Small Screens

Matthew Kaney

Custom displays for the intimate presentation of small-scale, low-resolution video art.


Much of the early history of computer graphics has been defined by the challenge of creating beauty and art within the severe limits of early computer systems and display hardware. While this meant making certain compromises, it also enabled a wealth of creativity, as artists and designers sought innovative solutions for working within constraints. However, as televisions get larger and our mobile devices become more high resolution, these sorts of concerns have become less relevant, and viewers risk losing touch with the material properties of a screen as a grid of discrete colored lights. The continued influence of pixel art as a nostalgic style speaks to this somewhat, but does the artform a disservice by presenting it so devoid of context.

For my final project in Homemade Hardware, I've been developing a custom Arduino-based video monitor for presenting short, 128×128 pixel video loops on a low-resolution OLED screen. As an approximately 1-inch square, the screen is designed to foster an intimate viewing experience of a piece of video art, requiring close watching. The screens can be loaded with simple animated GIF images transferred via serial USB. Because the screens use a well-established animation format, and all of the image decoding is done on the actual device, these screens will hopefully make it easy for video artists to present work in a novel way.

For the winter show, I intend to hang four or five screens on a wall. These screens will be displaying various short video/animation loops created by myself and other ITP students. I'm also planning on having a laptop computer available with another screen (perhaps an earlier prototype), for me to use for demonstration of the circuitry and complete video loading process, if anyone is interested. The entire installation will take up about 2 feet of wall space and only requires connection to a power outlet and a power strip.


Homemade Hardware