A one-day event for artists and artists and arts professionals, exploring the use of interactive and networked technologies in the creative process.
The Random String Symposium gives space for inspiration, discussion and sharing. Hear from cutting-edge artists and technologists from across the UK and overseas, have frank conversations about the practicalities of using technology in your work and explore works-in-progress projects from the Random String fellows.
Copyright is an incredibly important law that can have massive implications on individual artists and the cultural sector as a whole. Unfortunately, it isn’t until it affects us negatively that we begin to seriously consider it. Legal cases such as the estate of Marvin Gaye versus Robin Thicke , Katrijn van Giel versus Luc Tuymans, and earlier examples such as Art Rogers versus Jeff Koons, and TufAmerica versus Beastie Boys show that the law can negatively affect creativity. If we allow this behaviour to continue we risk entering into a permission culture where even being inspired by an artist can have dangerous consequences.
Click through to read the whole of the article. The Permission Taken exhibition ends on 30th May
At the beginning of January I was approached by MTV to make a new visual ident for them. If you haven’t seen, since 2015 they have been approaching a wide range of artists to make these idents. They even received two D&AD awards for them. Previous ones that I’d seen included ones by Eva Papamargariti and Johnny Woods. It was a really big surprise to me and I was more than flattered to be included amongst the ranks of these great artists. Regarding the ident, they were really open to how I approached this. The usual caveats of having no nudity or violence applied, but otherwise they just wanted their logo at the end of a 15 second animation.
The finished piece, shown above, is essentially a glitchy world of shape and colour. This video was shown internationally on MTV except in the UK and the US.
Originally I had finished the ident at the beginning of February, with an air date set for beginning of March. However, on the 1st March we all received some surprising and bad news. Ofcom, who regulates TV and radio in the UK, had some issues with the video. Using their automated software they detected that at a few points in the animation it contained potentially harmful flashes. The full text of the error:
Click for full error description
As per ITU-BT-1702 and Ofcom guidelines, Video Sequence starting at 01:00:14:333 may contain ‘Potentially Harmful Flashes(Luma Flash)’ for a duration of 3.467 seconds
I had no idea what this meant, but looking back on the video I could see that there was a lot of flashing. A clip from the animation illustrates this:
To further indulge my curiosity I decided to look up exactly what ITU-BT-1702 is. The resulting PDF, Guidance for the reduction of photosensitive epileptic seizures caused by television, gives a very detailed breakdown of research into photosensitive epilepsy and how images being broadcast can affect this:
Extensive studies on the subject of photosensitive epilepsy, which have taken place around the world, have led to formulation of this Recommendation. The guidance proposed in this Recommendation is for the protection of the vulnerable section of the viewing population who have photosensitive epilepsy, and who are therefore prone to seizures triggered by flashing lights, including certain types of flashing television images. Broadcasting organizations are encouraged to raise awareness among programme producers of the risks of creating television image content which may induce photosensitive epileptic seizures in susceptible viewers. Appendices 1 to 5 provide additional information on this subject.
Having been a teenager at the time that episode of Pokemon was causing troubles, I was aware of the need to reduce flashing images on TV but I definitely wasn’t aware the extent to which there are guidelines and studies supporting this. Even if you have no intention of having your work being broadcast on (UK) television it is definitely worth reading the document and checking out some statistics and pretty graphs!:
With this new knowledge I edited the video, submitted it for approval and then sat glued to my TV in anticipation. However, the edited video had the same errors at different locations and was subsequently rejected again. And so I edited. And it was rejected. And so I edited. And it was rejected. And so I edited. And it was rejected. And so I edited. And it was rejected. After four edits I finally had dealt with issue ITU-BT-1702 but then on the fifth edit it was rejected yet again but with a new error:
Click for full error message
As per Ofcom guidelines, Video Sequence starting at 00:00:11:300 seems to contain ‘Potentially Harmful Patterns’ for a duration of 533 millisecs.
