Tag Archives: blackspace

Blackspace: A Lot of Noise in a Crowded Space


For my Blackspace I created a room full of water bottles, which I thought would be interesting to navigate in the dark but never expected would be a musical and noise generation experience. The original aim was to place water bottles in a manner in an enclosed space, where people would then have trouble navigating in the dark. The first run through with our class I found that the bottles made interesting noises as they crashed, and those noises in turn attracted people to kick and move the bottles around in a louder fashion. Later run throughs had people almost immediately try to make noise and move around in the dark space.


What was enthralling was after the set-up I could use the moving wall to enclose people, and besides encouraging more careful groups they system could exist and expand on its own. Presentation of the piece also became important as I tried to have it in our showing, removing labels of the bottles as well as integrating the wall as an area setter to begin the piece. What was wonderful was being able to just have a start and not worry about an end.


Blackspace: Astrophobia


Me & my edited Blackspace Project

Kelsey at Projector Night

Kelsey at Blackspace

Sage walking by!

Sage walking by!

Projector Night audience

Blackspace Audience



Blackspace was modeled after our darkness theme, which prompted me to change my project. It was more or less the same – polygons bouncing off the sides of the sketch along to track by Fort Romeau. However, in one of our open studio classes, it was suggested that our original Blackspace project was only the prototype. The final project should be completely different.

In my original sketch, I was unhappy with the way the polygons bunched up at the top of the sketch. That was why I had created two separate films and put them together (one going forward and one in reversal). I found out why the polygons were bunching up at the top – it was the result of me expanding the radius to emerge off of the screen if the radius was over 50. While that was one of my favorite parts of the original sketch, I didn’t add to the final project. Rather than conveying the same anxiety of polygons expanding off the screen, I played around with the radius. The end result were sketches that looked like brushstrokes.

I also borrowed a concept from my System 2: the color wheel. I created more sketches, slightly different from the other. There was one with blue and orange. One with purple and yellow. One with red and blue. I created more variations of colors but only included a couple in the final video.

I like the idea of putting my sketch under the stairs but I don’t think it was dark enough to be considered a Blackspace project during our performance. I should have tried to find a switch that would turn off the hallway lights. I kind of wish that I had chosen an enclosed space to present my project rather than the hallway.

However, even the Blackspace installation was not my final project. It is no longer Astrophobia but Anamnesis. I love the idea of having audio but not the idea of using someone else’s audio. It’s hard finding rhythms and lyrics that I want to go with my piece. However, over winter break, my mother and uncle found old tapes of my grandmother singing classical Rabindrasangeet. She died last year in a car accident and since then I’ve always felt time is too short. There are still moments I want to have with her. Bobby made me start thinking of trying to emulate her in some of my sketches. During our Blackspace rehearsal and while Bobby was presenting, I was asked “Did anyone you know die recently?”. It was a question that really hit me. Since I was playing with time in Astrophobia by reversing and speeding up some of the videos, I decided to change the audio and use the brighter polygons. Here is a link to the final project: https://vimeo.com/214226762



Blackspace: The Garden of Life

Image/Poster ATTRIBUTION: Callum Bayle-Spence, his work


What I ultimately called The Garden of Life, based on John Horton Conway’s Game of Life.

Blackspace System Description:
A 2D space that emulates Conway’s Game of Life, except the designs usually implemented are rejected in favor of something more {{floral}} – one tulip, that is one garden ‘node,’ determines its neighborhood, and then behaves accordingly as it moves through its life cycle (or not). Scaled up and projected into a dark space, this becomes a dynamic simulated garden as an installation piece where the isolated ‘flower,’ earthy and natural elements of the designs offset the stark black of this new environment, creating an effect of dislocated, floating intelligence perhaps: a system that auto-perpetuates.
shot (on iPhone, self) from further away, actually right though a group assembled for Boobies piece

shot (on iPhone, self) from further away, actually right though a group assembled for Boobies piece

This idea was developed out of figuring out how to do an animation sequence in Processing, from an image array, and loading that to the screen dynamically (System #2), and combining it with our class’s original simple_GoL code.

The System Description also gives an idea of what I had in mind going into the project:

–something dynamic

–integrating design ideas I had been developing in Pixel Art

–permeated by a sense of intelligence

–projectable, even decorative. Could be put to use as such in the future too!

