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DCU’s Artist in Residence in Technology and Innovation Fiona McDonald to exhibit series of videoworks at Woman in the Machine

DCU’s Artist in Residence in Technology and Innovation, Fiona McDonald, has created a groundbreaking series of videoworks that harness Internet of Things (IoT) data, in a collaboration with DCU Alpha company Taoglas - a leading enabler of digital transformation through IoT. The work will be exhibited at the prestigious VISUAL gallery in Carlow, as part of the Woman in the Machine exhibition. 

To create her five short video works, Fiona collected environmental data using Taoglas’ EDGE™ IoT starter kit while traversing the Cooley Mountains. This information, such as ambient light, temperature and humidity, was then translated by the artist into a soundscape and data-driven animation, using specially designed algorithms. 

Launching on 11th June, Woman in the Machine is part of the Carlow Arts Festival, VISUAL’s Summer Programme and is presented as part of Brightening Air | Coiscéim Coiligh, organised by the Arts Council. 

The five works running on rasp pi computers, screens and a mini projector are installed across the gallery although physically separate the soundscapes overlap in the acoustic space. 
Fiona’s work is also available for viewing in a Virtual Reality space that replicates the Women in the Machine show, as well as featuring in a short film about the female-led exhibition. 
The exhibition has been inspired by the creativity of female pioneers working in sound, electronics and engineering. It explores aspects of our current technological moment, presenting a platform for thinking about our relationship to technology.

Fiona’s practice is at the intersection of art and engineering, working primarily with sculpture, sound, installation, print, hardware and code to create process-based data-driven works and her residency at Talent Garden on DCU’s Alpha Campus provides the environment and resources to explore innovative technologies through their practice. Her work creates an interface between the slow, small changes which constantly occur in the natural world and technological system. 

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The Taoglas EDGE IoT starter kit used by Fiona is a comprehensive kit that combines cellular and Bluetooth connectivity, with a number of onboard sensors and multi-band GNSS and RTK. Working with the mobile Taoglas EDGE Iot kit  allowed the artist to collect environmental data while traversing remote hard to reach places in the mountains. The onboard sensors monitor and collect real-time data from these locations and send it back to the Taoglas Insights -a cloud-based software platform, in real-time. The artist then uses Processing, a programming language to access the data from Taoglas API and translate the data into a generative drawing and soundscape. The data driven drawing/animation is layered on a static photograph taken at a sensor data collection point. The system also responds to the collected fluctuating data using it to modulate the frequency of a sine wave oscillator creating a soundscape. In this way, the viewer is given access to different forms of pattern recognition.

In creating this generative work Fiona sets up a system that has a certain degree of autonomy. The system relays an incomplete representation of a dynamic living landscape and fluid environmental conditions in digital form. The potential for complexity within the algorithms gives many possibilities for a variety of outcomes. In this way the machine can act as a living organic system. In creating the system, the artist also makes subjective decisions around the manipulation of data, decisions are made in relation to the frequency of how often the data is collected and also the parameters of the software. The work reflects on ideas of objective knowledge, how algorithms work and how the decisions we make when transcoding data are not impartial.

Included in the IoT Sensor kit are some of the new technologies currently being tested in e-scooters on DCU campus. Applying technologies with new agendas in unexpected ways, the artist explores how technologies can expand our human senses and define how the natural world can be perceived differently.

For the duration of the exhibition the artist has also installed a Taoglas® EDGE™ IoT starter kit at VISUAL Gallery. During the course of the exhibition the artist will access this data remotely to create new web based data driven works which respond to data collected in real-time on location at VISUAL Gallery. 

It will be available to view at https://www.womaninthemachine.com/artists/fiona-mc-donald

About Taoglas

Taoglas is a leading enabler of digital transformation using IoT from initial strategy definition to design, build, deployment and managed services. Our solutions combine high-performance antenna and RF design with advanced positioning, imaging, audio and artificial intelligence technologies for organisations solving critical problems using IoT. A nimble and efficient approach which mobilizes quickly makes Taoglas a trusted advisor helping customers regardless of where they are on their IoT journey. With world-class design, consultancy and engineering expertise, along with support and test centers globally, Taoglas delivers complex IoT solutions to market quickly and cost effectively. Taoglas has proven expertise globally across the transportation, connected healthcare, smart cities and smart building industries.