Category Archives: New Genres

New Genres: Otherworldly Translation

1 WHERE IS YOUR HOME PLANET

When I started in New Genres, I was determined to make a game. My original idea was to create a visually simplistic, text-based narrative that the user would progress through by answering questions. After reading “Strategies of Interactive Art” by Ryszard W. Kluszczynski, I learned that games aren’t the only cool way to create an engaging and thought-provoking interactive experience. For now, I put my original idea aside.

Once we decided on the theme “Supernova” for the Art Party, the rest of my idea began to take shape. As a lover of linguistics, my mind went straight to alien language. I could stick with the idea of asking questions to my audience by writing them in a language of my own creation and translating them into English. I later decided I would create a slideshow of questions and proverbs to display with two projectors simultaneously.

I started off by brainstorming a set of symbols with which to build my language. I wanted the symbols to look different enough from the latin alphabet but still recognizable as a language to my audience. I decided that they would be composed only of straight lines and could be strung together without spaces in order to form words. Pictured below is an example of the first version and a string of random symbols.

sssssss

The next step was to create a font so I could type my language. I used fontstruct.com, a website that I had never used before but was easy to figure out. This is an example of what the interface looked like as I drew each letter:

fontstruct

While translating my hand drawn letters into their digital forms, I discovered that the diagonal lines weren’t working as well as the horizontal or vertical ones. They looked strange and out of place, so I wrote new characters using horizontal and vertical lines only. I also realized that it would be difficult to tell where one symbol began and another ended when they were all strung together, so I added a dot centered above every symbol to make it easier for the reader to discern. Finally, I decided to make one symbol for every letter in the alphabet so I had enough of a variety.

One problem that was troubling me as I worked on my project was, what does each letter sound like? I realized that creating an entire phonetic system was much too big of a task and also not relevant to my project. Because it was going to be projected, the point was for it to be visually interesting and different from English, so it didn’t matter what it sounded like. Whenever I was asked about this, I explained that humans are incapable of producing the sounds of the language.

When I finished my alphabet, I downloaded the font and began typing out my questions and proverbs. The questions were meant to be thought-provoking, not cheesy, and start conversation among my audience. As I wrote them, I imagined an alien civilization that wished to communicate with other planets. What would they want to know? I thought about what their planet/culture might be like and how those features would become apparent through the questions they asked, such as space travel, dimension hopping, crystals, slime, and beasts. I wrote 26 in total.

To create words, I mostly just typed random letters until I came up with something visually appealing. For some words, like sun and moon, I used the symbols to create shapes that looked like what they described. I also needed to create words for concepts that don’t exist in English, like solid-bodied or soft-bodied or body swap. I recorded every word I used in my journal and created a dictionary for myself to refer back to.

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I also created a basic grammar system for my language. I did this by making up rules as I needed them, then sticking to them. To start, I decided that the basic sentence structure would be subject → object → verb. If the verb is is, it’s left out because it’s implied. For example, I like pizza becomes I pizza like, and I am a student becomes I student (am).

Here are some more of my grammar rules:
  • Words that indicate time go at the beginning of the sentence (now, tomorrow, always, never, sometimes, etc.)
  • Adjectives precede nouns
  • There is a single symbol that can be written after a noun to express possession (similar to apostrophe S in English)
  • There is a word that can be put at the end of any sentence to indicate that is a question (similar to a question mark)
  • There is no punctuation
  • Articles like a or the are not used


Following the grammar rules was a lot like putting together a puzzle. When translating English questions into my language, I would first rearrange the English sentence using alien grammar. Then, I could simply replace every English word with an alien one. I typed them out in a document like this:

process

I then used Photoshop to make the slideshow I would project on the wall. Each slide consists of one question/proverb, with the English written above the alien language. I decided on a simple but declarative design, a black background with white text in all capital letters. This would allow the viewer to compare and contrast the features of the two languages easily. My inspiration for this was Jenny Holzer’s projections and truisms.

20 WERE YOU BORN UNDER THE SUN OR THE MOON

My two projectors were originally going to be set up on two walls facing each other, but because I was unable to build a rig for the projectors in time, I moved it at the last minute. Instead, the two projections were side by side in a different area. Ultimately, I was very pleased with how it looked in the new spot, probably more than I would have liked it in the original one.

On the night of the art party, some people only glanced briefly at the piece and then moved on. But those who realized what it was were really excited about it. I saw many people taking pictures with it and hanging out nearby. But nobody seemed to be talking about the questions. I would have liked for there to have been some kind of discussion going on.

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There are a few ways I could have better engaged with the audience. There could have been a performance aspect to the project; I could have stood by the installation the whole time and held a lesson in the language or assumed the character of an alien and told about the world I was from. I also could have created some sort of hand out, like a book of lore or a dictionary. It wasn’t really visible to my audience that I put in such an effort to create my own grammar and lexicon, so a hand out could have better conveyed that. I actually did create stickers, but I forgot to bring them to the party. My installation didn’t end up being as interactive as I wanted it to be this time, so next time I will keep these techniques in mind. But overall, it was a huge success, and I had so much fun with it. I think this project is the first of many constructed languages and projector installations to come.

