The vast Turbine Hall at Tate Modern was thrust back into industrialism this weekend with one of the largest hackathons in London.
One hundred and forty four of the brightest coders, artists, musicians, developers and creatives were given a brief to flex their talent and produce some techno-inspired art. It was simply: ‘Take any form of data and transform it into a creative digital artwork’.
Art and data being so subjective allowed the projects to vary immensely. The question “where is the data” was put to one team who had projected their silhouettes onto artwork via a Kinect. The system showed that almost anything can be digitalised and transformed into something else.
Plush lobsters were the creation of one team who wanted to merge social media with toys. Their aim was to enable children with clinical depression to take comfort from those like them. The lobsters scanned Twitter and spoke aloud the tweets they found. With glowing eyes and robotic voices I don’t know if they would do anything to help mental disorders, but the skill involved in turning them around is quite impressive.
Human generated data was a definite theme at the hackathon. I think it’s analogue nature makes the data far more interesting and unpredictable. With help from the easy-to-use programmable circuitry known as Arduino we can quickly get data out of ourselves.
One team took a child’s windmill and replicated it’s rotations on a much larger scale. Each windmill was hooked up to the Arduino. The smaller one acted as a sensor, sending pulses to the Arduino when spinning. The larger one was essentially a motor which received instructions from the Arduino telling it how many times to rotate.
Contenders hacked for 24 hours stopping only for sips of coffee and releases of wee. To keep from wandering off and falling in the Thames from sheer exhaustion were the promise of bunk beds nearby where programmers could rest their weary noodles.
What results from these hacks when makers are left alone to make is always impressive. A team that had used 3D projection took the prize of £3000. Combining projectors, text-to-speech engines and speeches of the infamous Putin the team played devil’s advocate by having a virtual Barack Obama read words once spoken by the leader of America’s enemy.