Tag Archives: new genres

New Genres: Otherworldly Translation

1 WHERE IS YOUR HOME PLANET

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

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

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

sssssss

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

fontstruct

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

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

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

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

ssssssssssssssss

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

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


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

process

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

20 WERE YOU BORN UNDER THE SUN OR THE MOON

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

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

ss

fsd

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

Supernova: Blast Off!

Jenny -Supernova

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

supernova

The night of the Art Party!

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

This was the set up for the paper mache helmet

helmet 2

Helmet with the point

helmet 1

Helmet after one round of paper mache without the point

helmet 3

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!!

IMG_2083

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

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

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

I was on quite a few audience members Instagram stories

I was on quite a few audience members Instagram stories

Interaction! Blasting Off!!

Interaction! Blasting Off!!

After Striking a Pose!

After Striking a Pose!

 

Community Blanket — Madeline Dupre and Jennifer Morris

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

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

Madeline with the blanket before the installation started

Madeline with the blanket before the installation started

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

Half of the blanket before one class critique

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

Madeline working on the blanket at Spring Fest

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

The cloud pre-formation

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

Biliopii, Demeter, and Dr. Prudence

 
IMG_8433

Dr. Prudence selfie

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gloves, biliopii, and fake sand

The gloves, biliopii, and fake sand

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

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

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

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.

IMG_20180508_133216670

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.)

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 7.32.32 PM

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:

IMG_20180508_162502660

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.

IMG_20180508_162529808

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.)

IMG_20180508_133223235

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.

IMG_20180508_162438673_LL

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.

IMG_20180508_162442954

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

[NEW GENRES: Interactive] Gumball Processing

For my second piece this semester, I wanted to have fun. According to my therapist and mother, I am autistic. Because of this, I process many things differently from someone who is not on the Autistic Spectrum. I am also a trained chef, and have worked in restaurants (and at home) for years. These two facts come together beautifully as I explored my own sensory processing through “Gumball Processing.” Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 2.51.29 PM Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 2.50.14 PM tiny-kitchen-bacon-and-eggs   The idea for the “Gumball Processing” started with an investigation into the self. I wanted to make a piece that would bring my mind a little bit closer to the minds of my participants; a part of this was understanding art as sensory processing. Again, I went to Saskia Bakker’s Design for Peripheral Interaction. Bakker, never letting me down, helped me map my own brain process to the rest of the world. I also read “Hertzian Tales and Sublime Gadgets” by Anthony Dunne, which inspired a distinct distaste for digital interactive projects. Although Dunne was eloquent and helpful in reconsidering the digital, I found that there was a deep antagonism in the ways that digital pieces would capture and employ data about humans in the analog world. I then dedicated this project to working without any sort of digital component. First came the food. IMG-3780 IMG-3781 IMG-3782 IMG-3783 IMG-3784 IMG-3785 IMG-3786 IMG-3787 IMG-3789 IMG-3790 IMG-3791 It was important to me early on that my brain be accurately represented in this piece. A part of my sensory processing is that I do not eat collectively; rather, each texture and taste is isolated and recomposed as a sensual harmony. For this piece, I wanted to show how exactly I isolate and reconstruct food. The compartmentalization of eating is what inspired the design for the gumball machine, as well. IMG-3900 IMG-3903 IMG-3904 IMG-3906 IMG-3908 Creating my gumball machine was not easy. I consulted many Youtubes and listicles on how to DIY my way to a functional gumball dispenser. However, few of these suggestions proved functional. I instead designed my own gumball machine, using the power of math and a little bit of creative thinking. IMG-3899 IMG-3898 IMG-3897 IMG-3896 This featured a lot of working and reworking, some of which happened while I was in the Wood Shop itself. However, with determination and some help from Francis, our local fibers expert, I completed my first design for “Gumball Processing.” IMG-3895 IMG-3894 IMG-3893 IMG-3892 However, this would be far from the final design. IMG-3912   Due to many mechanical flaws in the pull mechanism, the ‘gumballs’ would not drop. Several re-designs later, Professor Angela Ferraiolo solved my entire project in one sentence. She said that my issue with the piece was “mechanical,” and that I was “losing the interaction.” Not only was she right, but she helped me re-conceive what became EAT MY ART. IMG-4067 IMG-4068 IMG-4069 IMG-4073 The night before and day of Open Studios, I prepped my former gumballs. The menu consisted of four complete dishes that were then separated into two to four components each. The star of the piece was the Raspberry Tart Bun (pictured above), a soup-bun-style tart that was baked in biscuit dough and covered with cinnamon. This was separated into four components (the syrup, the raspberries, the soft inner dough, and the crispy outer dough). In total, I created 95 tiny dishes. This was one of the most satisfying moments in this project. IMG-4075   Rather than rely on the framing of the gumball machine, I wanted participants to be formally served my dishes. Dressing the podium with a lush red velvet and creating custom marbled labels is what the piece needed to ground itself in a world. The piece was also aesthetically pleasing, which was unintentional but very wonderful!   7D0C462F-D1DE-441A-9B6A-80AFB5FED828 Unfortunately, although many people stopped to look at my piece, most of them were too shy to eat anything! I removed several of the wells to create the illusion that people had been eating them; this, along with some very dedicated friends/decoys, made the piece more accessible and more people were inclined to try eating the dishes. Strangely, it was as I de-installed that the most people visited and ate with me. Approximately seven people consecutively stopped me as I was packing up and asked what my piece was and if they could try it. This better explained why people had not eaten before: every person mentioned that it look too nice to touch. In this way, my dressing of the piece thoroughly backfired. Part of the success of a gumball machine is that it is unintimidating and many people know how to use it, either instinctively or from interacting with a gumball machine itself.
  The most important lesson from this was PRAXIS MAKES PERFECT. Although I read Andrew Boyd’s Beautiful Trouble last semester, I didn’t quite learn my lesson until this one. I wish I had spent more time perfecting the design of my turning mechanism in the beginning of this project, as well as spent more time testing with people it in the latter half. This is not the end of the gumball machine, though; I intend to finish this piece over the summer. This is also not the end for “EAT MY ART;” I hope to create more pieces about the interactions between people, food, and art. Part of the satisfaction of this piece for both myself and the participants is the shared relationship to the food. I want to work more with this relationship and better investigate this simultaneously distant and intimate relationship. Also, I love to cook.

