One third the way through, my main reflection is how little i’ve done.
This is mainly due to the last month being filled with putting on an interactive art show at Bargehouse in london. Although the work looks great, works pretty great, and has received really favourable feedback – the show has also proved much more of a headache than we expected. this is mainly due to the poor security of the show. yesterday a second laptop was stolen from the show, under the noses of several invigilators, and this has really put a lot of stress on nicola and I (Genetic Moo) and we’ve got to the point where we’ve chained everything up with now 3 sets of locks, and worse, we still have to sit there monitoring the piece all day long. and its a long day from 11-6 and open every day for three weeks. By now i’d planned to contact the rapid prototyping guy at Central St Martins and started making some models. This will have to wait again, which is frustrating.
There’s more information and photos of the work here:
(as an aside i’ve noticed a lot of the work in this multimedia show is round. Do digital artists have an aversion to squares?)
Things I’ve Learned about Interactive Art
I don’t want to be too cautionary here, but i’d always set out my camberwell project as a reaction against the difficulty of selling (and showing to a lesser extent) multimedia work, and have to say that the experience of putting on the Electric Blue show hasn’t really warmed me to Interactive/Digital art or any type of art that involves setting up a huge amount of complex stuff that other people seem to want to nick.
The main thing i’ve learnt to get back to the work is the nature of interaction itself. I’ve been looking at interactive art for years and am the type of person who will spend a lot of time infront of these pieces trying to work out how the piece works. that is: what is the nature of the interaction. Usually once worked out the piece is gone for me – and as a lot of these pieces are just blobs floating around the screen, or a change in ambient sound levels, or a video clip changing from one to the other – once they are worked out there’s nothing much more to get from the art. What impresses is the degree to which the work is responsive – ie if i move left does something different happen? what if i do the same move again? what if i do the same move again but twice as fast. In the past i’ve usually judged interactive art by the degree of responsiveness – and i expect i will in the future too (and this will touch on several of the current set of students work).
However sometimes i think the work can be interesting in itself – and this is what attracted me to working with Nicola on these sexual sea-life creatures, i could see that they were interesting to look at and contemplate (which i’d roughly translate as good art) on their own – before the interaction even kicks in. Several of the pieces are interactive at the show but not in very satisfying ways – some seemingly random chirping balloons, an ear connected to an oscilloscope, beautifully made, inviting you to sing into it – but that doesn’t then do anything except flash a light bulb??? As the starfish+urchin work visually/audially in the first place the interaction is a bonus – and the intention all along has to try and make people be attracted to and repelled by the creatures at the same time. At various stages of the programming the interaction has been very tight/ pretty loose – and i’m coming round to the idea that in this case a semi-tight or semi-loose interaction suits them best. A good result would be if the audience we’re left questioning to what extent they had any effect on the creatures – obviously they do interact as when people enter the space the behaviour changes – but exactly how different creature states are triggered is unclear. This is because of a set of mood-parameters in the creatures which even we as programmers can’t always predict. i’m probably overstaing this – because given good prevailing light conditions it is striaghtforward enough for us to get it through its set of emotions. One exception being the fight/flight impulse which is built into the creature if the audience moves too fast. Tiny changes in ambient lighting effect the difficulty of this reflex – and as the daylight changes through out the day, the exact level of this parameter has never been finally established. Not having the time (or surety) to introduce a new bunch of code half way through the show, i’ll look into smoothing this out. Discerning between waving and frantic waving in the audience is a tricky task.
Assuming there aren’t any more security problems the show has been a great experience and we’ve already got another show booked for the starfish in May.
Back to College Work
The reason i’m here.
I spent way too much time organising stuff that wasn’t my work last term. It was good to get some print and video work shown last month in the Test Site show, and i had some interesting feedback from Finlay and a couple of other people. Also there was a second group crit on narrative art where i showed my idea for ‘A day in the life of Timothy Pickup’ which again went well but i kind of knew by then that i was spending too much time on the ideas which weren’t really my main project idea (the sculpture one). Actually Andy said he thought this was fine in a later group tutorial, but i know how distracted i can become and just need to focus.
I’m happy that i can generate the models to the stage of 3D data sets – i spent some time in the first unit developing methods (or combinations of software packages) to do this. More work needs to be done – and the books on Rhino3D and Poser ordered at the library have helped – and i’m really looking forward to tackling the mathematical nightmare that is 3D programming (seriously!) (this state of enthusiasm for things 3D would have suprised me 10 years ago on my last digital art course where i considered 3d to be a waste of time in a digital world). The challenge will be to get two 5000+ vertice models and interpolate a smooth surface between them – and there isn’t a button for that in 3D studio max/Rhino – or if there is then i better find it quickly. So i’m happy with the back-end of my project (the stuff the audience dosn’t see or necessarily care about), it’s the front-end that concerns me more – what these sculptures actually look like – and how are they made.
One big disappointment was the STL file i sent to america never got made. I still don’t understand why – some sort of technical mess-up i suppose, but this would have given me more confidence in this area. As it is i’ll have to get on and contact the local rapid prototypers. Once this has been done and works and some idea of how to scale up these models has been agreed upon, then i’ll be happy with the state of my project. Hopefully i can progress in the next few weeks on this (reading weeks groan!).
A couple of other things of note:
After the feedback on my digital support work (Planet of the Apes and A Day in the life…) i developed an idea called Bullet Proof Art. That is art which is absolutely non-critiqueable. An art where the artist’s means and wheres are totally divorced from the end product. a very digital art form where the idea is rendered perfectly. Where the content perfectly matches the form – is identical to. Is bullet proof. This conceit (and it is a conceit) interests me at the moment, and happens to apply to a lot of digital art that i’ve been enjoying recently. But if it is bullet proof, where is the art hiding? The worse you can say of this type of work is that it is boring. Interestingly when i told the college philosopher about my project in the first term and expleined that i couldn’t really find much in the way of contextual material to expand the central idea and really it was just a technical challenge (the art has happened already in my head – i can see it as a finished work, and did so the couple of years ago when i first had the idea) – he replied “…that he didn’t think it would matter what he said in relation to the art, he could even say that it was boring, and it wouldn’t effect me in the slightest.” which i laughed at.
The thing that’s most botherd me all along is finding out someone else is doing exactly the same project, and there have been several people doing exactly the same supplementary ideas already. Andy found the best one yet by a group called Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt – http://www.semiconductorfilms.com/ – must email them) doing beautiful things with long exposure video. here’s an image of theirs taken of a cleaner near St Pancras station:
Looking closley at their video i wonder what sort of coding is going on??? or is it done in the edit with wipes? if so there’s still room to manoeuvre.
A Final Side Idea
In a tutorail Andy suggested what would it look like if you could move through a video sideways – at least i think that’s what his doodle meant. This lead to an idea i had (and had roughed out earlier last term) whereby if you take video as 600*600 pixels and you take it for 24 seconds (=600 frames) then you have a cube of video data. normally you see the film by approaching this cube from the front and dig through the frames in a direction orthogonal to the first frame. but why not try a different angle? – through the power of toroidal/wrap-around programming the data can be extended to fill the entire 3d world and you could bury through it (always delivering a 600*600 slice to the audience) and get new film loops wherever you went. I’m not explaining this clearly – a simple diagram might help. It’s yet another example of how thinking around my project throws up possibilities, which is great, but i must remember not to spend too much time on these – especially this one which involves some fiendishly tempting maths.