When we spoke to Melanie Huang recently she was rushing home from the Dark Lab - Mona’s Hobart headquarters. She’s currently there working on the digital design for Dark Mofo on the back of a successful project with NGV - she redesigned their app. We caught up to chat about her influences, career milestones and the crossover of art and tech.
We first crossed paths with Mel at a Melbourne International Film Festival event in 2016 called ‘Coding for Cinema’.
That day she taught a full house at the Melbourne Comedy Theatre one of her unique methods of creating artworks with code. We knew then that we had to be friends!
Code Like a Girl: Do you think more creatives should learn to code?
If coding interests you and you get that moment where you code a line of code and change a background colour and the fact that you influence that background gives you a rush then I definitely think it is something you should do. But it’s not for everyone. If you are a more hands on creative then you should do that.
Your current gig at Mona is probably a dream job for many. Can you tell us about another career highlight?
It’s a dream job for me too! So much goes into something like this, there are artists and musicians streaming in and out of the office all day.
I come from a background of web design and for the longest time "accessibility" was a moan and groan subject always tacked on at the last minute, never budgeted for and never tested. So I’m particularly proud of the captioning tool I made for Four Letter Word Theatre.
When it came to this project, Karla, The Days In Between director, had the initiative to consult on accessibility early on - when there was something more we could do than tack on a screen at the end.
The result was incredible, and finding that there was no captioning tool that was currently available for small companies - I wanted to make a tool that could be open-sourced. In the end, we actually found that people, both hearing-impaired and not, said they appreciated the captioning as they would often miss lines in plays.
Also I was so excited to create this interactive Amygdala paint machine for White Night Melbourne this year.
How did you get into coding?
I discovered coding as a kid. My aunty was studying IT at university and my uncle was always bringing home new computers from work. I remember the internet being this place where anything goes, we used discs to load the internet and I used to love making GeoCities fan pages.
Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Not really. I completed a design/advertising degree after finishing high school but it was an exchange year to the UK that exposed me to interactive media design that was probably a defining moment for me.
Tell us about your upcoming DIY Monsters workshop:
I feel lucky to have the opportunity to craft a workshop with the City of Melbourne and also that it sold out almost straight away! It’s based on electronics for 7-12 year olds. We’re making these little crazy monsters. So we show them the code that is going to be loaded onto these electronic floras and explain how it works and let them choose which colour led lights they want for the monster’s eyes and we help them load it.
Lastly can you tell us about your homemade Dance Dance Revolution machine?
Haha yes. So when I was overseas I sort of accidentally became really good at Dance Dance Revolution. They have these mats you can buy play on at home but the user experience is not great haha. So I set a myself a project to make my own. There’s a pretty embarrassing video on my blog but I was so happy that it worked.
We can’t explain Dance Dance Revolution and its cultural and gaming significance better than Mel has already herself on her blog. Let us know if she inspires you to make your own!
Written by Penny Ivison
Social Media & Content Lead @ Code Like a Girl