–needs to work nicely in a black, dark space

I think I achieved these goals. Complications, and frustrations, include dealing with code errors, more or less descriptive and helpful in that sense, in Processing. This came to a head when I decided I really also want to port this to the web (see separate post for that.)

another angle, shot on iPhone, self

another angle, shot on iPhone, self

Putting the project on display at out Black Space event was illuminating (no pun intended), but to a degree, the results were also predictable. I was happy with them to be sure. The piece, understood as part of the collectively created space, was one of the less obtrusive. It was not a live group performance in the middle of the room, with or without bottles! It was instead on the wall. There, however, it was all the more persuasive, encapsulating the ideas in the System Description, and as such, striking surprise in more than the occasional passer-through and visitor: they would stop, and look more closely to see what is actually going on in this presentation. I really enjoyed that more subdued engagement the work was producing!

Another aspect of this work I enjoyed is, that once the thing is built, I can lean back and enjoy these sorts of pleasures: the code is running on its own. It’s a system!

another close-up like the one used for Callum's poster: shot on iPhone, self

another close-up like the one used for Callum’s poster: shot on iPhone, self

Having a dark, black in fact, background was a no-brainer, though I did experiment initially. The black background is what ultimately gave the animated tulips their sense of suspension, just floating in the darkness.

Black Space: the Garden of Life; & Porting to the Web, a Technical Post-Mortem, as a Guide for When You Want to Put (Black Space and Processing) Stuff Online

Image/Poster ATTRIBUTION: Callum Bayle-Spence, his work


The transition from local to web was a little less than straight-forward. What follows is an exploration of the tech of assembling this piece for showcasing not on my computer locally, not on a project in Blackspace, but for a global audience online!

First, there are some syntactical differences to work through, that go hand-in-hand with file structure changes ( – on the web, there is actually not a data folder that is used for images and other media!)

/* @pjs preload=”/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_01.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_02.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_03.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_04.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_05.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_06.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_07.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_08.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_09.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_10.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_11.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_12.png,/static/processing/Garden_of_Life_fix/tulip_13.png”; */

The above is now the first line in my file set-up, required to pre-load media so that the code can pull them as soon as they are ready. This process of getting images ready is the major limitation to performance on the web! (To consider when implementing image-intensive application such as an array of animation frames, as the present writer found himself doing.)

Apart from this there was one particular error that made my life harder – it was an error that we actually talked about in class, in the Game of Life code.

In my case, I was adding up neighbors that did not exist, so an out of bounds thing ultimately: I changed

//add up neighboring cells
for(int x = 0; x < columns; x++) {
for(int y = 0; y < rows; y++) {
int neighbors = 0;

for(int a = -1; a <= 1; a++) {
for(int b = -1; b <= 1; b++) { //throws error processing-v1.4.8.js:13556TypeError: undefined is not an object (evaluating ‘$this_1.grid[(x+a+columns) % columns][(y+b+rows) % rows].previous_state’) in browser ??
neighbors += grid[(x+a+columns) % columns][(y+b+rows) % rows].previous_state;


//add up neighboring cells
for(int x = 1; x < columns – 1; x++) {
for(int y = 1; y < rows – 1; y++) {
int neighbors = 0;

for(int a = -1; a <= 1; a++) {
for(int b = -1; b <= 1; b++) {
neighbors += grid[(x+a+columns) % columns][(y+b+rows) % rows].previous_state;

The important thing is, the error did not show up as an Out of Bounds Error, but a Type Error! So things like this kind of error conflation make troubleshooting a bit harder. I think I caught on to the issue when I used the developer console in Chrome (Safari was not showing any details apart from Type Error): another thing to keep in mind when going about these things ( – different browsers do also handle debugging differently!)

Final, little, thing was this issue: I was not able to use fullScreen(); command in Processing for online stuff. Which was hard, because I use that a lot for local.

Blackspace: lttl mtch grl

I re-performed my analog system from earlier in the semester, lttl mtch grl.

The system had view to no revision with it. The only major change was adding matches to be lit in order to keep track of time. The performances went incredibly well overall. Each time I was able to get my audience to comfortably take part in a psychodrama-lite system.

