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Decode at the V&A

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity of attending a cocktail reception a the Victoria and Albert Museum in London organised by Bloomberg. The ocassion was the Decode exhibition held mainly in the V&A, but also in the South Kensington Tunnel, the National Art Library and the Science Museum.
The exhibition aims to present the role that new technologies have as tools for artists and designers and how the definition of art can be extended to include these non-traditional media.
As I mentioned, the main part of the exhibition is in the Porter Gallery and for the first time, the V&A has commissioned a digital work for its website. The project is an open-source marketing campaign developed by Karsten Schmidt. Visitors to the site are invited to modify the code and change the appearance of the marketing images used for the exhibition.

The exhibition is divided in three general themes: Code, Interactivity and Network. In the first part, computational code is used in the same manner that a painter uses oils. Going through this first part I couldn’t help thinking that I was looking at screensavers for my computer. One of the most interesting pieces in this part was ‘Troika’ by Digital Zoetrope. The piece uses rapidly blinking LEDs to form words that are constantly rotating and moving, appearing and dissolving.
In the Interactivity theme the contributions are influenced by the viewer. The visitors are invited to interact with the pieces and contribute to their constant evolution. This blur the boundaries between artist and viewer, art and design, performance and audience. Here, there are two pieces that I found very interesting. One is a clock that does what one expects: tells the time. However, the numbers that make up this Exquisite Clock (by FABRICA) are images uploaded by the visitors through a website or an iPhone application. The second one and probably my favourite piece of Decoded is Weave Mirror by Daniel Rozin, which can be described as a responsive sculture that recreates a shadow of the viewer on motorised ribbons with different shades. The effect is a black ghostly image that constantly changes following the movements of the viewer.

The final theme addresses the links that modern society has with the digital world through social networks, mobile technologies and computer systems, allowing new forms of interaction and expression. I particularly liked Shascha Pohflepp’s Social Collider, which used Twitter to reveal spacial and temporal relationships with the stream of data that the users upload. This project was commisioned by Google and I believe that you can follow the project on twitter: @socialcollider.

I enjoyed the visit very much, and the whole experience was enhanced by a couple of glasses of wine, a few bites to eat and a friend I hadn’t seen since December.