Subtle Tech at CSI

For the last year and half—since I started working at Subtle Tech—our office has been based at the Centre for Social Innovation, a co-working space in Toronto’s Chinatown area that brings together social entrepreneurs from across the board in one shared space.

It’s a great place to work, and if you’re looking for a desk to call your own, I would highly recommend renting one here, like we do:

It’s a little cramped, given that we have an entire organization, with several years worth of files and signage and tshirts and past programs, all packed into this small space, but it works well for us at this stage in our growth as an organization. Someday we’ll graduate to our own separate office!

So that’s where I spend my days. If you’re in the neighbourhood (215 Spadina, 4th floor), come on in and say hi!

Opportunity for Students Interested in Bio-Art

This year one of our symposium presenters is Jennifer Willet.  Jennifer will be speaking about the INCUBATOR ,  a hybrid laboratory at the intersection of art and science at the University of Windsor. This summer Jennifer, along with a  number of other faculty, will be staging BioARTCAMP.  ” BioARTCAMP is a hybrid workshop / conference / performance event where 20 national and international artists, scientists, filmmakers, and university students will work for two weeks to build a portable biology laboratory in Banff National Park” . The faculty has been already been determined however they are currently accepting applications for student participation until May 10th.


This looks like a wonderful opportunity for students who are interested in working with some great artists and scientists in the field of bio-art. If you are interested you can find more information here. Be sure to come and hear Jennifer’s presentation at Subtle Technologies  on June 3rd when you will get a sneak preview into what will be taking place this summer in Banff National Park at the portable laboratory .


The Network as Material

We are looking forward to having Julian Oliver join us at Subtle Technologies this year. Julian is an artist from New Zealand, currently based in Berlin. In Julian’s TEDx  talk  below he speaks about one of his recent projects, The Artvetiser. The Artvetiser makes use of augmented reality techniques to subvert the use of advertisements in metropolitan centres.

Julian Oliver – TEDxRotterdam 2010 from TEDxRotterdam on Vimeo.

Julian will be giving a talk at this years symposium entitled Data’s Dark Matter.  The talk will give insight into what lurks below the plastic and metal of networks and what you are sharing with the world when you log on. He’ll present a media art project that exploits the trust we have in networks.

Julian will also be leading a workshop as part of our festival. The workshop, entitled Network as Material,  is being held in collaboration with DDiMIT. This workshop will give people tools and techniques to understand in depth how networks function and give insights into the properties inherent in networks that lend themselves to creating media art.  While there are many tutorials and sites on how to use programs like Processing or Pure Data for creating networked art, it is difficult for artists to get hands on instruction on the nuts and bolts of networks.

Recently W5 did an illuminating story on  cyber attacks over wireless networks. I think I can speak for many of us when I say we don’t think twice about logging onto free wireless hotspots. This expose on W5 made me think about the risks I take every time I log onto a public network.The workshop Julian is teaching isn’t designed to turn participants into hackers or become network security experts. It will however, definitely give participants more of an understanding of  how people can manipulate data on a network and how to  protect yourself or at least be aware of the dangers inherent in sharing information over a network.

We are thrilled to have Julian join our festival. He has given numerous workshops and master classes in game-design, artistic game-development, object-oriented programming for artists, UNIX/Linux, virtual architecture, interface design, augmented reality and open source development practices worldwide.

Passes to the workshop are selling quickly and are limited  so buy one soon if you plan to go!



Magic Squares

Jamelie Hassan, (Manuscript Page), 2004, colour photograph and neon light on panel, 60 x 76 cm. Collection of Museum LondonComing up on May 20, Subtle Tech is partnering with the Textile Museum to present a panel discussion with the four artists from their upcoming exhibition Magic Squares: The Patterned Imagination of Muslim Africa in Contemporary Culture. The exhibition artists explore connections between the religious and mathematical imaginations.

There are only a small number of seats available for this event (it takes place in the intimate setting of the Textile Museum’s theatre). Tickets are $25 (or $20 for full-time students). Details and registration are on our ticketing site.

Washboards and Cracked Eggs

We are very grateful to Stephen Morris who heads the Nonlinear Physics Lab at the University of Toronto for allowing us to use the colorful image you see here.

The photograph was taken by  Seabrooke Leckie.  Stephen’s lab researches the nonlinear physics behind pattern formation. He investigates the formation of patterns that we often see but don’t think about. For example, he recently  did some interesting experimental research into how washboards form on roads. It’s always fun walking with Stephen.He will point out patterns around you that you may not ordinarily stop to think about . I was thinking it would be interesting to have a contest and have people guess what the above image is, but it would be too easy to just look it up on Stephen’s Flicker Site.  When I first saw it, I thought the photo  was  an eye from a reptile or bird. Turns out the image is a dried up egg.  Stephen explains the creation of the pattern:

“The cracks are radial because they aligned perpendicular to the retreating drying front. Drying causes shrinkage, which produces stresses which make cracks when they exceed the strength of the material.”

Subtle Technologies held a workshop in Stephens lab a few years ago. Nine artists who work with different materials, from video to ceramics , spent  a weekend in the lab. Although these artists work in different genres,  they all work with patterns in some way in their art. There are a couple of pictures from the workshop below. You can see more here.

I’m looking forward to seeing Stephen’s  presentation at this years festival.

Artists Looking at Nonlinear Chemical Reaction

Belousov–Zhabotinsky Reaction Artists are Viewing

Growing things at the Festival

Micah Donovan's Grow Tubes installation at the 2010 Festival (Image credit Dave Kemp)

One of last year’s presenters, Micah Donovan, was inspired to create something new to install in our Festival space: Grow Tubes. This yummy installation (I consumed more wheatgrass and sprouts over the three days of the 2010 Festival than I usually do in a month!) was a wonderful addition to the Festival space, and had the added benefit that the sprouts grew so fast that the tubes looked noticeably different from one day to the next.


This year, I’m happy to say that he’s back to show us how the Grow Tubes idea has grown into an ongoing project to make producing your own food at home beautiful—with a lightning talk and a display in the poster exhibition.

Micah's new installation of Grow Tubes at Evergreen

Textile design with bioplastics

As the program for this year’s Festival has come together, one of the things I’ve been most intrigued by is all the amazing stuff that’s going in the world of textiles. This year’s Festival includes several different strands of textile-related work, such as Gail Kenning’s talk on computing possible patterns in crochet lace.

I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what goes on in the DIY bioplastics workshop by Stephanie Phillips. I had no idea you could create useful plastics out of easy-to-find ingredients, much less turn them into beautiful things like the buttons in this picture!

This workshop will actually take place in Toronto’s Textile Museum, who are partnering with us to make this happen. I made my first visit to the museum a couple months ago, and was amazed by the great stuff they packed into their space. (If you have the chance, I certainly recommend a visit to see their exquisite Kai Chan exhibition, closing on May 1.)

Tickets for the workshop are now on sale, with only limited spaces available.


Subtle Technologies Festival 2011 now on sale!

Exhibition opening 2010 (Chris Hardwicke's Velo-city; image credit: Dave Kemp)

Welcome to our brand new website. With the launch of our new site we are excited to present our program for the upcoming  Festival. Tickets to our 2011 Festival of art and science are also available – be sure to purchase them online by May 2 to take advantage of the early bird pricing!

Highlights of this year’s Festival include over 30 events with presentations, workshops, films and exhibitions by artists and scientists. Learn about the inner workings of networks and how data can be explored to create media art, the physics behind the intricate patterns created by nature, explorations of science through dance, the ways in which artists are using the latest technologies in holography and virtual worlds. Follow the Festival links for more information.