the blur – research and development

I have been fascinated by the Ann Veronica Jenssen “yellowbluepink” project for a variety of reasons; main ones being the absolute confusion and immersion in a what is simply is an empty room, the feeling of being alone but surrounded by people as well as the way the fog was used as a medium to mix and disperse the overhead, intense, multicoloured light. I have always been fascinated by fog and the way it plays with out vision and the way it disrupts the otherwise ordinary. Creating something extraordinary from something normal and familiar is one of the reason I got into media production, whether thats animation, film production, special effects or photography. Something as simple as a longer exposure on a photograph, changing the focus or timelapses can create things humans don’t usually see. In my first year of university I explored those ideas quite a lot, like in this simple video I made in my first year:

Over the years I have also experimented more and more with light(or the lack of it) and how it may affect the image. Whether thats projections, shadows, reflections or changes in colours to create different, intriguing images and play with the idea of unfamiliar familiarity.

Light being the reason why we see things the way we see them was always my favourite thing to concentrate on when experimenting with my pieces. Disrupting this view was always a good way to look at things from a different point of view. After all, any media artefact, including(especially) news is a biased representation of the person creating the piece, whether its intentional or not. That is why I enjoy to look at new ways of looking at things or at how other people or things look at objects. The GIF below(middle) was constructed after taking a couple pictures of a skull piggy bank and allowing my computer to merge them together, creating what it thought was a smooth transition.

I have also created many HEX glitch images by manipulating some code in the images themselves creating some interesting transformations.

On the other hand, ever since I started studying graphic design and media, I have always been interested in geometry, simplicity, minimalism. Whether thats typography, design or the use of geometry and different natural shapes in my designs.

Ann Veronica Janssens spoke to me on many levels; the colours, the disorientation and the way I could be in my own world and yet surrounded by others. I want my project to evoke similar feeling about the subject I’m doing it on. That being one of the toughest parts of my research, I have plethora of artists and styles on my mind however i can’t find a subject thats close enough to my heart to represent it passionately.

I’m starting my research off with the idea of privilege. Privilege is everywhere around us, and I, as a white male, am on the lowest difficulty level(Scalzi, 2012). Whatever I do in life, I have no disadvantages caused by the way I look or where my family comes from. I still have to battle through life’s difficulties however if I don’t get a job, am paid less, or am insulted, it is not caused by the way I look but my (potential) incompetency or simply being a dick. Included with this I’m also looking into the idea of “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems“(Martin, 2015), which describes the way people think about the problems of others, often westerners about the issues of the “third world”; making them seem easily solvable and unimportant to their problems. I want to create a piece concentrating on those issues as they  affect a vast majority of the population, on way or another.

I want to use fog and light in a similar manner that Janssens does in her “yellowbluepink” project and engulf my audience. I want to use different lights, addressable LED strips on the walls, concentrating in the corners of the room to create a dynamic environment which will reflect whatever is heard on the individual headphones. I have drawn a simple sketch of the room as an example, sketch number one shows the simple design of the room. I have bought binaural microphones which hopefully create a feeling of immersion strong enough that with the combination of the heavily dispersed light, will transport the viewer into their own world.

I have listened to plethora of audio and video sample that use binaural audio and I’m convinced they are able to create a world inside your head without much of other stimuli.  Whether thats performance pieces like the digital barber, ASMR videos, nature recording or simple everyday A/V recordings. On the other hand I’m having troubles thinking of a way to use said audio and spread my message. I was never that involved with sound in most productions I worked on(except my own, individual work where I tend to create the sounds myself), therefore it is proving difficult for me to use the full potential of audio. I did not intend to use speech in my audio however I might move in that direction, meaning I have to research script writing more thoroughly.

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The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk was one of the best theatre experiences I have ever been to. It used it’s set, a three story ex post office building in London, to its fullest. The sound, set and actors were created and shown in the biggest, most beautiful detail. There was not a thing that didn’t transport you into the desired area, even the forest in the building didn’t seem like an odd thing while you were in the middle of it. I want to create a similar feeling for my audience. I want to transport them into whatever world I make in the sound design, from a forest or a foreign market to a war zone. Using the 3D audio should enhance and create believable sounds which will match what the person is seeing, as light will engulf and transport the audience into various locations.

