Creative Media Lab of Plovdiv

This year I was invited by Night of Museums and Galleries – Plovdiv to curate a new module in the festival’s program that is entirely focused on the development of digital art and presenting it in an interactive, laboratory environment – Creative Media Lab (24-25 September 2016). It was a great chance to improve the scene in Bulgaria and also a challenge to make a selection of artists in the fields of performance practices, installations, video art, creative coding.

As I believe in the educational nature of the art festivals it was very important in my program to organize a software/hardware workshop and to invite some experienced and inspirational person from the TouchDesigner community which I follow. There are plenty of nice people there but one of my first choices was Barak Koren – Barakooda – a well-known helper in different topics on the  forum and the fb group, experienced interactive developer who also worked in the teams of V Squared Labs and VT Pro Design and a good friend of mine. And we had luck with the Embassy of Israel and Shalom Organisation Plovdiv who agreed to be our sponsors to invite him.

Barak and I did a 2-days Hackathon format workshop in which the participants experimented with different interactive tools (Kinect, Real Sense, Leap Motion, Arduino, etc.) and collaborated in the creation of installations, audio-visual projects and creative applications. As introduction Barak talked about TouchDesigner basics and then each participant worked alone or in groups creating his own project idea with our technical help. Apart from working with TouchDesigner, all participants had chance to make collaborations with other related software for real-time content creation such as: MaxMSP, vvvv, Pure Data, Processing, openFrameworks, etc. and other music, animation and graphic design software (Ableton Live, 3Ds Max, Cinema 4D, Houdini, After Effects and more). After the end of the workshop the participants did 5 interactive projects which were showed in the exhibition of Creative Media Lab. This was the first TouchDesigner workshop of Barak in Europe and I’m happy that it happened in my home town.

Creative Media Lab took place in the Military Club of Plovdiv. For two days this ex-communist space was transformed into unexpected, abstract environment, an intersection between art, digital technologies and science. The program included exhibition in the lobby and the hall and events in the evenings. The exterior and the interior of the Military Club were illuminated by colorful lights and mapping projections which I made.

The Media Lab’s exhibition was composed of digital art installations, objects, posters (some with Augmented Reality), video art, Virtual Reality demonstration corner. The selected artists who exhibited their works were Barak Koren, Velina Kokalova, Martin StratievDessislava DessevaIvaylo NikolovStefan Stavrev. The participants in the workshop also showed the interactive projects they made for two days. They were Dessislava Desseva, Yordan Dervishev, Lili Dzhagarova, Petya Peeva, Mario Stoynov, Leonardo Laguna, Ivona Ivanova, Petko Georgiev, Radosveta Dimitrova. Everything was exhibited on big led screens and all projects were interactive using Kinect, LeapMotion, web cameras, midi controllers, mouse. The audience enjoyed to play with the visuals and the sounds of the installations.

The evening events program included Barak Koren projects presentation, Reaktiv projects presentation, VR talks by Momchil Alexiev and Atanas Dinchev (from Melformator), Rotor  – performance by Venelin Shurelov, improvised contemporary dance by Atom Theatre and Project UNIT 828384 with real time effects programmed by Barak using Kinect camera.

I can proudly say that everything went pretty great and the audience, the festival team and me as a curator were very satisfied to see Creative Media Lab happening in Plovdiv. What I want to improve next time is to show more bigger-scale projects and to invite more artists and groups. Of course this depends a lot on the budget. So looking forward to expand this first time experiment.

(photo credits: Lina Krivoshieva, Nikola Zafirov, Krasimir Krystev, Ivan-Alexander Kjutev, Dessislava Desseva, Petko Tanchev, Fatme Ismailova)

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