Collecting Data from One’s Own: an interview with Daito Manabe

After his enthralling speech at Sónar +D, we were eager to have the chance of speaking closely with internationally renowned artist Daito Manabe. A multi-faceted creator, so many are his specialties that it is difficult to name them all: programmer, designer, VJ, researcher, technologist … Seeing his cutting-edge projects succeeding one another, it seems that a perpetual storm must occur inside his head. Nevertheless, face to face and with the company of his translator, Daito Manabe was a calm and collected man, with warm manners and fresh thoughts.

P.N. With so many facets of your creativity running on your trajectory, which is the one that would define you better? An artist, an engineer, a researcher?

D.M. I really don’t mind, I tend not to label myself. Actually I spent most of my time programming…

P.N. Your researches and inventions involving motility are really a bright step forward. Are you planning to apply them in implementations for everyday life, for instance using them with therapeutic purposes?

D.M. I’m open to work for any purpose. I have not a license as a doctor, but I will be completely open to work with some. I’m doing anything that keeps me interested, and that would be interesting too: so if someone ask me, I will be glad to explore that practical application.

P.N. Your works are always filled with technical challenges. Which technical problems use to hinder your projects?

D.M. Usually most difficulties come from non-existing hardware, as software is easier for me to develop. Sometimes it is difficult to control: for instance, on the physical electrical stimulus you can’t see everything on the screen, as the real impact of the power you are administering, so these are really important issues.

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Sonar + D – Day Three

The last day of Sónar +D Creativity & Technology Conference was maybe a quieter one, with less talks and workshops. Anyway, we discovered some really interesting stuff.

Data Cuisine, Helsinki-born research project by Moritz Stefaner and Susanne Jaschko, was one of the most surprising projects presented during these three days. Using food as a medium, they represent data and tell stories from the local context where food is cooked.  On stage, they presented the results of a 4-day workshop done at Barcelona as part of the CCCB’s Big Bang Data exhibition. Expressing data on a physical medium beyond the screen, they managed to get our attention on important issues as the unemployement rate or the state of scientific research in our country.

Moritz Stefaner and Susanne Jaschko from Data Cuisine on stage
Moritz Stefaner and Susanne Jaschko from Data Cuisine on stage

We missed the Friday live demo of Belgian creative studio Superbe but on Saturday we visited them at their stand at the MarketLab to know about the two products they presented at Sónar +D: Geometric Music is an app that enables to make music with sounds you record in a very intuitive fashion by using geometric forms and colors. On the other side, Minimom are Arduino-based little boxes to play with 8-bits recorded sounds. There are different models with different functions . By combining some of these little boxes you can have a physical experience and create real music. Superbe is also working on a prototype with more advanced features.

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Sonar +D – Day Two

On Friday, as music at Barcelona’s Sónar Advanced Music Festival stages kept sounding non-stop, we had the chance of attending some cutting-edge presentations on the frontier between art and technology at Sónar +D.

The first stimulating proposal of the day came from Japanese artist/designer Sputniko!. Now working as Assistant Professor at MIT Media Lab for the Design Fictions Group, she is also a highly renowned pop-culture personality in Japan, with a wide expertise as developer of hybrid projects addressed to question boundaries between technology and everyday life.

Coining the term “New Pop”, she talked about the importance of creating controversial works and challenging proposals using the power of new media, specially the social ones. In her experience, you can develop an influential position as a popular figure and take it to make a difference through insightful projects with an actual meaning.

She usually makes known her innovative projects through music video-clips full of imagination and humor. Sputniko! exposed some of her more celebrated works, as the Menstruation Machine, a device which simulates the symptoms of menstruation for those who wear it. Also, she talked about her Lunar Girl project with space agency NASA, a project meant to approach young girls to space sciences.

A real designer for debate, Sputniko! gently shared with PostDigital Node some other thoughts in an interview that we will publish in the following days.

