And you thought the arts were just about culture…

Posted in CCS-blog on July 20th, 2006

The Wellcome Trust has funded research into the relationship between music and health which has found that there is emerging evidence that music can bring about physical changes to the body that can improve our health. According to Professor Paul Robertson, physician, researcher and musician:

“We are approaching the point where a doctor would legitimately be negligent not to actually recommend music as a therapeutic intervention.”

BBC Radio 4 Website

Is there an opportunity for interactive arts here?

How Mumbo Jumbo Assails Us

Posted in CCS-blog on May 31st, 2006

Francis Wheen makes a spirited defence of the Enlightenment explicitly and implicitly in his wonderful attack on the madness and hysteria of the new dark ages we are living through.

If you have not read “How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World” you should. Wheen covers everything from art to politics and Princess Diana in equally savage terms backed up by that bane of the fantasists- evidence! If it does not make you laugh you will certainly weep and you will learn a great deal in whatever frame of mind it induces.

In London this month, there are several exhibitions that counter the post- modernist fervour of the last 30 years and the television is full of the legacy of modernism. A small crumb of comfort in an otherwise irrational world.

My Daughter Emma

Posted in Writing, Cancer Journal on May 10th, 2006

In March 2003, Emma had her first operation; in July, the second and the cancer seemed to accelerate remorselessly from then on. In less than a year she was dead.

In February 2003 we met en famille in London for a last meal before our long journey to the southern hemisphere. She was clearly not well and could hardly eat. I felt very reluctant to leave and it came as no surprise really that almost as soon as we arrived in Sydney, we learnt that she was to have an operation. We had to leave for New Zealand almost immediately and, as luck would have it, were out of phone contact because my new Aussie mobile did not have roaming activated although I was assured it would be working. When finally we did speak she was upset not to have heard from me. I was shattered by her frantic and desperate anger with me and suddenly terrified of what was to come.

I always keep a diary when travelling but the kind of journal I wrote from July 2003 was altogether different. It was handwritten in hospital waiting rooms, on trains and planes and in the dark hours of the many wakeful long nights. Every so often I would type it up and add reflections when a little distance gave me better insight. Looking at it again I am puzzled as to how I sound so rational in what was a confused and anguished time. Even now, three years after, it is painful to read. The extracts on this blog are linked to a new web site dedicated to her memory.

Creativity Research and Practice-Based Research Presentation

Posted in CCS-blog on May 9th, 2006

Yesterday I gave a presentation called ‘Is Creativity Research Viable?’
to students and staff at the Key Centre for Design Computing and Cognition, University of Sydney

A basic assumption underlying this question is that it is far from simple to define creativity in any measurable way. Conventional research methods require well-controlled situations and this includes defining tasks in advance for subjects to carry out under close observation. However, the very idea of being creative under control may be a contradiction in terms or, at the very least, something the subjects would find too restrictive. The talk asks the question, “Is there an alternative approach?” If research is to provide understandings that take account of the complexity of creative acts, it needs to be conducted in context, preferably in naturalistic settings and involving activities that have intrinsic meaning for the people involved. This requires new approaches such as ‘practice-based research’, an emerging methodology that is becoming established in research programmes where the artefacts arising from the creative process are part of the contribution to knowledge.

PowerPoint slide presentation

New Constellations

Posted in CCS-blog on April 10th, 2006

A three day conference at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney attracted artists, scientists and others for an exchange of views and experiences about collaboration in creative ventures. Several weeks afterwards I am struggling to remember the highlights: plenty of words both fascinating and empty, the works that were shown, the start of a debate about what the different worlds of art and science can learn from one another, the artists already active in taking knowledge and techniques from science and technology into their creative scope.

Syren a mobile sound work that uses a GPS for associating sounds with locations on Sydney Harbour by Nigel Hellyer in collaboration with Daniel Woo a nice finale to the event.

