every beginning & end of the day (2019)

I will be documenting the final product and process in this post. I will begin with the former.

Project Description

An interaction that explores the interstice between ourselves and an inanimate everyday object. Blinds act as a psychoneurotic anchor for humans, they act almost as book ends to which our consciousness opens and closes.

Concept

I wanted to create the sensation of a lapse in time. To do that, I digitally engineered the movements of blinds and lights that emit through the blinds in different shades of warm and white colour picks from actual images.

The following are some images that I referenced.

Schematics & Automation–

The setup involves both Arduino and Processing. The hardware – 3 distance sensors and 3 servo motors wired extensively to 1 arduino,  a computer and a projector.

A diagram of the wiring for the hardware. The servo motors are connected to the tilting mechanism of the blinds.

The following is the arduino code:

#include <Servo.h>
Servo myservo;
Servo myservo2;
Servo myservo1;

int trigPin1 = 6;
int echoPin1 = 7;

int trigPin2 = 8;
int echoPin2 = 9;

int trigPin3 = 10;
int echoPin3 = 11;

int count;
int count2;
int count1;

boolean kena=false;
boolean kena2=false;
boolean kena1=false;

void setup() {
Serial.begin (9600);

myservo.attach(5);
myservo2.attach(4);
myservo1.attach(3);

pinMode(trigPin1, OUTPUT);
pinMode(echoPin1, INPUT);

pinMode(trigPin2, OUTPUT);
pinMode(echoPin2, INPUT);

pinMode(trigPin3, OUTPUT);
pinMode(echoPin3, INPUT);
}

void loop(){

int duration1, distance1;
digitalWrite (trigPin1, HIGH);
delayMicroseconds (10);
digitalWrite (trigPin1, LOW);
duration1 = pulseIn (echoPin1, HIGH);
distance1 = (duration1/2) / 29.1;

int duration2, distance2;
digitalWrite (trigPin2, HIGH);
delayMicroseconds (10);
digitalWrite (trigPin2, LOW);
duration2 = pulseIn (echoPin2, HIGH);
distance2 = (duration2/2) / 29.1;

int duration3, distance3;
digitalWrite (trigPin3, HIGH);
delayMicroseconds (10);
digitalWrite (trigPin3, LOW);
duration3 = pulseIn (echoPin3, HIGH);
distance3 = (duration3/2) / 29.1;

if (distance1<150 && distance2>=150 && distance3>=150){
Serial.print(“1.jpg”);
};

if (distance2<150 && distance1>=150 && distance3>=150){
Serial.print(“2.jpg”);
};

if (distance3<150 && distance1>=150 && distance2>=150){
Serial.print(“3.jpg”);
};

if (distance1<150 && distance2<150 && distance3>=150){
Serial.print(“12.jpg”);
};

if (distance2<150 && distance3<150 && distance1>=150){
Serial.print(“23.jpg”);
};

if (distance1<150 && distance3<150 && distance2>=150){
Serial.print(“13.jpg”);
};

if (distance1<150 && distance2<150 && distance3<150){
Serial.print(“123.jpg”);
};

if (distance1>=150 && distance2>=150 && distance3>=150){
Serial.print(“0.jpg”);
};

if (distance1 < 150) { kena=true;}

if (kena==true){count++;};

if (count>0 && count<7) {
myservo1.write(110);};

if (count>=7 && count<9){
myservo1.write(90);};

if(count>=9 && count<15){
myservo1.write(70);};

if (count>=15){
myservo1.write(90);
count=0;
kena=false;
};

if (distance2 < 150) { kena2=true;}

if (kena2==true){count2++;};

if (count2>0 && count2<7) {
myservo2.write(70);};

if (count2>=7 && count2<9){
myservo2.write(90);};

if(count2>=9 && count2<15){
myservo2.write(110);};

if (count2>=15){
myservo2.write(90);
count2=0;
kena2=false;
};

if (distance3 < 150) { kena1=true; }

if (kena1==true){count1++;};

if (count1>0 && count1<7) {
myservo.write(70);};

if (count1>=7 && count1<9){
myservo.write(90);};

if(count1>=9 && count1<15){
myservo.write(110);};

if (count1>=15){
myservo.write(90);
count1=0;
kena1=false;
};

delay(100);
}

The servo motors are controlled directly from Arduino, triggered by the distance sensor that corresponds to it. I set my threshold at 1.5m, around the length of a human. To generate a visual in Processing, I used Serial.print to generate the name of the .jpg file. The following is the processing code:

import ddf.minim.*;

