Monthly Archives: March 2017

Digital Tools: The Art of The Gif

In making these gifs, my aim was to make them fun and playful, nothing too stiff. In making digital artwork, I oftentimes feel as though it is easy to lose the fluidity that comes with working in traditional media, due to the precise nature of items such as the brush tool, the shape-making tools, etc. In general, some of my favorite artists whose work I generally attempt to draw from are Aiden Koch, Maria Ines Gul, my good friend Valerie Wrede (@eggflowersoup on instagram/tumblr–seriously check her out) Daniel Clowes, Kendra Yee, Raymond Pettibon, and Hellen Jo. However in making my patterns and gifs I found myself being very inspired by pictures and illustrations I’ve seen of cells and protozoa. There is something very appealing to me about the way these organisms move and interact with the environment, and in the chaotic-yet-organized way that they are composed. wavegif This gif is definitely my favorite, I was aiming to give it a sort of 60s psychedelic feel without being too corny, and i think I succeeded in doing so. I was also satisfied with how the changing of the colors conveyed a sense of motion, like ripples in water. splotchgif This gif was an experiment in color more than anything. I wanted to challenge myself and go beyond my typical pastel pallet. I wasn’t expecting the motion to be all that interesting, but I think it turned out to be more exciting than I anticipated. boringgif In this one I was trying to be more illustrative. I do illustrations that use a lot of comic-type elements without really explicitly being comics (like Aiden Koch’s work). This gif felt very fun and in-line with what I typically doodle in class, giving this doodle-like thing motion felt very satisfying. I would love to maybe even attempt a short animated film in the future.

Fieldwork: Curation at the Swiss Institute #2

Swiss Curation Hans-Ulrich Obrist

Swiss Curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist

Since beginning my internship at the Swiss Institute, I’ve gotten to do a lot of different jobs. These have included page, receptionist, librarian, gallery assistant, copy editor, and photo editor, among other things. But, the biggest and most recurrent job that I have is of the researcher.

Hans Ulrich Obrist writes in Ways of Curating that curation is only a fraction of the job of the curator. Coordination and documentation are two other fractions, but research is one of the most important parts. The curator, as they go about organizing exhibitions and acting as the connective tissue between major artistic organs, must act as historian, documenting the artists that they come into contact with, but also as researcher on past and current artists to stay up to date on current happenings in the art world as well as historical happenings that inform their praxis going forward.

Most of my work consists of research in support of the curatorial team. There is a deluge of information out there about art, obviously. Thousands upon thousands of people around the world make art, of all different kinds. There are yet thousands more different art news publications, cultural authorities, publishers, galleries, museums, and institutions of all sorts that support the arts. How, then, is any one single person supposed to keep up with everything thats going on? Apparently, I’ve learned, that’s where I come in.

One of my biggest responsibilities is to create dossiers of artists for review for the curatorial team. Unlike my first project, in which I had the opportunity to come up with my own list of artists to pitch, most of the time the curators assign me a specific task, such as a list of names to compile dossier’s for, or a specific topic to compile as much information on as possible. What seems like a simple cut and dry research task ends up being a much bigger undertaking than at first meets the eye. For example, an artist dossier consists of a bio, a CV (which includes current exhibitions, past solo exhibitions, past solo exhibitions, and honors and awards), and then a picture portfolio of there most prominent and indicative works. Sometimes this is easy, and galleries or the artists themselves upload all of this information online. Most of the time, its  patchwork of going through different online publications to piece together a timeline of the artist’s career. Sometimes, it will take an entire day to complete a file for a single artist. 

While the task at times can seem laborious, its an amazing one because it is a massive learning opportunity for not just the curatorial team who will eventually look at these research documents and utilize them to figure out which artists to work with, but also for me who is new to this “professional art world” and doesn’t have the most complete grasp on contemporary happenings. It’s also an especially exciting task because the Swiss Institute prides itself on representing emerging and otherwise underrepresented artists. They constantly seek to explore new narratives and new ideas, which keeps the curation cycle always interesting. It’s also very interesting because the more I work for the institution, the more I am able to see how exactly it fits into the larger cultural landscape of New York, For example, a few of the names on the 2017 Whitney Biennial list presented their first ever New York solo exhibitions at the Swiss Institute.

Working at the Swiss Institute has educated me on things that I have never ever thought about before. Right now, I’m working on a bear of a research project that has taken me a few days to work through. While on the one hand it can seem a bit pointless, I am performing an important and necessary task that supports the whole team. How can we put on a show if no one really understands the concepts behind it? That would make us a poor gallery at best. And, while the specific subject matter that I am working on doesn’t really fall into the category of my personal interest or study, learning about these topics has been absolutely fascinating, and has exposed me to concepts, art works, and designs that I previously had never encountered. Now, I know more about things that I never knew existed than I ever thought possible. Each project expands my understanding of art history and contemporary artistic practices.

Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno's "No Ghost Just a Shell", which was recently on view as part of The Whitney's "Dreamlands" exhibition. via stretcher

Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s “No Ghost Just a Shell”, which was recently on view as part of The Whitney’s “Dreamlands” exhibition. via stretcher

On my own independent research, I have dived wholeheartedly into Christiane Paul’s Digital Art – a modern textbook on the evolution of the digital medium over the past 60 years. André Breton and Paul Éluard defined the concept of the readymade as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artists,” constituting a radical recontextualization of a found object. The field of digital media is one that I never conflated the idea of the readymade with. French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno changed that with their seminal work “No Ghost Just a Shell,” (2000) in which they purchased the rights to a readymade manga character called Annlee. This figure has no story, no character, and no animation: she is simply code waiting to be animated and given a story. Like the artists and architects who took pre-existing objects and buildings and manipulated their contexts to augment them into works of art, Huyghe and Parreno took a readymade 3D model of a manga character and gave her dimension in “Anywhere Out of the World” (2000) and “Two Minutes Out of Time” (2000). This connection was a powerful moment for me, taking two very disparate ideas and finding a link between them in one of the most unusual of ways. I think this is what Obrist was talking about.

Jordan Wolfson, Female Figure 2014. courtesy Sadie Coles HQ/David Zwirner

Jordan Wolfson, Female Figure 2014. courtesy Sadie Coles HQ/David Zwirner. He received his first NY solo show at the Swiss Institute, and now this year his virtual reality piece “Real Violence” has gone on to be included in the Whitney Biennial.

Radical Games: Rescue

Rescue in its current form is an attempt to subvert the common RPG adventure trope of a hero rescuing a princess, but has been through numerous iterations and pivots such that numerous aspects of previous versions of the game appear in this most recent version. This history is long, complicated, and largely irrelevant, contributing to arbitrary aspects of the project. As it stands, the game is about a mother attempting to rescue her daughter, failing, and needing to be rescued by the supposedly helpless little girl. Village The inspiration came very soon after finishing LISA: The Painful in early February. My initial need was to create a game about a parent willing to do anything to save their child. This led to the character design of Isha, a middle-aged war veteran who is the mother of a small girl named Gemma. While initial aspects of the game revolved around the conflict between the Verda (Isha’s species of green skinned people) and humanity, I eventually dropped this idea in favor of trying to work off the medium of adventure games like Zelda and Mario, as it lay more within my areas of expertise. Because of this however, aspects of the previous world such as the Verda and Human conflict remain as backdrop and partial catalyst of the game’s events. The way I wanted to challenge the hero rescue damsel in distress narrative was to have the natural hero (Warrior character) be rescued by the small child. Since Isha was the main character of my previous idea, I made her the typical warrior character by virtue of that being what she was before. The idea was that the player would become comfortable playing as Isha and slide into the usual rhythms of an action RPG. However, once the actual quest began, Isha would be captured and the player would begin controlling the imprisoned Gemma. From there, the player would discover that Gemma had reality altering powers, able to tear holes in existence, and would go on to save her mother. Woods  Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 7.51.52 PM This section in particular during the paper test revealed several problems in the design I had laid out. Foremost was that when control of the characters changed from Isha to Gemma, it was not clear that that was simply meant to happen as an established event, not a mechanic that the player was in control of. Because of this, the player believed that the point was to return to a more powerful body, since Gemma seemed helpless and died anytime she came into contact with guards. This revealed both that the player felt mor e kinship to Isha (partially expected given the structure and my intentions) and that the player did not realize Gemma had any powers aside from running. Much of this was a symptom of oversights on my part that did not adequately inform the player of their abilities. What was positively revealed was the idea that the player wanted to chase Gemma, who in the beginning flees from the player, reinforcing the idea of following/rescuing the “princess.” However, I’m not sure that this adequately illustrated the relationship I wanted to express. State of the game was also fairly positive, but again showed mistakes made in character design (misunderstanding the age of Isha) and the pallet of objects blurring together at times. The art otherwise has been part of the easiest of this process for me, which I found exceptionally surprising as I have no real art education. While I’ve drawn for fun before, I’ve always found the details that I mess up too marring for me to really care what I’ve create. The abstraction of pixel art however, has made me feel exceptionally good about the kind of work I can produce. I feel this is well represented in the game. Aesthetically I wanted to go for darker, earthy tones, because the original idea was to try and make the Verda seem folksy, and slightly other, but in a natural way. I also then wanted to draw attention to certain characters by using slight deviations in these colors. One of my original Verda designs thus had bright purple eyes, at odds with the dark green of his skin. I also wanted this earthiness to contrast with the humans, who I planned to put in lots of pristine, white, clothing, evocative of the Roman Republic.   FullSizeRender-1   FullSizeRender Development up until state of the game felt very smooth, exciting, and pointed towards a specific goal. Since then, because of revisions, expansions, and downscaling, I feel that things have slowed somewhat to a near stall as I try and figure out connections between the things I had already decided I wanted in the game, while maintaining the structure I had envisioned. The path forward is a continuing distillation of what I’m trying to express, while retaining the impact fulness I want to create. In terms of art, I have a number of assets and environments left to build, as well as more animations for the characters and the world.

