Here is the comic I made with Becky Kazansky.
Here is the comic I made with Becky Kazansky.
Here are some images from my electricity lap for Physical Computing.
The good news is I just got a new camera: So I won’t have to use my cell phone any more. Now if I only had a tripod . . . then maybe I could have gotten shots of me with the multimeter!
I have approached the core questions of this essay from a few other backgrounds, mainly through semiotics, and discursive theory. I have been obsessed with the concept that we then take what we experience, and give it a structure. A narrative. And every structure will always leave out a level of complexity that cannot be structured.
I appreciate how Hofstadter’s chapter here seems to be focused on the individual as listener, or audience. My ‘academic mind’ is interested in the cultural implications here; how we structure what is a part of a culture, and respond to what does not fit within that structure.
But the real challenge to me personally does lie in the implications this notion poses to me as a creator. This reading has been able to put in, concrete terms, something I have been exploring for the better part of the past year.
I have been working with John Nobbs, and actor based in Brisbane Australia who worked with Tadeshi Suzuki to devise a training method called the Frank Suzuki Aesthetic. This training is known primarily for building agility, focus, and what we commonly call ‘stage presence.’ But recently John has been working on crafting the softer side of performance.
Over the last few months I have been contributing to John’s next book. It’s focus is exactly a dilemma posed by Hofstadter’s text:
We have done a fair work of research in terms of psychoanalysis. However, Hofstradter’s essay has put the exploration we have been doing in very clear and concrete terms. Which is a very welcome thing!
If, say, consciousness is a program that our mind runs. And it can only work with small amounts of information we receive in a given moment, can we also run another program (or core) that allows us to unknowingly respond instantly to the input of our other sensors?
What if we can train our minds and bodies to respond beyond those limits—both physically and mentally/emotionally? This is useful both for performers onstage, in terms of crafting an ability for true presence. But it is also useful for creators. Can we expand upon our ability to take in information. Or even more useful, perhaps, can we get beyond the typical associations our consciousness makes to find something more nuanced, complex, and ‘true.’
The work we have been doing have all been based in the body. It puts the body ‘in crisis’ through rigorous physical activity that actually decenters us. (Which, in effect, is similar to Hofstadter’s exercise of closing your eyes and only opening them for a second.) Yes, in that moment we might only be conscious of seeing the lamp—for example. But we have been working to see if those who do the training can, unconsciously, also respond to other bits of information we receive in that moment.
The moment I finished reading this chapter, I forwarded it on to John. I know that this will impact our work together. But I am most interested in taking the challenges here into my own work, as an artist. And I am thankful for the information it gives me about myself, and how viewers might digest my work.
Below you will see the video of me making my “Fantasy Machine” for Physical Computing.
(note: all set renderings are from the production of “Artifacts of Consequence,” which I directed. Music used by permission of the artists.)
I am really interested in what Benjamin points out about the schism thats created between the artwork and its place in time and space. I really enjoy the demand on the artist to mind her or his surroundings fully. This is why I always prefer the designs for shows created for a specific venue, over traveling shows.
My academic background is in Performance Studies with a focus on ritual, religion, and performance. One of my advisors, Mark C. Taylor used to define religion as “a series of myths, rituals, and beliefs that we use to figure and screen the chaos of the world.” I don’t want to go on for too long about my theories of religion, nor do I want the brevity of this post to oversimplify the complexity of the issue. But I do believe that American Culture is the dominant religion here, with several different sects. Within that, most are grounded in capitalism and the “American Dream” – which is based on renewable goods and selling a life style rather than individual products. Credit Cards, for example have their etymology in the Latin “credere” “to have faith in.” (This is really interesting when we look deeper into the influence of Calvinism on Adam Smith, but that is a post for another day.) “American ideals” and the myths of our country do help us understand the world around us. This does come with it’s own set of rituals.
My point is that I think he’s misread how we value art even after it’s reproduction. I do not think we have lost the cult value, nor that it has been greatly diminished. I just think the beliefs behind the “cult value” have changed.
Films, in the movie theater, are not free floating in time and space. There is a specific set of rituals that go along with the movie. We behave a certain say. We buy specific foods. We can count on commercials followed by 14 minutes of previews. Purists and traditionalists object to the changes that have been made to that ritual.
I admit these rituals are firmly rooted in attempting to sell goods, but that is also such part of our “religion today.”
I think those roots are what Benjamin Ctualy objects too.
What I object to is the difficulty in subverting those rituals. Many venues -in film or Iive performance – do not want to put them aside either. And it is so ingrained in audiences that this point, that it is extremely difficult to successfully change or adapt.
Then there is the whole other question that he brings up, encapsulated in Baudrillards definition of the simulacrum: a copy with no original. You cant really argue that a smartphone app, by being downloaded on multiple phones, is losing it’s place in time and space. That IS it’s time and space. That’s what it is designed for.
