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By Nathan Parks
A little longer after the event than I had planned to write this post but it was the Reasons to be Creative festival in September and I wanted to share a few of the things that inspired us whilst we were there in Brighton!
Being my first attendance of the 'Flash on the Beach' conference I can only comment on what I know are the reasons they decided to rebrand and shift the focus and themes of the talks this year. There's no denying that HTML5, CSS3 along with other factors (Apple notwithstanding!) have helped cause a decline in the use of Flash on the web and whilst the conference has been diversifying over the last few years it often retained a bias towards Flash. Now, along with the refresh the conference has become an exceptional show of creative talent, across many disciplines talking about what inspires them, how they work and what they have done, making it accessible to anybody working within the creative industry, coders, designers and everything in between.
A general theme that ran throughout the talks that I made a point of seeing was experimentation and gaining inspiration from unlikely places. Below are some of the standout talks and some of the things they showed us.
Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University
The conference kicked off with a mind-blowing talk from Kevin Warwick, hailed as the world's first cyborg. He spoke about sensory substitution and how he'd been experimenting with neural interfaces and implants that allowed him to control a wheelchair and an artificial hand using this interface. Similar implants also allowed him to communicate (albeit very basically) with his wife over great distances via the internet and interfaces that plugged directly into his and his wife's nervous system. More info at http://www.kevinwarwick.com
'6 weeks and you can have a new sense!'
He also showed a demonstration of one of his ongoing projects where a 'cultured neural network' (brain neurons taken from a rat embryo and grown) were 'plugged into' a robot which was trained to move and avoid obstacles which can be viewed here - http://bit.ly/QTSvEC
The talks from hereon in were a little more conventional, the next standout talk was by Memo Akten, a visual artist who has worked on some phenomenal
projects. Memo's philosophy centred around self-initiated projects and winning client work off the back of those then effectively using the paid work as R&D time to deliver what the client wants but all the while using it to learn something new. Memo showed a couple of projects including experiments with harmonics and motion:
He then showed us a project that started out as a self initiated collaboration studying the body movements of athletes and visualising some of the unseen physics between the body, the movements and the surroundings. The visualisations were posted as an installation in the National Media Museum.
Memo's work then heavily influenced work by Audiomotion studios for the Cadbury's Olympics sponsorship video stings:
The first day closed with a fantastic talk from Brosmind, two brothers from Spain who told a great story of how they played together as children drawing and creating characters and shooting videos through to going their separate ways at university before partnering back up after university to form Brosmind, an award winning studio based in Barcelona specialising in illustration. Producing Cannes Lion award winning work for the likes of Nike, Virgin, Honda and Land Rover the brother's have developed a unique style of working together being able to illustrate in identical styles allowing them to work on a single installation/commission at the same time and producing a consistent piece of artwork.
http://www.brosmind.com/?p=797 (Virgin Active)
Massive piece for Wallpaper that covered an entire corridor
Similar to Memo Akten, the brothers spend as much time as they can on self initiated projects like Brosmind Army
Brosmind RV which was a vehicle they made themselves of picture frames which they then illustrated directly onto the glass.
Amongst day two's speakers were Sara Blake, a hugely talented illustrator fromNew Yorkwho spoke about 'The art of fucking up'. Sara is employed full time at IBM as a web designer but when she's not there she admitted to working a further 40 hours per week on her own freelance client work and self-initiated projects working for the likes of Nike and Ford. A big focus of Sara's was the feeling of vulnerability and the importance of making mistakes whilst you work, recognising that you've made a mistake and adapting quickly to the situation taking as much learning from the process as possible and moving on, a process she admitted is easier said than done which I think most creatives will agree with. Her focus then shifted from talking about making mistakes to collaboration and how great things can come from unlikely collaborations. Whilst talking about collaboration she showed the Run Your Jewels website that allows artists to post a piece of artwork and a community of artists can then take that artwork, remix it and re-post it back up for voting providing a fun (and quite passive) way to collaborate with many people at a time.
Day two closed with a fascinating presentation from Lernert & Sander, two dutch artists who began by collaborating on art projects and eventually formed a partnership providing 'communicative works, that takes little note of the existing border between contemporary art and commercial projects'. Their works, often humorous have featured across various media and clients including Selfridges where everyday lifestyle objects on high heels formed window displays to very funny music videos for various dutch bands.
Finally, Joel Baumann's talk was the standout presentation of day three. Co-founder of the famous Tomato Interactive new-media collective and now Professor for New Media at the art school Kassel in Germany, Joel talked briefly about his experiences at Tomato Interactive and with Antirom, another new-media collective. He spoke about how important it is to stay agile in a hugely fast-paced industry citing that 'the more speed we pick up, the faster we move - the less freedom we have' which inevitably restricts your momentum forcing you down a path you may not always wish to take. A common thread that often appeared throughout the talks was that of collaboration and Joel spoke about his more recent projects with a group of his students going under the collective name Nnfenren. One project in particular was NOOG, an online collectors album that allowed people to collect totally virtual collectables in the form of 3D fractals - NOOG's. A seemingly nonsensical project, it takes an amusing view on our inherent nature of collecting and completing and our short-lived fascination with augmented reality but more importantly it seems to explore the art of doing something purely for the sake of doing it and to see what the results are.
The three-day event was a refreshing change to the everyday routine you can inevitably find yourself in and provided a change in perspective and a massive insight into how other people work and create great things! Without a doubt I’d recommend this conference to anyone working in the creative industry regardless of discipline as there is always something relevant to see or hear as well as being amongst and meeting like-minded people who are always up for a chat!