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Lucid Streaming: An artist dreams in digital

Guest Blogger: Tim Hinck - Tim Hinck is a composer and intermedia artist who’s intent finds expression in the disciplines of sound, light, digital media, physical materials, movement, and speech. Productions of his compositions often involve musicians and dancers who are required to perform outside the realm of their specific discipline and are instructed to use a range of materials, technique, and movement to convey the topic at hand. Hinck's Lucid Streaming composition and performance was incubated and presented on the 4th Floor during GIGTANK's Demo Day this summer.   

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In the world of contemporary art, trends are always in flux and the boundaries of "cutting-edge" are always hard to define.  One element that seems fixed on everyone's radar at the moment is new media (and thus: technology).  When you talk about what's next, new media is both the definition and the point of departure.  Video art installations are ubiquitous; sound installations involving digital and analog technology seem to be in every contemporary art museum.  

When Karen Rudolph of the Lyndhurst Foundation approached me about creating a performance that utilized Chattanooga's gigabit internet capabilities in conjunction with cutting-edge art, new media was certainly on my mind.  If streaming live video didn't put a strain on the "Gig" internet, if simulcasting two musicians performing live from two locations didn't cause the Gig to break a sweat, I was determined to find a way to push the Gig to it's limits and perhaps experiment with new media in the process.  

The plan was to throw nearly 100 streaming clips of video art back-and-forth across town using the Gig in real time, and to use live performers to trigger these videos with gesture-control technology. We didn't quite accomplish all of that this time, but our project, Lucid Streaming,made significant strides toward that lofty goal.

To create this kind of integration of art and technology, I would need a very unusual type of laboratory; a place where artistic creativity and technological experimentation were going on side-by-side. It was during this period that I discovered the innovative hub of creative technology that was being developed on the 4th floor of the Chattanooga library.  I was astounded to see inventors and computer programmers working along side artists to complete projects that existed on the boundary between fine art and utility.  I knew that this would be the perfect place to test and develop ideas for our Lucid Streaming performance.

Intermedia artists are used to dealing with some form of technology (often several forms), and I find that I usually gravitate toward 50-year-old, analog technology, myself.  When I began developing Lucid Streaming, however, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself in new ways and explore some very new technology.  In order to do this, I approached my friend Bill Brock and his crack team of computer programmers, Engage 3D.  What makes this team so exciting is that they are particularly interested in unusual applications for computer technology such as performative and cinematic arts.  I realized that even a short demo-performance like Lucid Streaming would spark creative uses for this tech/arts marriage in many artistic disciplines. 

And so we set to work finding common ground between the futuristic work of the Engage 3D team, and my retro, analog, "Fluxus"-inspired visual aesthetic: Engage 3D introduced me to the Kinect camera which allows a performer on stage to control video projections with his hands and body, and I added raw, organic materials such as plywood, fabric, and animalistic, unrefined, body movements.  In the end, our performance was quite simple:  

  1. Two identical stages in different locations, with a pyramid-like structure on each stage.
  2. Two women, one on each stage. 
  3. Both women using gesture-controlled technology to "open" and carry videos around on stage.
  4. Each woman then "throwing" her videos across the Gig to the other stage in a different part of the city

What I hoped the audience would take from this demo-performance would be a new, interactive way of viewing video art.  Instead of standing in a museum looking at a framed canvass on a wall, the viewer could "hold" the video in their hands; move it around and resize it.  I hoped that the audience could see themselves in the place of the woman on stage, operating and viewing the videos for themselves; but even more than this, I hoped that artists and creators in the audience would get inspired to put this technology to new use in their own upcoming projects.  

Lucid Streaming was another small step in an ongoing journey to an integrated world of art and technology.  What I learned from this project was that this type of integration is going on already in Chattanooga, with the 4th floor of the library as an epicenter for these experiments.

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Tim Hinck’s compositions have been performed in Chattanooga, Tennessee (where most of the works are premiered) and throughout the United States and in Europe. Hinck began formal training in piano and composition at age six, and continued with degrees in music performance. In 2004 he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to study historical music in the Netherlands. He is the founder and director of the New Dischord Festival of Intermedia Arts and teaches at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. In 2012 he was awarded a MakeWork grant from Create Here and the city of Chattanooga.