progress report

Tom pointed me in the direction of a very nice little maxMSP patch written by Eric Singer. Its uses a flocking algorithm to make graphic objects (boids) orbit around the mouse position in the manner of flocking animals/birds. I’ve been messing around with it, and have wired it up so that they change colour and speed depending on the position of the wiimote, and at the same time follow the position of a person on the dance floor through the camera tracking system I already have in place. I can make them freeze by pointing my foot up (if the wiimote is on my ankle). I want to make them leave a trace of their path, that’s what I’m going to look into today.

article in the guardian

Creative calculations

Working with dance and music has opened my eyes to the dramatic potential of mathematics

‘The wonderful thing about such collaborations is that you are never sure where they will take you. As we spent a morning learning the tango, my mathematical eyes couldn’t help seeing a dance full of geometry. Follow the lines drawn on the floor by a tango dancer and there are the arcs of circles and lines that the Ancient Greek geometers used. I found myself performing a tango-inspired dance to bring alive the mathematical construction of a perfect hexagon, surely a first in the history of mathematics and dance. The power of these sorts of dialogues is that they end up pushing everyone’s boundaries in new directions.’

What to do with the data

I’d like to try getting my existing tracking system to control a flash file.

I found this site recently, when I was looking around at flash sites for inspiration in the last project.

I love it!

First off I love the movement of the animation in the initial navigation. I think this would work so well in my environment if I could figure out how they did it. I don’t want text, but if I could make a pattern move in this way, it would be like the floor coming up to meet every step I took, and falling away on all sides. This is something I like to feel – and I don’t think its an idea unique to tango, martial arts and yoga have this feeling of connection with the ground. drawing energy from it, moving it through your body and out into the world.

random image generator random image generator 2random image generator 3random image generator 4

Another thing I love on this site is the random image generator. Above are four images that were generated randomly on four consecutive clicks. Its like what I was thinking about with regard to a tuning of a space. setting up parameters and rules so that however the elements are thrown together inside it, they will work. Designing a template, a structure that will allow random elements to play and interact within it, always creating something beautiful.

I must admit, when I went to the site just now to take some snapshots of the screen, I started to become selective. I didn’t take the first images generated because I wanted a good one, one I felt looked ‘designed’ . This is what Eno Henze was talking about at the lecture on Generative art I went to in Berlin last month (‘generator-x‘). The altered role of a generative artist… not so much the creator as the curator. He writes the programs that generate the art, but doesn’t directly make it. His artistic role is in selecting the images that he exhibits. Not dissimilar to the role of a photographer or editor I suppose.

New ways of tracking movement

I’ve been thinking about new ways to gather data from the dancing bodies. The movement I want to use to trigger an animation is the ‘boleo’. It’s the movement that results from a sudden change of direction in the energy of the lead. This can be back to forward horizontally, which sends the follower’s free leg straight back and up – it feels and looks like a whip, if you can visualize the motion of a hand cracking a whip, this is what the dancers do with their whole bodies, the leader is the hand, the followers body the handle and her leg the tip of the whip. If the reversal of energy is circular, from clockwise to anti-clockwise, the movement of the leg is also circular, the toe draws a loop in the air. These are the patterns that can be seen in the photos I posted last week.

Anyway, I digress. The point I was going to make was that I have been trying to find a way to capture this movement digitally. Way back when I was first thinking about the project, it was suggested that a colour on the sole of the followers foot could be picked up by my camera and colour tracking device, but it was nowhere near sensitive enough to be able to do that. I thought about a microphone on the shoe, which would be ok for footsteps, but not the movement I want to capture as it is silent. Recently I’ve been investigating accelerometers. I found (or rather somebody told me about!) these sites…
The need for the “CUI” (In the Media Arts and Technology program, we explore new metaphors for artistic interactivity that connect the physical world with the virtual realm.)

and this one…
Contextual Computing Group: Bluetooth Accelerometer… (This is a small wireless sensor platform providing a bluetooth SPP link to three axes of accelerometer data. The accelerometers are sampled by a PIC microcontroller (onboard ADC) at roughly 100Hz (rate can be changed via firmware)…)

inspiration for patterns


I was looking at some rhythmnic gymnastics videos on youtube the other day (some are posted on my dance film page), and it got me thinking about the motion path of my feet, I thought about trying to get hold of a ribbon and attaching it to my feet to see if it would produce any results as beautiful as the gymnasts… but it seemed unlikely, with two people dancing it would just get tangled up. Instead, I attatched lights to my feet and put my camera on a tripod set to a slow shutter speed… I was quite pleased with the pictures, but I’m not sure yet how the patterns can be incorporated into my project. Perhaps it will be possible to mathematically recreate some of the parabolic shapes for projection.