[New Genres] Supernova

_DSC2583

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.

_DSC2560

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.

_DSC2615

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.

_DSC2699

[New Genres] Daydream Simulator 5000

IMG-4094

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.

IMG-4097

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

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

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

BAN!: Conspiracy in the Age of “Free Speech”

Statement: A visual hijack is when an artist uses the visual strategies of an oppressive image, or target, to re-establish new ideas that are counter or detrimental to the system that the oppressive image upholds. Part 1: Setup
      • Choosing Target
        1. Choosing a target requires a target that is not only choose-able but workable. There are many images and visuals that are oppressive to people, but a good target is one that is both flexible to change and iconic enough that this idea-override will be a challenge.
        2. For this hijack, I chose Breitbart. Breitbart is a very popular and inflammatory conservative news company run in the United States, born from Andrew Breitbart, a former journalist at the Drudge Report (Phelan, 2016). It is perhaps the face of conservative news in the US and is extremely well-known by name and persona.
      • What Makes Breitbart a Good Target
        1. Much of their content is, definitively, oppressive to the artist.
        2. Follows Daniel Dennett’s Rules for Evolution (Dennett, 127) (and therefore, something that will stick around)
“Heredity or replication” (Dennett, 127)
Breitbart is a very successful replicator, meaning that its single form (Breitbart news story) is both easily repeated not just in craft, but in idea and memory. There is something that sticks in one’s brain and the brain of others (Dennett, 129) to reaffirm the idea of Breitbart as a creator of conservative news. Their consistent updating also reminds us of this. The name and persona of Breitbart extend beyond the news story. If one were to say, Breitbart is going to be at the rally!, one would not presume a series of newspapers to stand up and speak. The company is an idea beyond its own function, and that idea is replicated both by its function and the function of other people.
  “Variation” or “an abundance of elements” (Dennett, 127)
The elements in this project included the design of Breitbart, a screen capture from Breitbart the day after the election of the 45th president of the United States (Wayback, 2016), and a screen capture of The Drudge Report on July 11th, 2001, the closest pre-9/11 capture available (Wayback, 2001). Breitbart has many words on its page, being a news company. Many of these words are topical buzzwords and naturally have their own ideas and feelings attached to them. For this project, I also used language from the Drudge Report, Breitbart’s predecessor, to increase the elements available. Drudge Report, pre-9/11, has a lot of pre-contemporary language and distinct linguistic catches that look jarring beside the more typical contemporary ones.
  “Differential ‘fitness’” (Dennett, 127)
Breitbart produces several articles with repetitive buzzwords to create a public reaction to an idea, using the same model of “fitness” (Dennett, 127). By recreating the same elements in varying orders with different emphasis, Breitbart employs the same system as most memes to create ‘new’ content. Therefore, the elements in Breitbart writing as well as Drudge Report headlines are already packaged and ready for remix. Using large or small quotes from the sites creates levels of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ within the paper, by splicing common ideas and repairing them with a Frankenstenian sense of culture. When placed together as a cohesive piece, it is difficult to establish one clear reality.

