Art From Code: “Groovy” 

An open mouth with keyboard commands for each key begs to be played….

My intent was to create an instrument that could accompany a DJ. But this instrument would be different than the rest of their equipment, as it focuses on visuals that can sink into the music—as long as you know how to play it.

Assigned around Halloween and after recently learning how to make keyPressed() commands function. I set out on the project with the goal of emulating Algorave visual projections that could accompany a spooky rave. The project began with an old woodblock print I had made during COVID. The scariest thing I could make at that time was a mouth, and I thought that now, after a couple of years, it was time to return to the project and see how I could expand on that visual fear. This time through code.

The theme of this work was largely inspired by the activities that were happening during its creation. Mainly, carving pumpkins and watching scary movies specifically, I was inspired by the practical effects of the original Evil Dead’s body horror. And how gorry the process of carving a pumpkin can be. 

I began with the goal of mastering photo inputs as part of key commands. Here I started by taking photos that were meant to obscure the viewer’s ability to register pumpkin insides and the more wholesome elements of pumpkin carving. I wanted these photos to look gory and disturbing. I wanted viewers to see these photos as the inside of the mouth or body while they flashed to the beats. Originally, I was planning to only show moments for a flash and in exclusively black and white.

But once I started to see the images flash across the scene with music, I felt that the black-and-white images fell flat. Especially in comparison to the wood block mouth prints and other photos from Evil Dead. I began to create image commands that randomized the selection and placement of certain images, this time both color and non-color. I found the result to be much more conducive to my aim of creating something that begs for your attention but provides no clarity. Leaving you uneasy but also unable to look away.

You can start to see in these frames I included old film photos I had taken of rotting pumpkins and took both the original photo and scans of the negative to create even more visual chaos.

It was at this point in the project that I started to realize my desire to utilize old photos and visual art was starting to hinder the code’s ability to be used for the same aim of creating something new. It started to feel more like a collage than an original piece (non-derogatory lol; it is a very valid art form and an important part of the creation process). So I began to see how forloops, arrays, and mouse input could be used to better represent music and computer interaction.

The easiest of these were the forloop and spiral which I used to create balls of red that could be called to the screen in a variety of patterns. My favorite being the blood rain effect that can be flashed by the j key.

Ultimately, I turned in a project with 32 key commands and was able to utilize so many newly learned skills in processing. I really struggled to complete my final desire for the project, that of a mouse that could be used to slash open the screen with a delayed bleeding effect, but I feel like I may return to this project in the near future. 

Of the work created in this class so far, this was the project my friends were most surprised by and interested in. I had not heard of Algorave till the beginning of this project and found that several of my musician friends were very interested in custom visuals that could be altered based on the music. I feel as though I am just scratching the surface of what this could be as far as an interactive projection experience, and I can’t wait to repurpose and correct this project. 

Author: Bryce Williams