FITC Amsterdam

27-02-2015

A conference about “design, technology and cool shit” in Amsterdam, that's something I just can't ignore. For two days (February 23 and 24, 2015) Pakhuis de Zwijger was the setting for the eight edition of FITC Amsterdam. The program was packed with exciting, fun, but above all inspiring presentations.

From the introduction movie – which was projected on 9 screens – to the final presentation by Jessica Walsh I was flooded with beautiful visuals. There is no doubt the spearkers of FITC know very well the meaning of 'cool shit'. What made this conference different was that most of the creative output was driven from technology. Here technology wasn't just used as a mean to get the result, but it became the concept or any way a fundamental part of it.

FITC Amsterdam FITC Amsterdam

Steve Vranakis from Google Creative Lab did talk about this specifically in his presentation. In his experience as an art director he noticed that 'coders' often are very creative people (I agree!). In the current society where technology plays such a big role, technology should also be an important theme in art. Although technological driven art exists for many years, Steve tries to gain wider support within society for the theme with some awesome projects from the Creative Lab.

Technology powers creativity
Technology powers creativity says Steve Vranakis - picture @_iamChris

Creativity is not only important in art projects. The importance of creativity in innovation was emphasized in the presentation by Nicola Bortignon. Playing creatively with technology can result in valuable new ideas. By asking questions like “What can you do with 20 dollars?” Google tries to spark creativity. This question for example led to a carton virtual reality kit in which you can slide your phone to have an extraordinary VR-experience.

The story of Remi Pedersen was about his experiences in running a start-up for mobile GPU's. It was an inspiring story that showed how much you can achieve with very limited resources but a lot of persistence. Remi also showed us the importance of the creative 'demoscene' in the graphics industry. So it seems that being able to freely play and experiment is also very valuable in the professional world.

Even in hospitals, stated Frederik Vanhoutte. Of course you cannot experiment on patients, but it is strange that creativity is considered to be something negative in may sectors. Every patient is different, so in the end a doctor needs to find a creative solution for each of these cases. Frederik also showed that experiments and play can help you form a better view on things. As an example he talked about the concept of rainbows, which in schools are often explained with the example of a prism. After some experimentation it appears however not to be a good explanation at all, a rainbow in fact work a bit more complex. Frederik played with a marvelous simulation to better show what really is going on, and this way gave a better explanation of how rainbows really work.
The scary thing is that everything we learn is based on simplified, filtered and even mutated models of reality. These models shape our vision and all decisions are made based on these models. So it may not be such a bad idea to play around creatively with these models every now and then.

Rainbow simulator
Rainbow simulator by Frederik Vanhoutte - picture @casperkoomen

A very nice presentation from Brosmind also showed how valuable humor can be. With their funny way of presenting – controlled with home-made controllers and a little game going on through the slides – they easily could hold the attention of the audience. They also showed many successful products that have left their studio. Jessica Walsh showed us another way to get the attention of your audience by boldly following your own rules with some humor in the mix.

Brosmin on stage
The brothers from Brosmind play a game on stage - picture @maevdkrogt

Creativity and humor being important factors for success, this should not be new insight. But what I realized during these two conference days was that technology driven creativity is very relevant at this moment in time. The impact of technological changes in society is pretty radical. The relation between man and technology is changing fast. Creativity is an important factor in finding valuable solutions in this new environment.

The 'classic' creatives are in general not very technical and thus maybe not so much the chosen ones to think from the perspective of new technological developments (sorry). Something I see in generic art for example, is when an artist without solid knowledge of exact sciences creates systems. Basically these artists are using a tool and playing with the controls until an esthetic pleasing image appears. Although the work can be an interesting visual exploration, in my opinion this kind of work doesn't add a lot of value to a sociological debate around technology.

Mario Klingemann showed in his presentation a better example of generic art. He coded a system to analyze images from old books from the British Library. After sorting an extracting parts of images he designed another system to combine parts of the images to create new shapes and even character-like 'things'. Those objects he uses to create amusing end results. The difference with this kind of work is that this system has a philosophy embedded in itself and doesn't produce something purely on chance. This makes people think about technology, both within a sociological debate as in the search for new valuable concepts and products.

A Dip in the Pond by Mario Klingemann
A Dip in the Pond by Mario Klingemann

I believe there is a lot of need for this kind of work at this moment. But Nicola Bortignon already stated the problem in his presentation. When he was young his school teacher told his mother he was both good at art as well as math. But his proud mother only appeared to have heard he was good at math. People who are good in exact sciences are valued because of this. For that reason they will not soon move in the direction of the uncertain art world. This is a shame, because we all know by now that these people are the ones that shape the world of tomorrow with their Sillicon Valley-like start-ups. Would it not be nice if this happened within a rich cultural sociological frame?