breitbart drudge
      • Defining Working Systems
        1. Breitbart, as a news source, is very popular: why? - Gramsci suggests that there are two kinds of “intellectuals” (Gramsci 113), those who are naturally “organizers” (ibid) and “organically” (ibid) rise to lead people, and those who “[emerge] into history out of the preceding […] structure” (Gramsci 114). - Breitbart, ironically, is the latter spinning itself to seem the former. Unlike the classic bootstrap American narrative, Breitbart did not rise from the American public just as conservatives needed it, but was an egg waiting to hatch for many years. - Andrew Breitbart left The Drudge Report in 2005 to begin Breitbart Media (Phelan, 2016). Gaining popularity from its predecessor and from Breitbart’s reputation as a catchy journalist for Drudge Report, the news source became a household name after getting famous with their report Big Government in 2009 (Phelan, 2016).
        2. But why was their internet popularity so fast and effective? - Ken Layne says about Andrew Breitbart’s reporting style at Drudge Report, “just choosing links and writing a great headline and placing it on the page — is a real art form” (Phelan, 2016). - Mark Dery, a web scholar, writes that the “one-liner” is an intensely effective online format (Dery, 2). - Breitbart gained popularity because it was easy to read and was a “unique brand of lightweight, gossamer junk” (Phelan, 2016) while attacking “intellectual scaffolding” (ibid). - The same short form use of repetitive, easy to understand elements in different positions allowed for Breitbart to become one of the most iconic conservative news sources of our time. By not requiring much attention but having a high malleability, Breitbart was allowed to produce and reproduce easily. - This success gives it authority, and the authority mixed with replication causes it to “‘produce’ intellectuals” (Gramsci, 117) who, in turn, give it authority.
        3. How do you hijack this? - When online, there is a sort of anonymity; personas are built on digital footprint rather than their identity. “People are judged on the content of what they say,” (Dery, 2) and who they are comes from that action. > Use the Breitbart name and likeness to create and alternate persona that reflects a facet of why it is oppressive - There are three key components to target for Breitbart: its replicability, its notoriety, and its credibility. Although I could have done a project on how the articles describe Dennett’s fitness, or a project showing the hypocrisy of promoting fringe news from a singular large company, I chose to attack the credibility.
      • What defines the hijack? - For publications that were notoriously unreliable, my initial idea was simple headlines with incorrect photos. However, this evolved into a more distinguished metaphor: using the conspiracy magazine. - Conspiracy magazines are known for false, outlandish, and usually fabricated information. This seemed like the perfect reflection of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. It also enabled me to use the integrity of the Breitbart name against them. - The same brevity of headline and buzzword tactic is used in both conspiracy magazines and the Breitbart articles, but how they are judged is different. The artifice is similar, but the value is different because of reputation. - Like a news company, the magazine implies replication (multiple issues). This metaphor helps to uphold the same replicative property as Breitbart, the news company. - Because I was attacking the credibility of Breitbart, I made an active effort to use its other two major strategies in my favor, so that my piece would appear more connected to my target.
3985280
  • Magazine Building
    1. First Prototype - Most of the work for the magazine occurred in Adobe InDesign. I used Photoshop to create backgrounds for the magazine, mimicking the spray paint design of Breitbart’s official website. The three focal colors (orange, gray, and black) were taken directly from screenshots of the website. Not having worked in InDesign prior, this was quite the adventure, but the program proved to be more friendly than unfriendly! - I deeply wanted the newspaper to be large and unruly when read, so the paper size was 11×17 inches. This proved correctly impossible to handle when printed. - Before designing the layout of the piece, I compiled several references for ‘old’ conspiracy magazines covers. Paranoia proved both the easiest to find and the best representation of a variety of covers, featuring image- and text-heavy covers. I then emulated the closely-oriented/busy layout of the covers, which felt surprisingly easy and natural. - Most limitations were in the composition of the magazine format, but the metaphor of a conspiracy magazine was a fun and easily mimicable. The limits guided the piece more than restricted it. - My original goals for this prototype were to play with the ideas of headlines from Drudge Report only, with images from public web using keywords from headlines, using only the design from the Breitbart website. - Titles for the magazine varied, trying to describe the fake authorship; options were: Breitbart American Men, Breitbart American News, and Breitbart News.