The MCA did well and should be encouraged to engage more in this area

Northern Xmas

Posted in CCS-blog on December 28th, 2005

Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere is cold and, since yesterday, snowy. A walk in the Peak district in the cold and wind is a bracing way to celebrate! Hope you are all enjoying festive Sydney.


Conference Heaven

Posted in Travel, Heron Island on December 12th, 2005

The water is pale turquoise and like an aquatic moonscape. The contours of the reef are starting to emerge as the tide recedes. Over the reef the water ripples gently but at the edge, there is a marked shadow beyond which the sea rolls visibly higher. There too, birds cluster on a sand bank that has just surfaced: gulls and terns dip and whirl about with crazy abandon. In the distance two islands are now visible where there was haze before. The resort dive boat is just heading off to the outer edges of the reef. A squadron of giant black rays skirts the edge of the point followed by the white-grey shadows of a group of shovel nosed rays.


It is turtle laying time and the great creatures come up at dusk and return at dawn. Some, newly tagged, were laying for the first time, aged about thirty five years and returning to the place they hatched out originally. The navigation is by magnetic field, augmented closer to home by the water that they first taste on entering as hatchlings.


It is hard to believe this is a conference venue and that this particular one has been going since 1989. I missed the first one but have been a follower ever since. Computational Models of Creative Design is a topic that is just about as far from this remote island world as you could imagine. Here there are no mobile networks, no televisions, no motorised water sports or paragliding. Just the sea, the sky, and the animal and bird life of a coral cay that takes twenty minutes to circumvent.

Dawn on Heron

Posted in Travel, Heron Island on December 11th, 2005

Ahead the ocean blue water, mauve sky and a thin bluer line marking the reef’s edge. This morning up at 5 am woken by a phone alarm, the only function that a mobile can offer in this tech free place and straight to the beach, walking past the helipad and the marina in a greyish pale light. A brightly lit personal cruise boat hummed at the entrance to the harbour and two people slept soundly on the beach as we passed on the way to Shark Bay. From this furthest point on the island from human habitat, you can see the dawn break. For a while beforehand, the ocean is a smooth mixture of grey and blue and a few clouds hovering above the horizon give cover to the rays of pink light that are just beginning to show. At precisely 5.58 am a point of red light suddenly pierces the surface of the sea and the top of a red globe begins to make its way upwards imposing new warm colours on the sea and landscape. I watched it until the brightness was too much and felt the growing heat of the new day.


All Things Physical in Land of Long Cloud

Posted in Travel, New Zealand on December 8th, 2005

The Maori word for NZ is Aotearoa: it means Land of the Long Cloud and when you see they way the clouds lie thinly stretched out over the mountain peaks you can see exactly why the name is perfect.

The All Blacks beat Australia 24:0 while we were there and scooped the pool at the Paris rugby awards: there was a lot of quiet satisfaction around. The Kiwis take their sport seriously and any physical activity for that matter – they invented bungy jumping didn’t they? You can do any mad thing you want from jumping out of helicopters on skis onto precipitous slopes to standing in rivers for hours catching salmon or whitebait. For the physical and cinematic minded you can now fly, white water raft, jet boat or even walk into Middle Earth on Lord of the Rings location tours…if you like that kind of thing. There are also more sedate activities like paragliding and ‘tramping’ as they call it on the Milford or Kepler tracks. We did fifteen kilometres of the latter through the most beautiful woods I have ever seen.

Traffic Lights a First

Posted in Travel, New Zealand on December 8th, 2005

New Zealand is only two and a half hours from Sydney and yet some people over here think it is a long way. Think of the distance to Perth! It has unique landscapes from pristine alpine heights to turbulent volcanic and thermal activity and a way of life that is redolent of a long gone past. In Queenstown, the locals have reluctantly resigned themselves to having traffic lights – a first for the whole Southland region of about hundred thousand people as it happens. This has been made necessary because the winter ski visitors do not respect the “after you” protocol for getting across single lane bridges of which there are many.