Duivenvoorde 2: get ready for the next episode..

After the fairytale-ish midsummer night edition of the Nacht van Duivenvoorde, the beta-version of the critically acclaimed mini arts festival in and around Museum Duivenvoorde Castle (Kasteel Duivenvoorde) last June, we are now making preparations for another edition in October. Thanks to a generous grant from the SNS REAAL Fund we are able to broaden and deepen our contribution to the yearlong celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2010, trying to open up this hidden world to new forms of art and to a wider audience.

Live performance by sound artists Machinefabriek and Wouter van Veldhoven at Duivenvoorde Castle on June 26, 2010.

Taking the vast and rare collection of family portraits as our starting point, we will concentrate future activities in and around the castle’s richly decorated grand ballroom, aka ‘the Marotzaal‘ after the famous French architect Daniel Marot (1661–1752). The walls are covered with life-size portraits of former residents dating back to the 16th and 17th century. They will serve as a backdrop for an innovative art installation and series of events that focus on the use of portraits in the arts and science throughout the ages.

The grand ballroom, aka ‘The Marotzaal’ at Duivenvoorde Castle, serving as an exhibition space and events platform in October.

For the design and realisation of the art installation we have teamed up with Jarrik Ourburg and Paulien Bremmer, two young Dutch architects who both work at the intersection of architecture, heritage and art.  They recently won the 1st prize in an international competition for their daring design for the transformation of an old military barack, the UNESCO-listed Genieloods at Kunstfort Vijfhuizen near the Dutch city of Haarlem, into a center for contemporary art.

Winning design for the Genieloods at Kunstfort Vijfhuizen.

At Duivenvoorde they will develop a temporary spatial intervention that on the one hand will intensify physical qualities and aesthetics of the the existing interior and at the same time will add radically new forms and viewpoints. Drawing inspiration from different ideas and examples, ranging from SANAA’s design school at Zollverein and Jan de Cock‘s and Krijn de Koning‘s art installations to technological breakthroughs in face detection and recognition software and social media applications, we will try to push the limits of what museum innovation can be.

Curious? Save the date: the art installtion opens on Saturday 16 October and the grand finale takes place on Saturday 23 October..

By Michiel — Posted August 20, 2010 — 8,402 Comments

With online game, museum goes viral

The game menu of the QiGame

The QiGame, designed by Submarine for Tropenmuseum Junior

In the past few months we have been working with the Tropenmuseum Junior (TMJ) in Amsterdam to devise a social strategy for their upcoming exhibition ‘Qi of China‘ (the website is unfortunately in Dutch only). The exhibition is aimed at children in the age of 6-13, and tells the story of China and Chinese culture through active participation. Children can learn how to write calligraphy, try martial arts and join a Chinese chef in the kitchen. An accompanying book further illustrates the riches of China.

A novel part of the exhibition is the existence of an online game. The QiGame is produced by Submarine, an Amsterdam based  cross-media production company. On their website they describe the game as follows:

Together we looked for innovative ways to let children to experience a number of key cultural values in Chinese culture. The stakes were high. And where TMJ turns a museum visit into a complete and immersive experience, Submarine has developed a narrative game concept that offers a new gaming experience. The games are accessible and fun to play as well as innovative in terms of design and gameplay.

“TMJ asked game producer Submarine to translate the main idea behind the museum exhibit to a game experience. QiGAme is an online game that, as you play it, lets you get acquainted with some of the elements that define Chinese culture, such as Chinese characters, the subtle balance of yin and yang in Chinese food, acupuncture, Feng Shui, Kung Fu, the Chinese Dragon, and the concept of ‘Qi’.

Together we looked for innovative ways to let children to experience a number of key cultural values in Chinese culture. And where TMJ turns a museum visit into a complete and immersive experience, Submarine has developed a narrative game concept that offers a new gaming experience. The games are accessible and fun to play as well as innovative in terms of design and gameplay.

The game and exhibition are designed to complement each other. We expect this will have a positive effect on the number of visitors of both projects. The QiGame is an extension of the exhibition at TMJ. Visitors of the show and players of the game build up their Qi by correctly executing a series of Chinese activities.”