image_6483441 (4) image_6483441 (2)image_6483441 (1)

  2. Second Prototype     – The second prototype was modified to include more text: it now included Breitbart’s   contemporary headlines. This lead to more dense text and smaller ‘packets’ of words and phrases for use, in order to disguise the headlines. The newer words allowed also for more play and topical humor, which felt easily accessible     – There were also more images, to allow for a more gentle visual experience. The title that I settled on was BAN: Breitbart American News     – Lastly, this week I finally created the BreitbartAN Facebook page which is listed on the back of the magazine, and which only has posted the screen captures of the Breitbart and Drudge Report websites.

image_6483441 (5)

    1. Third Prototype/Final - The third prototype had more focus on ‘public’ interaction: I added ‘viewer of the week’ photo, a mail in portion of the magazine, and the Facebook icon that is recognizable on so many websites today. These changes work with helping the magazine to appear connected and “making the world a little smaller,” (Fairey, 3). - Again, the design was altered to make the piece more legible and move better across the page. There were plenty of other design notes after this prototype, however, they did not make the final for time issues. Still, it shows that rarely is any design perfect!
For Access: PROTO EDIT
  • Installation
    1. The Inaugural Year: Celebrate Sarah Lawrence - The purpose of this event, according to the Sarah Lawrence website, was to “highlight dance, music, theatre, and writing performances and readings; science demonstrations and posters; displays by student visual artists; Sarah Lawrence programs beyond the campus; Graduate Programs; student publications; dessert reception and the opportunity to have your photo taken with our college mascot, Godric the Gyphon” (Sarah Lawrence, 2017). - The event itself was spread throughout the first two floors of the Heimbold Visual Arts Center and several outdoor staging areas. - Many alumna, board members, and donors were present as well as students to blend in with. I chose this event because not only did is present a group who was not typical to the college, but it also presented a group who was a risk for the college to interact with. These people also likely had a knowledge of what Breitbart was, and perhaps might even have an opinion on the piece.
    2. Distribution - Originally, I planned to wait at a singular table and distribute 15 printed copies of the magazine as a repeated action; however, due to how few people were in the area, I began to move throughout the event spaces and hand out papers. - A friend and photographer, Khalifah Jamison, took photos of people reading the magazine and of myself handing them out. - Surprisingly, it was very hard to wait for people to take the magazine. This was remedied with a much easier “would you like a newspaper”/”would you like a magazine.”
    3. Gallery - At one point, I entered Barbara Walter’s Gallery. At the suggestion of Jamison, I stood in middle of an exhibit portion so that it appeared I was there as a part of the exhibit. Many people saw me enter the gallery, however, many more did not. - I passed out several newspapers within the gallery, this time without speaking or with as few words as possible. Many people took the time to very much study and read the paper, some even looking at the art behind me for answers. Several groups of people read the paper and returned it, thinking that it was a permanent part of the exhibit.
    4. Reactions - Most people received the magazine with confusion. Twice, people laughed. One person rejected the magazine upon seeing the Breitbart name, but their companion took the paper. - A few people held onto the magazine, more people secretively than visibly. This leads me to believe that although they may have wanted to read it, they were ashamed of the Breitbart name. However, there were some who openly displayed the Breitbart logo as they carried it.