I consulted the great Google again for information on these guidelines and found this document Annex 1 of the document specifies:
Ofcom Guidance Note on Flashing Images and Regular Patterns in Television
5. A potentially harmful regular pattern contains clearly discernible stripes when there are more than five light-dark pairs of stripes in any orientation. The stripes may be parallel or radial, curved or straight, and may be formed by rows of repetitive elements such as polka dots. If the stripes change direction, oscillate, flash or reverse in contrast they are more likely to be harmful than if they are stationary. If the patterns obviously flow smoothly across, into, or out of the screen in one direction they are exempt from restriction.
5.1. Potentially harmful patterns are not permitted when either of the following two conditions apply:
i. the stripes are stationary and the pattern occupies more than 40% of the displayed screen area; or
ii. the stripes change direction, oscillate, flash, or reverse in contrast and the pattern occupies more than twenty five per cent of screen area; and in addition to either of the above two conditions applying, when
iii. the screen luminance of the darker bars in the pattern is below 160 cd.m-2 and differs from the lighter bars by 20 cd.m-2 or more (see notes 1 and 2).
The section of the animation specified was towards the beginning, but in general the animation makes heavy use of striped patterns. This left me with a really tough decision. Removing the stripes completely could seriously and negatively affect the piece. It was at this stage that I began to investigate. Although the rejection of the edits was annoying, what was more frustrating was the waiting period between submitting an edit and it being assessed and eventually rejected. If I could have done the verification myself at home this would have been solved! So, I looked into software.
Ofcom appears to be using Baton for its quality control. No information on price is immediately available on the website but you bet it’s proprietary! Similar quality control software from the likes of Vidcheck are similarly proprietary. So, is there open source other software available for quality control, or at least checking for flashes or potentially harmful patterns?
The closest open source software that does quality control is QCTools by Bay Area Video Coalition but, as far as I can tell, it cannot check for flashes or harmful patterns. Any developers writing open source software tackle this task would I’m sure be greatly welcomed!
In the end MTV made the very difficult decision to air the ident everywhere except for the UK. Although unfortunate it is understandable as causing injury isn’t something either of us wants to do! It was still an incredibly interesting learning experience for me and got me thinking about how my work, glitch aesthetics, and artwork by others with a similar aesthetic can actually be broadcast on television.
Although I have moved on from utilising only glitched visuals my work still retains many of its influences and aesthetics. By its nature these visuals often appear bright, colourful, glitchy and will probably have lots of flashing imagery. To me this raises the question: In order for glitch art to be broadcast on TV and in film do the glitches have to be removed, or at least tamed in some way? Exactly where is the line drawn between noisy and potentially harmful. Of course, having easy access to software would help make drawing these lines easier and, should I ever have acceses to it, I’d be very interested in throwing various glitches at it to analyse the results. How much of my existing artwork would pass or fail these tests?
Until these questions can be address I’m just grateful for the chance to challenge myself and MTV and push the boundaries, if only a little bit, on what glitches are acceptable and which are potentially harmful.
Tableaux consists of twelve events over three weeks with over one hundred contributors exploring various themes. Assembly Point has invited organisations and individuals to coordinate each event resulting in a diverse and exhilarating programme of moving image and performance.
Synthetic Resonances will showcase a selection of moving image work (videos and GIFS) from artists that use digital tools in order to fabricate environments that can act as a rhizomatic structure of synthetic mediations in terms of ambience, materiality, construction.