Things I learned:

  • People want happy endings. The piece is meditational in many ways, so people want the sense of comfort to finish the piece. Although that is how the story itself functioned (the Little Match Girl has a happy ending), I did not find it satisfying. In more experiments I will explore this.
  • The movement space was much smaller, allowing a cramped feeling to appear and create more impact.
  • Generally, people feel weirdly nice about it, as if they awoke from a nice dream during a nap.

Blackspace Post-Mortem


Blackspace Ideas 3

Blackspace Ideas 1Blackspace Ideas 2 (Image 1 is from the Frist in Nashville, while Images 2 and 3 are from the Art Institute in Chicago).

For blackspace I decided to play around with our polygon sketch from class. In class we had worked on adding more rules to the sketch as well as making the sketch self-evolving. In the beginning, I had no plan to even create a digital piece. It was announced that our blackspace presentations were the Wednesday after spring break and I figured I’d have time to find an analog system. I was in Atlanta over break and tried to immerse myself in spaces with systems. I visited museums in Nashville and Chicago, went aboard the MARTA in Atlanta, and walked around parking meters trying to find ideas. Above are some images from Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts and Chicago’s Art Institute. While the works of art I saw were incredibly inspiring, I realized I wanted to create my blackspace project in Processing to convey myself in a dark space.

I started playing with the last in-class sketch. We’d left off with polygons colliding and bouncing around the sketch. I was inspired to take this further by changing the side count (to make it more circular). A number of polygons in the sketch mimicked anxiety. They were bouncing off the sides of the sketch and shaking. To induce this disquiet I changed the background from white to black. Despite the unrest from the polygons, I didn’t want them to be too jarring to the eye which prompted me to use my color wheel scheme from system 2. This led me to use a greenish/blue hue opposite a randomized orange hue. The make the system self-evolving I created a colorMode and if statement:  if (location.y > width/2){radius = radius * 2;}, which enlarged some of the polygons off of the sketch.

I was most excited about adding music, especially a track that wouldn’t set any particular kind of mood. However, music inherently sets a mood. In a systematic way, I went through songs in my iTunes account looking for a track without vocals and one that was over 4 minutes long. The song I ended up choosing was “Insides” by Fort Romeau, a DJ from the UK. I had no idea who the artist was or the song. It was some download from NPR in their SXSW Top 50 songs playlist. Nonetheless, along with the colors, it sedated the anxiety from the polygons. After saving screens and exporting the video, I decided to play around with iMovie.

In iMovie, I decided to restart and reverse some of the screens. Doing this, I realized that I wanted to portray different angles or scenes of the polygons. I didn’t want it all to be a continuous film of videos in reverse and videos moving forward. This prompted me to create a “break” titled “phase”. Kind of like phases of the moon, this screen served to divide the films and pause. I wanted viewers to have a second to breathe.

The film began to remind me of space – even before I added the “phase” screens. To me, it captured the stress of the unknown, progress, and technology. With different polygons struggling to get out of the screen, flashing different colors, and finding themselves idle on the borders it captured my own anxiety. The music is a cover up of the anxiety since it’s much more smooth than the sketch. As I was told during the performance, it makes viewers want to dance and reminds them of a club.

I was disappointed with the number of idle polygons – the ones that seemed to just want to relax at the borders of the sketch. Some just disappeared beyond the sketch despite my code to contain them. I was also disappointed by the video quality which is something I have to play around with more on YouTube and MPEG Streamclip. I was surprised when the audience said that it reminded them of a dance club – which, despite the music, was not really my intention. I’d be really happy if this was played at some dance club. However, my intention was to convey anxiety and distress over the future and otherworldly spaces. With the darkness, now knowing that it reminded viewers of a dance club, perhaps I would have people move during the piece. Maybe dance can be a variable of response towards the film – onlookers examining my anxiety towards the unknown. It would be a reminder that despite my anxiety towards space people will move on or dance on.

Next time, I would see how many more rules I can add to make the system more self-evolving. Next time, I’d either take away the music or encourage people to move or dance during the performance. Ultimately, the music did set the mood. The mood it induced was not exactly the mood I expected people would have. Here are some images from the performance:

Blackspace 1Blackspace 3Blackspace 2



Blackspace: Urban Obstruction


The Black Space projects are systems that explore the constraints of darkness.