Minim minim;
AudioPlayer player;

import processing.serial.*;
Serial myPort;
String data=”” ;
int i = int(data);
PFont myFont;
PImage no;

void setup()
{
fullScreen(P2D);
background(0);
myPort = new Serial(this, Serial.list()[2], 9600);
myPort.bufferUntil(‘g’);

minim = new Minim(this);
player=minim.loadFile(“blind.mp3″);
delay(5000);}

void draw(){

background(0);
no = loadImage(data,”jpg”);
image(no, 0, 0, width, height);
println(data);

if (data.equals(“1.jpg” )|| data.equals(“123.jpg”)|| data.equals(“2.jpg”)|| data.equals(“3.jpg”)|| data.equals(“12.jpg”)|| data.equals(“23.jpg”)|| data.equals(“13.jpg”)){
player.play();
player.rewind();
}

}
void serialEvent(Serial myPort)
{
data=myPort.readStringUntil(‘g’);
}

‘data’ is what’s returned to the serial port of my Arduino.

Visuals

Possible outcomes in the form of images. During the actual demonstration, I slightly unfocused the projection image to replicate the natural phenomenon:

No presence

Left blind

Right blind

Middle blind

Left & Right blind (2 blinds return white)

Left & Middle blind

Right & Middle blind

All blinds on (return brighter)

Changes

There has been a drastic change in concept since my first pitch due to several accusations of similarities to works of other artists concerning blinds (though unintended).

The following are some links & images of the milestones in my process.

https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/syeow002/category/18s2-dm2000-tut-g01/project-development-drawings-18s2-dm2000-tut-g01/

Body Storming Documentation for Blind and Chandeliers

https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/syeow002/category/18s2-dm2000-tut-g01/project-development-body-storming-18s2-dm2000-tut-g01/

password: phototactic

https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/syeow002/category/18s2-dm2000-tut-g01/mid-term-project-18s2-dm2000-tut-g01/

Personal Reflections

Ultimately, I am happy with this outcome. On many mornings and nights I am reminded of this piece, which is the reverse effect of working on this for a long period of time. There were many moments of catharsis and discovery that I experienced from the people who tested it out. It was unfortunate to hear 2 of my servo motors grind to a halt at the very last moment, yet there is a sort of surrealism in seeing the light being casted on the ground as participants walked past them. Perhaps it all worked out for the better.

Further Expansion

If not limited by material, I would love to extend the length of this piece and perhaps house it in a more ambient location. It is my desire to watch a long stretch of these blinds wave and light up as people walk past.

生产 Mass

Imperial Mass is a discursive glorification of factory culture. From a distanced view, this Han Fu maintains a proud and silky silhouette that carries both extremes of tapered and flare.

The finer detailing of the pleats and rounded collar are inspired by the muffin uniform of a factory worker.

Image result for chinese factory worker

– Business Insider

Whereas the other impression of the dress is inspired by silhouettes of traditional Han Fu crossed with Western Victorian shapes – an ode to the globalisation that brought mass production to the Chinese shores.

The dress is automated with distance sensors to create kinetic drapes and an upward dynamic, it is significant of elevation and liberation. The nature of movement is meant to elevate rather animate the drapery.

This movement is triggered by the arms, as the wearer works away with her hands.

The silky fabric and royal blues in this dress was implemented to create the feeling of grandeur. Other elements such as the train and petticoat were used to dramatise the luxury of the dress, while maintaining the almost industrial feeling of patterns.

Milestones:

     

 

 

Principles of New Media thru Phototactic Blinds

Phototactic Blinds can be interpreted through the Lev Manovich’s Principles of New Media in many ways—

Automation & Numerical Representation

The essence of this project is the automation of it. As mentioned in my previous post, the concept of my blinds – they tilt open and shut through the unmanned movement of the servo motors that crank the knob either clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on the distance detected by the ultrasonic distance sensor. You could consider this to be an instructional language of numbers being parsed through the conditions defined in my codes.

main condition

The nature of this project is simple and intuitive, it is easy to pick up on this mechanical pattern of automation just by interacting with the project.