The Pearl and the Dragon are the main characters of the QiGame

The Pearl and the Dragon are the two main characters of the QiGame

Non-fiction has been responsible for connecting TMJ and Submarine with Dutch social network Hyves. With more than 8 million profiles, Hyves is the biggest network in the Netherlands. And with Hyves as partner, players of the QiGame will be able to login with their profile and invite their friends to play the game too. Furthermore, children will be able to share their highscore on Hyves, and challenge others to beat their’s. This connectivity feature is expected to generate more attention for the game and engagement with the music, and experiments with the viral possibilities of social networks and online games.

The QiGame will be available online from 9 October. The game will be presented at this year’s Cinekid Festival on 20 October. Read more about the QiGame in Parool of 22 September 2009.

By Juha — Posted September 22, 2009 — 5,183 Comments

The ubiquitous museum. An interview with James Burke

Jame Burke at work in the Volkskrantgebouw, Amsterdam

Jame Burke at work in the Volkskrantgebouw, Amsterdam

Juha van ‘t Zelfde > Who are you and what do you do?

James Burke > Presently, Narb consists of Tijs Teulings and James Burke. I’m a former chef who became an interaction designer across a number of different fields. I’m mainly known as one of the guys behind the Roomware project and separately also a founding member of the P2P Foundation where i’m still an editor. Recently i’ve been involved with the push here in the Netherlands to open up government data, working with then Ministry of Internal Affairs. My daily freelance work is interaction design for web and physical spaces which is often for events. Tijs works as a freelance web developer and architect, founded portfolio service Fresh.li and is co-founder of the Roomware project which he and I started together with Robert Gaal. Tijs also runs his office as a co-working space under the moniker of Nomadz.

What is Narb?

If you Google “Narb”, you’ll find a description which says “Narb – People Filtered Art. Discover, discuss and collect art online”. We’re essentially an art discovery site with social features. We list exhibitions that are currently showing, much like any magazine or art listing site, but add tools for filtering and discussion to help people find new art that’s exciting and makes them want to get up off their ass and visit a gallery or museum. After they have found what they want to see, we give them a way to interact via comments, ratings and by letting them gather art pieces as virtual goods to form a collection. We also created an iPhone app, and a mobile website to allow for these kinds of interactions right in front of art itself at any gallery or museum. Leaving an exhibition, people can keep track of where they went, what they said and find out what other insightful people have also written about art works. Aside from what’s been mentioned, people can also submit venues and exhibitions for coverage, and take photographs via the iPhone app, which then get added to the exhibition they are in. But NARB is not just for visitors, it also offers some interesting new things for galleries and museums.

A big part of our mission is to make art more accessible. We built an API which helps cultural institutions to reuse and republish the information about the exhibitions they are hosting and the art they are presenting. We want to enable mashups of art (data), both useful and useless. One way we use the API ourselves is for helping create room-based interactions on screens inside art venues. The screens show live feedback as people add comments, upload images, add art pieces to their collections or rate art objects. Theoretically you could put a screen in each room of a museum or gallery and show feedback for only the works showing there. While tools like an API might not be for everyone, curators get a new toolset to tinker with, in respect to experimenting with public participation. For the less adventurous, or technically inclined curator or museum educator, we simply offer new insights into the experience of their visitors through direct feedback and nice colorful stats.

How was Narb received on the Rotterdam Museum Night?

Mixed. Significant downloads for the iPhone app and site visits, but commenting on art and collections was light. Less than we had hoped at least. Especially in relation to the visitor numbers. We have a lot of work ahead of us still.

What did you learn: what went well, what went wrong?

What went well for us was finally launching after working for the last 5 months building the prototype. It was really important to just get going in a big way. So we got quite a lot of new users and lots of great reactions from people who love the concept. Downsides were that commenting, rating and collecting got light usage. Here are a few theories as to why this might be so.

The user experience
Our user experience was probably not good enough. Perhaps people could not find how to comment or rate art easily enough. Equally they might not have understood what the service was about at all.

The environment
15,000 people showed up, tickets were all pre-sold out, which means all venues were full to capacity. What does that do to your art experience? Perhaps the human density factor squashed out use of social media. People were clumped together, so, where in small gallery you would usually see one or two people it was like an art opening but with double the crowd. Not sure if there is a statistic that can be applied to crowd density but this should be a consideration. Noise. The atmosphere was often like a party rather than the quiet reflective space needed for opinion forming, although it should be stated, not everywhere.