 DSC_0320DSC_0331DSC_0344

        – The only people who carried it visibly, from who I noticed, were white men.
  • Conclusions
    1. Did This Work - I think so; many of the people who talked to me about the magazine asked questions such as “who did this?” and “is this real?” - The purpose was to destabilize the view of ‘credibility’ of Breitbart name and source. By making people unsure about whether Breitbart had actually published a nonsense conspiracy magazine, I feel accomplished and that my ideas translated correctly.
    2. SURPRISINGLY, the Facebook page backfired. - The Facebook page has had a surprising amount of interaction, but it does not seem to be anyone related to Sarah Lawrence College or from Yonkers/Bronxville area. There was one person who interacted with the page from Yonkers. - The page has been tagged in links to an actual Breitbart article. - The page has been sent message about a conservative activist in trouble.
    3. The messages replicated differently online versus with the magazine. - The Facebook page only had the untouched content from the Drudge Report and Breitbart, meaning that there was no hijack necessarily present. Therefore, posting it online without the finished product meant that it only replicated the Breitbart name and likeness without the critique of the final product. This was not only unintentional, but a failure to consistently represent the product cross-platform. - In this case, the Breitbart name outshone the content itself and proved too strong to feasibly hijack, and in fact hijacked the project itself.
    4. Although the credibility of Breitbart was put into question by this piece, the reach was small due to the print nature and the institution of Breitbart remains mostly unaffected.
  • Future work
    1. I would like to use the growing (?) online basis to replicate the short form conspiracy publication, but instead as a consistently published online publication. This would require continuing to find new elements from Breitbart and Drudge Report as well as choosing the set for these elements (ie. parameters for what screen grabs to use).
    2. An alternative to creating my own conspiracy work would be to use the same growing online basis to link to screenshots of actual conspiracy news websites. Again, the Breitbart name and image have proven very strong within this project, and the continual use of this header would stand as the backbone and reference for this project.
    3. Lastly, perhaps the best thing to do is re-research more forms of working on removing credit from organizations or change my perspective on this project entirely. The first way is not necessarily the best way, and more reading and viewing cannot hurt!
    End Notes “The Inaugural Year: Celebrate Sarah Lawrence.” Sarah Lawrence College. Accessed October 16, 2017. https://www.sarahlawrence.edu/news-events/events/2017-2018/2017-10-05-inaugural_event_cele-eid217579.html. “DRUDGE REPORT.” Wayback Machine. July 11, 2001. Accessed October 16, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20010711064315/http://www.drudgereport.com:80/. Dennett, Daniel C. “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 127-35. Accessed October 15, 2017. doi:10.2307/430902. Dery, Mark. Flame Wars: Discovery of Cyberculture. Durham and London, UK: Duke University Press, 1994. Fairey, Shepard. “Sticker Art.” Obey Giant. May 2003. Accessed October 16, 2017. https://obeygiant.com/essays/sticker-art/. Gramsci, Antonio. “Antonio Gramsci.” In AN ANTHOLOGY OF WESTERN MARXISM, edited by Roger Gottlieb, 112-19. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1989. Nussbaum, Daniel, Joel B. Pollak, Jeff Pooro, and Neil Munro. “Breitbart News Network.” Wayback Machine. November 08, 2016. Accessed October 18, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20161108073830/http://www.breitbart.com/. Phelan, Matthew. “Building the House of Breitbart.” Jacobin Magazine. November 05, 2016. Accessed October 15, 2017. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/11/breitbart-news-drudge-alt-right-koch-trump/.  

Cultural Hijack: What I Learned From my Failed Kekistan Hijack

For my hijack i attempted to subvert the 4chan meme, the Kekistan flag. The history of the meme can be found here (http://bit.ly/2xCg1Tg), but why I chose it as my target was because it used by contemporary white supremacist and new fascist movements, currently known as the “alt-right.” To rob the power of Kekistan, my hijack must undercut its replication. To do require two somewhat conflicting processes. First it would educate the vast public of its ideological associations as a dog whistle. Secondly the hijack would interfere with the meme’s replication so it would not be used again the same way a joke dies when it is told too many times badly. The latter intention was inspired by Dennet’s “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination” and how they reproduce themselves.

