Installing Bcc: at Vivid Projects part 3

In this final part of this three-part series I’ll be going over installing Xuan Ye‘s work in the Bcc exhibition. This work posed a similar challenge to Scott Benesiinaabandan’s work. I needed to automatically load a web page except this time I needed to allow for user interaction via the mouse and keyboard.

The artwork isn’t online so I’ll again go over the basic premise. A web page is loaded that features a tiled graphic with faded captcha text on top of it. The user is asked to input the text and upon doing so is presented with a new tiled background image and new captcha. This process is repeated until the user decides to stop.

Bcc:

I could have installed this artwork on a Raspberry Pi but thankfully I had access to a spare Leneovo ThinkPad T420 laptop, which negated the need for me to buy a keyboard and screen (#win). The laptop is a refurbished model from 2011 and was running Windows 7 when I got it. It is possibly powerful enough to handle a full installation of Ubuntu but I didn’t want to risk it running slowly so instead I installed Lubuntu, which is basically a lightweight version of Ubuntu.

As I had installed Scott’s work I already knew how to automate the loading of a webpage and how to reopen it should it be closed. The main problem was how to restrict the user and keep the user from deviating from the artwork. Figuring this out became a cat and mouse game and was never 100% solved.

Whilst in kiosk mode in Chromium pretty much all of the keyboard shortcuts can be used. This means that a moderately tech-savvy user could press Ctrl + T to open a new tab, Ctrl + O to open a file, Ctrl + W close the browser tab, Alt + F4/Ctrl + Q to quit the browser or basically any other shortcut to deviate from the artwork. Not ideal!

Bcc:

My first thought was to try and disable these shortcuts within Chromimum. As far as I could tell at the time there wasn’t any option to change keyboard shortcuts. There must be usability or security reasons for this but in this situation it sucks. After a bit of searching I found the Shortkeys extension which allows for remapping of commands from a nice gui 🙂 Only one problem. I tried to remap/disable the Ctrl + T command and got this error.


More information here.

Drats! I tried its suggestion and it still didn’t work. Double drats! Eventually I realised that even if did disable some Chromium-specific shortcuts there were still system-wide ones which would still work. Depending on your operating system Ctrl + Q/W will always close a window or quit a program, as will Alt + F4, Super/Windows + D will show the desktop, and Super/Windows + E/Shift + E will open the Home folder. I needed to disable these system-wide.

LXQT has a gui for editing keyboard shortcuts. Whilst it doesn’t allow for completely removing a shortcut, it does allow a user to remap them.

As you can see from the screenshot above I “disabled” some common shortcuts by making them execute, well, nothing! Actually it runs “;”, but still that has the effect of disabling it. Huzzah! But what about the other keyboard shortcuts, I hear you ask. Well, this is where I rely on the ignorance of the users. Y’see, as much as it is used within Android phones and basically most web servers, Linux/Ubuntu is still used by a relatively small amount of people. Even smaller is the amount of people using Lubuntu or another LXQT-based Linux distribution. And even smaller is the amount that work in the arts, in Birmingham, and would be at Vivid Projects during three weeks in September, and knew how I installed the work, and… I think you get my point.

During the exhibition anyone could have pressed Ctrl + Shift + T to open a terminal, run killall bcc.sh to kill the script that reopens Chromium, undo the shortcut remappings and then played Minecraft. I was just counting on the fact that few would know how to and few would have a reason to. After all there was some really great art on the screens!

After the exhibition was installed Jessica Rose suggested that one simple solution would have been to disable the Ctrl key. It’s extreme but technically it would have worked at stopping users from getting up to mischief. It would have had the negative effect of preventing me, an administrator, from using the computer to, for example, fix any errors. The solution I implemented, whilst not bullet proof, worked.

