The Dark Side of Amsterdam

Interactive installation for Amsterdam Light Festival

During the Amsterdam Light Festival, that took place between the 6th of December 2013 and the 19th of January 2014, residents and visitors of the city Amsterdam were being challenged. During this light festival a group of international students seduced residents and visitors to enlightening the Dark Side of Amsterdam. Visitors were asked to confess about their dark side by wearing anonymous “sin” glasses in a nighttime light painting portrait that would then be projected onto the Mozes & Aäron church at Waterlooplein. This project was commissioned by BeamSystems. 411 People used the installation, and revealed that with a majority of 91 people, Amsterdam is still a sin city of lust. Also see the twitterfeed and Flickr set and the visualisation of the results (below). I coached on the concept development and project management of this project.

Exploring the emotional experience of sin

I developed this project with a team of students from design and technology backgrounds, and we found out very early on that there was a desire for the installation to be an experience, calling for audience participation. This idea eventually came out and was symbolically rich: the context of the church and building a confession booth where you can admit to your sins. While at the same time playing with people’s vanity in the form of dark stylized selfies in which they could semi-anonymously make a statement about their liberalism of choice – bragging almost.

Rituals and theatre

My favourite part of this event and installation was the theater and solemn rituals involved in the whole concept, and the students carried and understood that well. They invited a ‘priest’ to preach about sinfullness in front of the confession booth to draw in people and get people in the mood. The audience would be approached by the students to think about a sin, and pick a pair of sunglasses representing that sin. They had made these with a laser cutter from plywood at iFabrica, and then covered the back with glow-in-the-dark paper that they would charge with a torch. Then the audience would go into the booth (in pairs or alone), to get their confession taken. Inside the booth two assistants shot the lightpainting picture that would be projected and tweede immediately with a moralising quote from the bible.

Awards

The Dark Side of Amsterdam won the audience award at Beamlab #32

lightfest_50

Students: Sandro Miccoli, Akarsh Sanghi, Adwait Sharma, Shinichiro Ito, Shubhojit Mallick, Mizuki Kojima, Matias Daporta Gonzales. Gabriele Colombo (visual design), Jan Scholte (priest), Loes Bogers (coach and concept development) and Gijs Gootjes (project manager), Supported by BeamSystems: Jason Malone and Jozef Hey. Visuals by: Frouke te Velde www.frouketenvelden.com. Thank you to Irma de Vries for mapping support.

The art of enabling open making processes

In 2011, my Patching Zone colleagues Kristina Anderson and Audrey Samson invited me to assist them with in their workshop The Art of Hacking at NIMK the Dutch Institute for Media Art. High school kids from all over Amsterdam were coming to show us what amazing vibrobot designs they have up their sleeves. Kristina and Audrey took the concept of vibrating robots and prompted the highschool kids to really play around with lots of materials and a glue gun to give their little bots character in their looks, sounds and the way they move. Read more on Kristina’s blog TinyThing about that concept. During Museumn8 we ran the workshop for eager grown-ups.

A thing or two on facilitation

My role was to explain the how-to of the technical part of the circuit to the kids: how the battery is connected to the motor and why it works like that. Why you need an eccentric weight on the motor shaft to create a vibrating motion. How to avoid shorts, and how to be clever about putting it all together so it doesn’t fall apart, by making a stable basic body by forming a batterypack, and by mounting the motor on it as a head using electrical tape. This construction of battery-pack-as-body and motor-as-head, using electrical tape and a paperclip, I’d used before in my own Vibrobert vibrating robot.

But the nice thing about the workshop was that the focus was actually a lot more on ‘making it your own’ and really facilitating personal expression doing that. I was asked to interview the kids on video to get an idea of their thinking about the process and it was really great to hear how the process of building had allowed them to get an understanding of the basic concepts. And the fun that was involved in really making it their ‘own’ thing.

Untoolkit

Looking back on this workshop I really appreciate such efforts of maker facilitators like Audrey and Kristina that understand the value of openness in maker education. It’s all too easy to make something and then say to people: hey I made this you can make it too! And then to call that making, or worse: creativity. A truly valuable making process is one in which you are encouraged to unleash creativity through synergising information that you gather yourself in the process. As a teacher or workshop facilitator it can be hard to avoid preloading information and letting go of control in the process. To let the participants take over. But the art of facilitation sits in being able to pull that all together in the moment, while thinking on your feet. The trick is to let go of that urge to establish an all too rigid framework with guaranteed outcomes. The outcomes will be there, but you can’t predict exactly what they will be. Which – to me – makes it ever more interesting.

Urban Projection

Urban Projection is a video mapping project for MediaLAB at Hogeschool van Amsterdam. I was the line manager and creative producer during this collaboration with 4 video artists with whom we created this video mapping event at Rhijnspoorplein (Wibautstraat/Mauritskade), one of the busiest junctions in Amsterdam. The evening of video art projections on a 7-storey building was one of the first large scale video mapping events in the Dutch capital.

May 2009, Amsterdam, The Netherlands