For our physical computing and ICM finals, Andi Cheung and I want to create an interactive installation using a video input, where the user could make snow angels or track footprints in TV snow. To accomplish this, we’d hook up a webcam to Processing, which would pixelate a static image of TV snow and detect the user’s position and range of motion to create the imprint of an angel shape, comprised of rotations and translations. The image of the TV snow works as an approximate mirror.
We took our inspiration from the work of the amazingly talented interactive artist (and ITP alum!) Camille Utterback. In one of her earliest pieces, Text Rain, individual letters of a poem respond to participants’ movements, falling and bouncing off the heads and arms of those walk up to the projection. Another favorite of mine is called The Crossing, which involves a video projection of the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. From a distance, the cables appear deconstructed, but as the user walks closer to the project, the bridge image becomes clear.
Camille Utterback, “Text Rain,” 1999
What attracts me to her work is that the user can establish what’s going on—there’s some kind of intuitive relationship—but she leaves room to explore the behavior. I recently listened to an interview with her on the art news podcast Bad At Sports, where she said that the relationships aren’t reductive. You can’t tell someone what the rule is behind the piece, you have to experience it for yourself. The interviewer at one point says that the importance she places on experience is reminiscent of Fluxus, which she agreed with. When I’d first thought about ideas for the final, I thought I wanted to do a project somehow related to Fluxus. After cycling through a million other ideas, I’m glad I’ve come full circle, through Utterback. I think our TV snow idea gets at some of the concerns of that movement, particularly affirming a relationship between the self and the world at large. Also, our use of TV snow reminds me of Nam June Paik’s experiments with televisions.
Nam June Paik, “Dadaikseon (The More, The Better)”
Right now, before I get into the video aspects of the program, I’m trying to get the look of the snow angel down. I found code for a snow angel that rotates on Open Processing, and I’m figuring out how it works and how to modify it for our needs. Here’s a screenshot: