Arts & Culture Internet of Things Society

Reflections from Ross: Art, Culture and Tech

Paola Antonelli of MoMA speaking at Creative Tech Week in New York. We, too, think of her as a goddess. (photo Simone Ross)

Paola Antonelli of MoMA speaking at Creative Tech Week in New York. We, too, think of her as a goddess. (photo Simone Ross)

Last week was a big one for tech events in NYC.  DLD was in town for its annual NYC shindig, and the city was treated to its first NYC Creative Tech Week.

CTW was an incredible week of events, exhibits, installations, panels and workshops all over the city.  It was co-founded by Isabel Draves (who wrote this article for our recent magazine about BioArt) and Dawn Barber (who is also the co-founder of NY Tech Meetup). The sheer number of events was overwhelming.  We are all aware that tech is permeating pretty much everything.  Art is no exception, and the team at CTW brought together a smorgasbord of artists, designers, makers, creators, entrepreneurs, developers and new media folk to show off their work.

I caught MOMA’s Paola Antonelli’s presentation “Designer, Artist, Engineer, Goddess, Citizen:  The Shifting Balance in the Power of Creation,” which touched on many areas I explore for Techonomy – digitization technology, 3D printing, synbio, de-extinction, augmented self, robots. (Here’s an interview Techonomy did with Paola last year.)  Techonomist Andrew Hessel featured in Antonelli’s presentation: his “Autodesk Virus” (a digital rendering and two 3D-printed models of the Synthetic PhiX174 bacteriophage) is part of MOMAs design collection. I also learned that choreographer and cyborg activist Moon Ribas has a sensor in her elbow that allows her to feel earthquakes.  In “Waiting For Earthquakes” she dances whenever she feels an earthquake, with the dance varying according to the intensity of the quake.

A number of artists were showing their work at the Arts Hub in the Lower East Side.  They included Erin Ko, with   “DISCONNECTED 2015” an iPad painting and digital collage. Its augmented reality (AR) layer brings a whole new layer of energy and life to the painting.  Stephanie Rothenberg’s “Planthropy” is an interactive installation of hanging planters with grow lights…that respond to Twitter posts (using hashtags like #donate refugees) about why people make donations to various causes.

Staying on the art theme, one of my favourite sessions at DLD this year was a segment with Martin Roth of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Hermann Parzinger of the Prussian Heritage Foundation.  Their session on replica and preservation of cultural heritage in our digital age was especially timely for me as I recently co-wrote an article on “Technoheritage” that examines the complex legal and ethical questions raised by the increasing ease with which cultural content can be digitized.   Roth and Parzinger touched ever so briefly on “The Other Nefertiti,” a modern day art heist where artists surreptitiously scanned the Nefertiti bust in Berlin’s Neues Museum, then used the data to 3D print copies and released the data set to the public.  It was interesting that neither of these museum directors seemed to know how the artists obtained their scan (it was a modified Kinect, not an iPhone, as they asserted.) It turns out that the heist as presented by the artists was actually not quite what it seemed (further underscoring the ways in which the marriage of tech and heritage will continue to raise key questions about property, museums and public access). That aside, it was a hugely informative conversation at DLD about the value of replica, preservation and reconstruction, the changing role of museums and the changing nature of how (and why) we interact with cultural artifacts.

Ross is Techonomy’s co-founder and Program Director.

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