AK on ‘Fabrica: Exquisite Clock’ and Varnelis > The Immediated Now

References to ‘Fabrica: Exquisite Clock’, and references and quotes from Varnelis > The Immediated Now.

Exquisite Clock: http://www.exquisiteclock.org/clock/index_live.php?tag=decode

Varnelis > The Immediated Now: http://varnelis.networkedbook.org/

Exquisite Clock at Decode V&A

Exquisite Clock at Decode V&A

Exquisite clock is a screen-based installation, which anyone can contribute to by way of an iPhone app.  Members of the public can download the iPhone app, and then send photographs which denote or suggest numeric digits, directly to the installation.

Download iPhone app: http://exquisiteapp.org

The ‘Decode’ exhibition at the V&A focuses on three key words:  Code (computational code, the language carrier of all digital data); Interactivity (a range of factors, including human intervention, can affect and change many of the artworks), and Network (the connection of digital devices via physical wires, or, as especially apparent in ‘Exquisite Clock’, via the mobile telecommunications network).  ‘Exquisite Clock’ is a clear demonstration of all three, and in my opinion, is one of the more successful artworks at the exhibition.  I have therefore chosen to discuss it in this block post for Week 10.

Whilst it is not uncommon for members of the public to ‘interact’ with art installations, or for art installations to utilise publicly available data feeds, what sets this piece out is that the data stream is not from one organisation (ie the met office, flight path data), but rather, is in constant flux as any member of the public with an iPhone can contribute to it.  This allows those with iPhones (which are essentially personal mobile computers with connections to the internet), to gain a direct network interface to the artwork.

As Varnelis states in ‘The Immediated Now’, “Life becomes performance, taking place in a culture of exposure in exchange for self-affirming feedback from the net.”  So, not only can the public contribute to the installation as part of their daily lives, but they can also receive feedback that their input is indeed being put to use; if they are unable to go along to the decode exhibition to see the work in its installation form, they are still able to view the data element (which they contributed to), online, at the exquisite clock web site.  This provides them with immediate proof, that the data they are sending over the net (their individual contribution), has been utilised in the artwork, as part of the wider social culture of production.

According to Varnelis, the realism of networked culture and art can be discussed within key areas:  self exposure, information visualisation, the documentarian, remix and participation.  So perhaps we can gain some insight into exactly what makes Exquisite Clock such a powerful piece, by applying these areas to the work.  As networked culture extends beyond the network, into real culture and society, so this should also tell us something about current social shifts, too.

Once you (the audience) understand the source of the images, participation is perhaps the most obvious of the key areas, as the piece relies upon participation of the public in order to function, by downloading the iPhone app, taking photos, and uploading them.  Those without an iPhone can still upload an image via the web site:

Web-Based Image Uploader

Information Visualisation is also highly apparent in the work; the numeric representations are not pre-defined ‘digits’ in the traditional sense, but rather, photographic images which have been considered to possess a likeness to numeric digits, by the individual who uploaded the image.  These images have mostly been photographed from arranged of found physical objects, which suggests that the photographer is acting as Documentarian, taking snapshots of the real world (albeit often purposefully arranging artifacts before the taking of the photograph).  (Possibly with the exception of the Van Gogh range of digits which seem fabricated although this is merely an observation; see: http://www.exquisiteclock.org/clock/index.php?tag=191)

When examining the images in more detail, Self Exposure is also apparent; whilst a few of the images feature part of the body of either the photographer, or someone assisting them in the creation of the image, most of the images are the result of some kind of human intervention into the natural order of the physical world, with the hand of the photographer therefore playing an earlier role in the formation of the image to be captured in front of the lens.  The photographer is uploading a piece of their ‘self’, their identity, into the overall mix of images.

So now we are left with Remix.  I would consider this work a remix piece in many ways, with the artist in the role of the remixer (or at least, by laying down the very rules by which the remix takes place).  Perhaps it is the way that the data is remixed and re-presented, which makes the work so appealing that people want to contribute?  Or is the artist tapping into a desire within society for self exposure and participation?  If no one wanted to download the iPhone app, the piece would fail, therefore we can assume that the work builds upon an already present desire within society to actively engage with the artwork by feeding in their own images to be remixed.   The artwork is therefore a comment about society engaging successfully in the production of the work instantaneously via digital networks, which also happens to be in the form of a digital clock.

Fabrica themselves say they the piece is ‘completed by the audience’; see this video made by Fabrica, on their exhibition as Decode V&A:http://vimeo.com/8235154

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