The aspect here that fascinates me is how Benjamin talks about desire, and its effect on the users experience. One thing I enjoy about working with live performance or installations is that when they’re over, the are over. Photos show that something happened. But really, after a show closes it lives on through (or dies with) the audiences memory. They chose to remember it, or forget. And what they remember is their experience! I think a major aspect of my work is aiming to create a cohesive experience. So i am attracted to the idea that at a certain point that is all that lives on . . . I think how long somebody remembers that experience is an interesting test of how much a work succeeded-how much it did affect them.
That’s why I loved Benjamin’s line that art, “Sets up a desire to only be satisfied later.” I do worry about the effects of instant gratification, and how it really affects us when i consider that desire most desires desire. (One of my favorite concepts from Lacan is the objet-a, that we actually don’t want to fulfill out desires.). That is a cultural question I keep thinking about.
Back to art theory though, i think what Benjamin astutely points out is the problem of having a version of the artwork we can instantly revisit. It means that we treat that as the real, the true, the final. It takes away a viewers distance, and her or his ability to think about the artwork. What the felt, what the think – or the way those two things are folded up in just looking what she or he remembers. This is not just a problem with film, where the frame changes before i can think about it and look back again (to use Benjamins example.) i enjoy that it changes and I have to think more about it. And i don’t worry as much about the mass not wanting to think as I do about the space we are taking away for blights to occur.
The challenge this poses to me is how to reach as many viewers and users as I can while still encouraging it to be an experience with room for thought, and individual memory.
This week, part of our assignment was to design a “fantasy machine.” Mine is an interactive variation of some of the hologram technology that already exists.
I work as a director and designer in the theatre. One challenge is always seeing a show’s design will actually live exist together in space. To try and aid this, scenic designers often build model boxes to 1/2″ or 1/4″ scale. This proves to be labor intensive for scenic designers, and requires a very different skill set from the actual demands of design. Moreover, it does not really allow a director to see how designs such as video or lighting can function in space, until the set is built and installed.
To help fill this gap, my fantasy machine is a small hologram box. The box is built to 1/4″ scale, set up to replicate most stage shapes and variations. The LED lights simulate small projectors that will be imbedned into the walls. And the open holes signify places where small amounts of ‘fog’ can be pumpted to create a floating projection surface.
Scenic designers would be able to import floor plans, sections, and shop drawings. A program would then compile that date to create a 3d projection. Additional elements can include video/projection design mock-ups as well as simulations of how lighting would function in the space.
Of course, an important part of seeing designs in 3d is the ability to change and play with them. To see, for example, what it looks like if a table moves, or if the curve of a wall is at a different angle or placement. Sensors and cameras within the box would allow users to reach inside, and “pinch” elements of the design to move them to new locations. At the end of a design meeting, these changes would go back through the program and instantely update the light plot, ground plan, shop drawings, etc.
Here is an example of the design for a show I recently directed called “Artifacts of consequence.”
Below you will see the scenic designers drafts of the set. (Ground plan, sections, etc.) Then you will see my box, the mockup of my fantasy machine. Lastly, you will see final photographs of the final set (with various changes, including lighting and video) that could be accurately mocked to scale within the “fantasy machine.”
And last, but not least, picture of my Adruino lab where I was playing with different ways to fine tune the sensitivity of the potentiometer’s effect on the LED’s brigtness. (Sadly, it did not photograph too well.)
My first big assignment for ITP is now finished. And that is a good feeling. Thank you to all of our classmates for making it work. I am so curious to hear what you felt, thought, and experienced. (So feel free to comment)
On the first day of Applications, Vitto Acconci came in and spoke. It was an incredibly inspiring 90 minutes. Immediately after that talk my four teammates (three of whom I had never met before), and I went out to dinner. And we started talking about our reactions. How we felt about his work, what his works made us feel, and the challenges it posed to our previous work.
The main aspects I/we were drawn to were his bravery, honesty, and willingness to leave behind the elements that blocked his work from achieving what he was aiming to do. Lastly, I was deeply drawn to his desires to treat viewers as “users,” and to allow them to share moments of intimacy with each other through his works.
Inspired by Vitto’s jumps from performance art, to installations, to architecture, I knew I wanted to stay away from “a stage performance.”
After hours and hours of discussion, our group did define our goal. In an effort to create a moment of true presence and intimacy, we wanted to first disorient our audience and then give them something human and honest to hold on to.
Our piece began with an edited sound loop playing, as our classmates entered Cantor. They were each given stickers, and asked to keep a pen handy. There was also a video design, set to the music, playing up on the main screen. One group mate, Michael Columbo, gave a set of instructions to the audience. (Basically to remain seated, and be open to the experience.) Then in one flurry of motion:
-The lights were turned off.
-A large plastic sheet was pulled over the heads of the entire audience.
-Two other group mates (Paragini Amin and Lia Martinez) climbed up ladders, and pointed projectors at the plastic.
-I crossfaded the video from the main screen to Lia and Paragini’s projectors, while changing the sound design.
We then projected 31 different statements. They were truths that we are afraid to face alone, and are certainly needed a push to share aloud.
After those statements were finished we projected a right yellow light. Michael then told our audience that those are our truths. He asked them to write something that was true for them, and to stick it to the plastic.
