Rhizome's "Seven on Seven" Conference Brings Artists And Technologists Together

What happens when you pair an artist with a technologist and give them 24 hours to “develop something new”? That’s what Rhizome‘s Seven on Seven conference explored this weekend by pairing seven leading contemporary artists with seven “game-changing” technologists and letting their imaginations run wild. With the line between art and technology becoming increasingly blurred in today’s contemporary art scene (so much so that on some of the teams, it was unclear who was the “artist” and who the “technologist”), Rhizome’s conference brought to light the similarities between the two disciplines and served as yet another reminder of the greatness that can be accomplished through effective collaboration.

The event took place on Saturday at the New Museum where the seven teams presented their inventions and the creative processes that got them there. Some of the projects were more theoretical in nature, with only the concept fully developed and a bare bones “product” to show, which was impressive nonetheless given the limited timeframe. Others were full-fledges prototypes that, while still a little rough around the edges, demonstrated how two differing mindsets representing two “opposing” sides of the creative spectrum are in actuality far more symbiotic than we typically give them credit for. When they inform one another through a collaborative effort, they are capable of manifesting new ideas and experiences that are reinforced by the benefits of both practices.

Our favorite projects included:

Michael Bell-Smith and Andy Baio
Bell-Smith, a Brooklyn-based artist exploring contemporary culture’s relationship to technology, and Baio, project director at Expert Labs, explored the remix driven format of the fan video, or “supercut,” as Baio has termed it. Taking their cues from the countless “supercuts” stringing together isolated fragments of movies and TV shows to highlight tropes, patterns and cliches, Baio and Bell-Smith created the “Super Supercut,” an algorithmically generated supercut made up of other supercuts.

You can browse their source material and create your own Super Supercut on their site,

Zach Lieberman and Bre Pettis
The pairing of Lieberman, co-creator of openFrameworks, and Pettis, co-founder of Makerbot, was a match made in 3D heaven. Lieberman has been exploring 3D image capture long before the release of the Kinect made it the format du jour, and Pettis’ 3D printing robot is the DIY darling of fabbers everywhere. Their collaborative project, Important People, had the duo filming interviews with strangers in Tompkins Sq. park (equipped with a Kinect, of course), using the 3D image data to print sculptural portraits of the interviewees, then projecting the videos back onto the 3D printed portraits to create ethereal, ghostly “talking” sculptures reminiscent of artist Tony Oursler’s work.

Camille Utterback and Erica Sadun
One of the most successful collaborations of the conference came from Utterback, an interactive artist, and Sadun, a computer scientist. The two were motivated by a mutual fascination with gesture, physicality, mark-making, wear and tear, tarnish and the question, “How could our digital devices hold the imprint of time?” The pair created an iPad app for the iPad 2 that made use of the device’s digital camera by creating photogram-like imprints and collages of the live video stream. The app supported two kinds of interactions that reflected both the intentional and passive mark-making that occurs with the passage of time. In one version, the video stream, which was could be rotated, scaled and moved around on the surface of the screen, would create a ghostly imprint of an image by deliberate shaking of the iPad. In another, the marks were created by the movement (or lack thereof) of the video screen, creating darker marks the longer the image stayed put and softer traces reflecting its state in motion.

Other participating teams included:

Liz Magic Laser and Ben Cerveny
Rashaad Newsome and Jeri Ellsworth
Ricardo Cabello (Mr. doob) and Chris Poole (moot)
Emily Roysdon and Kellan Elliott-McCrea

Image courtesy of Hrag Vartanian