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Displaying high-tech creativity

A. Kurniawan Ulung
A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, November 29, 2016 | 01:21 pm
Displaying high-tech creativity

Inspired by the annual Digital Design Weekend at V&A Museum, London, the British Council Indonesia's Digital Design Weekend are held starting from Nov. 19 to 20 in Kota Tua. West Jakarta. One of the exhibitions are "Pup-up Synth Party" (above). (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

In a café, Aabie Ryan was excited when talking about Ghost Detector, a parenting kit that she created with her 13-year-old son, Vito Alif, to help her 5-year-old daughter, Phaedra Kaesara, deal with her fear of ghosts. The detector is nothing like the weapon used by actress Melissa McCarthy when playing Abby Yates in the film Ghostbusters.

The kit is a thermometer-like device with a small monitor on which word “ghost” will pop up if the room becomes cold. The word will disappear if the temperature is raised.

Aabie was one of 14 participants of the first Digital Design Weekend held by British Council Indonesia on a recent weekend in Kota Tua in West Jakarta.

She recalled that Phaedra often assumed that ghosts were around her every time she felt cold. Aabie then created the Ghost Detector and explained that if her daughter wanted to expel the ghosts, she just needed to raise the temperature of her room.

“By using this tool, children can solve their fears because what makes them afraid is something in their minds,” she said of Ghost Detector, which won Best Design in the science fiction competition, Sci-Fi Hardware Hackathon 2016, in August in Jakarta.

Inspired by an annual event of the same name held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Digital Design Weekend aimed to boost cultural relations between Indonesia and the United Kingdom.

(Read also: Digital Design Weekend: when art meets technology, science)

With five artists from the UK and nine from Indonesia participating, the Digital Design Weekend is part of UK/ID Festival 2016, a series of events and performances by the best young creative minds from the two countries.

The festival, which runs until Dec. 10 across Indonesia, kicked off on Oct. 18 at the NuArt Gallery in Bandung, West Java, with a visually breathtaking show, XFRMR, performed by artist Robbie Thomson, who harnessed the sound capabilities of the Tesla coil to make music.

In Jakarta’s downtown Kota Tua, the 14 participants presented their work in four spots, namely the Historia café, the Aroma Nusantara café, the Kedai Pos café and the Batavia Market. At the Historia café, for example, digital agency Think.Web presented a facedetecting camera app called Face Recognition. It stole the attention of many because it could detect information on the faces of visitors, ranging from gender and age to the level of their happiness. Aruna Laksana, the agency’s project manager, said that before releasing it to the public the app, created in August, would be first tested at his office in January next year by using it to record employees’ attendance. He said he is confident that people will warmly welcome his app. “This will also benefit blind people to help them learn information about their conversation partners.”

In the same building, visitors also learned the experience of being blind through a 15-minute immersive virtual reality project named Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness, created by directors James Spinney and Peter Middleton. By using a Samsung Gear VR headset, they entered the world of theologian John Hull, who spent 16 years chronicling his degenerative blindness in an audio journal before total darkness fell in 1983. The project combined binaural audio and real time 3D to give the sense of going blind alongside Hull.

Meanwhile, at Kedai Pos, visitors entered the world of writer Jane Gauntlett, who suffered from a traumatic brain injury when she was violently mugged in 2007, through a virtual project called In My Shoes: Dancing with Myself.

The project depicts the real story of Gauntlett when she suddenly experienced an epileptic seizure in a restaurant in London.

On a round table covered with a white tablecloth, visitor Lisvi Fadlilah experienced the 13-minute, 360-degree film. “When I used the VR headset, I became Gauntlett. I was [virtually] sitting in a restaurant, waiting for a man. When we were chatting, my eyes suddenly blurred and then I fainted,” she said.

Jon Cooper, an assistant of Gauntlett, said that in 2011 she created the work with an expectation that people would openly discuss and dialogue about epilepsy after experiencing it.

In My Shoes: Dancing with Myself and Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness will be presented again from Dec. 1 to 4 at the Dutch cultural center, Erasmus Huis, in Jakarta and from Dec. 5 to 10 during the Documentary Film Festival in Yogyakarta.

(Read also: Marveling at Magritte's 'Treacherous Images' in Paris exhibition)

When asked for his reason to bring the award-winning projects to the country, British Council arts and creative industries director Adam Pushkin answered: “This is about disability from the perspective of disabled people. They often don’t get a chance to tell their stories and this is an opportunity for us to understand them.”

Pushkin said he was satisfied with the first Digital Design Weekend in Indonesia and he hoped that it would create an environment in which more artists from the two countries would have conversations about more collaborations in the future.

However, he said he had yet to know whether it could be an annual event.

“This [Digital Design Weekend] is an experiment. I am very keen to continue to engage in the field of digital culture because a lot of people in Indonesia and in the UK are interested in it. We want to encourage them to work and play together,” said Pushkin.

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