It was around June this year when I stumbled upon an online video called “Databending” while searching for new projects working with live data. The video introduced the concept of databending in a very clear and low-key manner and promoted an event at the Gogbot festival. I was struck by the opportunities this product had to offer to video artists, VJ’s, controllerists and audiovisual performers. At our own FIBER Festival (back in January) some artists shared MIDI- and OSC-signals between each other during a live gig, but we also wanted to involve the audience in a sort of live network environment. Unfortunately we didn’t have the knowledge and skills to do so at the time. The idea remained, and we went around looking for that special someone. And there they were.
“We’re organising something we’re calling ‘databending’. The idea is that we get a nice location and a sturdy computer network and everybody is allowed to place pieces of art that communicate with each other through OSC (think MIDI). OSC signals can be broadcasted over the entire network, so the mouse or movement input of your work can be transmitted to other works, that change because of what happened with your work. This way the room is filled with invisible relations that will leave the public wondering about the impact of their movements, the sound of their voices or a press of a button on an installation.” – Source
My curiosity was raised, so I contacted the guys running this first event and got in touch with Heinze Havinga. Heinze is one of the driving forces behind databending and is now also a member of SETUP. Besides being a really nice guy, it turned out he does amazing things with multiple sorts of data and API’s. After a few e-mails we met at Canvas in Amsterdam to introduce our projects, and shared some idea’s. Heinze explained to me the concept of databending, the idea behind the event, and introduced me to his software which was almost ready for a public release.
What is interesting about the events is the almost plug-and-play OSC-network environment they provide for participants. Heinze explains there used to be events where everyone was setting up their network for hours without actually creating or sharing anything. Quite boring if you’re not a hardcore coder or technician. The difference with the databending system is a central datapatch, which actively recognizes participants who are trying to connect with the network and within minutes you are hooked-up to a lively stream of OSC-signals. This way more people – without having a hardcore coding background – can create and share more signals. The only thing you have to do, is create an interesting visualisation or installation. The result is an experimental and collective media art lab-exhibition.
“Databending is an exposition form where interactive installations influence each other through OSC. We had a central datapatcher written in Processing that allowed us to automatically add installations and create connections between them. Think paperkettle’s code bending on a large scale.” – Source
To really get a grip of the concept and possibilities of databending, we’ll have a look at one other influential creator called Paperkettle and his codebending projects.
“Codebending is connecting. However, it isn’t just about arbitrary connections – it also aims to challenge the way we look at the software in our lives, and explore the bizarre and exciting things that happen when you push programs and systems to their absolute limits. What happens to Space Invaders if you generate a new enemy 50 times a second and control motion of your ship with brainwaves? Is this not a joyful form of play? Codebending is the act of connecting computer software in atypical ways, and exploring the potential of systems.” – paperkettle
Compared to codebending, databending takes it a step further by connecting multiple forms of data to the physical world of installations, buttons, sensors and other wicked stuff. If you only imagine the possibilities of this datapatch, a room full of talented coders, media artists, vj’s and live performers and a crowd with a direct connection to data-sets processed by MIT’s Funf or other sensor networks. Man…
Now, after the first ever databending event, Heinze and his team are looking for more partners and projects to work on. Their goal is to explore the possibilities of databending and to get as many people – pro’s and amateurs – involved. On their website they actively invite others to join.
“We’re still very busy setting this all up, so we’re thankful for any help in any way, things we are looking for are:
Artist: If you want to build something, that’s great! If you lack technical or creative skills, you can mail us and we will try to team you up with someone.
Knowledge: We want to organise some workshops and have a few tutorials online so people can get a head start, if you got some knowledge share it!
Organisers: people who will help us set everything up.
Hardware: If you got some old Midi controllers, of some exotic hardware that you think could be useful, please let us know.
Fund raisers: We want the event to be as good as possible, so if you have experience in raising funds we could totally use you!
Media creators: We’ve got some skills but we would love people who can help us create promotional material, web related things, photos or videos.
If you want to help out or have question you can mail email@example.com”
So don’t hold back, just send them an e-mail and start creating. We at FIBER are very excited about these events and hope to collaborate with Heinze and his team soon. And if we do, we’ll let you know for sure!