Supernova: Blast Off!

Jenny -Supernova

This is a screenshot of a post someone put on their Instagram Story!

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The night of the Art Party!

I learned about augment reality in our first class this semester, by using the HP Reveal app. At first I was very frustrated trying to figure out the app but amazed by augmented reality and that elementary children use the app. My original idea was continuous dance, I would be dancing in a purple suit then you would come up to one of the symbols on my suit and an overlay of me dancing would appear. I  found out after a little trial and error that the app is very finicky and I would not be able to dance while someone uses the app. But this was only the very beginning of the idea. I soon became a space alien because of our theme for the Art Party; Supernova! I would have a helmet and glitter all over my face, complete with eyeshadow. I started by making the helmet, I used a bike helmet to paper mache over as a base.
paper mache set up

This was the set up for the paper mache helmet

helmet 2

Helmet with the point

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Helmet after one round of paper mache without the point

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Helmet with foil, finished product

Overlays: The overlays were my favorite part of this project. Performing and interacting the night of the Art Party was fun but I could not actually dance at the Art Party or else the overlays do not come up, so filming them was the best!! The first round of overlay videos that I showed Angela were of me dancing to the entirety of Bennie and the Jets by Elton John, and two other videos of me dancing to Stitches by Shawn Mendes with different colorful space videos being projected onto me. Well Angela liked the videos with the projection so much more. And I was asked to choreograph different dances for each overlay. Each overlay would then have separate choreography, a different song and a different colorful projection. Below are the overlays: Symbols: I wanted them to be abstract and not 100% recognizable. During this process I discovered that it is very difficult to register symbols that are simple. My symbols were not recognized by the app my first few times, the app would not pick them up. This was incredibly frustrating. But this also pushed me to make the symbols more unique because the app can not recognize images that have already been used to trigger overlays. During this time I also was having a difficult time because the lighting was always different and the angle people pointed their phones at the symbol were always different too. So even when the symbol registered the overlay would not come up because it was a different angle or light. In crit we solved this problem. I found that pictures of the symbols worked just fine at registering the images. So not only were the physical symbols on my suit but many printed copies of the symbols were too. The prints then worked and triggered the overlays! Some of the symbols had to be put on a flower background to make them more unique and able to be registered. The others just have the purple background that is the suit. Below are the final symbols used:
Green Blue Dot

Green Blue Dot

Purple Blue Dot

Purple Blue Dot

Ball of Beads

Ball of Beads

Pink Dot

Pink Dot

Disco

Disco

Rose

Rose

Cloud

Cloud

Garlic Flowers

Garlic Flowers

Plastic Star

Plastic Star

A couple weeks before the Art Party I was workshopping how to get people at the party to download the app, and tackle the learning curve of using the app. I decided I wanted to make stickers that had pictures of the symbols. I would greet people at the door and use showmanship to get them to download HP Reveal and from there I would get them to follow my account. Then so that they were able to manage and use the app I would give them the sticker. This way before the performance they would have experience with the app and hopefully be hooked! I’ve found that having something an audience member can take away with them is a key factor in interactive art. The Performance! The art party was a huge success in my eyes. I would bate people coming into the party by asking “would you like to “Blast Off?” this got their attention and I would continue from there by asking them to pull out their cellular devices and download HP Reveal. During the sometimes awkwardness of people downloading the app and us waiting around for that I would explain, that “We were going to travel through time and space together, and that because we are going to travel so far and so wide we have to make an account or else the connection between planets will be lost! AH and we wouldn’t want that would we?!” Audience members were hesitant to make an account but you have to to see my overlays so that was my reasoning. I would I did three big performances and after those I walked around and interactive one on one with people. I found that once the weirdness of downloading the app was over and they had the sticker people were into it. Especially during the performance, I did a little dance and jumpy thing to signal that we were “Blasting Off” I also explained how every symbol was a transport into another galaxy and the overlay was us traveling to the new planet! Audience members ate this up. Every couple minutes during the performance I would ask if we were ready to “Blasting Off” again and I would ask for space, then I would do a new little dance and spin, then I would strike a new pose. This way the audience would be able to get at symbols they couldn’t before. Over all this was a very labor intensive project that had a lot of trail and error and a lot of glitter but it was all so worth it. I loved it so much and I love augmented reality and how accessible this app is.  
Me in the suit, the first day I got it!!

Me in the suit, the first day I got it!!

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The first day I got the suit I was so happy and struck many dramatic poses

View from behind, audience members using their HP Reveal with the stickers!

View from behind, audience members using HP Reveal with the stickers!

I was on quite a few audience members Instagram stories

I was on quite a few audience members Instagram stories

Interaction! Blasting Off!!

Interaction! Blasting Off!!

After Striking a Pose!

After Striking a Pose!