We were presented as part of an art piece called RE:ID . We’re mates with the artist and helped him with his set-up for museum night. Our service was mentioned always in combination with RE:ID which might have been confusing to visitors. The same on the website. On the mobile page, the museum night staff placed a mobile version of their website next to our applications. We were never hidden, so these are all small things. We also did not set up any public screens at the event so visitors maybe had less motivation to comment as they would not immediately see their feedback as a form of public presentation or performance amongst a group of friends.

All the things that failed to work as we had expected did also offer hints as to how to solve them though, so that’s what we’re trying to do in upcoming releases of the iPhone app and website.

What is your next step with Narb?

We’re in talks with several museums to cover their entire shown collection, so visitors will see more gentle reminders to add feedback at the venues themselves. We’re working on some new ways to get users off their seats and into galleries and museums. We also want to refine how to improve our experience for festivals as they are a different type of event where we think we only just dipped our feet in the water. At the same time the website and iPhone app need continued improvement. Follow the @narbme twitter stream which is where we officially declare new features and updates to our services.

Could you tell me something about Roomware?

Sure. Roomware was an idea that became something practical, a framework for interactive spaces. We wanted to bring the best of the web into physical spaces but we found it was hopelessly complicated to do back in 2006, so we built a simple server that handles the hard stuff of creating cool apps using wireless protocols like bluetooth, RFID and Wifi. You tell the roomware server what you want to use, for instance, add a bluetooth module. What it does then is detect all bluetooth devices in a space and publish these as an XML feed. This makes it easy for developers building an application that uses bluetooth to re-use the XML feed. You can find a few examples on the Roomware Project blog.

The server is totally open source and can be downloaded from our code repository. It’s a modular structure which presently is in need of some care and developers. At this time of writing we support Bluetooth and RFID. We also support zoning, meaning you can run multiple Roomware servers across multiple locations which lets you get really specific with what’s going on where.

The seeds for doing something with Roomware were probably sown when I used to be a chef at the original Supperclub in Amsterdam where you were a chef but also a kind of artist or active participant. It was 1998-2000 which was the period when mobile phones started appearing. While crazily and passionately cooking there , I started thinking about what kind of participative experiences could be made if the phones of people we all connected in some way and able to control shit in general or form something in a theatrical storyline. I was playing around with microphones at that time, recording what people were saying, as I had a computer in the kitchen and then replaying overhead conversations back through the main speakers. This proved lame mainly as I was too busy cooking to really dig into creating something worthwhile. It ended with me more or less only cooking, while friends asked into kitchen were playing music and recording dumb samples of the cooking instruments and integrating these into the performance.

What can be the role of new media in physical space?

Err.. thanks for asking that annoying question as it’s one of those massive wide open ones that can fill a whole book. There are a couple of them already well written that address this question with withering insight, for instance, Everyware by Adam Greenfield and Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling. Recommended reading for those of you with passing knowledge of this space; or better, required reading.

Just apply what ubiquitous computing can mean to every area of life. To the home, to work, to museum spaces. If it’s the latter, in line with this interview, then think about what you can do with augmented realitycustom electronics and Roomware-like services bringing objects with all their magical spimeyness at microscopic and global view into play. Think about what’s possible if you were to use some of these tools to power new forms of participatory art and cultural expression. It’s about new ways of interacting with computers, not beige box computers but all-knowing hidden-in-the-wall led-light-studded computing modules that can be scary and dangerous but exciting too.

The role of these new-fangled media if you will is to make our lives a bit easier without being annoying or scary.

Thank you James.

This interview was conducted via e-mail on 23 March 2009. Disclaimer: the interviewer is a member of the advisory board of Roomware project and Narb. Both Roomware project and Narb will be deployed in De Verdieping.

By Juha — Posted March 24, 2009 — 90 Comments

Muziekgebouw aan ´t IJ: Donderdagavondserie


One of the things I am working on at the Muziekgebouw aan ´t IJ is the new Donderdagavondserie, a weekly display of current developments in contemporary music on Thursday nights. With ensembles as the Asko|Schönberg, Ives and Ictus. If you would like to join me for a concert, or check one out later on, let me know. It is always nice to introduce new people to this incredible hall.

Furthermore we have set up a new social media strategy, by using Facebook, Last FM, Hyves, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter. Join our social music revolution and benefit from free tickets, inside news and other developments.

By Juha — Posted February 4, 2009 — 2,415 Comments