Finnish colour at ISEA2009 Symposium

  • empty_stomach_0509_pieni

    ISEA2009, International Symposium for Electronic Art, takes place in Belfast 23 August -1 September. The Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (ISEA), founded in the Netherlands in 1990, is an international nonprofit organization fostering interdisciplinary academic discourse and exchange among culturally diverse organizations and individuals working with art, science and emerging technologies. ISEA publishes a newsletter; hosts an online archive and exchange environment and oversees the International Symposium on Electronic Art, a regular gathering of the international art, science and technology community.

    Finnish media art is represented in ISEA2009 by two interesting projects; M.A.R.I.N, a mobile residency programme set on board a catamaran sailboat, and Empty Stomach by artists Andy Best and Merja Puustinen.

    Empty Stomach is a large inflatable interactive bouncy sculpture. Empty Stomach! incorporates embedded sensor technology to create a playable and intuitively understandable physical interface, an all-encompassing multi-sensoral experience of sound, touch, balance and social interaction. Data from the physical activity of the participants is sent via custom electronics to controlling software creating a real-time interactive soundscape of sounds, music and voice.

    Empty Stomach! is a surreal “Day of the Dead” version of the witch’s gingerbread house from the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. Popular cultural references to the power of fantasma of toys, magic rituals, circus, and amusement parks are insinuated through the visual design of the art work. This surrealistic world of imagination is juxtaposed with the sombre realities of everyday surroundings and conventional habits of action as the work invades the public space as an invitation for other, more political layers of interpretation.

    People are eaten by the monster house as they crawl in through its three gaping mouths. The space inside - its stomach - is entirely red in colour, providing an immersive dive into a psychedelic sensous experience. Besides its conceptual qualities the piece employes a variety of sensory realms like vision, hearing, sense of balance, and tactility in engaging the full body experience. Some people have even licked the surface! By shaking up some of the most profound ways of experiencing our physical surroundings the art work spontaneously creates a strong sense of shared ownership and social interaction amongst its users.

    Andy and Merja have been creating art and media projects together since 1993. They were amongst the first artists working online, and during the mid to late 1990’s created beautiful, but provocative, multiuser 3D worlds on the internet. Their company Meetfactory has developed a web-based 3D multiuser community platform as well as virtual pet and e-learning applications for mobile phones. They now focus on developing playful, physically engaging installations, robotic, and interactive works using physical computing techniques.

    Andy and Merja have presented works and papers at many international conferences and festivals of new media, art, and technology.

    They are experienced curators, producers and educators. Merja Puustinen is completing doctoral research at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki and Andy Best is a PhD student in Arts & Computational Technologies at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK.

    To learn more about ISEA2009 go to