 

Community Blanket — Madeline Dupre and Jennifer Morris

An overhead view of the cloud, with our blanket twisted in the middle

An overhead view of the cloud, with our blanket twisted in the middle

Madeline with the blanket before the installation started

Madeline with the blanket before the installation started

  The original inspiration for this project was that our housemates often spend evenings knitting together, talking and watching television. We both love knitting, finding it to be relaxing and a nice activity to do with our hands as we socialize. Our original idea for this project was to create a full blanket that we would ask the participants to unravel and give us the pieces of yarn. We soon realized that this wasn’t realistic, so instead we changed the focus of our project to be one of collaboration. We often knit our own projects separately, but this installation was a team effort, so we wanted it to be fully collaborative. In order for it to be this way, we decided to each knit about half of the blanket. Then we would sew these halves together while still knitting the blanket, so we would knit from both ends. We still wanted people to interact with the blanket, so we decided we would gather materials that could be knitted with that were not yarn (ribbon, shoestring, twine, cut up tablecloth, string made of plastic — all in a variety of colors). People would then add these to the blanket by handing them to us to knit in, and we would teach the audience members (who we later dubbed community members) to knit as well.  
Half of the blanket before one class critique

Half of the blanket before one class critique

  After one of our first critiques on this project in class, we realized that if more than two other people were participating, they would get bored and wouldn’t feel engaged with the piece. We also wanted people to do something besides knitting, because we know that sometimes the idea of knitting can be intimidating. With this, we planned to encourage community members to braid or otherwise combine some of the non-traditional materials and either ask us to knit them into the blanket or tie them into the fabric we had already knit in any way they wanted.  
Madeline working on the blanket at Spring Fest

Madeline working on the blanket at Spring Fest

During one of our final, aesthetic-focused critiques for this project, we decided that to frame it, we wanted to be sitting on a fake cloud to add to the comfortable, homey feeling. We got pillow stuffing and formed it into a circle to sit on, and we sat across from each other, wearing kind of cutesy outfits of shorteralls and pastel t-shirts. The blanket would go across the cloud, and we would knit it simultaneously.
The cloud pre-formation

The cloud pre-formation

Our experience of the installation was overwhelmingly positive. It was nice to be in the middle of Open Studios, where people were milling about and being contemplative, and changing that space to have it be one of direct and kind interaction. When we invited people to sit with us, one of the main points of pushback was that many said they could not knit. In these instances, we responded by saying that we could teach them, or they could do something else. This was one of those wonderful moments where what we had planned lined up with reality. Overall, we made new friends and completed a blanket that truly feels like it came from the community. If we had unlimited resources and could do the project again, we would have liked to perhaps have made a schedule for all of the community members to actually be able to use the blanket, or we would have done multiple sessions of sitting in Heimbold, asking people to participate in a similar way each time. Because at Open Studio there were so many people that were so excited, but we couldn’t physically and emotionally support all of them in making the blanket, the idea of multiple knitting sessions seems wonderful in retrospect, to have been able to forge a strong sense of community.

Biliopii, Demeter, and Dr. Prudence

 
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Dr. Prudence selfie

The original beginning for this project was that Jennifer Morris is essentially a hoarder and had been collecting toilet paper rolls for the entirety of the first semester this year. After she announced that she was just going to recycle them, I told her I would take them and use them for an art project.  

After some research into Tara Donovan, I thought for a bit I wanted to have so many toilet paper rolls that they lost the look of a toilet paper rolls and became an independent sculpture. But after seeing just how many toilet paper rolls I had, I realized that there were not enough to create the effect I wanted, and our house did not go through toilet paper rolls fast enough for me to use them in this way.  

Tara Donovan, ‘Untitled (Paper Plates)’, 2007, Pace Gallery

I decided, after thinking more about the toilet paper rolls and what other kinds of materials I wanted to use, that I wanted to cut the toilet paper rolls to different heights of tubes hot glue the sides of them together, creating almost like a bunch of buildings all close together, or the top of a factory with lots of different building heights within it. This sculpture was exciting to me, but even after this change to the materials, I realized that they still looked like toilet paper rolls and transformation hadn’t truly taken place.

I decided to add two elements to the structure — hot glue with melted crayon within it and a paint or paper mache-like covering made out of water, flour, and varying levels of turmeric and cumin. I covered the structure in the different mixtures, having ones that were white (just made out of flour and water) on the bottom and incorporating more turmeric into the mixture as I went up. I knew I wanted this to be a relic from an alien planet covered in sand, with the sand becoming paler and paler as one dug into the ground, and so I tried to make the structure look as if it was made of sand that had been pressed into a solid.

After the structures were created, I started to focus more on the narrative behind them. As someone who lives in a co-op, I liked the idea of organisms living in the structure I created. I had thought that maybe they would live together in the structures. I created these organisms out of some felting wool that one of my housemates had and covered it in hot glue. I decided that my reasoning for the hot glue would be that it was resin which had encased the biliopii (the organisms). Thinking about the idea of illusion, I didn’t want the viewer to be able to see the alleged organisms too well, so the covering of hot glue would make it more mysterious and also more believable.

The gloves, biliopii, and fake sand

The gloves, biliopii, and fake sand

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

Then, I started to incorporate the interactivity and my place in the project. I made the character of Dr. Prudence who was a researcher who led a team to the planet Demeter where we found these hives and the biliopii. I made some fake sand out of salt and flour and turmeric and had the audience touch that. Then I had them put on gloves to pick up the biliopii and use flashlights to try and get a better look at them. I also invited audience questions at the end, which added an improv element which made it more exciting, both for me and the audience, I think.

