This past weekend we hosted Art Hack Weekend, a two-day creative hackathon presented by The Creators Project and Eyebeam Art + Technology Center. We brought together a group of artists, designers and creative technologists over the course of a weekend, and gave them 36 hours to see what sort of projects they might develop around the theme of “new artistic experiences.” We selected a few of the best works on Sunday evening, giving them development stipends, studio space at Eyebeam, and the opportunity to display their work at our New York event in Dumbo, Brooklyn this October.
As a world-renowned media lab that hosts artist fellowships and residencies (and counts among its alumni several of our Creators), Eyebeam was obviously a geek’s dream location for this type of creative hackathon, complete with 3D printers and lazer cutters. Together, we built out a summer program of meetups and workshops that included talks from MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Architecture & Design, and a WebGL workshop with Google’s Data Arts Team.
We officially kicked off Art Hack Weekend Friday night with a barbecue and meet-and-greet, bringing the participants together for the first time to begin exchanging ideas and forming alliances. Eyebeam Executive Director Amanda McDonald helmed the grill, while we sipped on refreshments from Asahi beer and Nude Vodka cocktails made with refreshingly spicy Prometheus Springs elixirs.
Photo courtesy of Eyebeam
Saturday morning at 10 AM, about 50 artists and hackers reconvened at Eyebeam to begin development. Breaking out into more than a dozen teams, they vigorously started exploring and developing their wild and inventive ideas—ranging from augmented reality mobile games to Kinect-controlled puppets to SMS-triggered generative art installations.
The most impressive thing about hackathons is the energy. Eyebeam’s industrial warehouse-style gallery space in the heart of Chelsea seemed to literally vibrate with creative possibility as excited conversations and the steady clickety-clack of computer key strokes permeated the air. What’s more, it brought together fine artists and industrial engineers, web developers and product designers, VJs and mobile developers into a glorious mish-mash of skillsets and creative visions. This is the kind of interdisciplinary cross-pollination that breeds the most unusual ideas.
Then, of course, there’s the tireless tenacity of the participants, which is endlessly impressive to see. Teams hunched over their computers for 12 hours straight, building, prototyping, testing, failing, troubleshooting, failing again, and continuing to tweak and problem solve into the night without a hint of discouragement. Though they’re all up against the clock, and, in a sense, competing against one another, everyone was willing and eager to lend a hand as calls went out for “Processing gurus” and “iOS developers” to help solve some particularly gnarly snags in the code. Witnessing the sense of community in this group is really one of the most remarkable things about the hackathon thus far.
On Sunday morning, the participants began arriving at 9am, slightly groggy from their late night hack marathon but reinvigorated and ready for the day’s sprint to the finish line. Most of the projects had made significant progress on day one, but the challenge of the day would prove to be getting all the various components to actually work together and function as a cohesive whole. Or, if all else failed, faking it as best they can for the purposes of the evening’s presentation demos and judging.
Small crowds formed throughout the morning as the different teams started testing their prototypes (to mixed success but triumphant excitement and encouragement). One group even left the building to go practice throwing their iPhones off the nearby High Line park (more on that later). Despite the impending deadline, there was no sense of panic as the teams prepared for the evening’s demos. But again, it was still early…