Interview with Chris Sugrue, part 2: The EyeWriter

by deborah on 09/24/2011

This is the second part of the interview with Chris Sugrue. Read the first part here: Tangible Interfaces

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Photo above: Decrypted Reflections by Chris Sugrue  (cc)
Photo bellow: Tempt1 wearing The EyeWriter
Taken from urban_data’s flickr


Since you have experiences with the EyeWriter, and mostly people from DIY and wearable tech talked about it around the web… What is your opinion on how artists and DIY people are interconnected now, or do you see any differences between them?

CS: There are people on the both sides, and there are people in the middle. I think it’s interesting when these two scenes mix. It’s great when people who are doing DIY stuff and hacking are interested in something more creative, in creating artwork, and vice versa, when artists are thinking about making tools or resources that can enable other people to make works. I don’t know if I do that enough.

The Eye Writer was one project I’ve participated that is an example of this. I think that teaching is also related. I think it’s always important that an artist share somehow, whether it is teaching, or publishing open source tools. In new media most projects always involve the help of somebody else to a certain extent… whether it’s just getting an answer on a forum to a code question for example. So, I think participating in communities is important.

The EyeWriter Initiative

Just like you’ve mentioned during your lecture that you wanted to try and learn some programming, because you thought whether some programmer is making jokes or what…

CS: There’s a lot of discussion about artists who are working in new media, but aren’t involved in certain parts of the production, aren’t coding or aren’t building the electronics, but have other people produce their projects. Sometimes I’m not in favor of that type of work.

Although, there are a lot of great projects that I like that are produced, I think that there should be a curiosity about how the material you are using works. There are some projects that I see and I know how they were produced and I don’t necessarily agree with it, but others that I love or ones that are very conceptual. I have worked for artists developing projects and many times I didn’t have any problem with how the work was developed and produced. But in general, I’m in favor of encouraging people to be involved in the tools, material, craft, code…

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The EyeWriter Initiative (cc)
Photo taken from urban_data’s flickr

What was like to study at Parsons?

CS: It was awesome! I loved it, I loved being there. I was there at a great time, was introduced to things I had not seen before and artists that completely changed my way of thinking. So, I think to get that out of a program means it’s successful. For me, I felt it was structured well and there were some really great professors.

Could you tell us about your experiences at the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz…

CS: Future Lab was really intense. When I was there I was working with Klaus and that was amazing. It was a challenging job, but I really learned a lot from it that was beneficial. I think Future Lab is great. I don’t know so much what they are doing now, so I can’t say. When I was there I had really wonderful time.

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The EyeWriter Initiative (cc)
Photo taken from urban_data’s flickr

Let’s get back a little bit to The EyeWriter. Do you have any plans regarding the project, or some other idea based on it, maybe as an upgrade or something else, not necessarily along this line?

CS: Well, the team was amazing. We knew each other before doing the project. We had either studied or worked together previously. So, it was an excellent team for sure. When we began the project, we knew that it was a great idea, no matter what, but we really didn’t have any idea how successful it could be.

Now I’m involved a bit less in the development. I‘m still involved in the team, but the development advanced a lot when I didn’t have the time to devote to it, but its great that it is advancing. I mean, it’s wonderful. Our goal was that we would put it out there and more people would want to contribute.

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Tempt1’s graffiti in real-time, LA
Photo: The EyeWriter (cc)

Now there is a 2.0 version which works more reliably, but is a bit more difficult to put together. It requires a bit of skill. So, there are a lot of people who are very interested in it, and we are trying to decide if there is a way to create kits that people can buy the parts for example and it would be easier to assemble.

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The EyeWriter Initiative (cc)

Something like the Arduino kits, or latest Minty kits…

CS: Yes! Things like this. But you know it’s a huge challenge to accomplish. Zach and his team in New York have been building a lot of them, and sending them to people who have requested them, which is great. And many other people were able to get the system running without us. So far, it’s been good. We have a lot of good response.

I’m not sure what the next step of the project is going to be. But the one thing is that Tempt1 is constantly still making work, and he had exhibition in LA. Sometimes if we haven’t heard from him, it may be that he is too busy, he is doing his show (laughs)… It’s awesome.

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Tempt1’s graffiti made via The EyeWriter
Photo taken from urban_data’s flickr (cc)

What was like to work with Tempt1?

CS: It takes more time, but he is able to communicate quite well. He would type on the virtual keyboard he had or he had several people that worked in the hospital with him, and they can interpret by using a letter chart.. None of us really knew beforehand what it would be like. We didn’t have any experience with someone in his conditions so we didn’t really know what to expect, but it was really a positive experience the whole time.

What are your plans now after Ljubljana residency? Some exhibition, new projects…

CS: I go back to Madrid and have some vacation time (laughs). In the fall I have some exhibitions coming up, so I have to prepare for them.

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Tempt1’s graffiti made via The EyeWriter (cc)

Madrid is a great place to be, Medialab Prado

CS: Yeah, I think it’s interesting place right now. Perhaps it doesn’t have the biggest art scene like some cities, but Medialab is a really important place and one of the reasons that I stayed. They bring the international community to Madrid and they support a lot of production. There are also some other interesting places in Madrid, and a lot of artists, so it can be a good place.

I’ve been out of Spain during the whole 15 M movement so I’m very curious to go back and hear more about this. I think it has been an interesting influence on the spirit of the city right now.

Tempt1 EyeWriter: SE2 EP3…. Freeway Bombing

What was like in Ljubljana? Lot of things happening in this nice, small city designed for human beings…

CS: It’s amazing, I was totally surprised. I arrived and every night there was a talk or an opening to go to. It was great. It’s a small city with a ton of culture and even a lot in new media.

That’s fascinating…

CS: It’s completely fascinating. I’m surprised I didn’t have more relationships with Ljubljana before. I think there is a good scene in Ljubljana.

Thanks a lot, Chris!