After the Supernova Art Party, I was happy with the way my project turned out, but I wish I had incorporated more opportunity for interactivity than just explaining a fake scientific discovery. I was really happy with the interactivity I did get, but I felt that at the end I put too much pressure on the audience. If I could do the project again, I would likely try and plan out more opportunities for interactivity so that the audience could become more engaged and there would be less time of me explaining everything to them. I also would have taken more photos! In retrospect, I feel like a big fool for taking no photos except for one selfie! Thankfully Micha had some of my setup which was wonderful!   

Project II: Move(s)(r) / Gus

For my second project this semester I made an installation intended to get people moving. At first, I had thought of making an installation that a character (played by myself) would interact with. It quickly became clear that asking other people to act with the installation would be much more challenging and rewarding. At first, I was unsure what to ask of people. Then, I remembered a comment Angela had made about my work last year. She talked about how I seem to want to make art that invites people to work together to achieve a goal. That was an observation that I found enlightning and agreed wholeheartedly with. As a result, I decided to create something that brought people together. As the process went on however, my approach became more and more about the individual. I feel that the result was an installation that wasn’t necessarly asking people to work together for a common goal –though nothing was keeping viewers from doing so if they wished.   IMG_2495   The installation was code running from Processing which was displayed in a large screen. The computer was connected to a Kinect and the image projected on the screen displayed a pixilated image of the person that spun around 360 degrees. Next to the large screen, my computer showed a video of people moving in different ways – dancing, walking down the runway, exercising. The hope was that people would immediatly understand they were supposed to replicate  these movements, while observing themselves on the large screen.   IMG_2478 IMG_2501   Not everone was immediatly aware of what they were supposed to do, and in that sense, the project could use a little more work. In a possible second iteration of this, there are two main things I’d like to work on: 1) finding a way to make the intention of the piece clear to those engaging with it, 2) work on making this a piece that asks for two or more people to engage with each other to accomplish a task. All in all, I had a great time doing this project on my on. I was also very inspired by my classmates projects this semester. What a great year this has been!  

Interactive Art: Project I / Gus and Andrew

My first project this semester was a collaboration with my classmate Andrew Murdock. We created an installation using mylar and bright orange neon strings. Outside, students would listen to a recording that set the tone for the experience inside. By using fancy scientific words, the hope was to create a tone and purpose for the whole piece. Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 12.15.33 PM Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 12.16.19 PM   After listening to the recording, people would enter the space, where they were asked to take part in an “intergallactic” dance.  We distributed finger lights to the participants, with the hope that they would add even more playfulness to the piece. On the far side of the room, a projector was used to project images of the people dancing on the wall. Using Processing and Isadora, Andrew was able to add two other levels to this projection: 1) the image projected was in slow motion, 2) the music would fade out, and begin again once the program noticed a loud sound. I felt that the project was succesful. It was wonderful engaging with people, and seeing them interact not only with the technology, but with the characters we created for ourselves, as well as interaction amoung viewers.   IMG_2171   Andrew and I ended the piece feeling mostly satified, thouh we both agreed that in a second reiteration of this, we might find a way to make the room darker, and possibly even project on the floor, instead of one of the mylar-covered walls. The light from the projector, as well as light from the neighboring room, made it difficult to notice the projection on the wall. I think Andrew was especially upset that the work he put into the technological aspects of the piece wasn’t able to be as appreciated as we both wanted. With that said, I think this was a succesful piece, and it was wonderful to work with Andrew.

New Genres: Open Studio – The Infinite Box of Things

For my last project in Interactive Art, I ended up creating a house of nostalgia. The installation consisted of a cardboard box house, spray painted with a multitude of colors, filled with miscellanious toys and items from my childhood.

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Behind the house was a framed monitor and Mac Mini, and to it connected a Leap motion sensor and projector. The Mac ran a program I created that began with a static blue background with moving white spheres. (This was intended to look cloud-like.)

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When the viewer put their hand over the Leap, a new shape would be created over the background based on their hand position. Upon this shape I mapped a series of images I took of the objects within the house. This mapping would end up looking like the viewer is “uncovering” something under the background:

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One of the images I took that was mapped to the hand shape.

One of the images I took that was mapped to the hand shape.



I purposefully attempted to match the color of the background to the blue sheet in the above picture so the distinction between “hand” and background became blurred, creating the “uncovering” illusion. I decided to project the screen as well because of the size of the box: when the user is interacting with it, the interaction stays confined to the box. To create the “magic circle” of viewers watching the interaction, I needed to make sure the screen could be easily seen outside of the box.