One part of the The Drowned Man production was the fact that the audience were also participants; to prevent them from interfering too much or not participating enough they were asked to wear masks and stay silent. I’m considering using some actors or dancers in my performance however they would be the ones wearing masks or cloth to cover they face(as shown in sketch number two) Anonymity online is not a new thing, seen across various platform from applications like yik yak to 4chan which allows for posting and sharing content instantly without registration(Black, 2016). People who are more extrovert or dominant are more likely to be spotted in face to face groups(Hiltz, Johnson, and Rabke, 1980), therefore anonymity or even the simple act of communicating online allows for a better spread of views from all participants. I want to explore this in the opposite way, having the identity of performers hidden allows them to be more emotive and intrusive. The exclusion of their facial expressions also allows for a greater interpretation of the colours and lights around them and therefore helping the audience getting immersed in the experience.

Using performers in my piece will in a way take away the effect I want to create. I want the audience to be the performers in the piece they just walked into. Everyone having headphones and being lost in the colourful mist. Alone but surrounded by others. I decided to scrap the idea of performers and create a way for the piece to still be interactive and changing by using sound and movement.

There are many way to use software and hardware to create interactivity. I’m not competent in any sort of coding or electronics however after researching the possible options I decided to get an Arduino Uno. Arduino as the website states is an “open-source electronic prototyping platform allowing to create interactive electronic objects”. After speaking to my tutor I thought of a few ideas of possible interactivity in my piece and with all the available tutorials and forums online I was sure I could get something up and running in no time. I sketched up another idea for the design of the room. Sketch number three is still rather simple. I got rid of the fog and instead want to use opaque sheets of plastic to diffuse the light in the corners. The participants will wear the headphones and add-on modules with the Arduino to move the sound in space as the wearer moves his head. This way I could control what someone hears and from where. With the addition of proximity sensors I could fade in and out certain sounds, as you get closer to something, it gets quieter and quieter. It could be a way of discussing privilege.

I have research fellow artists and how other use mist and fog as a medium. Seeing what they want to portray and why they use it in their pieces. One of the artists was a Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, he filled a room with myst to promote his chair design(MOON) in a project called TWILIGHT commissioned by Moroso. The use of mist was in a way similar to what I want to portray; the way it refracts and shines through the mist creating naturally, unnatural sights. In his instance its the “angel ladder”, the way moon light shines through it and accentuates the design of the chair.

Fujiko Nakaya was another artist that I encountered whose work fascinated me. With 40 years of experience she’s most likely one of the first artists to use fog, or at least to this extent. A way to connect with the nature, however temporarily, working with it.

I realised that privilege and “reductive seduction’ is not the right subject for me as I’m fortunate enough to be quite privileged myself as a white male, and therefore it is difficult to pin point and talk about the serious matters and disadvantages that it creates. I have moved into the mental health “category” which is more close and personal to me. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year(Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England – 2007) and yet they are still a taboo to talk about. Suicide is the number one killer of men in this country and we can see campaigns only recently talking about this publicly(such as the CALM campaign): 12677409_1737506289865389_1761056276_n

Personal experience with these issues makes it a much more suited subject. Over the years I had issues with depression and self image which in a way slowed down my creative development. I also experience anxiety and this is what I’d like to focus on now. Everyone has different way of tackling it and different people get triggered in different ways. Triggers are difficult to avoid and some even question the use of the word “trigger” as a possible “content warning” because the word “trigger” might be harming as mentioned on everydayfeminism.com. Whether the content is obviously harming or not(as argued in the seminar “Trigger warnings, embodied vulnerability and feminist affects”, Dr. Kyrola 2015), it is difficult to shield ourselves from them. Sometime people have absolutely no control over their anxieties and occasionally it appears out of nowhere for no particular reason. Thats why I decided to look into this subject further and try to learn more about it. I’m currently considering creating a piece that helps to combat anxiety in one way or another, whether thats further education about it or actual help with relaxation and ways of helping ourselves. I’m in no way qualified to combat an issue as complex as this however I’d like to create a piece that might spread awareness about the issue.

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Everyone experiences anxiety, whether thats before an exam, a doctors appointment or an interview. However some people cannot control their worry which can lead to disruptions to their life. In 2013, there we more than 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK(Fineberg et al., 2013). With a world that is becoming more and more connected, increasingly loud and uncertain, it is difficult to find a way to cope with anxiety, which can take over someone’s lives if not taken care of.