We gave the audience several minutes, passed the plastic up to the front of the stage. Several statements were then read aloud, before we folded it up and exited the auditorium.
These photos were taken by Becky Kazansky. Thanks Becky! ( I have rock star envy, and always wanted to create a piece that people took pictures and shot youtube videos of!) Also a big thanks to Todd Holoubek for all the pushes at just the right times.
While reading this story I kept thinking of two challenges that Red posed in our first Applications class. First, to think of technology as a verb, not a noun. To treat it as something for users to (for lack of a better word) use. And second, that it be used to enhance the human spirit.
The worry that a lot of people feel while we increase our reliance upon technology is that it fails that second challenge. That it decreases the human spirit, and distances us from one another. As the story suggests, we lose something as we shift from a world where people have things brought to them, rather than going to things.
That concept is something I have been thinking a lot about recently. A former colleague of mine is currently doing a project for QVC. A friend was recently staying with me. As we ordered food on Seamlessweb he half jokingly remarked that its great because “you don’t have to deal with people. I hate dealing with people.” (I must admit, I love using seamlessweb too.)
Even as I read the story I felt a certain sense of that disengagement.
I was reading the story on my iPad. Even though I was sitting in a coffee shop, I had a completely private experience. Nobody around me saw what I was reading, or had any clue what I was doing. I had cut myself off. Meanwhile next to me was a man reading “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Even though his book created a personal and private interaction with his artwork as well, it was still on display to the public. He left open the option for me to lean over to him and say, “I love Oscar Wilde. Isn’t it interesting how this book preceded so many things that happened to him during his Gross Indecency trials?” (Or whatever point someone wanted to discuss about Wilde or Dorian Gray.) I had completely cut myself off to conversations like that with strangers.
I believe that exact thing is why I am still drawn to working with live performances. I believe that when done right they are communal events, that you share with friends, loved ones, and strangers.
But the deeper reaction I felt was actually to the ways Forester kind of predates what would become central tenants of semiotics or discursive theory. The ways that our patterns of thought are predetermined. That we cannot think outside of the approved systems of truth and logic. Even in a more open societies, there is still a homogony of thought: a “dominant discourse” that we cannot fully escape.
The moments that stuck out to me are Kuno said he found his own way to the surface, and Vishti was unable to respond. As Forester says that “phrase ha no meaning to her.” A similar moment was when Vishti tells her friend about Kuno’s warning that “the machine is stopping.” And her friend replied, “What does that mean? That phrase conveys nothing to me.” Lastly, what really got my mind running was how the Committee of the Mending Paratus “allayed the panic with well chosen words.”
We act as of that can only happen in a totalitarian state. And yet, it happens here. Now. There are constraints to our thoughts, set up by the limits of language and the definitions of “truth” and “logic” today. I don’t believe that that these limits are set up in any centralized manner. And yet, they exist to benefit some and create barriers for radical change.
Something Foucault often wrote about was how “punishment” is always our response to those who threaten to unweave the mainstream modes of thought. Who risk undoing what we, as a culture, know to be true. And yet, that is exactly what happens in this story. Kuno is threatened with homelessness precisely because he poses that threat.
Recently I have been wondering about my own limitations when trying to think new thoughts, or trying to think differently. Even trying to think outside of this system is, in and of itself, a system based within the mainstream. Vishti does, after the conclusion, come to see what Kuno is saying. But in all honesty, it is because she was learning his system of thought. And we even see the roots of his thoughts within the teachings of “the machine.”
In an effort to grapple with these exact questions, I recently started helping a playwright develop a new script. The core question is tied up within this main thrust of Forester’s story: Can we think outside of these defined systems of thought.? Or even more specifically: can we think outside of the limits of our language?”
While thinking about this question, I have been thinking a lot about the effects of technology. About whether it aids that ability or inhibits it. Does it help us to define new paths of thoughts, and change the limits of our current vernacular. Or does it just offer more options of ‘systems of thoughts,’ that we can just plug into and regurgitate?
I have been working on a new music/performance piece called Border Towns, which has been rehearsing down on Wall St. Through the throngs of tourists I saw a very interesting interactive video/advertisement.
It is a Master Card MarketPlace ad. It takes up the entirety of a storefront window. One censor hidden in the screen is a camera, which plays a live feed of the sidewalk in front of the window. On top of the live feed, the video floats advertisements for specific goods. Users can come up, touch those floating “bubbles” and open up ways of browsing goods and services they can purchase through Master Card Marketplace. The live-feed camera is straight forward, visible once you are close to the screen. However, I’m not sure what method they use to sense the users’ touch.
There are a whole series of sensors that are hard to avoid when it comes to transportation.
While meeting with my group for our presentation in Red’s class, we ate dinner at a Pho restaurant. I noticed controls embedded in the table for us to turn on hot plates also embedded in the table.
I was at a friend’s apartment and he asked me to turn off one of the lamps. I couldn’t figure it out, until I realized that the base of the lamp senses human touch. So the switch is just touching the base.