Altered states and film

Except from ‘Deleuze, Altered states and film’ By Anna Powell

‘For Guattari, aesthetics are viral in nature, being known ‘not through representation, but through affective contamination’. In its broader, verbal usage, to affect is to ‘lay hold of, impress, or act upon (in mind or feelings)’ or to ‘influence, move, touch’. Affection as noun is ‘a mental state brought about by any influence; an emotion or feeling’. Although it retains connection to more general meanings, Guattari uses affect in a special sense here and in his work with Deleuze. Affect also permeates Deleuze’s solo-authored cinema books, with both the movement-image and the time-image as distinct but congruent explorations of it.
Henri Bergson is the main philosophical precursor of Deleuze’s temporally based cinematic affect. Bergson accused early cinema of representing the flux of matter in time as a series of static ‘snapshots’ that, strung together by mechanical movement, prevent awareness of duration.
Despite this explicit distrust of the ‘cinematograph’, Deleuze identifies a fundamentally ‘cinematic’ philosophy in Bergson’s implication of ‘the universe as cinema in itself , a metacinema’. Both regard the world as ‘flowing matter’, a material flux of images and the human perceiver as a ‘centre of indetermination’ able to reflect intensively on affect.
For Bergson, perception is extensive and actual but affection is unextended and virtual. Unlike perception, which seeks to identify and quantify external stimuli, affection is qualitative, acting by the intensive vibration of a motor tendency on a sensible nerve. Rather than being ‘geographically’ located, affect surges in the centre of indetermination. Its pre-subjective processes engage a kind of auto-contemplation that participates in the wider flux of forces moving in duration.’

Thinking about cyborg consciousness

The following are some excerpts from ‘The Cybercultures Reader’
By David Bell, Barbara M. Kennedy
(p286) As Haraway writes ‘late twentieth century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed.’

(p289) Starting from Haraway’s initiatives, Sandoval suggests that ‘cyborg consciousness can be understood as the technological embodiment of a particular and specific form of oppositional consciousness’. This cyborg consciousness needs to develop out of a set of technologies that together comprise and formulate a ‘methodology of the oppressed’ – or what she refers to as a ‘mestiza’ consciousness. Sandoval recognises five specific ‘technologies of energy’. First is semiotics, the ‘science of cultural signs’. Second is the process of challenging dominant ideological signs through deconstruction. Third, she suggests, is ‘meta-ideology’ – an operation of appropriating dominant ideological forms but then utilizing them in order to transform and transpose meaning structures. Fourth is the technology of ‘democratics’, collecting together the previous three areas to bring about a social egalitarian relational, with a new exploration of the concept of ‘love’ within post-modern discourse. Finally she suggests ‘differential movement’ – the one through which all the others manoeuvre, flow, energize, in polymorphous ways.

… indeed, Sandoval uses Deluzian terms like ‘rhizomatic’ to describe the vectors, webs and velocities of differential consciousness: ‘Differential consciousness can be thought thus as a constant reapportionment of space, boundaries, of horizontal and vertical realignments of oppositional powers. These energies revolve around each other, aligning and realigning in a field of force.’

James Turrell

I can’t beleive I’ve been working with this light projection project for a year and not mentioned James Turrell (an artist who works exclusively with light and atmosphere) in the blog once…

I first became aware of his work in my teens, when I went to his exhibition somewhere in London. It was a square room without ceiling, so that the sky was framed by the walls. As dusk came on, the walls were invisibly lit by a soft orange light that made the deepening blue of the sky resonate. It was quite a profound, meditative experience. I think this must be it…, but it’s not quite as I remember it, not sure if that’s my memory or if the piece changed.

Some links to articles on other works by James Turrell: