Field notes from the Museum of Random Memory, Iteration #2


Un-curatorial interpretation with Kristoffer and Chris

The up-front purpose is to playfully engage citizens to think about how they might like to better control how they contribute data… The behind-the-scenes purpose is to generate data and ideas about how municipalities, buildings, or institutions are currently collecting and archiving citizen data and how we can encourage citizen engagement in these discussions. We prompt citizens to think about everyday scraps of stuff they’d like to remember or forget to spark critical reflections about what is, or could be, relevant to the city… What future heritage might we create if we all paid closer attention to the traces of ourselves that might eventually become part of some larger pool of cultural memory?

– On the Museum of Random Memory, Annette Markham

 

The Museum of Random Memory invited people to contribute to an archive with a memory that they wanted to remember or forget, and functioned through different layers of interaction. A participant who approached the museum space was met by a contribution assistant, an archivist, who guided the participant through the process of uploading a photo of a memory they wished to contribute. The chosen photo would then appear on the museum’s website, and, choosing whether or not the memory was to be forgotten or remembered, the photo would be added to a grid of other memories and either fade out over time (a forgotten memory) or remain visible for all to see (a memory chosen for preservation). During this step, the archivist collected notes about the donated memory on a sheet, and engaged the participant with a brief conversation about the memory they chose. The participant could then choose to follow up their discussion with a one-on-one interpretation of their memory with another member of the museum. This interpretation session took place in a separate, darkened room, with desk lighting helping to transform the space into a quiet refuge from the bustle of the main area outside.

In the planning phases of the project, there was a continuing gravitation towards representations of the lived experience and the role of the artist as curator/anthropologist/archaeologist. In Dieter Roelstaete’s Field Notes, the rise of information economy is contrasted alongside contemporary art’s affinity for recovering, remembering, reconstructing, reenacting, and repeating the past. Roelstaete’s words run in tandem to Annette Markham’s quoting of Madeleine Grumet, stating that every telling is a partial prevarication, and in another sense: we cannot simply recreate the past. Despite all this, in the process of recycling collected memories, our historiographic impulses omit attention to the liberating experience of forgetting. In our group consisting of people from many different walks of life, were we anthropologists, archivists, artists, or something else?


Reconstruction/representation/recycling of memory; notes by Andrew Sempere

Qualitatively and in its simplest essence, the museum was an art project and an archive, joined through the data it collected in the form of memories to be forgotten, with those memories being repurposed through the construct of a digital archive of images. The method of excising a part of our lives (being asked to literally forget) through the donation of a memory to the archive and conversely reinforcing memorable experiences created or encouraged a cathartic experience, a freeing of one’s self from the memorial baggage that we would otherwise carry until the ravages of time stripped our memories away. The museum acted as the vehicle for this catharsis, engaging participants through each step of the process, from donating a memory to a subsequent “un-interpretation” of a memory through one-on-one conversation with the donor. The product of the digital archive – the collection of images, the reference tags, the digital tools for exploring the collection – remained secondary to the emotional experience of social engagement of our memories with others.

Curation, which invariably follows the archiving of content, remains a post-thought, a ritual that we perform for the satisfaction of seeing order in our work and outlining a process for ourselves and an uncertain future audience. In the framework of the museum, curation was the collating, interpreting, un-interpreting, recycling, re-telling, and re-configuring of the memories within our digital archive into stories and experiences that exposed our humanity and helped us find common threads of existence with each other. The warm and intimate conversations with people who had donated memories to the museum demonstrated and reinforced the notion that the way we share data in a digital world can have major implications in its usefulness to society as a whole. The success of the museum came not in a digital wall of random memories, but in the interpretation of its content through various hyper-realisms of conversation, shared emotions, and human understanding.

Our group of academics, practitioners, and students performed a wide range of roles, yet we all shared the implicit role of anthropologists tasked with understanding and interpreting the different cultural threads presented to us through the contributions of the museum’s donors. Now that the museum has concluded another iteration, what have we learned about these processes, and what will we carry on into the future?

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Retro Revival

As a child, the very first game system my parents bought for me and my brother was the Sega Genesis. Bundled with Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it provided many hours of play as I worked to reach the final boss stage and complete the game. That actually didn’t happen until after a few years, when both of us became seasoned Sonic gamers. Strangely enough, Sonic 2 was the only game we would ever own for the Genesis until many years later, when Genesis games were so cheap that I picked up a few select titles from the used bin at Blockbuster video.

Sonic-2-1

That was the late 90s. Fast forward to 2014, when I discovered HyperSpin, a multimedia-focused frontend for game emulation. As a frontend, HyperSpin provides an interface that links together a number of different game emulators to create a single point of access to play any console, computer, or arcade game. Since then, I have been working on creating a HyperSpin setup that is controllable entirely from USB joypad controllers so that I could one day create a tabletop gaming arcade. This blog post documents my progress.

Right now I am still working on completing the computer-side setup – making sure emulators run properly, configuring game bezels, removing games that don’t work, etc. I’ve included the following set of consoles/arcade systems, all of which can be played with a USB gamepad controller:

  • MAME
  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari Jaguar
  • Atari Lynx
  • Bandai WonderSwan Color
  • Casio PV-1000
  • Commodore Amiga CD32
  • Entex Adventure Vision
  • Epoch Super Cassette Vision
  • GCE Vectrex
  • Mattel Intellivision
  • Microsoft MSX
  • Microsoft MSX2
  • NEC PC Engine
  • NEC PC Engine-CD
  • NEC SuperGrafx
  • NEC TurboGrafx-16
  • NEC TurboGrafx-CD
  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Nintendo Famicom
  • Nintendo Famicom Disk System
  • Nintendo 64
  • Nintendo Game Boy
  • Nintendo Game Boy Color
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance
  • Nintendo GameCube
  • Nintendo Super Famicom
  • Nintendo Super Game Boy
  • Nintendo Virtual Boy
  • Nintendo WiiWare
  • Panasonic 3DO
  • Sega SG-1000
  • Sega Master System
  • Sega Genesis
  • Sega CD
  • Sega 32X
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • Sega Game Gear
  • Sega Naomi
  • Sega Saturn
  • SNK Neo Geo
  • SNK Neo Geo AES
  • SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color
  • Sony PlayStation
  • Sony PSP

The system can be expanded to include many more gaming platforms with varying requirements for successful gameplay – the only limitations are harddrive space!

I also created a set of game bezels using HyperSpin user nosh’s original artwork that show how the original game system’s controller has been re-mapped to the USB joypad controller:

Sega-Genesis-Bezel-16x9-2560x1440

Eventually, the plan is to build a desktop gaming cabinet akin to this one:

Dean-Liou-Arcade-Dock

Critical written reflection

The following article presents my semester project as an interview with myself, the architect, after the project has been completed. It presents the project in a mostly chronological order of work done in the semester, starting with the site analysis and moving into the interactive elements and then the form.

The article has acted as a tool for reflection on my work, and also to prepare for the final presentation of the project. During the writing process I found myself asking questions about my work as a prompt for content creation. Presenting the project in the form of an interview allows me to speak honestly and in a direct manner, as if I had the opportunity to engage directly with the reader.

Justin Lacko - Critical Written Reflection_Page_01

Odense site analysis

The most striking feature of the new city plan for Thomas B. Thriges Street in Odense, Denmark is also the most unnoticed. Beneath the collection of new buildings and squares is a massive underground parking area designed to maximize usable surface area and eliminate the presence of the automobile from the city square.

How we move from above to below provides a starting point to examine how these transitions occur. Is it a straightforward movement, such as a simple staircase, or can we create an articulated design that captures the essence of our vertical travel? The following pie charts show that the most common way to access the underground are by stairs, and the most significant places they lead to are regional urban areas.

stats_v2

Cross-referencing my observations with the proposed locations of stairwells at the site led me to focus on three areas where an architectural intervention could occur. The Musikhuspassagen, Overgade and Albani Torv are regional urban areas that bisect the site in different locations. The stairwells in these areas are located within the buildings, and the master is not detailed enough to indicate whether these passages are private or public. A series of passages that are publicly-accessible would provide an opportunity to design forms that are free of the dimensional constraints of surrounding buildings and could be placed at central points in the three areas. The passages could serve to entice people into moving either above or below ground through their form and function.
Central to my concept of three vertical passages is the phenomena of interaction, which creates meaning on multiple levels. Interactive architecture acts as the antithesis to the classical practice of creating a static building as an end-result and instead imbues a certain uncertainty through a constantly-changing form. Applying these concepts to the passages, we construct a network of linked nodes that share information between each other in order to determine their form. In this way the passages act not only as a physically constructed object but also as signifiers of social meaning. Paul Dorish describes this situation as “[a]rtifacts and representations carry(ing) different sorts of meanings simultaneously, and activities are caught up in many different tasks at the same time” (Dorish, 123). Using these concepts we can imagine the passages taking on many functions, perhaps acting as waypoints to navigate the massiveness of the site, or as meeting and interaction points for people. These classifications distinguish between the functions of the passages – on the one hand they are constructed architectural entities with a function of transporting people between levels, and on the other hand they are a collection of embodied actions, events, operations and behaviours.
But what criteria would the passages use to create an interactive architectural system? What environmental data are we interested in observing and exploring? Referring back to Oxman’s criticism of sensing being a post-gestural addition in the building process, we must consider these points before we begin to arrive at an architecture that is uninformed by the dynamics of its environment. The Musikhuspassagen, Overgade and Albani Torv areas are designed as vibrant corridors that bustle with various aspects of everyday city life, including open-air markets, cafés and congregation areas. A quick exercise of examining the site plans and renderings from the master plan and making point-form observations of the activities in each area provides us with the following data:
Musikhuspassagen:
  • Public space connecting music and theatre house
  • Fixtures and fittings inviting individual expression – oriented towards older children/adolescents
  • Green space inviting areas to play basketball, rest in hammocks, parkour
  • Thematic elements to preserve the sense of magic theatre-goers have experienced before returning to “reality”
Overgade:
  • Recreates historic city cross-connection and reconnects shopping areas
  • Historical lines of sight
  • Very busy and bustling
  • Cultural supplement in the form of media/info screens
  • Benches for seating
  • Cycle path runs through the area
Albani Torv:
  • Informal meeting and socializing
  • Ties the valley’s landscape together across the square
  • Grass islands with trees to provide sitting areas
  • Can be turned into an area for pavilions/tents
  • Historic area

 

All three areas encourage interaction, transforming them from simple travel corridors into destination points that offer a range of ways to interact with the site. The process of moving from a series of actions to an architectural form is a linear one:
Activities → Interactions → Architecture
In other words, the activities can be used as the elements that dictate the types of interactions we want to see occur, which then in turn will inform the architecture. An examination of the three sites results in a simplified list of the primary activities I want to look at.
Connections – Each area has an explicit purpose of connecting two spaces together – either through a new connection or by reviving a historical one. Each connection carries a story behind it that can be told through building and interaction.
Congregation – Even though each area is a passage that connects one place to another, they invite the traveller to stay and treat the space as a destination point rather than a corridor. Green areas, benches, hammocks and street-level cafés entice people to stay a while.
Communication – It is logical that with congregation emerges communication. The spaces offer spaces where dialogue can emerge from chance encounters or arranged meetings. Our methods of communication can be affected by how we congregate and where we position ourselves within a space.
Play – Further bolstering the concept of urban passages that entice people to stay are the numerous ways that we are encouraged to play and experience each space – through tactile feeling, small environmental tweaking such as islands of grass, parkour and games, we gain a sense of belonging in our surroundings that excites us in different ways and encourages us to explore.