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This project came to be through my Leap experimentation. While messing around with Angela’s code to create hand shapes, I found the concept of mapping and tried just mapping a basic 2D pattern I had created. When I saw how it instantly transformed the shape from something 3D resembling my hand to something 2D I was uncovering with my hand, my mind immediately went to Where’s Waldo. I knew I couldn’t actually use a Waldo image (as they are copyrighted), so I had to create something of my own. I wanted an image where the user was “discovering” something, not just looking at a pattern, so I thought about how to create this. I could draw something, but that would take more time. I decided to grab (also known as “have mom send”) some random objects from my childhood and take a photo of them. I chose childhood objects because I felt they were the most various, stand-out objects I had, and I was also determined to use Fischer-Price Little People in my next project. (I suppose I was feeling nostalgia at the beginning of this project, hence why it turned out to be a nostalgic theme.)

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My program came together rather quickly; it was not a complex one. What I came to struggle more with was the cardboard box. Angela offered the suggestion of putting my program within a box to create a mystical feeling, but to transform the box so it didn’t feel like cardboard. The way I could visualize that mentally was to make a house shape. My first house was fine until I had to frame the monitor behind it. I didn’t think through where I was cutting and ended up cutting the entire back flaps out, where all the structure of the house was resting. It lasted through one crit, but alas did not make it through the following night. This forced me to completely remake the house from scratch. Upon the second attempt, I was more careful with where I cut and thus had a more secure house.

I decided to put the objects I pictured physically in the house after a suggestion from a classmate. I thought it might help clear up what the user is doing/what they are searching for. I don’t know if it quite achieved this effect, but added more to the showmanship/aesthetic of my presentation and helped draw people in.

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Because the cord was short, my Leap ended up being quite far inside the house. I thought this would be a problem, as people would not know what to do. However, I think it was one of the best aspects of my installation: as people reached in to look or touch objects (which I encouraged by a sign), they would suddenly activate the Leap and realize they control the picture on the screen.

On installation day, I realized my program did not work as well in the space as it had on my computer. The Leap sensor would stop sensing objects only about halfway up the screen, reducing the amount of objects the user could actually see and access with their hand shape. This was a bug I could not fix before Open Studio, and I wish I had but I don’t think it affected the interaction for the user. I learned setting up in the space beforehand is extremely important and, as with the Art Party, there are always new issues that arise within the actual space.

One aspect that I wished would have worked better was the clues I had prepared for the user. I still wasn’t sure if the user would know what to do with the exhibit, so I created I Spy-esque clues for the image. Angela suggested they be presented in a kid-type fashion to fit in with the atmosphere of the installation, so I chose to create a paper fortune teller as that was something I remember being prevalent in my childhood (pictured above, bottom center). I attempted to put it in the front, but I feel it blended in with the other objects. I am not sure if anyone read them, as I was unable to attend the first hour of Open Studio, but the people I showed the installation to did not notice it. I think if I had made the clues more visible, it would have drawn people in more as they would feel like they had a task to complete. Instead of a goal-oriented “game” type installation, it became an interactive art piece about presentation and atmosphere.

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Overall, I think the installation was a success in terms of user interaction and how the user felt about it, but I think I was not as successful in specifying the action I wanted the user to take.

[NEW GENRES: Interactive] Gumball Processing

For my second piece this semester, I wanted to have fun.

According to my therapist and mother, I am autistic. Because of this, I process many things differently from someone who is not on the Autistic Spectrum. I am also a trained chef, and have worked in restaurants (and at home) for years. These two facts come together beautifully as I explored my own sensory processing through “Gumball Processing.”

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The idea for the “Gumball Processing” started with an investigation into the self. I wanted to make a piece that would bring my mind a little bit closer to the minds of my participants; a part of this was understanding art as sensory processing. Again, I went to Saskia Bakker’s Design for Peripheral Interaction. Bakker, never letting me down, helped me map my own brain process to the rest of the world. I also read “Hertzian Tales and Sublime Gadgets” by Anthony Dunne, which inspired a distinct distaste for digital interactive projects. Although Dunne was eloquent and helpful in reconsidering the digital, I found that there was a deep antagonism in the ways that digital pieces would capture and employ data about humans in the analog world. I then dedicated this project to working without any sort of digital component.

First came the food.

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It was important to me early on that my brain be accurately represented in this piece. A part of my sensory processing is that I do not eat collectively; rather, each texture and taste is isolated and recomposed as a sensual harmony. For this piece, I wanted to show how exactly I isolate and reconstruct food. The compartmentalization of eating is what inspired the design for the gumball machine, as well.

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Creating my gumball machine was not easy. I consulted many Youtubes and listicles on how to DIY my way to a functional gumball dispenser. However, few of these suggestions proved functional. I instead designed my own gumball machine, using the power of math and a little bit of creative thinking.

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This featured a lot of working and reworking, some of which happened while I was in the Wood Shop itself. However, with determination and some help from Francis, our local fibers expert, I completed my first design for “Gumball Processing.”

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However, this would be far from the final design.

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Due to many mechanical flaws in the pull mechanism, the ‘gumballs’ would not drop. Several re-designs later, Professor Angela Ferraiolo solved my entire project in one sentence. She said that my issue with the piece was “mechanical,” and that I was “losing the interaction.” Not only was she right, but she helped me re-conceive what became EAT MY ART. IMG-4067 IMG-4068 IMG-4069 IMG-4073

The night before and day of Open Studios, I prepped my former gumballs. The menu consisted of four complete dishes that were then separated into two to four components each. The star of the piece was the Raspberry Tart Bun (pictured above), a soup-bun-style tart that was baked in biscuit dough and covered with cinnamon. This was separated into four components (the syrup, the raspberries, the soft inner dough, and the crispy outer dough).