While visiting Madrid I went to espacio fundacion telefonica which often has very interesting and interactive exhibitions. Incorporating light and sound as well as other senses and often putting the viewer right in the middle of the piece. One of the first exhibitions I’ve seen/experienced there was by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. He used heart and motion sensors as well as virtual reality to make the visitors’ part of the exhibition; creating new and/or changing pieces and immersing the visitors in all aspects of the exhibition to explore the ideas of self-representation and intimacy.

The pieces used the visitors heart rate, voice or movement and added it on top of the already recorded data by previous visitors. I found this fascinating as it creates a sense of community among strangers. A way of collaborating on an art piece with people from all kinds of backgrounds without even knowing them. Most pieces used light; simple light bulbs or reflections of the wall to represent this data in various ways. I was instantly transfixed with the idea and looked into other works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

On my search I stumbled upon Jim Campbell which also had an exhibition in the same gallery just a few weeks later; which wasn’t as surprising once I’ve learned that the year 2015 was the international year of light. I found Campbells “Low resolution works” intriguing and a good representation of what I wanted to achieve with my work. A way of using light to represent abstract images for the audience to decode themselves. Whether thats something familiar or not so much.

Cambells projects from this exhibition used many LEDs or light bulbs to create low resolution images, some in 3d space where the viewer could walk through the piece but had to walk away to see the image. Some created spaces depending how you looked at them, filters to alter the definition of the image or were reflected off of surfaces to further disturb the image.

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There is a piece which reminded me of a 2013 Kickstarter campaign “Lightpack“; LED backlights for TV. “A Fire A Freeway And A Walk”(’99-’00) is a piece where a black canvas uses LEDs to recreate spaces by reflecting them on the wall. In a way creating the opposite of a screen. We look at the “leftovers” of the light that would normally be directed straight at us while still being able to read the scene and the feel of what is represented by filling in the gap in our mind.

It touches upon the idea I mentioned in my “Beauty” post. Using familiar images and distorting them to such a degree that we no longer are able to see what it is however since the image is so recognisable, we still manage to connect the dots, even if it is just a vague idea of the object.

I want my light project to add to the experience of the viewer as well as be manipulated by them. I don’t want it to be fully linear experience.

2Line Segment Space” by kimchi and chips is an example of a beautifully designed space where a web of threads is magically illuminated and brought to life using light however the whole piece is static and linear. Only to be admired. As the artist said, “Light creates contrast and order on the lines to articulate digital matter”. The whole piece is mesmerising. In some ways it is similar to other pieces I’ve seen; one by David Ogle and another by urbanscreen (Max Negrelli and Jonas Wiese).

David Ogle uses fluorescent fishing lines and UV light to create webs of light spanning across various spaces like hundreds of lasers, bouncing off various surfaces, hiding in plain sight. On the other hand Objekt V by urbanscreen is an augmented sculpture. It is in a way similar to kimchi and chips project because of the use of light to create order and movement to otherwise static elements. However it adds much more than just that, by using a projector, the sculpture comes alive, expands and shrinks in front of your eyes creating things that were not there before. I want to use light in a way that add things that aren’t there, whether thats actual shapes and objects or emotions and feelings exaggerated by the sounds and presence of others.

While exploring this theme of manipulation of light and interaction I stumbled upon a video of Marshmallow Laser Feast talking about their projects and how they use light to create 3D images as well as create sounds using lasers and drones.

They also visualise and manipulate images using body movement and sounds. This grabbed my interest as I was reading about the use of Xbox Kinect Sensors to read human body movement in 3D space and using said data to visualise images or create music. I’m currently experimenting with said idea to potentially incorporate it into my project which I drew another sketch. Sketch four is using manual input, microphones, heart sensors and motion sensors to alter the sound and visuals seen by the participants.

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Sketch number four

The creators enter the studio with headphones on, hearing pre recorded natural sounds of a museum/gallery or a bistro/coffee shop. Not much different from the gallery they are in and yet not matching what they are seeing. The first room asks them of their mood/stress levels ad translates that into colour and tempo of the room. From here, noises can be heard coming from other directions and can be followed, leading to the second room. Microphones in the room will detect the noise level and modify the colour and sound accordingly. The third room will contain a heart rate sensor. Everyone can easily check their heart rate, changing the rhythm/beat of the music and the aesthetic of the room depending on who used the sensor last.