Featuring work by:
Morehshin Allayari, Alma Aloro, Anthony Antonellis, LaTurbo Avedon, Iain Ball, Masha Batsea, Andrew Benson, Gabby Cepeda, Jennifer Chan, Georgios Cherouvim, Di-Andre Caprice Davis, Stine Deja, Adam Ferriss, Carla Gannis, Carrie Gates, Roxanne Gatt, Emilie Gervais, Claudia Hart, Faith Holland, Georges Jacotey, Nicole Killian, Gergo Kovacs, Rollin Leonard, Sara Ludy, Rea McNamara, Joe Melhuish, Martina Menegon, Rosa Menkman, A.Bill Miller, Lorna Mills, Kimmo Modig, Pussykrew, Charlotte Maeva Perret, Haydi Roket, Sam Rolfes, Antonio Roberts, Hirad Sab, Sucuk and Bratwurst, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Rick Silva, Yoshi Sodeoka, Tristan Stevens, Valinia Svoronou, Michaël Systaime Borras, Katie Torn, Dalena Tran,Theo Triantafyllidis, V5MT with music by CELESTIAL TRAX, Miyo Van Stenis, Johnny Woods, Matteo Zamagni, Giselle Zatonyl, Erik H Zepka
Permission Taken, which exhibited at Birmingham Open Media and University of Birmingham between October 2015 – May 2016, focused on copyright, remix culture and ideas around sharing, originality and ownership. In planning the exhibition I was fully aware that these concepts can be quite complex to comprehend and, worse still, incredibly boring, so I devised various ways communicate these ideas . I did so not in order to dumb it down but to give audiences as many entry points as possible. The exhibition featured images, texts, videos, sculptures, documentation of research and workshops. One such workshop was the Exquisite Corpse workshops.
It’s highly likely that you will have encountered the Exquisite Corpse idea before but under a different name such as Picture Consequences or Exquisite Cadaver. The concept was originally developed by the Surrealists in the early 1900s as a way to collaboratively create a piece of art. Having discussed this concept with David Littler whilst at the Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts Copyright + Art event I began to think about how this could be recontextualised to talk about ownership and copyright.
In the workshops, which took place at Birmingham Open Media and University of Birmingham as part of the Arts and Science Festival, I split the participants into small groups and gave them the task of creating an image based on a theme – children’s cartoons or mythical creatures. The tools they had at their disposal were images from the University of Birmingham’s Research and Cultural Collections, lots of small bits of vinyl and pens. In both cases artistic talent wasn’t the focus, more the communication of the theme. After a short time I made the groups switch places and add to the new piece using their theme i.e. not adopt the original theme.
Following the collaborative art making we regrouped to have a discussion about several topics. Imagining myself as an art dealer will lots of cold hard cash to spend (I wish!) I asked the group how the funds should be divided if sold. Initially most were more than happy to split it equally. That is until I decided to introduce some doubt.
I suggested to the group that the amount of funds given should be based on the quantity of their contribution. In planning the workshops I specifically gave each group less time on their second piece than I did on their first, the theory being that with less time they would be able to contribute less. Should this result in them receiving less funds?
I then suggested to them to think about the quality of the contribution and not just the quantity. One group used the imagined scenario that they were a highly successful artist and the others were still unknown. Even if the unknown artists contributed the same or more to each piece should the successful artist receive a greater share of the funds? Socially their contribution could be considered worth more due to their status and so, in theory, this could be reflected in the funds received.
Finally, they took into account whether the originator of the idea should be rewarded with a greater share of the funds. Although I was technically the originator of the idea of this iteration of the workshop, in each group you could see participants leading or guiding others using their own ideas. Using this line of thinking should the “originator ” of the idea receive a greater share of the funds?
All of these ideas and more were discussed at length. The participants began to see how this relates to their own practice as they often collaborate with others and consider how it will affect the market value of their artworks and themselves. There are still no obvious answers to these questions and it often boils down to opinions and lawyers, of which there are many! For related things see Writing About Comics and Copyright by Ronan Deazley, which looks at quantity and quality in relation to copyright, the Sweat of the Brow doctrine which talks about effort in relation to the worth of art, and the Monkey Selfie which highlights authorship and ownership of art.
In the end what these workshops showed is that the legal side of art can distract from the creative aspects of it and make collaboration with others something more akin to a strict negotiation process. Nina Paley is an artist I often cite for her talk in which she talks about how copyright affected her work, Sita Sings the Blues.
Although my thoughts do mirror those of Paley’s, I am not advocating for a dismissal or abolition of the copyright system. Instead I would like to see the adoption of more permissive licences such as the Creative Commons licences and a greater focus on encouraging sharing and collaboration.