Radical Games: Mila

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 7.16.36 PM Mila is about a little girl (the titular character), who, lonely and estranged from her father, leaves her home to search for him. As she moves forward, the world becomes colder and more unforgiving. Winter trees give way to concrete skyscrapers. When she finally makes it to her father, she finds not a kindred spirit, but a cruel CEO who sends her back to her ramshackle house. She makes her way back to her father again with the intent not of reconciling but of freeing the workers she saw along the way. I was influenced by top-down RPGs like OFF and Undertale, which use a sort of 3/4 view to create a sense of depth and dimension, and Sword & Sworcery EP for its abstracted pixel art style. My intention was for Mila to be a bright spot in a dim and (literally) gray world. I took narrative tone inspiration from Russian novels and games like Spooky’s House of Jumpscares, The Stanley Parable, and Papers Please. I want to create a dismal setting permeated and slowly saturated by hope. I’m attempting to translate this through color and character design. I also plan to include friendly NPCs based on “ugly” animals, such as the star-nosed mole and turkey vulture, to create a reversal of the common Disney-esque trope of a female main character befriending cute woodland creatures. Mila is also ragtag and disheveled for this reason. My state of the game focused on translation of idea through visual aesthetic, and this was mostly successful; even without more than one map or a narrative, players gleaned that Mila was searching for something important to her, and that she was  a very hopeful character in a dreary world. I received some feedback about tile texture and made some adjustments accordingly; the workshop was very helpful in figuring out how to make certain textures (concrete, asphalt) read to a player in game space. Players also commented on Mila’s lack of a mouth, which I had intended as an artistic abstraction but which read as a conscious choice to show the character as quiet. I chose not to change this aspect of Mila’s character model because I don’t think the observation of her as quiet is incorrect and I am fine with the character being viewed this way. paper1   The paper game stage was very helpful for me in figuring out the layout of my story; I settled on a relatively linear progression mostly because of time constraints in the development process, but also because I felt it could get my meaning across simply and effectively. Players progressed mostly the way I expected them to, although I did receive some unexpected feedback about the presence of combat in the game, which led me to nix combat for the most part and look for other ways to portray and resolve conflict. Players thought that Mila attacking enemy NPCs broke an illusion of her “goodness” and that violence was unnecessary in the game. paper2 Development has been rocky less in terms of problem with code and programs but more so in terms of decisions about art assets and narrative choices. I’m currently struggling with the decision of whether or not to use dialogue in my game at all. I think dialogue in english might make the narrative feel less universal or more contrived. Players in the paper stage seemed to expect it, and without completed visuals I wasn’t sure how to express the narrative without it, but I would prefer to use pictures and scenes to illustrate meaning rather than dialogue.

Radical Games: IV

Screenshot (3) This semester I’m setting out to make a game that comments on the medical industry by using mythical allegory to explain some of the horrors that occur. To that end, I plan to construct a fantastical world in which the player must constantly give payment to “insert giant deity name here” in order to keep their Family Member alive. While I have not fully worked out all the kinks in this plot the main mechanic involves repeatedly taking things from either the land or yourself to keep your Family Member alive. The initial game was planned to include the main character venturing far out unto the world, but given the amount of time left in the semester, it is unlikely the whole story will be finished. Instead, I will be working primarily on the first main area The Island, The Siren’s home. The game is radical in that it works to take things away from the player rather than give them things to help them advance. The game gets harder, not because the world becomes less forgiving or more difficult but more so because the world takes so much from you that you may not be able to continue on. It also plays with conventions of myth and works to subvert what most people relate as happier narratives. Also, as a side note, all characters will have gender neutral pronouns. Part of me loved the mysticism and unity it presented in a game like Sword and Sworcery to have the gender of characters be slightly ambiguous. I took a lot of inspiration from the game What Now? and from Lisa. I wanted something dark that didn’t really make the player ever feel like they were winning. Going forward yes, but winning no. This game is meant to encourage a somber reflection, and I think both What Now? and Lisa really capture that. In addition, the art was heavily inspired by Scottish mythology as it has a lot of strange depictions of creatures and realms. Also slightly Lovecraft inspired but not by a huge margin. Development has had a number of hang ups. Particularly in the art department, but the story has also been somewhat troubling to finish and develop. While the main mechanic is okay at this juncture, during the paper game I saw many flaws in its scope and how players would typically use the main mechanic. The primary mechanic used to be “Accept Payment” but now that’s changed, will get into it further down. As I mentioned earlier, I had to spend a good deal of time learning value in order to make both sand and the interior of rooms a bit more shadowy. However, after several separate tile maps, I eventually got something I was proud of, then came the water, which quite honestly I still haven’t gotten to the point in which I’m satisfied. Screenshot (4) State of the Game taught me mostly that the world needs to be inverted. What I mean by this is that many thought the water was stone, like the walls of a cave, and I need the water to be lighter to look a bit more like water. Also, the player character needs to have a white border or something to make them look less flat against the sand background. Have yet to approach that experimentation, but hopefully just a white fill behind the player will suffice. Other than that, I didn’t learn too much from State of the Game. Essentially I heard what I needed to hear and many commented that they thought the protagonist looked quite good as well as the entrance to the Siren’s home that I spent a good deal of time making. IMG_0083 Things got a little dicey during my paper prototype. Essentially none of my main questions were answered and instead I was greeted with a glaring problem: people apparently didn’t care about much of the surrounding world. Mostly due to faulty development on my end, I seemed to leave out some key focalization in the paper prototype and consequently the player played the game somewhat contrary to how I envisioned. This is to be expected and must be remedied. One piece of advice that stood out was that I seemed to have a lot of assets and the world didn’t seem to immediately change in a way that felt impactful enough on the player. IMG_0087   What I came to decide was that the world and scope of the game was too immediately large. Also the wording of the main mechanic needed to be altered so that something might actually effect the player more than just the world. This I’ve decided to illustrate by changing the primary question from “Accept Payment?” to “Give Payment?” altering essentially the entire power structure of the game. The player must always give to receive passage in the game. Whereas the first question put the power of “G-d” into the Player’s hands, this puts the power into the systems hands, the worlds hands. IMG_0089 The game relies on simple story, simple mechanisms, and easily digestible and familiar art to establish a mythic realm of sorrow and burden. The game’s aesthetics work to address the concept of Payment, Guilt, and Debt through abstract symbols, one single line of text, and images. The aesthetic works to emphasize how it must feel to give everything and still have it not be enough and to have to accept that there are some points in which nothing may save or help a loved one.   Cheers, Chris Haehnel      