Lastly, the visitors exit into a larger room with a projector and a kinect sensor. Using the motion of the body in the space, music/sound can be generated and visualized by the projector in real time. Each room will transmit and generate different sound with the addition and alterations of the previous one, creating a new experience each time.

I have been collecting and experimenting with different arduino codes and modules as well as a variety of LED strips. I realised a setup this big might not be as easily achievable as I first thought. All the code libraries, forums and tutorials are out there and easily available however without basic knowledge of coding I’m not able to edit it quick and efficiently enough to make all the pieces work. I began learning the basic of coding on Lynda.com while trying out to program and connect a heart pulse sensor to a LED strip. Over the few weeks I have been experimenting and learning more and more, trying to make this a reality however I am considering changing my design from a whole gallery to just a small area.

Heart LED

I have realised that using fog may not be practical or following too closely with Ann Veronica Janssens project. At first I held on to the fog idea so much that my creative and artistic thoughts began to slow down as I couldn’t think outside of the box. I did the project the wrong way around, focusing more on the execution than the actual subject and connotation of the project. Because of that i have started to branch out from the foggy box and started to look and incorporate other ideas. One of the main reason why I wanted to use fog was its ability to disperse light in an almost magical way as well as obscure vision. I went to Glasgow, Scotland to help with my friends documentary and while there I went to the GOMA where I saw a piece by Tessa Lynch using a frame hang from the ceiling with a semi transparent sheet on it and some paint splattered all over. This gave me an idea of having a stand for the heart rate monitor in the middle of the room for two individuals whose vision will be somewhat obscured and yet they are the ones controlling the lights around them.

I have also stumbled upon installations by Gabby O’Connor which use light and tissue paper to bring icebergs inside a studio.

The room is filled with blue light of all intensities as the large, yet fragile piece floats above us. I really like the colours and shapes that this piece shows. I have always been interested in geometry which made me consider using geometric/abstract shapes and tissue paper as a way of dispersing the light. I have started experimenting with tissue paper and the LED strip to see whether it could create a desired effect.

After some experimentation I realised I could use this and create some great results. A combination of the crawling/floating clouds filled with light, shining as they detect movement and changing their colours or rhythm depending on the environment or the persons heart rate. Mason Studio created a similar, tranquil room with cloud like shapes filling a room and turning on and off as people passed. I really like this idea and would like to take it further. With the addition of sound and light being manipulated by the user I think I can create a really peaceful or at least disorientating (in all the best way) area to allow anyone to calm down and become more aware of the important issues in life, about caring for each other and sharing thoughts and feeling.

Having those issues myself I struggled with the tasks this year. I have started my production far too late and now my actual exhibition wont happen when I planned it to be. I will however still work and improve on my project to create a good piece in the near future and create the working prototype for the sake of this deadline.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Anon. (n.d.) #Mandictionary on Tagboard [online]available from <https://tagboard.com/mandictionary/178379&gt; [1 May 2016]

Anon. (n.d.) Adult Psychiatric Morbidity In England – 2007, Results of a Household Survey [NS] [online]available from <http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/psychiatricmorbidity07&gt; [1 May 2016]

Black, E.W., Mezzina, K., and Thompson, L.A. (2016) “Anonymous Social Media – Understanding the Content and Context of Yik Yak”. Computers in Human Behavior57, 17–22

Fineberg, N., Haddad, P., Carpenter, L., Gannon, B., Sharpe, R., Young, A., Joyce, E., Rowe, J., Wellsted, D., Nutt, D. and Sahakian, B. (2013). The size, burden and cost of disorders of the brain in the UK. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(9), pp.761-770.

Hiltz, S.R., Johnson, K., and Rabke, A.M. (1980) “The Process of Communication in Face to Face vs. Computerized Conferences”. Proceedings of the 18th annual meeting on Association for Computational Linguistics –

Kyrölä K. (2015) ‘Embodied Vulnerability and Feminist Affects’. Trigger Warnings, Embodied Vulnerability and Feminist Affects. Held 13 Nov 2015 at Coventry University

Anon. (n.d.) Mental Health Facts and Statistics [online]available from <http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/&gt; [1 May 2016]

Anon. (2015) Mental Health Statistics: Anxiety [online]available from <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-anxiety&gt; [1 May 2016]

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