9PIN Artists' Statements
James Coupe, Hedley Roberts and Rob Saunders, 2003- present
9PIN++ Phase 1
Concept Development Autumn 2003 – August 2004
Proof of concept
9PIN++ was commissioned by SCAN for 9PIN as a proof of concept relating to work on the role of intelligent systems in art supported by an AHRB grant and South Bank University. The project was proposed as a networked art installation that attempts to monitor the activities of the organisations that constitute SCAN, in order to produce a kind of viral consciousness. Nine computers and associated mechatronic devices were scheduled to be installed in each location (supported by Redundant Technology Initiative)—one server to monitor data going in and out of the gallery, and eight others receiving real-time telematic data from the other SCAN galleries. Each 9PIN++ node was intended to construct an awareness of its place within the whole system through a process of comparison.
9PIN++ should build a system which takes each SCAN member as one of its nodes in a neural network, meaning that its consciousness will evolve from SCAN as an entity. Effectively then, 9PIN++ will become SCAN and respond with its own behaviours—an invisible yet persistent agent. The system itself uses algorithms derived from predicitive text engines (such as in mobile phone text messaging interfaces) and attempts to perfect its ability to predict what will happen in each of the SCAN locations (data communications, visitor flow, environmental changes, etc.). Consequently, it learns to model a future and represent it visually (past, present and future) through constant remodelling. This quite radically questions the function of representation within an artwork—it is a system that builds its OWN future world view rather than simply representing the past through an artist’s eyes / imagination.
Phase 2 – Installation and proof of concept August 2004 – present
9PIN++ was initially commissioned in August 2003 to “map” the nine galleries that made up the membership of SCAN (Southern Collaborative Arts Network). The project has grown from a series of highly experimental art processes drawn from the artists’ previous collaborations, installations and exhibitions. Originally manifesting itself physically as a prototype in the form of a stack of 9 computers (each one holding data for every SCAN venue), it has entered into a second phase using only one computer at each venue (currently the system is being tested at 3 galleries – ArtSway, Aspex and Lighthouse Poole). Through a standardised series of sensors at each site networked with the 9PIN++ system, the work changes according to the data drawn from the sensors. As the visitor engages with the current exhibition and when the gallery is empty, the sensors pick up changes in light, movement, temperature, sound and gases in the venue and send this data to 9PIN++. The system is parasitical, intentional, self-organizing, real-time, distributive, emergent and self-representing. It responds to and manipulates its environment. Essentially, the work exists as the system itself and its related behaviours rather than being represented materially.
As an intelligent system, 9PIN++ is a permanent work in progress as it constantly renegotiates and reinvents its relationship to the galleries and organisations that support it. The information drawn from the sensors entails data-harvesting from the various SCAN organizations. As the venues have routines and protocol, this means that a great deal of negotiations have been carried out in order to establish the boundaries of what 9PIN++ can be. The system behaves and looks the way it does because of the various negotiations and permissions that have taken place within the gallery spaces and their organisational infrastructure. Over the months, the proposed system has been adapted precisely because of practical concerns around data-harvesting in relation to issues such as confidentiality, space, resources and bandwidth.
The commission is unusual in several respects: firstly, it is an opportunity to conduct a long-term research and development project for which the end result was speculative and unpredictable; secondly, it permits an unprecedented level of access to the internal workings of the various galleries, media labs and committees that these organizations are composed of; and thirdly, it involves a massive-scale level of collaborative cooperation between artists, curators, directors, communities and technologists in order to succeed.
Over the months, the system will change and adapt according to the data that it draws from the various sensors at each venue. Each gallery visitor will have an affect on 9PIN++ as sensors benignly track their presence in the gallery.
Further information on the system can be found on a link at http://www.iproject.org.uk
Supported by Arts Council England, AHRB, South Bank University, London College of Music and Media, University of East London and University of Washington
January 2005 – present
Phase 3 – Design and realisation
Since January, the artists have attempted to install and perfect the system within the three designated galleries. It has become clear that this complex idea has far too many variables for the system to remain stable for long enough to test the intelligent system and the data. It is our intention to deinstall the sensors at all but one venue now as, after some intense periods of reconfiguration and tweaking, it is clear that the sensors need to be made more robust and contained for the project to work.
The artists will work with Computer Science and Networks students from IUT St Malo to look at more efficient ways for the sensors to be configured with the code which sends the data to the intelligent system. Work on this will continue until June and then over the summer the artists will look at working with product designers to create a blueprint for the system as a whole. Aspects of this blueprint will be presented at Aspex Gallery as part of their Day to Day Data exhibition curated by Angel Row Gallery and Ellie Harrison.
This has been an important project in defining the limitations of the technical and organisational aspects of any arts venue including those in the SCAN network on a project of this type (which would usually happen in the lab without an audience interface). It has been a significant body of research for the artists who will reconfigure their work to function in other contexts, and has highlighted the need for artists to work in teams with product designers and technicians. However, it was important that the artists went through the process of 9PIN in order to discover the limitations of code, organisational infrastructure and technology, and also to define exactly what they wanted to achieve from the project artistically. By working in this way, this project has been unique and has enabled artists to work with relative creative freedom at the venues and throughout the term of the commission.
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