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.
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.
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.
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?
Last day started with Cardboard Furniture and Projects, an eco-friendly and innovative furniture design company based in Madrid. They explained how new technologies enable new products. In such sense, the base material of their products is a more rigid, lightweighted and strong kind of cardboard called Re-board that they cut using tools like a Zünd digital cutter. They produce on-demand and in small scale highly resistant and adaptative furniture for home, office, fairs and exhibitions.
Directly inspired by the noted Italian designer and Open-Source furniture pioneer Enzo Mari, the Madrid/Roma based company mmodulUS invited us to hack furniture and enjoy the co-creation experience. Advocates of new sharing economy, they make modular and reconfigurable furniture for people willing to participate in the creation of their own day-to-day spaces.
On Saturday, the Design & Digital Manufacturing event Replic_age started with Martín Sáez from the Belgian company Materialise. Counting with more than 20 years of experience in business, they gave us a solid and realistic vision about professional 3D printing, emphasizing the idea of that 3D printers are being used from a long time in industry.
Next on stage was the Dutch independent researcher Peter Troxler. He is an ideologist, a theoretician of Open Source, mainly applied to Design. He delivered a magnificent Lecture brimming with persuasion and deep considerations. Troxler stressed the importance of a sense of responsibility within the Maker Movement, as we shall go beyond the simple consumerism and banality. Open Source was outlined not only as a good faith answer, but also as a reliable business option. Also, he brilliantly explained the basis of the 3rd Industrial Revolution, condensing the main ideas from a wide intellectual corpus written around this concept. In short, Troxler exhibited in front us us the multiple elements which act in the creation of this new context: from the tight relationship between renewable energies and communicating technologies as Internet, to the new cooperation relationships and useful development. He was so gentle to grant an interview after his speech, that we will publish in a later post.
After a short break, the artist potter Jonathan Keep came on stage. He explained detailedly how he achieved to make porcelain pots using 3D-printing techniques. Since such printers for clay didn’t exist by then, he even had to make his own, using pieces of several sources. He designs by coding trying to emulate the way Nature works.
Fair is the area open to the general public, where people of all ages can interact with the latest advances in digital fabrication as well as knowing what fab labs and universities are working on this matter.
On the other hand, Fest is the festival featuring presentations and lectures of renowned professionals, along with workshops and networking opportunities for attendees.
On Fest stage, Daniel Pietrosemolli introduced Medialab-Prado to the audience, a city-funded organization that promotes digital culture. The “citizen laboratory” is placed in an old wood sawmill reconverted into a modern fab lab. They offer helpful services to anyone with a digital fabrication project in mind.
After that, Sara Alvarellos presented Makespace Madrid, a new space dedicated to digital fabrication that is sustained by its own members. Their complete digital fabrication equipment is available to all the members of the community. Here, more information about membership.
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.