Tag Archives: interactive art

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.

Supernova: Blast Off!

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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.

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This was the set up for the paper mache helmet

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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.

[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.

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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.