My project plays on the idea of urban obstruction and access to public spaces. The projected video presents the reality of fenced open areas on the New York City Housing Authority properties. What should be accessible public land utilized by the affordable housing occupants turns out to be a long series of barricades wrapping around the buildings. While the video is projected, three lamps shine on the screen, making it invisible to the observer. The audience has to pass between the screen and the lamps and use their body to obstruct the light in order for the video of the urban barriers to be noticeable.

In this project I continue to draw from my interest in architecture and urban design. The idea was born during lunch at the Office of Urban Design at the NYC Department of City Planning where I currently intern. A few urban planners were complaining about protected open areas in almost all Public Housing and expressed the difficulty of the ongoing conversation to remove the fences. In addition, I have been heavily influenced by my research on psychogeography and especially the book “The City As Interface” by Martijn de Waal.



At the beginning my video was played through Processing and responded to mouse pressing. When the mouse was pressed, the program chose a random place of the video and played it from there. In order to challenge myself in developing a more self-evolving system, I altered the code. Once the mouse was pressed, the program chose a moment of the video based on previous input. First, when the mouse was pressed, it generated a random number from 1 to 5. Then it utilized the frame count at that moment to calculate the new start of the video. For example, when the random number generated was 1, the new start was calculated by subtracting the current frame count from the entire length of the movie and then by subtracting 1. Each number had unique operations attributed to them. That way the system has a degree of autonomy and choice as to what to reveal to its viewers.

Running the project in front of a small audience in an isolated setting during the rehearsal was very successful. People were enjoying blocking the light and observing the video from that “obstructed” perspective. That position definitely focused their attention and allowed them to meditate on the video more than if it was projected regularly. I feel like the project would have been stronger if I had access to brighter lights. When none was covering the lamps you could still see a little bit of the video.

During the show my work was challenging to enjoy. Due to constraints of space I had to constantly switch off my entire setting to allow other students to present their work in total darkness. As a result, my work was often omitted. In addition, there was very little space between the lamp and the video and it was difficult to encourage people to pass by it in a classroom/gallery setting. Moreover, altering the code made the video run very slowly and thus was harder to experience the urgency of the theme.

In the future I would like to experiment with various spatial arrangement of the work as well as variety of obstructing lights. Perhaps adding colorful lights would enhance the experience of the work and make it more appealing to play with. Arranging the work in some sort of wide hallway or on the path to other works would also encourage viewers to engage with the system. Similarly, instead of using the laptop and its trackpad for pressing the mouse, it would be interesting to build a separate visually attractive devise of the same function that would invite the audience to influence the video. Lastly, developing a more successful code that could make the video run faster is recommended.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.58.52 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.59.12 PM



An Early System: lttle match grl

IMG_2889 IMG_2890 IMG_2891  IMG_2893

lttle match grl is a performance piece in which the audience is faced with the elements of the Little Match Girl to explore performance and story telling as a system.

The darkness was never a constraint for me but I an added element of the story telling experience. Because I focus on body movement and the voice, I gave the audience free range to develop the images of this world. I had planned to use matches. Unfortunately forgetting them, I quickly used pieces of paper. These surprisingly made my piece much stronger. The sound provided an extra layer of anxiety an mystery to the piece that I was incredibly surprised by.

I started this project by looking into Quad and children’s games like Ring Around the Rosy. These games provide the basis for which I add questionaries to probe the performers throughout the experience. The intent was to blur the line of the audience as a collective entity with related thoughts and as individuals.   For example, i’d ask very private questions that must be answer with shouting. This shouting gave a strange and vaguely threatening tone to the piece, but the more private questions made the audience further interested into being engaged.

I overall feel the piece needs more work. It felt intentional but unnecessarily obtuse at points for my own liking. I would describe it as a system because it evolved in relation to an audience. The audience themselves and their collective number are the uncontrolled variables that changes the piece continuously through the performance.

Blackspace: Point Cloud

blackspacepost2The idea of working in complete darkness was exciting, but I had a hard time coming up with a system that would successfully translate to that situation. When I began working with the Kinect for my conference project, I realized I could use the Kinect for Blackspace. The thought never occurred to me before, but once I discovered that the Kinect works with an infrared camera and calculates depth it became the perfect project.

pointcloud2I had only just begun figuring out the Kinect and at the time the possibilities seemed endless. However, I was very limited when I began due to the fact that 1. I was working with the Kinect version 1 which holds less capabilities than the second and 2. I had no idea how the “language” for the Kinect libraries worked. Daniel Shiffman’s Open Kinect for Processing libraries helped a great deal and provided complete examples for various Kinect projects such as Point Tracking and Depth Testing. It was all very overwhelming, but with time I began to understand how each of the examples functioned.