Digital Tools: The Art of the GIF

gif_02_watermelon   This is one of my earlier tries to create gifs.  This gif is designed to have a foreground layer and a background layer, just like my other gifs.  I create a kind of flickering light effect to the background.  The texture of the background layer is contrasted to the foreground layer.  I also like my organic drawing of the watermelon because my purpose is to change the usual look of the one of my favorite fruits to a more artificial look.  We can still tell that they are watermelons, but they are more fun and playful with their colors.   gif_3_1   In this gif I incorporate a picture of the helmet from the brand supreme that I found on the website.  I tried to use bold colors not from the actual color themes from the brand but from my impression of pop culture in general.  The used of red in the background tile was also a subconscious choice because of their distinctive red box logo.  When I look at this gif now, I am less satisfied with it because the movement of the background does get disturbing as one look closely. gif_5_2_roselike This is probably my favorite gif: not because of the complexity of making it but because of the conscious color choices I made.  This is a little experiment of color consistency to me.  First I created a grey texture of spiral waves and I transformed grey texture into pink, blue, green, and yellow segments.  I overlaid the four different segments to create my tile.  Then I simply applied color filters with almost same colors that I used for pattern.  As a result, my tiles change as the I put on different color filters.  Therefore, depend on the color interaction, the spiral wave tenure of the segment of different colors become more or less ambiguous.
    Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 4.15.34 PM   Nazi Punch:The RPG is a hands on probe into the ethical dilemma of who it is or isn’t okay to use physical violence against.  The goal of the game is to provide the player with a myriad of options as to how to approach “combat” with traditional physical violence being only one of the many choices.  The goal of the game is to be a think piece that makes people probe deeper into their moral stances to find more nuanced understandings of their own self-imposed ethical guidelines.  You play as Jacob Liebowitz, a Jewish twenty-something living in a small New Jersey town.  You go to work, you buy groceries, your days are finite. The routine gets a wrench thrown in the mix when right-wing rhetoric begins to seep into your home town. Alcot_big_NoColl Is it okay to punch Nazis? That question is at the core of this game. The environment and the player character are meant to ground the player in a very real world as an attempt to make the question less hypothetical and more theoretical. Every secondary element serves this backdrop.  The notion of finite days, of limited time is meant to make the player question the weight of their actions in a world that changes on a day-to-day basis.  It’s meant to make you feel as though idly standing by is the losing stance.  Beyond that level of incentivization though, the player is free to choose to spend their days however they please, whether that’s arguing with internet trolls, or it’s saving up enough money to move by working full days. Just like real life, there are no rules of engagement on the social battlefield. The inspiration for this game came from the intense debate online about whether or not punching Richard Spencer was ethically sound as a course of action.  It was a question I myself initially grappled with.  In my own experience with the question, I found myself enriched by a deeper understanding of the ethics of violence then I had previously, and the aim of the game is to bring that to an audience.   Mechanically the game has two major wellsprings of inspiration.  One is the 2d RPG genre, games like Earthbound and Super Mario RPG, or more recently, Undertale.  The main mechanical grounding comes from these roots, and as a player, you function along these lines.  The second source of inspiration was Papers, please and it’s ability to use time and financial resources to put pressure on you as the player.  Grappling with necessity on top of the ethics gives them a grounding layer, they are no longer what if scenarios but instead they are divergent paths: do you prioritize your short-term needs, or the long term health of your cultural homestead? Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 4.16.40 PM Development is going fairly well, and the art resources for the game are coming along.  The main source of frustration on my part is finding a way to create turn-based combat without inserting a clunky UI.  In my prototype I was able to write out samples of what the conversations might sound like, and give the players choice within that. It demonstrated how the combat might work in the theoretical, and people seemed to respond relatively well to it.  As a way of making entire areas playable, I may create a twine file to serve as a stand-in for the combat system, and create a series of locks and keys, with the locks existing in the game proper, and the keys being at the end of the twine combat encounter.  In that way then, the game can respond to those encounters without them ever taking place within the Unity file itself, thus bypassing the UI bottleneck I know find myself at. If you had told me that the art would be the easiest part of the game to develop and enhance, I would’ve balked at you.  I have never been a particularly talented visual artist, but in working on this game I’m finding that my limitations were mostly mechanical: I have tremors that make it very difficult to draw a straight line. In Piskel these problems disappear, and I’m finding my aesthetic sensibilities to be keener than I had realized. IMG_7520 My state of the game went fairly well.  People understood the level layout for the most part, and they grasped what I was going for.  There were no serious elements of confusion where the visuals couldn’t guide people towards an understanding of utility. The paper game more than anything taught me the importance of secondary narrative threads accessible aesthetically within the world.  Every design feature needs not only a general narrative purpose, but a specific one. In building it out to a larger game, I think I’ll have to go slower, more purposefully, about designing future areas, and redesigning the central map. IMG_7526 The central goal of the aesthetic in this game is to present a world that is, visually at least not at risk.  Trees aren’t dying, buildings are holding up.  The threat and the emotional stakes are provided by the conversations, and eventually the appearance of threatening characters.  The world does not visually change to meet their appearance, just like the real world.  The central escape that this game provides is that it lets the player work out the ethical quandaries set forth at the outset in a safe environment where they can really engage with them, rather than letting the fear of real-world physical or verbal violence stand in the way of a greater, more nuanced assessment of bigotry in America. IMG_7523 In that way then I think character design is what is most meant to convey large narrative threads in concise imagistic detail.  The trump supporter and the internet trolls both have clear visual markers as to who they are as people, what they stand for, what they believe.  They don’t need back stories because it’s all explained in their appearance.  As more enemies pop up, I hope to continue that trend.  Every encounter should happen in a way that you as the player understand your circumstances from the outset. By the end of the semester I hope for a strong, playable vertical slice of the game that conveys the larger scope and narrative future that the game has to offer.  The meat of that work will come in the form of writing dialogue and narrative development on an aesthetic level.  The tile sets I have so far are the majority, and only a few small interior spaces are left to be created.  Overall I’m hopeful that by the time the semester comes to a close, the purpose of this game will be realized in its encapsulated form.  

