Andrew O’Malley is a technology driven artist, dj, and vj working out of Ontario, Canada. His use of algorithms, codes, LED lights and projection create interactive artworks that respond to audience, and real time data derived from various sources. He deals with time based pieces, and although he doesn’t self identify as a new media artist his practice shares a lot of characteristics with it.
I spoke with O’Malley in early December, 2016 and before then I was not familiar with his practice. Upon researching some of his themes and ideas I noticed there were some gaps within his online documentation. Keeping sites updated is difficult especially when platform popularity changes so rapidly. His site was of interest because it allowed me to access his works from earlier in his career and compare them to his more present practice. Like all artist there is growth and further exploration of certain themes. It conjured a couple of questions.
One of these questions was his approach to his artistic career in new media arts. It’s common for successful artist to study fine arts and discover the roots of their practice from a more traditional European approach like drawing and painting, at least that is my personal experience. O’Malley has always been drawn to creative practice but went to engineering school, where he learned to work with algorithms, code and other technologies. Like a typical creative mind he began to subvert these controllable technologies to make data driven art works.
A particular piece that I was drawn to is Sky Spectrum, 2011. It was shown as part of a group show, Phenomena, that showcased various different artistic approaches, and was not centered around new media art. The theme explored natural phenomenons including climate, geology and astrology. “The light patterns displayed by Sky Spectrum are directly related to the current sky conditions above Ottawa’s Peace Tower. Every few minutes, the sky portion of the Hill Cam is analysed to reveal the average red, green, and blue components present in the sky. The light fixture responds according to the various relationships between these values, presenting an altered view of the sky above, revealing colour details and relationships invisible to the naked eye.”1
Phenomena is a data driven, time based work. It also tracks the sky of a particular geographic place and a certain place in time. It is as though the audience that is controlling the data for the work is the sky. This work is tracking the land, listening to it and relaying it’s changes and patterns into a gallery. The use of LED lights mimics the colours and entrancement of the sky. If the sky was a body, then Sky Spectrum would be a glimpse of its subtle movements.
A more recent work of his, Weather Channel ,plays off of similar riffs of weather communicating how the digital work will take form through data entry. In this work he also ties in audience interaction and reciprocity. “A simulated environment – a blue sky filled with cartoon clouds – is controlled by actual weather data, creating a meditative, shifting sky-scape; while audio oscillators linked to the visual elements score a generative soundtrack based on the weather, inviting visitors to sit and watch the clouds go by. A hidden sensor detects those who take the time to sit and enjoy the installation on the provided bench, rewarding these visitors with a vivid rainbow.”2
It was difficult to find information on his more recent work, that is where the interview gave me more insight. One question that I had for him, that was covered in the text Rethinking Curating by Graham and Cook, was the process of documentation when it come to new media arts. It is difficult to document time-based works because the documentation could easily become something different from the work or alternatively the documentation could be bland photographs of light. Does time based work require time based documentation? Time also adds another layer to the difficulty of documentation. O’Malley documented his LED Christmas Trees that he has created for the holiday season by simply, or not so simply, recording himself sitting in front of them for the duration of their light cycle. It is a play off of a popular whisky advertisement, and becomes performative within itself. When does documentation become a new work within itself?
Andrew O’Malley has worked with public installations, juries, and festivals. He mentioned that his work is not really complete until it is out with the audience. There are variables that he cannot control, but these interactions are where the artwork come to life. The importance of documentation is most crucial here because it shows the characteristics of the work beyond solely the aesthetics. Another point that was discussed in the text was the idea of process over product being important to many artist’s. When I asked O’Malley about this he responded that his practice was just as much about the product as the process. That they both work together to create the work. Which I find to be truthful.
O’Malley is continuing to work with in public spaces, with works being informed by and audience. He mention it was as if the work was observing the viewer over the viewer observing the art. I like this sentiment because it opens a new door to how an audience can interact and play a part with new media arts. A way to appreciate the work for the concept over the the flashing of lights, and tourism of codes.
Video of interview here.
1Andrew O’Malley, ““Phenomena” @ CUBE Gallery, Feb. 1-27 2011,” ANDREW OMALLEY, February 8, 2011, , accessed December 08, 2016, http://technoetc.net/blog/2011/02/08/phenomena-cube-gallery-feb-1-27-2011/.
2O’Malley, Andrew. Post on facebook artist page. Digital image. Andrew O’Malley Projects | Facebook. Facebook, 01 Nov. 2016. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.