The one example that stood out to me was the Point Cloud example. A point cloud is basically a large amount of points that resemble the depth of a person or object in a 3D space. Shiffman’s Point Cloud was white on a black background and rotated, giving various perspectives of whatever the camera was seeing. It seemed like the most interesting and interactive, so I decided to alter his Point Cloud for my Blackspace presentation. Working with the Kinect required an understanding of the machine itself as well as the logic of depth and distance. The new vocabulary and functions provided a great challenge for me. I had to study and interpret someone else’s code rather than one I’ve written myself. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to create my own codes with the Kinect, but not for Blackspace.

The end result is a non-rotating point cloud on a black background. The points are pink when a person is closer to the Kinect, and blue if they are further away. It is a simple idea, but one that I thought would be fun and interactive for the whole class. The reason I decided to use two colors to represent the depth is because it felt more gratifying that way. People want to see results and changes, so the change from pink to blue is a fun one to watch. I also added various keyPressed() options that altered things such as changing the stroke of each point in the sketch, changing the point density (how concentrated or spread out the points are), and the tilt of the camera. I felt the project was received well and was fun for everyone. It was fun to see how everyone’s individual movements helped create and alter the sketch.


I believe my project is a system due to the fact that it follows the “simple rules lead to complex phenomena” aspect of a system. The rules are simple: draw points wherever there is an object and if that object is close, make it pink, and if it is further, make it blue. However, the entirety of the system itself is complex in that there are many things to be taken into account such as object/person position, camera position, location, and movement speed. It is not self-evolving I don’t think because it does not evolve over time on its own, we cause the changes and they are reflected back to us instantly. I suppose in order to make it self-evolving there would have to be change within the code itself over time that cannot be controlled, simply followed.


Blackspace : The Night Sky

17760607_10211930084185620_1623211113_n   17760510_10211930083945614_719956823_n

Gazing at the stars is an extremely personal and natural experience that many encounter, when we were children the lullaby, twinkle twinkle little star was sung to us.

It represents a simplicity and purity, the removal of outside influences, in which one abandons all thoughts and becomes fully encompassed by this magic. Deciding to code something so natural and pure strips it of these qualities that make it so attractive in the first place, becoming a commentary on how technology is now taking over humanities ability to access the rawness of nature and in life. Through the self evolving nature of this system, the originally star looking dots spread into one another and enlarge, morphing into floating bubbles, what we perceived earlier has been abandoned, forcing us to question what we are seeing and what it is evolving and its significane. Through the constant growth, development and expansion of technology today, the authenticity of the natural is minimized and instead we are replacing these experiences with the artificial, this is epitomized in my blackspace instillation. Also by projecting it on the roof, we are forced to lay and look up, a move that we also must do outdoors when gazing at the stars and the moon, however by projecting these on the roof of Heimbold that is largely pipes, the sterile atmosphere of the building is emphasized in what is supposedly the most ‘creative’ space on campus.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 12.30.31 pmScreen Shot 2017-04-04 at 12.30.39 pm

Overall, I am quite pleased with how my Blackspace installation went. I found it very interesting watching others and how each person in the class interpreted the assignment very differently from one another. This was my first time coding something for this class alone and although it was challenging at times, I persevered and stuck with it. I had to be very patient as I often found that when I thought I had the hang of it, issues in processing would occur, and therefore I was unable to run the code. I think if I were to change and alter my code I would do more to make it change over time and I would also like to use perhaps more than one projector so it takes up more space on the roof, effecting its overall impact. I think if I were to make take this simple code and then project in on all walls and surfaces of the room, roof, walls and floor, it would be extremely powerful, overwhelming and encompassing. The audience reacted well to the instillation, however I think the most effective part of it was the beginning in which it looks closer to the night sky therefore I would keep this in mind if I were to make further adjustments. I think these changes would cause the project to fall more directly into the category of a ‘system’ as it would make greater changes over time and would become self – evolving (more than it already is).

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