Radical Games: Borrowing

borrowing_1The elevator pitch for “Borrowing” goes something like: you play as a little yellow man who is moving into a home in the suburbs that’s way too big for just himself. By unpacking, you take part in the yellow man’s kleptomaniac tendencies, uncover his peculiar obsession with particular pieces of popular art, and learn a little about his past. It aims for a balance between dry, sardonic humor and a Twilight Zone-esque sense of unease. Ultimately the game is about plagiarism and was inspired by a moment where I was publicly accused of stealing the plot of a famous film for a short story. In designing a game where you control a man who habitually misconstrues and rationalizes stealing for borrowing, the point isn’t necessarily for the player to feel sympathy for the yellow man so much as believe that stealing is the correct way to progress and therefore be complicit in his actions. In a fully completed version of the game, it’s conceivable that there might be multiple end states: one in which you’ve fully unpacked and furnished the house with things that aren’t yours and get caught; and a second where you’ve fully unpacked without taking anything at all, with the game’s design hopefully leading the player naturally towards the former on a first playthrough. The game has its roots mostly in the mechanic-as-metaphor styled abstraction seen in Jason Rohrer’s Passage, perhaps with a bit of the inquisitive exploration of molleindustria’s Every Day the Same Dream. borrowing_2The original intention for the aesthetic of “Borrowing” was to be reminiscent of old-school Atari games. I wanted to challenge myself by using a very limited amount of colors for each sprite, relying on the shape of each object to convey what it was more than its texture and detail. I feel I’ve accomplished this in some ways – the two houses, for example, are limited to four shades of yellow or blue each and have no heavy detailing – reached mixed results with others – the yellow man himself and the home interiors in particular – and completely abandoned this idea in others, as with the lawns and sidewalk. I still find myself a bit more attracted to the low detail aesthetic and would hope to continue it as more art is made. There may be something to be said about a “blander”, more empty world that uses swaths of color to define itself rather than a richly detailed one. Perhaps the yellow man, dull and unoriginal as he is, sees the world this way and so is shocked (and maybe the player is, too) when he sees the richly furnished insides of the blue house contrasting so starkly with the greater suburbs and his own home, but I feel that’s something of a stretch. State of the Game was based mostly on aesthetic development and focused in on the outdoor environment and the yellow man’s design. While I agree that the more detailed sprites for the exterior were more pleasing than the simpler ones (the solid green lawn sprites in particular hurt my eyes when the character moved), I’m still interested in finding some kind of compromise between the more highly detailed sprites that are used now and the less detailed work that’s found elsewhere in the game. Comments on the yellow man I found particularly helpful and amusing, and it was in his design that I saw the biggest drawback of attempting to adopt an Atari-like style. Though many thoughts tended more or less towards what I had intended for him – an average Joe, busy businessman kind of look – the simplicity of his design and restrictive use of color legitimately can make his hat look like horns and possibly does give him a more shady, sinister look. I was specifically fascinated by the latter, especially knowing what I wanted him to do in the game. He stands as he did during the State of the Game for now, but I’m not opposed to redesigning him in any way. borrowing_4 borrowing_3Going into the paper game, I was interested in seeing how it was possible to encourage the player to steal more than just the initial item required to open the boxes. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that some classmates’ first thoughts were to steal the items in the blue house, though I would hesitate to believe that that inclination was a direct result of the game, its design, or even the player’s/observers’ “gaming instinct” so much as the fact that it was readily observable in the paper models that each piece of furniture existed on its own and was therefore collectible rather than being drawn into the environment and inaccessible. The way I had originally thought to encourage the player to steal furniture from the blue house was for them to finish unpacking a box, then revealing a text prompt from the yellow man to go into the neighbor’s home and steal the corresponding piece of furniture i.e. by unpacking the box with books in it, the yellow man would indicate that he wants a bookshelf. This design does not account for a player who is disinterested in completely unpacking a particular box (the prompt from the