Siggraph 2012 Art Gallery Show Review - Inventive Artistry in Technology

SIGGRAPH 2012 brought thousands of computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from six continents to Los Angeles, California for the industry's most respected technical and creative programs focusing on research, science, art, animation, music, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web in August 2012 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Grand entrance to gallery show

SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery Show this year was named In Search of the Miraculous which presented exceptional digital and technologically mediated artworks exploring the existence of wonderment, mystery, and awe in today’s world of advanced technologies and abundancy of data interpreted in unique and creative ways. Of the nearly 400 submissions, 12 were hand-picked by a jury and included a wide range of artists, designers, technologists, and critics hailing from academia, industry, and the independent art world.  Many of the pieces are quite technically advanced and complex.

Works exhibited in the Art Gallery are published in a special issue of Leonardo, the Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology which can be found through the Siggraph website by clicking here.

Some of the highlights of the SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery highlights include:

Botanicus Interacticus - Interactive Plants Technology by Ivan Poupyrev, Philipp Schoessler, Eric Brockmeyer, Munehiko Sato, all of Disney Research.  Also by Christian Reikoff and Jonas Loh of Studio NAND in Berlin.  And Gunnar Green and Willy Sengewald of TheGreenEyl also were part of this work's creation.

This work showcases a technology for designing highly expressive interactive plants, both living and artificial.  With a single wire placed into the soil it turns the plants into a multitouch, gesture and proximity sensitive controllers that can track a broad range of human interactions seamlessly, unobtrusively and precisely.  What the viewer is left with is a visually complex and stimulating artwork that is viewed on the mirror behind it and is constantly morphing depending on the energy you put into the touching of it.  See the video below and listen to the description of how it works further.

Mood Meter - Large-Scale and Long-Term Smile Monitoring System by Javier Hernandez, Mohammed Hoque and Rosalind Picard, all of the MIT Lab

Just like the television show Person Of Interest, this mood meter is a computer based system that watches passerbies and automatically encourages, recognizes and counts smiles of a large environment or a community.  Not only could the tv show Person Of Interest be based in reality but also the ability to document data on moods exist without the use of a human observer.  The video below shows how the piece progresses as changes in smiling or not smiling occur.

SymbiosisS by Kärt Ojavee, Eesti Kunstiakadeemia; Eszter Ozsvald, New York University

Behavior of various organic displays react to definable impulses by showing pre-defined patterns that animate slowly over the surface. It welcomes viewers to sit and rest on soft-folded material that displays an active, slowly shifting pattern. When excited, the pattern starts forming, in a playful, curious way, around the place where the textile was touched. Once the disturbance is abated, the pattern continues its peaceful expansion. This vivacious interaction of a vibrant pattern is a demonstration of the potential for tangible textile interfaces. Ubiquitous computation - an active, programmable secondary skin to surround everyday objects - is an ambient, “noiseless,” and thus vigorous way to visualize information and form space.

A Planetary Order (Terrestrial Cloud Globe) by Martin John Callanan, Slade Centre for Electronic Media in Fine Art, University College London

A terrestrial globe depicting clouds from a single moment in time. The globe itself is a physical visualization of real-time scientific data. To create the work, Callanan took one second of readings from all six cloud-monitoring satellites currently overseen by NASA and the European Space Agency and transformed the information physically into outlines and profiles of the clouds that were emerging at that moment across the surface of the Earth. The shimmering white cloud globe freeze-frames the entire operation of the global atmospheric regime and highlights the fragility of the environmental (and informational) systems that operate across the world.

Kapitän Biopunk: Fermentation Madness by Julian Abraham

An artistic research project manifested via a series of workshops and an acoustic and performative installation was developed in response to the high number of poisonings and deaths of alcohol consumers after an increased excise tax was placed on alcoholic products in Indonesia. The project, using do-it-yourself and open-source technologies, strives to educate individuals on fermentation processes to produce safe and affordable alcoholic products.

The Art Gallery Chair feedback on this piece was that it "combines the aesthetics of a mad chemist’s lab with Dionysian song and spirit." Though the work uses the placing of microphones onto fermenting jars the resulting cacophony of bubbling sounds is a by-product of the fermentation process, is both amazing and amusing to hear.


90° South by Alejandro Borsani, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

This piece provides a contemplative point of view that allows the viewer to witness and be immersed in the constant evolution of a growing landscape. The work utilizes an irrigation system in conjunction with a highly absorbent material (sodium polyacrylate) to produce a slowly emerging landscape. A thin layer of the white material is placed on top of a round surface. When water reaches the surface, the sodium polyacrylate expands 300 times, producing subtle undulations. The profiles of these miniature mountains are projected onto walls creating an imaginary landscape.

HeartBeats watch

The HeartBeats Watch by Julie Legault, V2 Institute for the Unstable Media, Royal College of Art

Stretching or shrinking hours at the beat of your heart, The HeartBeats Watch is a timepiece in which the duration of time is paced not by seconds but according to the wearer's heartbeat. Through a heightened awareness of self, The HeartsBeats Watch brings together art and science to reveal emotional complexity of time and the human body. A poetic investigation of the physiology of emotions, health, immortality, and control, the watch bridges the gap between society and medical science, invoking a broader cultural perception of life.

The ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques is an interdisciplinary community interested in research, technology, and applications in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Members include researchers, developers, and users from the technical, academic, business, and art communities. ACM SIGGRAPH enriches the computer graphics and interactive techniques community year-round through its conferences, global network of professional and student chapters, publications, and educational activities.

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