That’s the end of December’s Development Updates. Installing Bcc was frustrating at times but did push me to think more about how people interact with technology in a gallery installation setting. It’s never just a case of buying expensive hardware and putting it in front of people. There needs to be processes – either hardware or software based – that protect the public and the artwork. It doesn’t help when lots of technology is built to be experienced/used by one user at a time (it’s called a PC (personal computer) for a reason y’all). Change is no doubt to make it more about groups and collaboration but, y’know, it’ll take time.

No Copyright Infringement Intended

No Copyright Infringement Intended is a group exhibition, curated by Antonio Roberts, exploring the relationship between copyright and culture in the digital age, investigating how the concept of ownership and authorship is evolving and coming into conflict with outdated copyright and intellectual property laws.

Since the 1990s the internet has provided the opportunity for mass copying, redistribution and remixing of content – profoundly changing the way culture is produced and shared and sparking legal battles and debates that still rage on. Today, the increasing availability of technologies like 3D scanning and 3D printing have extended the ability to digitally copy and reproduce to the physical realm.

For many people now, mass sharing, copying and remixing seems like a natural form of self expression. Rather than embracing this change and using it to their advantage, rights holders and lawyers often resort to reinforcing outdated laws – penalising those who copy – and placing barriers on technology’s ability to share information and content freely.

Meanwhile, among artists there is widespread misunderstanding of copyright and how it affects their work. The phrase “No Copyright Infringement Intended” is often used as an attempt to avoid repercussions of copyright infringement. The phrase has no legal standing, but its widespread usage shows a lack of awareness of existing laws and the consequences of breaking them.

Featuring 10 national and international artists working across a range of creative practices, the exhibition highlights the ongoing tension between production and copyright, considers the new artistic, social and political possibilities created through this tension and suggests new ways forward for artists, rights holders and the wider creative community.

The exhibition includes work by Nick Briz, Emilie Gervais, Nicolas Maigret, Christopher Meerdo, Jan Nikolai Nelles & Nora Al-Badri, Duncan Poulton, Fernando Sosa, Andrea Wallace & Ronan Deazley

Curated by Antonio Roberts for Phoenix Leicester and Vivid Projects. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Algorave Supersonic Festival

After Mothwasp’s visual performance, the Wilde stage turns into an Algorave, brought to you by Supersonic and Vivid Projects curator Antonio Roberts. If you haven’t heard of or been to an algorave, be sure to check it out; an algorave is a party where electronic music and visuals are generated live from algorithms. The word was coined around 2012, initially as a joke, but has since taken hold with Algoraves taking place in over 40 cities around the world.

Supersonic’s Algorave features artists Heavy Lifting and Blood Sport, presenting a collision and mutation of their current work in a textural and improvisatory reinterpretation of the ‘B2B’ DJ set.

Heavy Lifting is Lucy writing confused live code in TidalCycles and FoxDot – divinely inspired by toads & pickled eggs she bends time signatures to create not-quite-techno rhythms. Also a member of algorave band TYPE and co-founder of the creative collective SONA.

Blood Sport are an aggro-beat trio based in Sheffield; consisting of Alex Keegan (guitar & octatrack), Sam Parkin (drums) and Nick Potter (baritone & vocals). Creating a fractured dancefloor, Blood Sport’s work mixes pre-recorded and live performance using live-coding program Tidal Cycles.

Heavy Lifting will live-code textures and rhythms using the sample-pack (to be publicly released this year), and Blood Sport will respond with music. This set was originally born out of a request from Blood Sport for Heavy Lifting to create a remix of one of their tracks, using a micro-sample pack Blood Sport had created for live-coding program TidalCycles; and after an outing at the Algomech Festival closing party, both acts have begun to work together on regular live and DJ driven performances.

Miri Kat continues the algorave: an AV Noise Artist working with Max/MSP, processing & found sound. Focuses on the creation of unique sounds and immersive multimedia, equipped with a loved of hacking, cats and mocha.

Closing the Algorave is BITLIP; a veteran livecoder and part-time Algoraver who makes downtempo techno collages out of strange samples, analogue-sounding synths, and broken breakbeats straight out of the late 90s.