yellow man was technically never reached, though I allowed the stealing mechanic to be unlocked and take effect anyway) and could be solved simply by having less objects in them if I wanted to keep this kind of design. The actual contents of the boxes are more or less obscure depending on how much background knowledge the player has about historical examples of actual and alleged plagiarism, and that’s something I’m willing to embrace, though having some kind of flavor note that tells the player that the yellow man is collecting pieces of supposedly plagiarized art would definitely be a plus. I was happy to see that the found flavor notes and plot hook items were capitalized on by the player (albeit at the encouragement of the observers) and the given connections between the notes and theme of the game were apparent. In a case where the player found more of these (again, probably a fault on my part from putting too many objects in each box), I feel that the theme of the game would have soon become apparent. In general, development is coming along quite nicely so far. The initial tilesets for both the interior and exterior areas of the game are entirely completed, and spritework has moved on to boxes, furnishings that can be borrowed, and the items that are unpacked. At a continuous, casual rate, I can see the majority, if not all, of the initial spritework completed sometime between a week and a week and a half. From there work on the code for picking up and placing down movable objects would commence, and I would be content to meet that milestone by the end of the semester.

Urban Installations: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Re:positioning Fear

“Re: Positioning Fear”, 1997, Landeszeughaus, Austria

Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, has created exceptional urban installations that have helped transform the ways in which we interact with our cities. He uses new media technologies to work with ideas of architecture, technological theater and performance. In 1994, Lozano Hemmer coined the term “relational architecture” as an aim to transform the dominant narratives of urban settings and re-contextualize them. In his introduction to The City as Interface, 2014, Martijn de Waal introduces the collective term “urban media”, a term used in his book for “media technologies that in one way or another can influence the experience of a physical location.” (p. 8) Media technologies have been, in fact, influencing one’s experience with physical locations and especially cities as seen through Lozano-Hemmer’s work. De Waal raises important questions in his introduction, when exploring the idea of making cities smarter and more efficient through urban media: “Will city dwellers still enter into relationships with their physical surroundings? Will they still participate in community life or will they withdraw completely into the ‘cocoons’ they create with their mobile phones, thereby transforming the city into an extension of their private domains?” (p. 9) The fear of city dwellers roaming the city through the sole presence of their bodies is very prominent for architects, artists, and other dwellers concerned with the community spirit that is inherent to any city. And this is where artists like Lozano-Hemmer step in; to reconnect these city dwellers to their cities through the very use of urban media, therefore reshaping the city and one’s relationship to it, by using new media technologies as urban and ideological tools. In The City as Interface, de Waal explores the possibilities of our cities as interfaces; he explores how urban media can further the ‘libertarian’ urban society, but studies how new media can also help create a new definition of the public sphere and transform it to develop a ‘republican’ urban society into a ‘community of strangers’, but a community nevertheless. De Waal asks the question: “How does the rise of urban media change the way in which public spaces can emerge?” (p. 24) and Hemmer brings an artistic yet socially and ideologically charged solution to it. By posing the important question of agency, in the sense of who has the power and opportunity to influence the way in which the city as an interface is shaped, artists who create urban installations contribute to this ongoing quest in a meaningful and crucial way. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer comes from a scientific background, which is extremely important knowledge when studying his installations. His scientific background has, in many ways, influenced his work and venture as an artist. His works are very interactive and heavily rely on the audience’s participation, and therefore create a shared public experience among strangers, contributing in many ways to de Waal’s analysis of the republican society.

“Re: Positioning Fear”, 1997, Lozano Hemmer’s third Relational Architecture piece, is a large scale installation on the court yard facade of one of Europe’s largest military arsenals, Landeszeughaus, in Austria.