In total, I created 95 tiny dishes. This was one of the most satisfying moments in this project.

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Rather than rely on the framing of the gumball machine, I wanted participants to be formally served my dishes. Dressing the podium with a lush red velvet and creating custom marbled labels is what the piece needed to ground itself in a world. The piece was also aesthetically pleasing, which was unintentional but very wonderful!

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Unfortunately, although many people stopped to look at my piece, most of them were too shy to eat anything! I removed several of the wells to create the illusion that people had been eating them; this, along with some very dedicated friends/decoys, made the piece more accessible and more people were inclined to try eating the dishes.

Strangely, it was as I de-installed that the most people visited and ate with me. Approximately seven people consecutively stopped me as I was packing up and asked what my piece was and if they could try it. This better explained why people had not eaten before: every person mentioned that it look too nice to touch.

In this way, my dressing of the piece thoroughly backfired. Part of the success of a gumball machine is that it is unintimidating and many people know how to use it, either instinctively or from interacting with a gumball machine itself.

; The most important lesson from this was PRAXIS MAKES PERFECT. Although I read Andrew Boyd’s Beautiful Trouble last semester, I didn’t quite learn my lesson until this one. I wish I had spent more time perfecting the design of my turning mechanism in the beginning of this project, as well as spent more time testing with people it in the latter half.

This is not the end of the gumball machine, though; I intend to finish this piece over the summer. This is also not the end for “EAT MY ART;” I hope to create more pieces about the interactions between people, food, and art. Part of the satisfaction of this piece for both myself and the participants is the shared relationship to the food. I want to work more with this relationship and better investigate this simultaneously distant and intimate relationship.

Also, I love to cook.

[New Genres] Supernova

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When we began planning the art party, I had no idea what it would look like, or even really what making it would entail. But I dove headfirst into brainstorming it, beginning with the theme, which proved to be a difficult needle to thread. It was important to provide a basis that was simple and broad, but not too broad, so that artists working on the party would have a jumping-off point for installations but still have the freedom of having their own take on the theme. We also needed to make sure that the theme could be communicated easily to attendees. The theme and title we chose, Supernova, ultimately combined the postmodernism and elegance we were going for with a kitschy, space opera vibe. To go with the title, I created a dress code that would further flesh out the world of the party, which we included in the posters. Leading up to the party, we also decided to create a new poster for each day in the week, putting them up at night to preserve the magic of the poster changing.

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Then there was the question of decoration. Again, it was a question of fitting the theme without being cliche; and of making Heimbold into something completely different from its everyday self. We gelled lights, changing the color of the space, and used mylar to cover a wall upstairs. The reflection of the colored light on the mylar really changed the experience of the space, and over the course of party almost everyone who attended wanted to take a picture in front of the wall. We also made balloon structures and mylar nests of candy, and covered projector tables and food tables in mylar sheeting, which really brought together the visual aesthetic of the party. The decision to make this change overnight also affected the outcome, and added to the mystical element of the party. Not having the work of setup as part of our fiction allowed for a more fun and carefree atmosphere at the party itself. A few semi-contained spaces of fully realized change rather than a half-realized change throughout the whole space proved to be very effective, and the gels and music throughout the building carried the spaces that were less transformed. The harmonious visual aesthetics of the decoration also helped with this – using mostly silver, white, and blue, even with things as simple as candy, connected all of the different pieces around the building.

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Attendees expressed how much they enjoyed it, and bought into the fiction of the world we had created, dressing up and engaging with interactive installations. By concealing how we created things, and what work had gone into them, the party became a space of wonder and engaged the curiosity of anyone with a desire to enter the space of play. I struggled a lot with time estimation on this project – it was difficult to figure out how long something I had never done before would take, especially when factoring in multiple people working on the project at once. There were a few elements of decoration I had to abandon because of this, and I initially thought that I would be able to experience design and make an individual piece, which ended up not being the case. Because the format of the art party was new to Sarah Lawrence, I think it was also difficult for some participants – both artists and attendees – to fully understand beforehand what the art party would be. We also struggled with creating a large-scale piece in a shared space and the challenges that posed (not being able to use certain rooms, sound bleed, etc), even needing to change the date because of budgeting concerns towards the beginning of the process. Despite these setbacks, people really enjoyed the party, and I was immensely satisfied with the outcome. I learned a lot about creating a piece like this on a larger scale and how to preserve the mysticism in presentation; I also really value the work that I did with the rest of my class as a team. It was really rewarding to see everyone’s individual work and how it all fit together, and I’m truly happy I got to be a part of it.

