Mechanical Curiosities: Musical, Clockwork, Animated Mechanisms from the 17th – 19th Centuries in the State Hermitage Collection

On 9 December 2015, the exhibition Mechanical Curiosities. Musical, Clockwork, Animated Mechanisms from the 17th–19th Centuries in the State Hermitage Collection opened in the Blue Bedchamber of the Winter Palace, the State Hermitage Museum.

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The display features devices with a whole variety of purposes – timepieces and musical mechanisms, unique pieces of furniture with secrets and examples of the jeweller’s art. Created in Western Europe and Russia in the 17th–19th centuries, they reflect not only the level of technical progress in their time, but also fashionable pastimes, the ambitions and imagination of those who commissioned and created them.

The exhibition presents works by Western European and Russian practitioners of decorative and applied art, including masterpieces by celebrated mechanics of the past – James Cox (1723–1800), Pierre Jaquet Droz (1721–1790), David Roentgen (1743–1807). Peter Kinzing (1745–1816) and Ivan Petrovich Kulibin (1735–1818) – as well as pieces whose creators are unknown. Many of the items are being displayed publicly for the first time.

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The earliest examples of mechanical devices included in the exhibition date from the 17th century. They are German table clocks in the form of animals and a silver toy carriage made by mechanics in Augsburg and Nuremberg.
Craftsmen of the 18th-century age of the Rococo and Enlightenment produced marvels of mechanical art, demonstrating the triumph of reason over the organic world. One of the most famous gems of that time is the Peacock Clock on display in the Pavilion Hall of the Small Hermitage. It was the work of the English 18th-century jeweller and mechanic James Cox. The exhibition features table clocks and pocket watches made by Cox and his compatriot Peter Torckler.

Mechanical Curiosities: Musical, Clockwork, Animated Mechanisms from the 17th – 19th Centuries open from December 10, 2015 until April 3, 2016. Visit the exhibition at the Blue Bedroom (Room 307), the Winter Palace, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Daniil Frants’ Project Featured at the Jimmy Fallon’s Show

CYLAND MediaArtLab’s artist and specialist in the creative use of new technologies Daniil Frants has recently done a demonstration of his project, the Live Time Closed Captioning System (LTCCS), at the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. LTCCS is a revolution in assistive technology for the hearing impaired, an on-head wearable display that provides closed captioning for real-life events as they happen live.

Jimmy Fallon welcomes Daniil Fants to show off his invention, and Jimmy counters with some cutting-edge technology of his own.

And you can help make this project to become a reality, and to get the LTCCS into the hands of millions of users, potentially changing their lives forever: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ltccs-the-live-time-closed-captioning-system#/

Perceptually Optimised Sound Zones for Future Spatial Audio

Often, two people in a single room want to listen to different items of audio. It may be that one person is watching television whilst the other is listening to the radio, or even that one plays a computer game whilst the other reads in silence. The obvious solution to this would be for all individuals to wear headphones, however this dramatically increases isolation (not just in acoustic terms), is impractical if more than one person wants to listen to either source, and could be uncomfortable over an extended period.

It would be great if we could create ‘zones’ of sound: areas within a room or other environment, where only one of the audio signals could be heard. In other words, reproducing sound in specific zones whilst minimising spill into other zones. An example is shown below of a living room containing two sound zones, A and B, with the remaining space being either a quiet area, or an area where the reproduced sound is relatively unimportant.

This project is unique in the way that it combines engineering (to create the sound zones) and psychoacoustics (to evaluate and predict the perceived quality). It has been funded by Bang and Olufsen and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and aims to unlock the creative potential of 3D sound and deliver to listeners a step change in immersive experiences.

The engineering research is being conducted by staff and students from the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing, in collaboration with engineers from Bang and Olufsen. They have developed methods to create sound fields where the audio is concentrated on the corresponding sound zones, with minimal spill into other zones.

The psychoacoustic research is being conducted by staff and students from the Institute of Sound Recording, in collaboration with psychoacousticians from Bang and Olufsen. They have determined the most appropriate perceptual factors when listening interfering signals in a sound zone, and have developed models in order to predict the performance of a system in a perceptually-relevant way.

The video below includes interviews with a number of the project contributors, as well as a binaural demonstration of one of the resulting sound zone systems. Headphones for listening are recommended.

Details on the project can be found at the University of Surrey website and S3A Future Spatial Audio.

CAPITAL OF NOWHERE AT THE 55th VENICE BIENNALE

Capital of Nowhere 2013

CAPITAL OF NOWHERE is a group art project dedicated to the experience of living in a changing landscape created by our media based civilization. This traveling art project captures the work of Russian (mainly St. Petersburg based) artists, amidst the Biennale, where national representation is the first step in to its global art pole– and though you can feel these artist and their identity at the core, the concept of the project is versatile, it allows reflection of both time and place, aligning foreign and local thought to interplay.

Today’s city is an ever-updating screen where commercials mix up with politics, futuristic fantasies mix up with history and documents mix up with fiction. The reality of time and place disappear. Mutation of the familiar urban environment is perceived as a physical, mental and moral wound that every artist contrasts with their own act of creation, compensation, and substitution.
The exhibited works spark new possibilities, real and imaginary – extending the space of Art into the life of the viewer, and drawing the viewer into the life of Art – this is a worthwhile partnership and realm, during the prestigious Venice Biennale.
Vitaly Pushnitsky’s “Falling Light” reimagines painterly inquiries of area, time and light through a broad range of divergent media including sculpture, architecture, and installation. In “Dream and Ball”, Petr Belyi literalizes the idea of a place for dreams with large luminescent balls made of opaque glass upon stacks of pillows.
Alexandra Dementieva’s work, “Mirror’s Memory”, explores the link between representation and memory as mediated by new technology inviting viewers to experience a reflected self at the will of a machine. In Liudmila Belova’s “Archive”, memory of the body is evoked through sound.
Marina Koldobskaya’s iconography (such as animals, fruits and faces) employs a minimal palette to harness raw power of the thing itself while her performance of painting reveals the nature of creation – subtly offering viewers both recognizable cypher and tools to interpret how the language came to be. Teenage technology wiz Daniil Frants and artist Ivan Govorkov’s site-specific performative installation weaves together line, shape, composition and construction through a process based investigation of traditional 2D mark-making and modern 3D modeling.
Victoria Ilyushkina’s wickedly absurdist video work takes on the space of the bathtub as a metaphor for the symbolic connections we make, miss and struggle through. Mariateresa Sartori’s stark, philosophically rich video work presents the intricacies of the human libido as a popular chemistry lesson.
Photographic prints of Alexander Terebenin’s “Gallery” series depict perspectival stretches of the dilapidated 18t h century colonnades lining Nikolsky Market in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile his “Traces on White” reveals empty paths throughout countryside’s equally neglected natural environment: rickety fences and desolate, snowy fields.
A perfect embodiment of the contexts explored in “On My Way” , the multimedia artwork “Danae” by artists Ivan Govorkov invokes the myth of Acrisius’ daughter and Zeus as a moving, mirrored reflection of the life-giving power of the immaterial of art.
Anna Frants and Elena Gubanova

Exhibition: May 27th – July 10th 2013, a side event of the 55th Biennale of Contemporary Art
Venue: Ca’ Foscari Zattere
Address: Zattere, Dorsoduro 1392, 30123 Venice, Italy (Boat stop: Zattere)

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