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Close-up on “Re: Positioning Fear”, 1997

Re:positioning Fear

“Re: Positioning Fear”, 1997, Landeszeughaus, Austria

The installation is an interface projecting shadows of city dwellers, finding themselves in front of this fortress. The shadows of the dwellers were automatically focused, and generated sounds through the use of a tracking system. The shadows projected onto the military interface were accompanied by a real-time IRC (Internet Relay Chat) discussion about the transformation of the concept of “fear”, as the title implies, between thirty artists and theorists from seventeen countries around the world. The interface, called “Teleabsence” only allowed the text conversation to appear where the physical participants placed their bodies in front of the facade. The participants had to use their bodies to read the text, making it a highly interactive piece, both through the physical presence of the audience, and the virtual presence of the Internet contributors. A numerical count also followed the shadows wherever they went, calculating their distance to the facade, confronting the participants with the eery and fearful reality of surveillance technology. The sound accompanying the installation also fortified this contemplation on fear and made the experience all the more sensory. The title of the installation also deserves attention in studying this piece. Lozano-Hemmer along with all the artists and theorists involved literally made the participants reposition fear; both bodily and intellectually. Through this installation, fear is explored as both a collective and personal concept, projected onto a historical military landmark to invite the participants to consider and question it within that historical realm, but also outside of it, through the IRC discussion. “Under Scan”, 2005, Lozano-Hemmer’s eleventh Relational Architecture piece, is an interactive video art installation created for public space, in which city dwellers within that space are detected by a computerized tracking system, which simulates video-portraits projected within the dweller’s shadow.
Under Scan

“Under Scan”, 2008, Trafalgar Square, London

Under Scan

“Under Scan”, 2008, Trafalgar Square, London

Under Scan

Tracking system of “Under Scan”, 2008

                          This installation is truly amazing in that it speaks to the concept of surveillance that is increasingly inherent to our cities today, while also serving as a live performance art piece. As the dwellers walk away from their shadows, the video-portrait looks away and eventually disappears if no one activates it, establishing a sense of ephemerality and anonymity, which reflects on the concept of the city being a public sphere and terrain for complete strangers that are nonetheless linked by their shared spaces. Over one thousand portraits of volunteers were taken, and in the presentation of the installation in Trafalgar Square in 2008 the portraits appeared at random locations activated by the dwellers’ shadows. Every seven minutes the piece stopped and reset, to reveal the computerized surveillance tracking system during a brief intermission lighting sequence. This is extremely important to the piece, as it directly confronts the audience with the reality of surveillance and tracking technologies.

Lozano-Hemmer’s sixteenth Relational Architecture installation, “Solar Equation”, 2010, is a large scale public art installation featuring an animated three-dimensional maquette of the Sun, visible at night. This installation premiered at the “Light in Winter” Festival Federation Square, in Melbourne Australia from June 4 to July 4 2010.

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“Solar Equation”, 2010, Melbourne

Solar Equation

Close-up on “Solar Equation”, 2010

“Solar Equation” consists of an authentic simulation of the Sun, only 100 million times smaller than our actual Sun. Lozano-Hemmer created the word’s largest captive balloon and animated it using five projectors. The solar animation of the balloon is generated by live mathematical equations, simulating the visual surface of the Sun, which emphasizes the importance of Lozano-Hemmer’s scientific background. These equations produce a display that never repeats itself and that give the viewer an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the beauty of our most beloved planet, the Sun, otherwise only observable at the solar surface. The installation uses the latest SOHO and SDO solar observatory imaging available from NASA, overlaid with live animations derived from various equations. While viewing the installation, viewers have the ability to interact with it in real-time by using an iPhone or other device which disturbs the animations. This installation creates a highly interactive experience. This piece is extremely powerful in the largeness of its scope. It invites the audience to experience the Sun in a variety of manners: to experience its romantic quality inherent to its ephemerality, to perhaps contemplate the urgent question of global warming, but also to create their own personal narrative around the piece. Its scale and beauty engage the viewer to interact with the piece, yet its design assures the minimum urban disturbance. The balloon being tethered 20 meters above the ground, the audience is able to roam freely under it, during night and day, making it extremely subtle yet so powerful. Its power is expressed through this very subtleness: city dwellers can decide weather to be impacted by the work, which mirrors the very nature of the Sun; everyone is aware of its presence, yet its distance prohibits it from being forced upon us. The piece is also accompanied by sound; a live channel or rumbles, crackles and bursts, that is a live software simulation of solar activity, heard only faintly under the maquette. By bringing an audience together under this installation, Hemmer seems to make a metaphor about the very nature of the Sun in relation to society; we are collectively constantly standing under it, no matter where we are in the world, and it connects us without having to interact directly. This places his installation at the intersection of architecture and performance art and through this work, Lozano-Hemmer embraces urban media technologies to create platforms for public participation.

