Summer Research Dispatch: Kevin Lo Returns to Digital Art

21 Aug, 2020

Summer Research Dispatch: Kevin Lo Returns to Digital Art

Each year, the Berkeley Center for New Media is thrilled to offer summer research awards to support our graduates in their cutting edge work. Below, Kevin Lo describes how he used the funds to translate his art into the digital realm.

The project shifted wildly as a result of COVID-19. Originally, a LiDAR sensor would have been purchased in order to translate precise movement data of gallery-goers to modulate parameters for the live experience (sound, visuals, and so on.) However, now that no people will be coming into the gallery and with the show still happening, I've been working (with my collaborator) on a heavily online component incorporating PTZ security cameras, that views the artwork that is in the space. These are cameras that are remote controllable with pan, zoom and tilt.

The piece's focus has not shifted too dramatically, but the way we are presenting it is very exciting and new, and the award definitely helped in supporting the production of this project, shifting it to a level of ambition that previously wouldn't have been as possible.

The piece presents a view on how one can interact with artwork in a post-COVID world – that everything is shifting online, art experiences–when not produced in silly/bad VR instances–also follow this trend. Our take on this combines interests in surveillance, interactivity, and generative elements. The work is still "live", and is technically ambitious. The way I view the work is that each component is its own work – ie. the sculptural pieces in the space, the viewing apparatus, the website (developed using where audience interact. Cameras are strategically placed in the gallery space, and these livestream 24/7. Viewers who control these cameras thus operate in concert. If there is more than one person controlling the cameras, these actions can happen simultaneously, or are cued. There are digital overlays on the video feeds, depending on how the cameras are positioned, and various other factors we are incorporating, such as overlaid video of dance performance, and generative sound that the audience plays a part in.

It's ultimately disappointing to have to transition to this new form: as my collaborator and I have always worked in the digital realm, and we were very excited to present in physical space and translate our ideas to that medium. But! We're back to where we're comfortable innovating in, and are very excited to see what this particular viewing modality provides, and what questions it is able to bring up.