This feature can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.
Singing Ribbons is
a new art installation by Matthew Maxwell for the iPhone generation. A
series of paintings consisting of bold stripes of colour can be scanned
by a special mobile app that converts each stripe into notes sung by a
it's an awesome concept. On a basic level, it's a great form of
interactive art. The works come alive with what you bring to the
gallery, and the results leave with you. We are clearly far to prone to
forgetfulness to simply remember the exhibit.
a technological perspective, it takes the idea behind QR codes (Those
'square barcodes' that most smartphones these days can read), and
explores it in a refreshing way. It's no surprise that Mr Maxwell works
in software, but has an education in fine art.
Beyond that, I think it's an interesting demonstration of Synaesthesia, though that may not be intentional.
that? Synaesthesia is a mental condition that switches up the wiring in
your brain when recalling emotions and senses. Normally when we see,
for example, the colour green, our brains go through a subconscious
process of acknowledging what colour it is, using the 'correct' part of
the brain to do so.
a 'synaesthete', they may instead start smelling fried bacon or hear
the sound of a tuba, as their brain tries to use an area that's meant to
process a different sense.
practice, the most common form of synaesthesia are people feeling that
letters and numbers have inherent colours. What's more, only 1 in 2000
are likely to be synaesthetes. But that's not as romantic or exciting to
use (I won't say which ones, though you could probably guess) is often
known to induce synaesthesia, often a kind where sounds trigger colours,
or touch triggers sounds. Unsurprisingly, this is a lot closer to
bars that make up each piece in Singing Ribbons reflect the decorations
on army generals. What would be a meaningless pattern of colours to a
layperson has a set of understandable rules and meanings to someone in
the know. Just like how a synaesthete could feel another meaning to a
set of apparently arbitrary letters.
Ribbons isn't the only example of interactive art, or in using
technology as a medium. Across the history of video games, there's a
host of titles that take the art appreciation experience to your living
described as 'art games', they cause many debates over if games are
inherently art, or if only this genre of subversive and abstract titles
qualify. Many have taken to describing them as 'un-games', though that's
not always appropriate either.
is the classic example. Released way back in 2002 for the Sega
Dreamcast and Playstation 2 (and since re-released on Xbox Live), it is
directed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
Across much of Mizuguchi's work, he has a personal fascination with sound design in games. He designed Rez as a representation of Synaesthesia, and in reference to the Bauhaus art of Wassily Kandinsky.
though it's a video game in a very traditional sense, enjoying it need
not be about getting high scores. There's a mode that lets you just
enjoy the game without fear of failure.
More recently, the present Indie scene has had a revival of games that are much closer to the idea of the 'un-game'. Dear Esther
went from a free modification of an existing game in 2008 to a
complete, priced title in February 2012. It lets you explore an
abandoned, overcast island as a narrator explains the back story of the
events that happened there in a vaguely obtuse and non-chronological
At the time, its total refusal to conform to standard perceptions of a 'game' caused a large stir among games journalists and
even now I feel it's a far cry from a successful experiment, but it was
a well-publicised step into a bigger interest in interactive artworks.
As such, Proteus
works out to be a more palatable take on that kind of Art Game. Using
intentionally low resolution graphics, hazy neon gradients, and a
dynamic interactive soundtrack (filled with wavy extended synths and
hushed clarinets), players can wander through the landscape as day turns
to night and clouds roll overhead.
developing video games becomes easier, and the underground movement for
producing counter-culture and intellectual games builds steam, the
discussion of what constitutes 'art' or a 'game' will rage on.
Meanwhile, Pippin Barr's Art Game, a game about producing art by playing a game within the game is the best take on the genre I've seen yet. Maybe the Tate Modern should have an Art Game exhibition this year.
Ribbons will be available for viewings from 14-17 April at the
Coningsby Gallery on Tottenham Street. For more information, check the