Fieldwork: Curation at the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art

logo A month and a half ago, I began my internship at the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art in TriBeCa. Started in the 70’s by a group of Swiss expatriates, the Swiss Institute aims to maintain an artistic cultural exchange between Europe and the United States, and to foster forward-thinking and experimental art making through innovative exhibitions and programs. The biggest aim of the institution is to explore how the Swiss national perspective, applied to the international artistic dialogue, can influence new forms of all kinds of art creation and expression. The institute is extremely interdisciplinary, with works and exhibitions ranging from the plastic arts, to film making, to performance, to writing, to architecture and design. They seek to expose under-represented perspectives and showcase emerging artists, while occasionally catalyzing new contexts for celebrated and historical work. I signed on to the job as a curatorial intern, not quite sure what to expect. I had never done an internship in the arts before, though my studies had always taken me around the periphery of the field. After trying journalism, PR, marketing, and advertising, I realized that art was the thing that made me the happiest, and was the course that I wanted to chart my life by. I had tons of experience, but no experience that was specifically relevant to a curatorial internship. Even my knowledge of art history was limited at best to a hodgepodge of different classes and my own personal interests. I was attracted to the Swiss Institute as an employer because unlike other posh galleries in New York City, the Swiss Institute is a non profit. That gives them a bit of a more feet-on-the-ground perspective to the art business and priorities than align closer to those of the artists than the economic forces that drive the art market. Also, the office was very small (only seven people), so I knew that I would get to work closely with different people and get to work on a variety of different projects. My duties at the Swiss Institute are pretty straight forward. Right off the bat, I have the classic intern responsibilities: answer the phones, respond to e-mails received to the main Swiss Institute account, handle RSVP lists for public programming events, sit in the gallery and answer any guest questions about current exhibitions, and just generally be helpful. The best part about the job is that everyone works in one big room together. This means that whenever I have an issue or a question, someone is right there to answer it. Also, our big office is also our meeting room, so when the curator has meetings with artists, or the development director has meetings with potential sponsors or partners, I get to overhear all of it. This is awesome, because I get a glimpse at everything that the Swiss Institute is working on, not just what I’m working on, which has given me a “big picture” view of how a non-profit arts institution works. This is really helpful, because it gives me a better gauge for the projects that I’m currently working on to know what the Swiss Institute will be exhibiting a year from now (think, big name contemporary artist curating a show on a big name pop artist from the 60’s! My NDA won’t allow me to say anything more than that…). While part of my day is a bit boring, scanning documents and doing just general office upkeep, I and the other interns are entrusted with helping out on larger curatorial projects aimed at getting us accustomed to the curatorial cycle and the vision of the Swiss Institute. Currently, the Swiss Institute is working from a temporary location in TriBeCa before moving to a new, permanent location at the corner of 2nd Avenue and St. Mark’s Place. The first project that I worked on was to present the curatorial team with a dossier of artists to be considered to commission works from for the rooftop space at the new building. This was a big deal to me, because it showed that they respected my taste enough to consider my suggestions for potentially permanent installations. This was an experiment, but also a test: having never done any curatorial work before, this was really my chance to make a good first impression while also showcasing my curator’s eye and ability to think strategically and the future.
Lori Hersberger: Sunset 164 , 2006

Lori Hersberger: Sunset 164 , 2006

Lori Hersberger: Spin My Wheel, 2003

Lori Hersberger: Spin My Wheel, 2003

 
Dimitri Hertz @ Socrates Sculpture Park

Dimitri Hertz @ Socrates Sculpture Park

I tried to add a variety of artists to the list, and to meld my own taste with the praxis of the institution. The artist’s I presented to the team had to have alternative or under represented viewpoints, could not be too big within the framework of Western Art Institutions, and had to fit well in the context of a rooftop space on St. Mark’s Place. I suggested a few well-known artists, such as Lori Hershberger whose immersive neon installations seem to represent a ubiquitous facet of urban life, and a few emerging artists, such as Dimitri Hertz whose Swiss Cheese inspired sculptures earned him a place as a Socrates Sculpture Park Fellow. After two weeks of slaving over this list—compiling CV’s, rounding up images of my favorite installations, and coming up with page long arguments as to why I think the Swiss Institute should consider each artist—I finally had a list of 15 artists that I sent to the associate curator. Due to my inexperience, I was definitely a bit insecure about my choices. I’m not sure if any of the artists I suggested will be selected, but the curators seemed to really like the work I did.
imperialfromafar

site specific installation by David Scanavino, another artist I included in my dossier

Living Roof @ California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, inspiration for rooftop installations

Living Roof @ California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, inspiration for rooftop installations

What I’ve learned, more than anything else, is that there are a lot more factors that go into working with artists besides just liking their work. The artists also, obviously, have to be willing to work with you. The timing has to be right, as many well-known and recently discovered artists are incredibly busy, and the money has to be right too. Further, what represents an artist’s past work doesn’t necessarily have any relationship to what their future work will look like. From reading Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Ways of Curating, I’ve learned the important lesson that it is not the curator’s job to force work out of an artist, but to facilitate the artist’s vision. Curators are not artists, and it is important to remember that fact. Curator’s are servants to others, their aim should be to bring the dreams of others to fruition and to foster dynamic relationships and conversations between disparate elements. If they accomplish their own visions in the process, that’s just a bonus.