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[New Genres] Daydream Simulator 5000

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This project went through many iterations before it took the form that I presented at open studios on Tuesday. I knew I wanted to experiment with sound and the placement of sound in space, and I knew I wanted to create a space of interaction that felt separated somehow from the world around it. I began conceiving of the piece as different recordings of different text playing from different places in a room, which you would walk through. However, after experimenting with motion sensors, I knew I wanted to incorporate them somehow. Initially, I thought that the control would be limited to the sound following the viewer as they walked past the exhibit, but the combination of my own desire to create a more insular space and the limitations of the technology pushed me to create a piece that would utilize hand-control. I settled on a theramin-esque setup, where the movement of the user’s hand would change the placement of the sound in the room and the volume of the sound.

Once I had formulated the way I wanted to shape the piece, the next big challenge for me was tone. I coded the motion sensor script, and then set out to create the music that would be playing for users to control. I had initially envisioned something more ambient and dark, but as I drafted song after song and tried to think about what would be fun and engaging to control, I realized that a more peaceful and cheerful tone would serve the piece better. The process of creating the final song was incredibly rewarding, and ultimately I’m happier with it than I was with any of my more melancholy drafts.

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The next challenge was visual. I struggled a lot with providing visual cues of how to interact with the piece, and how to visually reward the user for interacting on top of the sonic element. I set up a projector with lights changing color to add to the tone, and beta-testers of the piece enjoyed using the projector’s light to make shadows as they controlled the music; so I moved the motion-sensor into a position that would make this more intuitive, and framed the projector screen with diagrams of different shadow puppets. In a later test, this was semi-successful, as users immediately knew how to interact with the projector; but the effect that the motion sensor was having wasn’t as clear. In my final draft, I added a visual portion of code, which allows the motion sensor to change the color on the screen as well as the sound. IMG-4105

This final version debuted at Open Studios, and the addition of the visual solved a lot of problems and moved the piece along quite a bit. People were more clear on how to interact with the piece and how they were affecting it. This extra technical element posed its own problems: the size and placement of the Leap made the area of interaction smaller than people expected it to be, and the fact that I had only programmed for one hand input at a time meant that sometimes the program froze or or didn’t respond when there was more than one hand in the area of the Leap.

Overall the project was very successful. People enjoyed interacting with it and found it intuitive and evocative, particularly commenting on the relaxed yet playful nature of the piece. If I were to rework this piece in the future, I have some ideas about reworks and fine-tuning, but overall I’m very satisfied with the end result.

[NEW GENRES: Interactive] Singularity

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Eating Disorders In Physics, the term ‘singularity’ refers to the phenomenon of all things colliding into a singular point. Theoretically, the singularity occurs at the middle of a black hole where the strength of the gravity is greatest. The gravity is so great that, at the Event Horizon, not even light may pass through; that is what creates a black hole. This means that past the event horizon, there is no possible future as light cannot move forward. As the mass is inevitably pulled toward singularity, it is torn to shreds by the sheer gravity of the point. Eventually, all particles that enter the black hole must move toward one point; there is no longer a past, and no other future— only singularity. “Singularity,” or as my classmates know it “The Elevator,” was an experiment in space. Using Kluszczynski’s Strategy of Network, I wanted to create a space for pause and interaction on a mental and physical level. The idea of The Network is that interactions between participants is the formation of the interaction of the art. In this case, I was eager to have participants not only interact with each other, but themselves. This was the intention of “Singularity.” “Singularity” was also a product of my own trauma. In February, I was sexually assaulted by my partner. For many weeks, and still to this day, I suffered greatly; I often re-lived the assault and other past traumas, was unable to focus on work or entertainment, and visited therapists daily and then weekly. It was difficult for me to leave my bed for several days and still now I have trouble eating regularly. The idea for this piece happened one night as I laid in bed. I wished, desperately, for a reprieve from my own thoughts. I wished for a place where the world would stop around me so that I could grieve, rebuild, and carry on. That feeling of loss, pain, and hope is what created “Singularity:” a place where time and space did not exist, only the sensation of moving.
  When it came to constructing my space for healing, I wanted to encourage people to reflect on themselves. However, in order to reflect, I wanted to give participants the opportunity to enter the space with me. In order to invite my guests, I developed seating in the form of a large, communal bean bag and a projection that was intended for the ceiling. This would make guests focus on a plane that they don’t normally interact with: the above. The projection featured a starscape that infinitely propelled forward through space, featuring stars and planets of another time. The purpose of this projection, my Event Horizon, was to allow guests to feel as through they were moving forward, even if they may be standing still.

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    Originally, this piece was made for a much larger space. However, given time and practicality, I chose to move it. My ideal selection was the silver elevator in the Heimbold building at Sarah Lawrence. This elevator was massive and moved three floors, so it was ideal for all the components of my installation.

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    The theme for the Art Party that this work was featured in was space, which was very convenient. To match with the theme, I planned my aesthetics to feel simultaneously comfortable and futuristic. The result of this effort was an elevator covered in reflective mylar.

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    I had a deep interest in multi-sensory artwork. After reading selections from Design for Peripheral Interaction by Saskia Bakker, I focused my work on using auditory information as a way to stimulate the participant’s ability to divide and focus their mental capacities, or, multi-task. When choosing what audio to add to my projection, I thought very carefully about what I wanted my guests to feel. I chose to manipulate a public-use recording of Esti Dal by Kodály, a famous Turkish song. I chose this piece because of an English translation I heard and learned years ago:

Peaceful darkness Night descending Fragrant now with summer’s ending; There I rested, softly sleeping Wishing, wanting, His sweet safe-keeping.

