Future PangsNormally we have a talk or a tutorial, let by a speaker or teacher. Some members suggested that we should turn this upside down and have a less passive meet up - were the main thing we're doing is creating art - not listening or following someone else.
Hackathons are common in some communities - where people get together to work on something, individually or in groups. They're not so formal, but they're very productive and enjoyable.
I had some trepidation about this as I didn't have that much experience organising hackathons. The idea sounds lovely and idyllic - but I imagined all sorts of things going wrong - people being stuck with software installs, being uninspired to create any art, not getting on with their team or partners, ...
Especially for creative events or processes, getting the constraints right is important. The most powerful art is a result of constraints, often self imposed. Constraints like colour palette, media, technique or narrative.
For this hackathon, we had the following constraints:
- Our art must be created at openprocessing.org, which uses the web version of processing called p5js. We did a beginner's tutorial previously, with tutorial slides and video on the meetup blog. This constraint ensures there is enough freedom, but also enough in common across the hackathon. Openprocessing also makes it trivially easy to share our work.
- We must allow our code and work to be publicly viewable and freely copyable and reusable (CC-SA).
- We have 60 minutes to create the art from scratch.
- The work must be inspired by the theme 'Future Pangs', interpreted this as we wish.
I was asked where the theme Future Pangs came from. It was actually a misremembered phrase. When I was young, I used to read the 2000AD comic, and a common phrase was Future Shocks. I misremembered it as Future Pangs. That worked out even better as there isn't a direct semantic connection between the two words, which encourages us to more freely interpret the theme.
The Session ItselfThere was a mix of coding expertise, and a mix of artists and technologists - but you wouldn't have thought given how everyone dived straight into working.
I was really pleased that a few of the more regular experts were happy to help others. This creates a nice supportive vibe.
Myself, I was most pleased that artists and art-students had come along to try using technology to create art.
Sharing & LearningParticipants were encouraged to show their work at the end, and talk through their interpretation of the theme, and how they created their work.
Sharing our challenges and difficulties is also a great way to learn together, as well as help each other as a group. One of the teams used noise, rather than purely random numbers as part of their work. As a group, we discussed the usefulness of Perlin noise over random numbers, something we also touched on when we covered ray-tracing previously.
Show n TellThe following is a selection of some of the art created in the meet up, and presented at the end with a short talk about the artist's interpretation of Future Shocks and how they want about creating their work.
These works have an element of animation or evolution, or even interactivity, so click the images to open the work in a new tab.
Tom has created a work that makes key use of recursive forms which grow and continue to emerge. It's a work that captures you and keeps you engaged. For there is a strong sense of mechanical regularity, but also birth and rebirth of these future forms.
Jun has created an interactive piece. Clicking on the canvas moves a circle which grows ever larger as it consumes the smaller living circles. It suggests the future will be dominated by an emergent aggressive entity!
Peter had partnered with a newcomer to use mathematical functions to model the fluctuating behaviour of bees. For me this strongly suggests the diminishing fortunes of species that are essential to the fragile ecosystem today.
Simon was inspired by the work of another artist (example work). His work makes strong use of objects-within-objects, challenging our sense of reality and dream, the difference between the overseer and the observed, boundaries that are being made fuzzy as we live increasingly digital lives.
James used open data from quandl, to visualise our economic health through history up to today, and the used models to predict the future - all of which foretell a doomed future!
Matt created a a very dynamic work which makes very good use of movement plotting lines, the colour of which is taken progressively from a colour palette. It gives the impression of velocity, diversity but also of a cycle of renewal and supercession.
Neil has used simple elements to create a powerful work. By using a carefully chosen colour palette, and columns of shapes - rectangles and ellipses - the work grows and evolves, in a busy congested way, evoking busy overcrowded cities like Hong Kong, New York and London. Despite the business and congestion, the pace and colour gives the impression of optimism and a future happily occupied.
Raihan explained how we was inspired by science fiction films, futuristic and high-tech, and yet with scenes an equipment made of very old low-tech. Green cathode-ray tube displays, beeping panels and chunky keyboards! The Matrix, Blade Runner and Alien are just some classics that make rich use of this techno-dystopia.
Carl created a sublime piece evoking the gentle falling of rain onto a surface, where the drops ripple and spread. The colour scheme and pace of growth and fading, to me, suggest the growth and decline of diverse communities in a global ecosystem. Viewing this work for a few moments, shows a nice balance between large gentle pastel pieces, and the odd more starkly coloured circle, adding just the right amount of spice to the mix!
These works are so good that the idea of an annual exhibition makes a lot of sense!
Success and Lessons LearnedOverall the group seemed to like the atmosphere and the chance to use technology and code to create something just for fun. Projecting a nice video of nature, accompanied by gentle piano music seemed to help provide just enough opportunity for escape and inspiration from the corporate meeting room, without being overly intrusive.
I was really pleased that the more experienced members were helping others, and being asked for help too.
What really surprised me was the speed and ease with which the group dived into working, with almost no blocking issues. One artist, who doesn't have a huge experience with coding, was successfully creating interactive 3-dimensional scenes!
A discussion of what could be done better in future raised some good points:
- Repeating the gentle introduction to Processing and p5js would be really valued. So we'll try to schedule this for December or January.
- Some people want to work on their own, some with others. Some have lots of knowledge and experience, others less so. Some know what they want to do, others need inspiration. Next time, we should try to organise the groups so people can join the right team if they want to.
- The group felt 1 hour was too short. This was actually extended from the original 40 minutes! We'll try to have an extended session next time.
Thanks everyone for taking part, making it a fun success , and helping us learn how to do an ever better art hackathon next time!