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Sónar +D – Day One

Besides the internationally renowned Sónar Advanced Music Festival, simultaneously this week Barcelona celebrates Sónar +D, a Creativity & Technology event, where some of the most cutting-edge artists and researchers get together in a wondrous kaleidoscope of highly talented people. Eager to know new stunning proposals, we were there from its Day One.

Our first discovering was the successful Belfast-born project Patchblocks , programmable mini-synth modules that caused a backing storm at Kickstarter. It has everything to delight inquiring musical minds: it is modular, it is funny and it is open. These modular synth units can be joined as puzzle pieces, and even they can be plugged to other musical instruments and gadgets, creating a wide range of sounds. Just “playing” with them, you realize the incredible variety of possibilities that these low-fi artifacts provide you, in a nearly-infinite constellation of combinations. There is a strong emphasis on the community side of the project, to share experiences and sounds. The perfect instrument to turn a musician into a maker!

After this, Andy Goodman and John Alexiou discussed about new trends on wearable devices, with witty statements like “In wearables importance is not on the device, but on the experience”. Andy Goodman, from the design agency Fjord, placed wearables on their very initial stage, remarking the issues their development still implies: recharge difficulties, tricky use of too small screens, and ugly appearance. He pointed out the great importance of the evolution of materials as the real way to improve actual wearables: to insert an electronic artifact on a textile piece, he said, doesn’t seem to him as interesting as making the materials of the textile piece fulfill a given function. “There’s no a killer app in wearables yet”, he stated.  Would it ever appear?

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OFFF Festival Barcelona 2014: Beyond The Stages

At OFFF Barcelona 2014, we also found some interesting stuff beyond the stages, take for instance  The Folio Club, the Barcelona-based platform aimed at promoting and producing independent editorial projects. They also provide offset-digital printing services. We talked with Ana about the print-related projects they promote, she also told us that The Folio Club helped to produce The Poool, the delightful OFFF printed magazine.

At “El Mercadillo”, a place full of exhibition stands with interesting products and services, we talked with Eddie from Camaloon, they make custom stickers and pin badges for personal or promotional use. They featured the Camaloon Be Noticed Corner where attendants to the Festival could draw and write anything they wanted.

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OFFF Festival Barcelona 2014 – Day 3

Here, our highlights of the third (and last) day at OFFF Barcelona 2014.

Kate Moross is a young Londoner designer and illustrator. She’s also head of Studio Moross.  With an encouraging DYI attitude and focusing on the business side of her work, she told us her story. From her first clients achieved shamelessly promoting herself on the early social network MySpace, to her current works for the likes of Adidas or Vogue. In the process, she has not lost any of her freshness, independency and visual impact. Moross has also been behind some of the most important artwork in British music in recent years. For instance, the ones for the British singer Jessie Ware.

Kate Moross on stage at OFFF Barcelona 2014

After Kate Moross, the lunch break came. People started to look tired after several nights of “juerga” and little sleep. But enjoying of the sun warmth and the beautiful views was revitalizing enough.

Disseny Hub and Torre Agbar

Noted german type designer Erik Spiekermann made one of the most memorable speeches of the Festival, full of caustic and clever remarks about Design, Typography and other related stuff. He has designed many typefaces of extended use and been part of the team that made the Helvetica Neue typeface. Spiekermann also appeared on documentary Helvetica.
Through the years, he got involved on Web Design. Talking about the never-ending task of making websites, one of his more retweeted phrases last Saturday was “Websites are always in Beta”. After a long and successful trajectory and near to retirement, he has started a new project, the gallery and letterpress workshop P98A , mixing tools and techniques from wood types to laser cut plates. Having spent a good amount of his career in front of screens, this is his way of going from bits to atoms.

"Forget Control", Erik Spiekermann at OFFF Barcelona 2014
“Forget Control”, Erik Spiekermann at OFFF Barcelona 2014

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