The iteration I used to hijack explicitly references Nazi imagery such as the Iron Cross and the three lines. In my attempt I used learned how to Gimp, which I learned for this project, to alter the image in a variety of ways, including fusing the flag with the Nazi flag and incorporating Lisa Frank iconography into it.

Unfortunately I came across several problems in attempting to subvert it.

  • The meme is steeped in a history of shitposting, so my first attempt to subvert through exaggeration, such as adding “Nazism is My Passion.” This led to an unclear message in the image, only affirming and promoting neo-Nazi idea;s for those unfamiliar with the original’s associations to Nazism.
  • The next drafts reference Lisa Frank’s colorful designs and it’s image connections to Nazi flags in order to the achieve my goals. Unfortunately, it still did not achieve the critical tone that is needed to be a hijacked. Instead the image just seemed to be another reiteration of the meme.
From this experience I learned that in order to visual critique and hijack coded memes and racist imagery, it must not incorporate the images. In order to hijack the meme, I must create a counter meme that educates and exposes those who use it for malicious means or figure out another way to bring hijack a coded meme.  I also learned how to use Gimp for this project and have that skill under my belt. 

It’s A Match! – Hijacking the Romanticization of Ideologies

Satya_and_Che Ayn_and_Pamela Brian_and_PeterBen_and_Bernie


A meme was the best source to visually hijack for me. In Daniel Dennett’s Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination, he writes that “in a struggle for attention, the best ideas win, according to the principle of the survival of the fittest, which ruthlessly winnows out the banal, the unimaginative, the false”. The best ideas are the most creative, pretty, and dynamic. The best ideas are also visually appealing. The best ideas are memes (sometimes). A meme is a cultural unit – or ideas that leap from brain to brain. And only the most visually enticing ones last as memorable units. I personally agree with another statement made by Dennett: “I don’t know about you, but I am not initially attracted by the idea of my brain as a sort of dung-heap in which the larvae of other people’s ideas renew themselves, before sending out copies of themselves in an informational Diaspora.”. The information in our brains is not really our own but what is adapted from units in other people’s brains. We collect the best ideas from the brains around us. Then we replicate them to sustain ideas. My visual hijack shows how we are influenced by ideologies. I used a meme as my medium in order to replicate my own message.


I began a campaign using one that already existed: “It’s a Match” from Tinder. There are various humorous ones like the relatable girl matching with food. My first prototype had Che Guevara with a white woman. My idea was to show that Che’s revolutionary views are idealized by young people today. The romanticization is represented by the millennial branding of Tinder. The use of the image of the white woman seemed wrong, though. After critique from our Cultural Hijack class, I figured maybe this woman wouldn’t be someone to romanticize Che. Maybe this woman would idealize someone like Ayn Rand. A Che-match would be more of someone like a Ben or a Satya. Someone a little hyper-masculine yet progressive. I decided to use Bernie Sanders in a variation of the original prototype. However, after some critique, I didn’t want to alienate and antagonize the left. I found images of Ayn Rand and Peter Thiel for more variations of the original prototype. In total there are 4 variations, but I had hoped to create more – one with Nietzsche and another with Milton Friedman.


My overall goal with the images was to critique the romanticization of ideologies. It is easy for people, including myself, to idealize figures and ideas. Antonio Gramsci suggests that “Each man, finally, outside his professional activity, carries on some form of intellectual activity, that is, he is a ‘philosopher,’ an artist, a man of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought.”. Everyone can think critically about the world in whatever way they want to. But everyone is also influenced, to some extent, by organized ideas. Ideas can always be recycled, reevaluated, and replicated. Gramsci states that each person is a philosopher participating in a particular conception of the world. But what are we ultimately influenced by? Who is influencing our views?


After creating the final drafts, I bought adhesive paper and printed them out as stickers. I handed a few to all of my friends and put some up in various places on campus. Sadly, one of the stickers I’d placed in Heimbold was taken down prior to a campus event in the space. Aa few of my stickers popped up on social media (like Snapchat) and some friends even said they’d seen them around. Overall as a hijack, I think it was a success because it had people laughing. The Bernie sticker seemed to be the most popular. My image didn’t hijack the original image (the It’s a Match meme) but it did use it as a medium for self-critique.