Campus Party finally took place at Tempelhof Airpot, in spite of the given difficulties. Stages had to be re-built several times, a whole lot of new tables, chairs and couches had to be bought… everything to meet the infinite german regulations that seemed to sabotage the event. Perhaps a little more preparation time would have spared someone pissing off, but, hey, siesta. Apparently, they did a startlingly bad job in setting up a local team and outreach only in early June. This led to a situation where, when the conference finally started last Tuesday, German news magazine Der Spiegel called it “a festival out of nowhere”.
As I live just a few minutes by bike, I could afford myself a comfy stay at home while arriving at Campus Party for the talks I wanted to see.
The two things that impressed me the most were:
1. Neil Harbisson
“The problem with technology, is that you need an external application. [In the future] we’ll stop making apps for mobile phones and start making them for our bodies.”
Neil Harbisson is a Catalan raised, Northern Ireland born contemporary artist, composer and cyborg activist best known for his self-extended ability to hear colours and to perceive colours outside the range of human vision. In 2004 he became the first person in the world to wear an eyeborg and was finally able to include it on his passport photo. This has been claimed by some to be official recognition of Harbisson as a cyborg.
His eyeborg detects the frequency of colors being bounced off in front of him, and plays a tone to that frequency in his skull bone. Life is not about colors to him anymore, but sounds. Sound is normally perceived through Air Conduction (blue), which means that the sound waves in the air enter the ear-canal and are transmitted to the cochlea in the inner ear. However, sound can also be perceived via Bone Conduction (red). Vibrations are then transmitted to the cochleae through the skull bone from either one’s own voice, the surrounding sound field, or a Bone Conductor transducer. This is what has aided Neil to perceive colors.
Harbisson has been listening to these sounds unceasingly for over 20 years, and has developed the finest hearing sense, being able to distinguish between hundreds of slight changes in sound frequency, and every hue imaginable. At this moment he pointed out that when he was young he used to dress in black and white (why bother), but has discovered that it is far more entertaining and attractive to dress in, say, C major (sic.). The blue blazer, pink t-shirt and yellow trousers you can see in the photo are, in fact, a good chromatic arrangement, proving once again that harmony rules are interdisciplinary.
He even goes beyond the limitations of human perceptions of colour. He can now sense colour at frequencies we can’t, such as ultraviolet and infrared, being aware of when a security camera is pointing at him or the sun is too damaging, for instance. His perception of life is changed to the point that the frequency combinations of one’s own body colors determines beauty in means of a musical combination: people can actually sound good or bad. Or streets have specific musicality to them. Harbisson pointed out that he goes to supermarkets for fun, particularly enjoying the aisles with brightly coloured cleaning products.
And, finally, he dreams with color… I mean, sounds. His perception is so used to hearing tones that he might even have dreams where he hears them, just as we see color in our dreams. [highlight]This point, where brain and electronic device have grown to be one, extending the human senses, is what he defines as a Cyborg[/highlight]. In 2010 he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation to help people in the process of adapting to an electronic device aimed at extending one’s own senses.
Robocross is the project of Berlin based artist Frank Barnes presenting robodrummer Stickboy Model RC 1007: a robot with 4 arms, 2 legs and 1 head playing classics from Ramones, ACDC, Black Sabbath, Rage against the machine, Led Zeppelin amongst others. He presented the robot in an informal all day open workshop during Friday 25. This included demonstrations and explanation of logic programming with audio/midi, answering technical questions and explanation of mechanics and pneumatics, hands on pneumatic demos with air pistons and of course a robot performance every now and then. In three words: [highlight]Pretty Awesome Robot[/highlight].
Watch the following vid (slow starting, sorry) I recorded:
Have you noticed the little guy on the right helping with the cymbal? Ain’t it cute?!