Mapping Report

DarkMatr by mapit

Used kit: Media Arts Practice

Project: DarkMatr, collaborative project, audiovisual material, internet, installation
Organisation: DarkMatr is a collaboration between IBBT, independent artist Tom Heene, Centre for User Experience Research, KULeuven (CUO), Experimental Media Group (EMG), Wireless and Cable (WiCa, University Gent), iMAL, Pieter Heremans, Lionel Maes and Olivier Meunier
Moderator: Liesbeth Huybrechts, Priscilla Machils
Date: 18/12/2009

The DarkMatr project is a collaboration between IBBT, independent artist Tom Heene, Centre for User Experience Research, KULeuven (CUO), Experimental Media Group (EMG), Wireless and Cable (WiCa, University Gent), iMAL, Pieter Heremans, Lionel Maes and Olivier Meunier. DarkMatr researches the ways in which people deal with the information and audiovisual material brought to us via the internet. This one year project resulted in an installation which uses the body as an input device so that it becomes possible for people to get fully immersed in the data environment. For more information, see:

For this mapping, the moderators used chalk paper which allowed the participants to still see the writings and icons on the first sheet of chalk paper while other sheets were put on top of it. The group explained the icons – also printed on chalk paper – to the participants. For this mapping, the participants got to use a ‘bomb’- and a ‘lock’-icon. These could be used to (respectively) critique or show apprecition for specific elements on the map. Since the mapping concerned a one year project, the session only took (about) three hours.

Usually, a project is divided in several phases, such as: concept development (1), preparation of the project (2), the day itself (3) and the output of the project (4). The participants of this mapping also mapped four stages on their map. First, the concept phase lasted from January 2008 until May 2008. The project was called "Sensitive World" then, so the participants sticked this on chalk paper on the mapping sheet. During the second stage, the projectname changed to "Dark Matter". This phase lasted from June 2008 until 4th of November 2008. December 2008 until 12 March 2009 marked the third stage. During the last phase – which lasted from May 2009 until December 2009 – the team developed the graphics and the sounds. Also, the project name was changed into "Darkmatr". During the entire project, the collaborationthe participants are mainly confronted with is a form of external cross-disciplinary collaboration (between organisations) and internal forms of collaboration. 

Through the mapping, the participants were able to sketch the more or less chronological course of their project. At the end of 2007, Dirk Bollen, Dries de Roeck and Tom Heene got together on a forum that IBBT started as a meeting point between artists and researchers, focussing on new projects in the Art&D programme. Both Dirk and Dries were very attracted to the call to enrich their research work in media studies with experiments (outside their familiar scientific world). When they got together with Tom, they found out they all shared an interest in the body as an interface.

After several meetings online, the project was already quite defined. From January until March 2008, Tom, Dries and Dirk involved NodeBox and WiCa into the project. NodeBox is a project developed at the EMG, founded in 2004 at Sint Lucas Antwerp. Both Lieven Menschaert and Tom De Smedt were engaged in this project. Tom de Ryckere and later Chris Vanhecke were involved in WiCa (Wireless and Cable). Then, these people became partners in a one-year research project (of about €75.000). The proposal was sent to IBBT and on the 5th of January, Dirk, Tom H., Dries, Lieven and Tom D. gave a 30 minutes presentation to a jury. A few months later, on the 25th of March, they received a message that their proposal was accepted.

At the beginning of April, the contract of the research project was discussed with IBBT and became a matter of intense negotiation (since it was a standard IBBT form, which was not adapted to the ways of working of media artists). After a quite long period of debate, IBBT and the project group agreed that the project could be partly open source, which assured the group members that there was room for open experimentation and sharing. Since the group experienced difficulties here, they placed a bomb on the contract negotiations with IBBT on the map. At this time LaHaag (which involved Pieter Heremans and Gert Aertsen) joined the project. A month later, on the 27th of May 2008, the group registered their weblog.

 In June 2008, the group (especially Dries and Tom H.) started to create scenarios at CUO in Leuven. The first scenario was called "Sensitive World" (since the interface would allow people to manipulate sensor data, like temperature and sound. The idea was that somebody enters a room and interacts with an interface). On the map, this phase of scenario-making was indicated by icons which symbolized ‘shared docs’, ‘e-mail lists’, ‘drawing’, ‘thinking’ and ‘paper prototyping’.

During the project, the group had several residencies:

  • In September 2008, the group started a first residency at iMAL (Brussels). They experimented with building high tech prototypes, based on the previous paper scenarios and low tech prototypes. They looked into the ways in which words could be retrieved live from a word database and be attached to images from Flickr.
  • During a second residency period at iMAL in February 2009, the group experienced a quite intense period (in terms of technological experiment). CUO's activity in the project, the paper prototyping and user reflections, became less important than the work of the technical partners. De Roeck reported on the blog, took care of transport, the video observations and written registrations. Lionel and Olivier were invited to the group to help programming interactions and sound with the open source tools "Processing" and "Pure Data".
  • Close to the end of the project, during winter, two last residencies took place at r-Ohm (from the 9th of November until the 30st of November 2009) and at iMAL (from the 7th of December until the 17th of December 2009). Among other matters, they tried to connect to ‘’ to add live sound to the words and video and changed the code to ‘Eclips’.  StéphanieLaforce, a new person in the team, proposed certain sound samples in relation to the words and visuals.

The interaction the project group has had with the public during several showings is indicated on the map by the "public"-icon:

  • The 4th of November 2008 the group was invited to present their project on a day organized by an interregional project Transdigital between, amongst others, art centre Vooruit, IBBT and art studio le Fresnoy. Here the high tech prototype, still called "Sensitive World", was tested for the first time with "the public" in Vooruit in Ghent.
  • On the 19th of February 2009 they showed their installation at Dorkbot. This took the form of a high tech prototype wherein the pictures rotated in a different way. Also a thermal camera was used for the first time.
  • In March 2009, there was a showing at iMAL of the intermediary result to some curators and other important nodes in the media art field like Michel van Dartel, Eva de Groote and Kurt Vanhoutte.
  • Thanks to that demonstration the group was able to present their work in progress at V2_ in Rotterdam the 12th of March 2009. In their period in Rotterdam they continued the quest for the perfect projection screen material in combination with the thermal camera, visiting a Dutch plastics factory.
  • The 16th, 17th and 18th of December a public presentation at iMAL took place of the final prototype, called "DarkMatr".

The mapping session made it possible for the project group to get a better understanding of how the course of their project from June 2008 until December 2009. The session also showedhow MAP-it can be a perfect reflecting instrument on past projects. The results of the mapping were used for further research.

Text by Liesbeth Huybrechts.