Outdoor Laboratory of Experimental Urban Stages


OLEUS #1 – 12/2012

Over the course of a few days in December 2012 a small group of participants gathered for the first OLEUS workshop run by Rocio Von Jungenfeld (University of Edinburgh) and David Strang (Plymouth University). The setup from the start was to explore spaces with forms of mobile media to interrogate their uses and potential within networked systems and spaces.

On the first day we met to introduce both ourselves and the project / workshop with the added interest of a mobile media (sound and video) walk in one of the parks in Edinburgh.  This work was an output from the collaboration between the artists Rocio Von Jungenfeld and Shiori Usui and had previously been sited in Edinburgh prior to the OLEUS workshop.  This walk acted as powerful catalyst over the following 2 days of workshop and practice to push through interesting themes at play in the uses of mobile / handheld projection. The meeting allowed all participants to meet and discuss reasons for wishing to explore this field of practice and overlapping themes emerged from the afternoon’s discussion that were to be followed up over the coming days.


On the second day we met to begin the development of a project to be designed / built over the 2 day workshop period, ready for showing at the end of the second day. Much of the day was spent developing the concept of the project with the group splitting into smaller parts according interests and skills. The discussion moved through various aspects of city spaces, surveillance, communication, systems of control, slow media, GPS enabled devices and many other topics.  Out of these, the subject area of surveillance seemed a dominant theme that was consistently returned to and one project in particular was of interest for the group.  ‘Spy Kiting’ was a project setup and developed by the media arts group Mongrel (Graham Harwood) and involved the use of cheap, readily available wireless camera systems connected to kites to fly high in the sky and look down at us. You can find more on the project here: http://mediashed.org/spykiting.  This developed into the idea of flying both a camera module and a microphone (inspired by the work of Janek Schaefer and his ‘Weather Report’ project – http://www.audioh.com/projects/weatherreport.html) up in the sky to monitor on the ground within the city whilst still being mobile.


Alongside the development of this project another one was taking shape more closely aligned with some of the digital interactive skills of some of the participants and looking into the triggering of events (visual and physical) from the activities and movements of people moving through the city spaces. The project explored the use of proximity sensors feeding data via Arduino to a small netbook running a visual sequence in Flash. The interruption / intervention by the passers by caused changes in the movement of the image sequence (scrolling the image left or right). In the end the use of the Arduino setup was hampered slightly by the lack of certain shields to make it work across a network but the work continued with the use of the built in light meter on the netbook.  This provided a variable range of data that would enable the effect to be created and the image to be projected using a handheld Pico projector onto any surface as the work moved through the city.  For the best viewing of the work a flat surface was the most successful projection screen and the side of churches and white vans were explored in equal measure. The Pico projector was at the centre of the whole workshop and enabled a great deal of the projects to be realised although in future a higher lumen would allow the work to be shown and displayed better. The image used in this project is available to be viewed here: http://bizcog.hosterspace.com/upload/art/test4.html

By the second day a kit list was drawn up for various parts required to develop the flying camera and microphone. Certain materials were collected from Maplin (wireless camera, stereo ear kit, batteries etc…) along with the important part that was going to do the flying – balloons filled with helium from a local party shop. A certain amount of testing was undertaken to see how the balloons would cope with the weight of the camera and tiny microphone and 4 large helium filled balloons worked well to carry the camera to a good height. This aspect of the workshop could certainly be developed to work at greater heights. The mention of a weather balloon was an exciting point but unable to obtain from the University on such short notice at a weekend. Once the camera and microphone were installed on the balloons and power was able to be supplied up to them we assessed the output on headphones and projected the video stream back onto the city floor / buildings. Alongside this another project was developed exploring the slow reading of video images (one pixel at a time) and this data was used to colour a floating balloon with the use of RGB LEDs placed inside the helium filled balloon. The feed to the balloon was from a webcam image collected in MaxMSP and then sent via Arduino to the LEDs to create a physical, floating pixel of the local space.  The development of this in connection with the other balloon video stream is something to think about developing along with simply scaling the project up to look at small matrices of video floating in the sky.  A key inspiration on this project was the work of Usman Haque – http://www.haque.co.uk/skyear.php

There are videos and sound recordings from the sky above Edinburgh that will be published online soon and links posted here when they are available.

Lastly, many thanks to all the participants for their programming, soldering, thought and application of ideas that made for an interesting few days.

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