A Stroll Through the Art Galleries & Emerging Technology

The novelty and cutting edge feeling of the Art Gallery and Emerging Technology shows of earlier years is missing and it feels like these sectors have reached a plateau.

Eggy Robo was a favorite at the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery. All images courtesy of SIGGRAPH Asia 2008.

I spoke with the Computer Animation Festival (CAF) Chair Jinny Choo about her ideas and vision for CAF. Being the curator and manager of SICAF Seoul, Jinny’s aim was to bring a similar festival feeling to SIGGRAPH Asia and sees it as an opportunity to taste other styles in a global festival. So for the animation fan there were a plethora of programs to choose from. The Electronic Theater, screening the best of the best, was, as usual, the main event, with additional submissions selected for the Animation Theatre I and II and the Special Programme I and II. An addition was the Invited Screenings, showing previous Best of SIGGRAPH Award Winners; Gobelins, K’ARTS and Supinfocom selections; an Australian and India Focus and a Studio AKA Special; complemented by Festival Talks and Panels on Productions.

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SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 Chair Masa Inakage CAF being a festival focusing on computer generated content, Jinny notes that students and filmmakers have adopted the technology and risen up to the challenge between art and technology to combine it in creative ways.

In the early days of CG the moving images often felt immature; now we have story driven and highly artistic content, enabled by technology. Jinny refers to the filmmaker Chris Landreth, whose films, from Bingo to Ryan, have showed this maturity and understood to mix of story, art and technology well.

With a large number of submissions from Asia, Jinny observed that the technology use was on the same level and visual ideas were universal. Yet, in either story or visuals, some film elements were country and culture specific, and deal with Asia’s own traditions, such as in one of the Jury Special winners Kudan from Japan.

I asked Jinny about her motivation to volunteer as Chair of the Computer Animation Festival. Jinny’s reply: “I love animation and being part of it.” As a filmmaker she sees it as a great opportunity to see other pieces in the process and share ideas and experiences with the audience. She finds a festival addictive to work for, just like poison, in a positive sense. Jinny’s favorite pieces in the competition program are This Way Up, the Best of Show winner, and Slip ON, a piece in the Animation Theatre program.

Playtime in the Art Gallery and Emerging Technologies Exhibit These two parts of SIGGRAPH are always good to have some fun in and inspire the senses. In the Emerging Technologies I enjoyed the exhibit Heaven’s Mirror: Mirror Illusion quite a lot. In three pieces, haptic, visual and auditory illusions could be experienced interactively. What made these pieces stand out is that they did not feel digital at all, actually they appeared rather retro and simple.

Another visual favorite of mine was Eggy Robo, a group of synthetic soft robots in bright colors and with cute looks.

With all these pieces being fun and playful, I can, however, not suppress the feeling that I have seen most of the things shown in one way or another before. The novelty and cutting edge feeling of the Art Gallery and Emerging Technology shows of earlier years is missing and it feels like these sectors have reached a plateau. More...Always something interesting to be found at the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies.

An Art Gallery piece that showed to be a crowd pleaser was Amagatana + Fula, performed live by the artist. A set of cyber-enhanced ordinary objects, such as a glowing umbrella complete with motion activated sword noises and a portable wind machine to flutter the players scarf, transform daily life into a fun and playful experience.

SIGGRAPH Asia in Singapore was a blast, one day shorter than the U.S. version, yet intense, as we love it, rich with content, ideas and parties. Mark your calendars for next years SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 in Yokohama, Japan.

Melanie Beisswenger is character animator and animation teacher based in Singapore. Some of her past projects include the Academy Award winning feature film Happy Feet, the stereoscopic 3D animated feature Fly Me to the Moon and the TV launch commercial for the blockbuster game BioShock.

Melanie is teaching as Assistant Professor at the School of Art, Design and Media, NTU in Singapore and has been involved with SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 as Computer Animation Festival Producer.

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