Supersonic’s Algorave is hosted by Vivid Projects, a collaborative space supporting media arts practice. Based in Birmingham, they encourage innovation, risk and experimentation in artistic practice and work with artists and producers across disciplines.

Algorave is curated by hellocatfood – the alias of Antonio Roberts, a New Media artist and Curator based in Birmingham at Vivid. His artwork uses glitch art, hacking and technology-driven processes to explore issues surrounding copyright, remixing and free culture. For his live visuals he (mis)uses a range of programming languages to create glitched, broken visuals. He has provided visuals for the likes of MTV, Com Truise, Elmo Sexwhistle, Steve Davis, Henry Homesweet and My Panda Shall Fly.

Ways of Something

Take a mashup of images historically specific to the 21st century, bring them into direct relation with John Berger’s 1972 critique of western art traditions (see Ways of Seeing), and with no cut corners you have Ways of Something. Conceiving this intergenerational commingling was Canadian artist and curator Lorna Mills, who incentivised 114 network-based artists to each contribute one-minute video snippets overlaid on Berger’s original script and voice-over. The resulting heady stew of animation, 3D rendering, gifs, film remix and webcam performance is presented in association with Vivid Projects.

The screening will be preceded with an introduction by Antonio Roberts

Steve Davis (DJ Set)

Supersonic Festival in association with the Hare & Hounds 10th Anniversary Series Present
Steve Davis (DJ Set)

with support from
Graham Dunning – Mechanical Techno Set

Plus
Visuals from Hellocatfood

Tickets from https://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Birmingham/Hare-And-Hounds/Super-Sonic-Festival-Presents-Steve-Davis-(DJ-Set)/12910549/

Steve Davis – the legendary sporting phenomenon from the 80s who took snooker to new heights and as presenter of The Interesting Alternative Show on Pheonix FM brought prog and jazz oddities to his cult audience, now turns his hands to the decks. As a hobby which he claims has spun out of control, his notorious 2016 Glastonbury set at the 500 capacity Stonebridge bar was mobbed by a curious turned shocked and enthralled crowd. With a packed out DJ diary since, Steve has continued to woo party goers from Bluedot to Bloc Festival. Drawing from an eclectic array of influences: Magma, Caravan, Oscar Perry, Soft Machine and Gong to name but a few – Steve spins together a unique set in his quest to deliver the music he loves to lovers of the party.

Pecha Kucha Birmingham – Ctrl + C

On 8th December I gave a talk at Pecha Kucha Birmingham. This talk was critical of the one-way system of cultural reappropriation by corporations. The whole video is available below.

Ctrl + C

If you can at all relate to the issues being discussed in this presentation you can read more about it in this great article about How Corporations Profit From Black Teens’ Viral Content

The next Pecha Kucha in Birmingham will be taking place on March 15th and you should get in touch about tickets or even giving a talk at it.

Ctrl + C/Ctrl + V

As a super special bonus below is the presentation in text and image form.

Original animation by Nina Paley

Original animation by Nina Paley


Culture is created by copying, adopting, remixing, recreating and doing it all over again. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on the internet where memes, easily adaptable and modifiable jokes, are created by appropriating popular culture for, well, the lols.

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Like all good things, though, there are forces working against creating of memes. Corporate agendas have infiltrated the conversations and threaten, sometimes successfully, to stop the spread of lols. Using a few examples I want to show how largely corporate agendas have resulted in stifling of creativity in some way

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From November 2014 Snoop Dogg began posting images on the internet, requesting that people memes out of them.

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The response was less than favourable. Instead of reappropriating these images and making really funny memes out of them people instead made a meme out of the fact that this is not a meme and that his desperate attempts were somewhat laughable.

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Although this type of social engineering by powerful people or brands isn’t always a failure you should be careful that you don’t end up like Milhouse, a meme used to ridicule forced memes.

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For my second case study I want to look at the phenomenon of Left Shark. In February 2015 Katy Perry performed at the Super Bowl half time show in America. In this performance Perry was joined on stage by, amongst other cuddly critters, two dancers dressed as sharks. The one on the left became popular in by its apparent inability to keep to the routine.