This song encapsulated the exact sense of safety and momentary belonging that I wanted guests to feel. I manipulated the song so that it the singing sounded more mechanical. The end effect that I wanted was something between the sound effects of the gears of a spaceship and the low drones of meditative musics. Esti Dal served this purpose perfectly, and the audio was later looped for the video.

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    My other concern for this piece was the framing. I read The Two Magics by Nelms early in the semester, and was immediately concerned with how I would dress my next project. It was important to me that the ideas that went into the project were both communicable and fun. Using the power of social media, I reached out to several friends and asked them to help me translate ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’ into multiple languages. These words were then added to the beginning of the video, to officially welcome guests. I also crafted a warning sign, as I was concerned about people’s ability to move through my piece. Both of these supported the intergalatic feeling that “Singularity” required.

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    Surprisingly, this piece was a hit.

    I checked in on my elevator several times throughout installation night, and not once did I see it empty. In fact, at one point, a party of approximately twelve people were in the elevator, lounging and talking. I could not have asked for a better reception. The mylar was dynamic and moved as the elevator changed floors; the projection, now moved to a wall, was mesmerizing and beautiful; the sounds of the moving elevator complimented the squeaks and groans of my edited Esti Dal.

    Most importantly, as I sat in the elevator at the end of the night, I felt at home. “Singularity” was a space of my creation, intended to bring peace or piece of mind to any guests who would join me at my Event Horizon. And, strangely enough, they did.

 

New Genres: Supernova Installation

Speak to me!



Claim 1: If I communicate to other people through a sound visualizer and text-to-speech library, then it will feel equivalent to or easier than talking to people face-to-face. (Hint: this is false.) Claim 2: If an installation setup meets the correct criteria, then it is quite simple to deceive an audience regarding the legibility of artificial intelligence. (Hint: this is surprisingly true.)

For the Supernova Art Party 2018, I created an installation revolving around a pseudo-artifical intelligence program. I set up a large monitor with a microphone and speaker in front to encourage the audience to “speak” to the monitor. I connected my laptop to the monitor via HDMI cable and hid in a curtained area behind the monitor. The program I created and ran was a simple audio visualizer, where the central circle changed diameter depending on the volume of the surrounding area. There were also some extra visual effects (such as the circle gradually changing color, a fade-out effect on the circles of different diameter, and a grid background), as well as a text-to-speech feature. This is where the magic happened: I had a small text input box hidden at the bottom of the screen (which, due to resolution differences, coincidentally didn’t show up on the monitor), where I could enter text and upon pressing the “return” key, have a text-to-speech library read the text I typed. Thus, I could listen to the user’s questions to my program and type a response from my computer, giving the user the illusion that my program listens and can respond without any outside help.

I must admit, as a moderately shy person with absolutely no showmanship experience, I found my idea of hiding behind a curtain for the party as part of my project pretty genius. I knew, however, I still had to tackle the issue of being hidden, but still aware of the interaction with my piece. This was, overall, still the hardest part of my installation. I found it difficult to balance between interacting with people curious in my installation versus people trying to get from point A to point B and not interested in it, especially when I couldn’t see the people behind my Mylar curtain. The curtain seemed semi-transparent during daylight, but once it got darker it became much harder to see through and I found I couldn’t rely on it to see people. All I could rely on was their voices. This worked out somewhat, as people felt the need to treat it like any other talking device such as Google Home or Alexa and initiate the conversation. It still caused some anxiety, however, as I felt pressure to type and respond quickly, respond with wit, and do all this without seeing the other person (or sometimes, without hearing them quickly as some people’s speech into the mic was muffled). Thus, it was most definitely NOT easier to communicate with people via technology (in this case). In the future, I think placing the installation in a space where people go specifically to interact with it, versus a walking space, and making sure I could truly see the audience would create some ease on my part.

Speaking of space, I believe I was able to use the parochial nature of the space that is Heimbold (and Sarah Lawrence) to my advantage. As everyone at the party was united by being members of Sarah Lawrence, I could make college-specific references that made my “AI”, Sam, feel surprisingly knowledgeable and surreal. I was worried this would break the Turing Test quality, but even with specific references, many people appeared to think this was a program built with true artificial intelligence. On top of all this, I think the knowledge of local culture made it easier to befriend (and even fall in love with) Sam.

A screenshot of an acquaintance’s Snapchat story. I don’t think they had any idea it was me behind the curtain. I’m Internet famous!



This idea that I could make an AI interface built upon local knowledge is a unique and tempting one. What if, instead of having a mass production of general knowledge machines, we had specific localized AI that was built upon data within a small radius or specific community? But I digress. The specificity of this bot worked well at the Art Party, a culmination of the parochial localized culture we are a part of. While I wrestled with some aspects of my text-to-speech library, like Sam’s difficult-to-understand accent, I don’t think a general, clear-spoken Alexa would have been as fun or interesting.

But actually, you’re speaking to ME.