Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

The Gallery

Here’s a prototype for a new project. It’s a 40 x 10 ft., three-projector installation running about 2000 videos. Stay tuned for more documentation as the project develops.

UPDATE: Go here to see the most recent version.

Notes from Siggraph, 2007

I just returned from Siggraph 2007 a few days ago. It was a mixed collection of interesting technologies and ideas. As one would expect, the primary focus of the conference was computer graphics and related technologies, but I was primarily interested in the artistic exhibits and emerging display and interface technologies on display. Here’s a brief collection of a few that I found interesting.

Overall, I was most impressed by the “lower” tech innovations. A few great examples were SOAP and Globe4D.

To put it simply, Globe4D is kind of like a large trackball or an upside-down mouse with an additional optical sensor to measure rotation. Additionally, there is a turntable around the edge that allows users to explore another dimension such as time. The projection comes from overhead and seems to employ pretty simple OpenGL texture mapping onto a sphere. A very nice, responsive physical interface.

Continue reading Notes from Siggraph, 2007 …

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Flashbelt: Day 3

Day three at Flashbelt was quite enjoyable.

André Michelle showed off some of his AS3 audio projects including 5plice, an online audio editing, remixing and sequencing and sharing suite written in AS3 for Flashplayer 9. I was impressed by the small footprint, responsiveness and sound quality produced by the libraries, but was less interested in the concepts behind 5plice. The need for online audio editing is in question for me — and sites like Freesound fulfill my need for hours and hours of free CC audio.

That brings me to GMUNK. GMUNK is a motion graphics superstar. His motion work might best be described as a detailed, vibrant, seizure-inducing spectacle, propelled by an endless series explosions (literally) — as recorded on a shaky handicam. GMUNK’s presentation was as energetic as his work and he struck a nice balance between showing the work itself and revealing some of his simple animation techniques in Maya.

The day of speakers was concluded by a Zen-like presentation from Jared Tarbell (1,2 and 3). Jared has been producing algorithmic art for some time now and more recently began to focus on his commercial work at Etsy. His presentation was essentially a review of fundamental generative techniques (i.e. repetition, recursion, etc) with some lovely examples. Much of the nature-inspired work he showed was circa 2004 and I’m curious to see what he does next. A brief conversation at the afterparty led me to believe he will be integrating some sculptural elements into his work soon.

All in all, the conference was enlightening. I was left convinced that the meeting would have benefited from less code-sharing and more idea generation and open discussion. Perhaps it is an artifact of my current educational pursuits, but I feel that within such a computer-literate group, direct “show me your code” discussions should be minimized. Instead, I feel that it would be more useful to step back, put down one’s tools (Flash, Processing, etc) and make more room for brainstorming, idea generation, concept discussion and talk of the future. The net and technologies are, and will continue to, change and these are the people that can and should be thinking about how those changes will affect us.

Flashbelt: Day 2

Highlights and thoughts from the second day of the Flashbelt conference:

Tim Armato: Tim presented a brief introduction to Processing. He encouraged attendees to approach Processing playfully. It was good to see the not-a-flash-killer project represented.

Mario Klingemann: Mario presented an interesting piece of software designed to generatively create unique images by examining and responding to salient image features (i.e. line orientation, grayscale levels, cross-correlation, symmetry, etc.). While interesting, it wasn’t clear why he chose to implement the app and its heavy algorithms (e.g. the Hough Transform) in AS3. To me, the final images he produced made me think of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement (e.g. New Objectivity, particularly the work of Max Beckmann. Of course others might disagree, but his images had an unexpectedly rich texture. Interestingly, he sent the digital paintings off to a company in China where they were painted in oil for him.