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The internet quite quickly made a meme out of this. Some liked how individual and unique Left Shark was. Others liked the absurdity of it all. Whatever the reason for liking Left Shark, it very quickly became a thing of interest.

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It caught the attention of one person who decided to make a 3D model available for anyone to make their own 3D print or art featuring left shark. A good thing, right? Yes, and with all good things eventually the big boys come and ruin it all!

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Katy Perry’s lawyers swooped in and demanded that this model be taken down. They claimed that they owned the right to Left Shark.

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They even tried to register a trademark for left Shark, which was ultimately rejected. What is worrying about this for me is that the community created Left Shark, not Katy Perry or her lawyers. Before us there was no left Shark, just some anonymous person in a costume. We created Left Shark but they want to own it.

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For my last case study I want to focus on the appropriation of internet slang, slang, emoji and “youth culture” in general. In June 2014 Peaches Monroee, a regular vine user uploaded a video talking about her appreciation of her eyebrows.

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I’ve opted not to use audio so I’ll recite what she said. “We up in this bitch. Finna get crunk. Eyebrows on Fleek. Da fuq. Being on fleek quite quickly became a thing and a way to say something is on point, or good. Whatever. Like all good things, brands soon caught on and ruined it.

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Brands started attaching the word fleek onto their promotional tweets, latching onto its popularity and trying to get a piece of this sweet sweet pie.

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Probably my favourite of the uses of fleek. It has the honour of not only being terrible but also rhyming. That surely deserves an award

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There’s a very popular twitter account called Brands Saying Bae that occasionally collects examples of brands using this popular vernacular. It’s an attempt to humanise the brand and relate to its potential customers on their level by using their language.

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However, I think it’s just embarrassing. It’s like when your Mom or Dad tries to hang out with your friends by bustin’ out a “yo yo homies” whilst wearing a backwards cap. It’s just not going to happen

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There’s a bigger demon here though. The brands will use this vernacular, these reapporpiated memes as a way to sell us things, sometimes successfully. But what about Peaches Monroee?

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What about the creator of doge? What about people creating memes? Corporations will happily take our the culture we created to sell us stuff back at a premium, but when we try and do it we’re stopped and they try to control it.

Image by Nina Paley

Image by Nina Paley


For this creative culture to carry on creating nonsensical memes that ultimately bring us joy we have to stop restrictive laws from controlling how we interpret and reinterpret the culture that we see around us.

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Or, to put it another way, this cultural reappropriation by corporate brands needs to take an arrow to the knee.

Blocked by URL Filter Database

Spam

The internet used by the Birmingham Central Library and the rest of the council’s system has blocked my website. Apparently my “Spam URL” presents a “Medium Risk”. I feel so proud 🙂

Maybe it’s just a glitch in their system 😉

BYOB Birmingham lineup

Myself and Pete Ashton are curating the first BYOB event in Birmingham. After lots of chin-stroking decision making we can finally announce the lineup of artists and musicians taking part!

Exhibiting Artists

Alan Brooker, Ewa Mos, Daisy Hogan, Antonio Roberts, Chris Plant, Modulate, James Warrier, Sarah Rose Allen, URRRGH, Paul Harrison, Kate Spence, Elizabeth Howell, Soraya Fatha, Leon Trimble, Michael Lightborne, Matt Murtagh, Pete Ashton, AAS

Music provided by

Arcade, Bobby Bird (Modulate) and 8bit Pete

BYOB is presented by VIVID and Flatpack Festival and takes place at VIVID on 16th March 2012 7-10pm and is completely FREE to attend! Check out the event listing on Facebook and last.fm.

GLI.TC/H GLI.TC/HED

GLI.TC/H happened in Chicago, Amsterdam and Birmingham last year but I’ve only just gotten around to making this short video of the event in Birmignham, using footage captured by Pete Ashton

Enjoy!

(I had previously made an overview video for GLI.TC/H 2010)