcos Weskamp shows a small example of that including a live visualization of filtered We feel fine data within a Flash motion piece.

Marcos also presents a very popular project called “Newsmap“, which visualizes a landscape of Google News information by using tree-map algorithms distributed by regions. Marcos demonstrates how information can be more optimized in terms of visualization.

Jonathan also shows a very popular news visualization application called “10 by 10“. “10 by 10” lets the visitor have a very quick view on what happened in the world in the last hours by showing 100 pictures and their related headlines within a 10×10 grid. The grid is built from data by Reuters World News, BBC World Edition and the New York Times International News. It is refreshed hourly and stored into an archive, with past views being accessible at any time. Jonathan shows how important moments can be especially appreciated by repeating the same pictures within the full grid.

Another very interesting project from Jonathan Harris is “wordcount“, which shows a list of the most popular English words. The interface allows the user to search words and locate their rank. Jonathan also added an extra application called “querycount”, which lists the same words by counting the most popular users’ wordcount queries. The first word we can find in querycount is “sex”, which is ranked #1236 in the wordcount.


Joshua Davis during his speech. © Borja Delgado

Bradley Grosh wasn’t able to come to the festival. Unfortunately his father had a car accident, and we all hope he is fine by now. Joshua Davis, who was not supposed to speak this year, took the stage instead to show his last project “BMW Z4 by Joshua Davis“. Once again Joshua uses his generative system to create unique backgrounds – in this case he used different shapes of a car.

WeWorkForThem have some technical problems with their laptop and so have to improvise by delivering a short statement about their philosophy. We all want to see their latest work, but unfortunately aren’t able to.

The first day of the festival is closed by Nando Costa. Nando gives a review on his work from his first motion pieces until his last advertising work. A very nice speech surrounded by very nice work and filled with Sao Paolo’s backgrounds.

The day has gone by without the visitors being able to visit the Showplace (exhibition) due to the visitors’ massive use of the open WLAN provided by the organization. OFFF decides to install cable internet access for the Showplace.

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