Art splashes colour on Siggraph
SIGGRAPH this year was not an exclusively technical show. It had art, too.
''Machine Culture: the virtual frontier'' could be viewed as a tongue-in-cheek look at graphics' use, but those who took part saw it as 1990s' art.
According to Siggraph, the 30 exhibitors were there because it was the first time the technology had been used by so many in such a way.
It was ''the cultural interest in these technologies as culture machines'', the officials said.
Whatever it was, parts of it were unnerving or funny, depending on how they were viewed.
For one Catholic visitor, the sight of a black church-shaped box at which visitors knelt and confessed to an Apple computer complete with mouse and prompts, left him wondering what the definition of heresy was, and if the Pope cared? But, for the exhibitor, Gregory Garvey, from the department of design art at Concordia University, Canada, his Catholic Turing Test was simply a comment on the old juxtaposed with the new.
Not quite as disturbing, or so the Catholic thought, but at least peculiar, was Neuro Baby. Coming from Japan, Neuro Baby changed its mood depending on the tone of voice of those who peered into his cot.
Using neural networks, the ''baby'' had been ''taught'' to differentiate between the inflections of a human voice and to respond by laughing or gurgling, screaming and crying.
On the lighter side was The Flock - a completely pointless exercise, but for the fact that it was art.
From the piece, Kenneth Rinaldo and Mark Grossman built a series of robotic arms from grapevines and wiring. Their purpose? By standing next to one of the arms and talking to it, it would move, or dance, then talk to its neighbours in high-pitched squeeks and flock towards the visitor.
But, oddly, they did nothing - except for when the television camera crew turned up.
Equally peculiar, but much noisier, was Faraday's Garden. This was a room filled with old domestic appliances that switched themselves on and off in a cacophony when visitors walked past. Record players scratched in unison with vacuum cleaners, electric knives and flashing lights.
On a more serious note was a show entitled ''Tomorrow's Realities''.
Its most pertinent comments about how the new technologies could be used were in displays by the US Naval and Air Force schools and Hazen Reed.
The schools set up aerial dog fights in virtual reality to show how connecting heterogeneously developed technology could be used.
There are plans to increase the potential of such networks from 500 users to 40,000.
But most potent was Reed's display of portraits of people living with AIDS.
Reed used a multimedia display to record messages to AIDS sufferers while providing profiles of their lives through interviews, video and pictures.