Flashbelt: Day 1

I’m at Flashbelt this week. Some interesting talks so far. Of particular interest to me on the first day:

  • Craig Swann presented a passionate discussion that concluded with an exhortation to fuse the physical and digital using sensors and microcontroller technologies (Arduino, etc).
  • Jeremy Thorp presented work resulting from his uniquely methodological, biologically-inspired practice and left us with a reminder that developing tools in programs like Processing can help counter big box bloat.
  • Joshua Davis presented work from his beautiful algorithmic design practice. He encouraged us to develop our own tools and resist the temptation to look at other people’s work too much.

    In general I hope speakers will move towards presenting more novel ideas, more illustrative images and less code. Ideas must lead, code will follow.

  • SMS Java, Processing, etc (Part 2)

    screen.png[Part 1] For the last several days, I have struggled to get SMSLib for Java up and running. I finally realized that my copy of RxTx was out of date, which explained my inability to establish a bluetooth serial connection with my phone. I grabbed the new universal RxTx library and now it is working. Unfortunately, the SMSServer example that comes with SMSLib did not play nicely with MySql out of the box. The documentation was a bit outdated and I had to do some serious database interface hacking/redsign to get it running.

    But, I finally got the whole system running. My phone is communicating with SMSLib, which communocates with a MySql database, which is easily accessible in Processing (or Max/MSP/Jitter or any other software for that matter). The system allows addresable message routing and is sophisticated enough to flash message instructions back to participants in need of help. Now that all the hardware and basic framework is coded and running smoothly, I have to finish coding the “pretty” side of things, which has been in the works for quite some time. Hopefully this will all be working nicely for the Freshworks Show coming up in a couple weeks.

    As a side note, we are planning to use this technology, along with others as the primary interface for our ArtsMosis 2006 project.

    Socio-technological imagination?

    Thought Bubbles
    After developing much of my SMS-to-thought-bubbles-eminating-from-windows-on-public-facades-project, I did a little research to see what other artists were doing with SMSes.

    As has happened before, I found an artist who has a well-developed, lovely version of my idea. In fact, the similarity was uncanny. Apparently, I’m about 10 months behind on this one. The project is called TXTual healing. Beautiful work Paul Notzold. I’ll toast you by linking to you!

    So, is there something about contemporary technologies that lead people to similar artistic expressions? Is the expressive potential of technology simply limited by “features”, resulting in similar ideas — or is our socio-technological imagination “in-sync” in some way? We certainly have no problem adopting tech-speak to describe out thoughts, patterns, interactions and bodily processes.

    I’ve encountered this coincidence of ideas many times during my first year studying art. My science and engineering background left me with the impression that novelty is the greatest of all expressive achievements. Is novelty the highest achievement in art? I hope not.

    My energy …

    My energy is currently going toward this class blog. I am co-teaching this class with Stephen Eakin.

    Emotive Faces and the News


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    I am currently reading Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things.  On pg. 23 he talks a bit about how metrics should make the inner workings of technologies more apparent to this user.  He says "There are many ways to make these metrics impinge on my behavior — by making things cost more or less, of course, but also making their workings more obvious, giving me a stake, and putting them closer to my fingertips." (p. 23)

    This reminds me of the various ideas present in Why Things Matter, by Julian Bleecker.  Specifically, it reminds me of the How Stuff is Made project.  This project attempts to embed "manufacturing processes, labor conditions, environmental consequences and so on" within an object itself.  Bleecker refers to this process as giving an object an "embedded event history" and is relevant to his discussions of "blogjects" (see Why Things Matter).

    Anyway, all of these concerns, along with the growing DIY craze (note the rise in public popularity of Makezine, Hack-a-day, Endgadget, Instructables and others) lead me to believe that people are beginning to have a different relationship with technology.  There is a growning sense of empowerment that comes with education (i.e. how do I take fix my own ipod) that is facilitated by the multimedia capabilities of the internet.  Of course there has always been a hacker sub-culture — Popular Mechanics and Popular Science have encouraged hacking for quite a while, but this seems more extensive.

    Hopefully this more empowered relationship with technological "things" will result in better artmakers and will encourage technological creativity in formerly tech-wary students.