I’ve been thinking a lot about my “Stupid Pet Trick” project for Pcomp… here’s where I’m coming from, where I’m at, and hopefully, where I’m going:
Last Wednesday on the train ride home, I wrote down about 13 potential points of inspiration, including but not limited to:
Echo and Narcissus, A Wishing Well/Penny Fountain, Magic Lantern Shows/Shadow Plays, Metropolis, “A Sonnet,” Fairies/Tinkerbell’s Near-Death Scene
I figured that each one of these could work in not only an analog input and interesting digital or analog output– but could also incorporate a minor narrative– which is important for my purposes here.
After thinking a bit more, I whittled the ideas down to either A Shadow Play or Tinkerbell’s Near Death Scene. I thought it could be really fascinating to incorporate technology into the idea of the “Magic Lantern” and just generally think the Tinkerbell scene is magical… and I want a feeling of magic or awe to be a part of most things I create.
To delve a bit deeper into both of these:
My intrinsic curiosity about shadow plays has been recently peaked — having seen them elegantly used not only in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (in the telling of the tale of three brothers, beautifully animated in the style of shadow puppets) but also in the show “The Nightingale and other Short Fables” that the Canadian Opera Company did at BAM last spring, which I was fortunate enough to see with my friend Joe. You can watch clip of my favorite section here.
Tinkerbell’s Near Death Scene is a fun little scene from Peter Pan, Chapter 13, “Do You Believe in Fairies?” In the scene, Tinkerbell almost dies after drinking poison intended for Peter. However, she is saved by children clapping and saying that they believe in fairies. I know it from a the lovely scene in E.T. in which E.T. and Elliott watch Mary read the story to Gertie. I was also reminded of this scene in this week’s reading, from The User Illusion chapter 6, “The Bandwidth of Consciousness,” in which the author discusses the idea that we consciously understand very little information… however, the unconscious perception of stimuli may be just as or even more important. To quote, “Stories read aloud are a matter not of words, but of what words do to people. Live concerts are not about music, but about what music does to people. Football matches watched at the stadium are not about football, but about what football does to people.”
After bouncing back and forth for a while, I started to consider combining the two ideas. Could it be possible to do a shadow-play of the Peter Pan scene? It most certainly could.
So, I came up with two primary ideas on how I could make this interactive:
First — I could have multiple screens and have the user change the lighting behind each screen as the “narrative” progressed. This would change the light behind the “shadows” as opposed to how a shadow play normally works, which involves moving the puppets and not the light source. This inversion intrigued me and I thought it could be an interesting way to simulate movement. This would also let me experiment with an extended or rounded screen shape, somewhat like the failed 1950s/60s experiment Cinerama.
Second — I could have a single screen with silhouettes and Tinkerbell embodied as a series of LED lights that turn on at different points. At the point when she drinks the poison, the LED would fall and have a dull blink, then the user, wearing gloves, would have to clap in order for Tink to come back to life.
Problems immediately rose regarding the first version with the multiple screens:
1) It will take too long to produce multiple screens/scenes
2) How would you move from screen to screen? If you use gloves/gestures, there’s nothing stopping the person from going backwards instead of forwards. If you use a button, it doesn’t really feel like a meaningful interaction with the piece. Is it really even “interactive” if all you are doing is pushing a button to change the light source?
3) While I found the idea of creating an illusion of movement with the back-lighting… I have no earthly idea how to go about this and probably don’t have the time right now to figure the inevitable intricacies, being that the project is due in a little over one week.
So, that leaves us with the 2nd idea, which I have been slowly developing.
I’ve recently added an idea of two-stages of clapping, one in which Tink starts to rouse and then another which has to be coupled with the “I believe!” yell required in the story.
The big hurdles I’m facing at the moment:
1) How do I incorporate sound? Speakers? Do I just read it out?
2) Do you capture the sound with a sensor? [I don't think so.. I think that any sound, especially in a dual-clapping state, would have to be prompted by a narrator]
3) How do I, who have little artistic ability, create an artsitic looking silhouette?
In regards to number 3, I’ve been looking at Scott M. Fischer’s silhouette illustrations for a recent “Sequel” to Peter Pan that was published called “Peter Pan in Scarlet.” I really love the aesthetic he chose for Peter… which is more impish/puck-like than Disney-fied, which is the kind of look I wanted to go with, also. I’m hoping that I can draw something in a similar vein, but specific to the scene re: Tink and the Poison.
Otherwise, I’m still figuring it out. So… off I go… I will post as I complete phases of the project.