I visited Kinetica 2010 this weekend. A show full of artists who make things which move. Very few of them seemed to be interested in depicting human motion; much of it was just sophisticated interior design, like expensive Fiber Optic lamps, but the inclusion (this year) of some of the pioneers of kinetic/electronic art left the impression that a radical art practise based on electricity was possible. Inevitably, hardly any of the kinetic master pieces still worked, for example, Edward Ihnatowicz’s SAM flower was dead on the spot.
The real excitement of the show was in a few young artists who treat computers/electronics/projectors as a natural component of art. What I suppose you could call the Digital Artists.
I was inspired by the work of Daniel Hirschmann: prints generated using webcams and algorithmically manipulated in Processing. He described how he used a live camera feed as a palette of colours.
Movement generates various particle systems that are attracted to the centres of the detected movements. These particles become the brush strokes, rendering themselves based on the colour palette of the live video stream. He then prints these vector images out as Giclee prints and sells them. Every print is highly detailed, can be generated by the buyer, and is unique. I was very impressed by his art model, and also by the type of effects he had programmed. This is the type of model I had in mind for the London-Boccioni prints.
Some of Daniel’s works are precise, geometric, delicate & often light infused you can find out more about his art on his website.
For my project, I had something more fluid in mind. Here’s a photo taken on the bus on the way home which suggests a churning kinetic London.
I’ve finished my latest model called Repetitive Strain Injury which traces out through time, an exercise I carried out to ease a sore shoulder. It has a crudity but also a strength to it, and is very interesting to walk around.
I had to counter balance the heavy arm by hollowing out the opposite leg and filling it with wads of one pence pieces and modelling clay. It now sits comfortably on its panton chair. Here are some more views.
The model is just under 1m high, here’s a shot of it next to The artist falling off a plinth, in both models the human is the same size.
I visited the Estorick Collection recently as they are showing an exhibition called On the Move: Visualising Action. The collection specialises in Italian Futurism and the exhibition curated by Jonathan Miller is a natural extension of the Futurists’ interest in all things dynamic. Almost all the art shown was known to me but it was still a treat to see a Marey sculpture of a seagull in the flesh and one of his camera guns.
There was a strange Thomas Eatkins Multiple Exposure called Differential action study : man on ladder, moving horses stripped leg, while second man at left looks on (1885). Eatkins was an innovator in motion photography for artists (following the Muybridge model) and is considered “the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American art”. His attempted accuracy of observation and title is touching.
Also present are some photos (or should that be snapshots) by Lartigue. He was amoung the first to have a fast enough camera to freeze motion and he used it to fun effect during the turn of the century.
The bulk of the show is photography – the perfect technology to visualise motion, and the technical achievements of Edgerton are still striking 50 years on. Edgerton cautioned, “Don’t make me out to be an artist. I am an engineer. I am after the facts, only the facts.” One of Edgerton’s fellow engineers was called Djon Mili and his name was new to me. His photographs of dancers for Life magazine certainly tip the balance firmly from science toward art.
Another photograph commisioned by Life magazine was this portrait of Marcel Duchamp walking down a flight of stairs, taken by Eliot Elisofon. While I find its coming-full-circle-ness slightly lumpen, I have to admit that the driving force in a lot of this art is of technology enabling the artists to see something new – this was true in Duchamp’s time (he needed the photos of Marey to work from), it was true in 1952 (when strobe lighting enables the effect below), and it is true now in my project (software/hardware didn’t exist to do it 10 years ago).
Contemporary art was represented by Idris Khan, Jonathan Shaw and the exhibition tentatively suggested that in the future, 3d CAD systems would be used as a way of visualising motion with a lovely bird flight prototype by Geoffrey Mann. Hopefully in the future I can work more closely with the gallery on a project.
For anyone interested in the artistic depiction of motion this show is a must see. It is on until mid april. Here’s a link to the Estorick Collection website.
I’ve constructed the latest model, sitting on the right below.
Here are some images from the construction process.
First the slices are enlarged through projection so that the size of the pieces fits with the scale I’m working with – in this case to sit on a small chair I bought I needed the bottom to be 30 cm off the floor.
The outlines are traced onto large cardboard sheets (6mm thick). The double ply corrugated card was bought from this packaging company
These are cut out by hand – for this model about 200 parts.
And glued together using PVA adhasive. To get the pieces to match accurately I mark them on each side with alignment lines as can be seen well on the foot.
The work here is like building a huge puzzle.
All of the processes above are liable to inaccuracy as they are dependent on variations in cardboard thickness and warp. Also the process I use is fairly quick – a day for this whole process, so the finished model will not be as objective as I initially planned – but given the abstraction in the voxelisation method (discussed previously) I think spending too long here to maintain accuracy would be inappropriate. The papier-mache outer skin, to come, will also increase the abstraction by a huge step.
I’ve been working on a new model called Repetitive Strain Injury. Last year while over-using the computer my shoulder started aching, so I’d exercise it, in a circular action, which it struck me would make a good model.
Using Poser and manually trying to make the circle proved difficult as you can Twist, Side-Side or Bend each limb. It is rarely obvious which way the mouse will move each limb as you are doing this in 3d and the motion often becomes a jerky mess.
The solution was to use the Poser Graphing Tools. Rather than manually moving the limbs through a flight path you can create anchor points and then apply Bezier curves to these to get smooth motions. To create a circular motion I had to square off two sin waves in the side-side and bend for the right shoulder.
Because limbs in Poser are connected, moving one thing alters another and the head above was unsatisfactory (but more realistic). So I went in again and artificially graphed the head from Side-Side and removed the Twist and Bend. This gave the visual effect I wanted.
After doing this I realised I was allowing aesthetic decisions to supercede realism. Given the projects shortcomings in this department why not go further and play around with the possibilities of these graph tools – creating smooth motions which would be impossible to achieve as a mere human. Perhaps a series of superheroes exercising…?
Over summer I saw this impressive piece by Georgia Rodger, a performance artist and sculptor at the Peckham Carpark show Field of Sets. It works as a ginormous music box (you can see the metal prongs at the bottom).
The piece also references the chronophotography of Muybridge.Typically in art books the story is that Muybridge took on a bet to prove that a galloping horse completely leaves the ground at certain points (which he did in cells 2/3 below).
Muybridge’s other stated aim was to provide artists with accurate anatomical reference shots of humans and animals in motion so that unfortunate efforts like the one below by George Stubbs would be avoided.
Rodin famously rallied “It is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies”, but in vain. These days artists take whatever they can get.
More of Georgia’s fascinating work can be seen on her website.
I came across this strange looking camera on ebay – with 4 lenses, it combines 4 exposures onto a single photograph. As the exposures are staggered the camera gives great opportunities for examining motion.
Not that I’d buy one (they use film!). So I wrote a quick program to get the same effect from a digital webcam in Processing. Here’s the result, with a photoshopped-Lomo-type frame overlaid. I’ll develop this program more and take it out into the streets soon.
For over 15000 photos like this go to the Lomo Supersampler Flickr page.
I finally got The artist vaulting over a balcony onto my balcony 10 floors up a 20 storey block of flats in Peckham.
The model was heavily protected with Yacht varnish which i learned about from a great article on The Papier Mache Resource. In the background you can just make out the famous Peckham carpark which recently hosted BOLD TENDENCIES III an exhibition of large sculptures curated by Hannah Barry. It would be great to get something in next years show.
I recently saw this piece (or one similar) in a show in Borough called 70+Artists100+Hours. It is by an artist called Annie Attridge and made from porcelain with a tin glaze and on glaze enamels. I found it very desirable. Not just because it sort of depicts motion (or a pile up of body parts) but more to do with the material.
As one of my aims on the MA was to make desirable objects – and which I completely failed at – nobody wanted to buy a huge mass of cardboard – perhaps porcelain might be a way to go. There’s a ceramics course in Peckham. Transferring computer models to clay might be a good challenge.
This a small local community show. I came third one year and won a bottle of wine! This year I entered a couple of motion studies. One below printed onto 20 stacked A4 acetates suspended so it can be seen from both sides.
And also the cardboard man touching his toes, which I’ve requested to be suspended at about eye level.