Modularity

The most evident form of modularity in my project is that the three blinds operate on individual realms of code. They are not affected by each others movements and can be experienced individually, as seen during my Mid Term experimentation.

Ultimately, they are modules, their parts are modules, their codes are modules, yet an arrangement of close proximity and experimentation with scale will create an experience that is collective of the three blinds. Everything tangible is modular depending on how far you zoom in or out, whether you view them in clusters or individually. All matter can be viewed as a ‘fractal structure’, we are all large things made of smaller things.

Variability & Transcoding

This is probably the only cog in the system that defines my piece to be an interactive rather than passive kinetic structure. Mechanically, the movement of the blinds is defined by the distance of the human participant, it could be said that he is the variable, and therefore he is infinite. There is also the subsequent variable moire effect of shadows being casted by the light in different directions, thickness and lengths as a result of the primary mechanical movement. The movement of the blinds also create an infinitely variable rhythm.

But more specifically, we are working with the numerical value of distance. The entire experience was designed to be variable much less through the mechanics of it but rather the alluring, capturing and extremely cathartic nature of strobing lights and blinds. We as humans have intrinsically a psychoneurotic anchor towards these phenomena. They could invoke sensations linked to particular memories or habits, feelings that mean something to us. Our creative minds and ability to empathise and sensitise, that is the infinite variable.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (2011), Tape Recorders

Such experiences cannot and should not be quantified by principles or any theoretical algorithm in general, but rather experienced qualitatively. Otherwise, we would be regressing to the days of standards and realism, with passive goal oriented artworks and mindsets.

Phototactic Blinds: Finalised idea, Mechanics & Modular prototype

Image result for moth at light

password: phototactic

Finalised Idea

This work explores the phototactic reaction of a human, the sensations changing lighting climates could invoke, their cathartic properties and what it means to us in terms of experiences and/or memories. Previously, I had sought a more generic concept of manipulating natural light through the movement of blinds, only to meet with accusations of me ripping off another artist’s work – that was never the case. Nonetheless, it was enough cause for concern to me, which led to this more scientific/research-based piece.

We know of a few general phototactic species by general experience, particularly insects hovering around the lights of our living spaces. The moth for example is phototactic to such a large extent that it is almost uncommon to see a light at night uninhabited by a moth.

For those who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, visit this link. In an abstract, positive phototaxis is the phenomenon where natural instinct draws one towards light and negative phototaxis, away from the light. For many living things, this instinct is involuntary and uncontrollable.

I was driven the image of every start and end of the day, lights shining through my blinds every morning and the golden casting of a cars headlights at night. Others, a crowd at a concert, waving their light sticks and a myriad of phones capturing videos. Faces illuminated by their phones at a dark bus stop. The flashy lights at a Y2G storefront, a barber shop or in a club. How strobing lights made my heart pump and warm faded lights cathartic. How the scene in a film is indicated by the kind of lighting (interior/exterior, day/night). The casting of shadows whether diffused or stark could evoke a mood or a sense of physical distance.

It made me question: Are we phototactic beings? Are we drawn to light, as the saying goes, ‘like a moth to a flame’. Have we evolved to experience and rely on phototaxis? Why is lighting such an indicative and dictative force that can control both our physical and psychological movements?

My personal thoughts: We live in a digital age that worships light as it worships technology. Our ability to manipulate light puts us in a higher position that allows us to create our own environments and moods. Light is a powerful asset and stimuli. I want to create a simple contraption that can induce sorts of phototactic sensations in a human, exploratively, conceptually, interactively and immersively.

Module Prototype


I want to create a lapsing performance of lights and blinds that react to the audience’s proximity – like a moth to a flame. The blinds will tilt open, creating a shadow casted pattern. The lights will strobe in a higher and more chaotic frequency. There are two orange lights and one white light wedged in between, creating a fleeting and convoluted feeling of day and night, or beginnings and endings in a more relatable context. The shadows casted form strobing images of memory, the routine morning sun (every 15s white light strikes) and orange headlights zooming past the window as you doze off (random strobing rhythms). It is meant to create a contrasting limbo of catharsis and chaos.


Blinds are operated by a 360 degree continuous rotation servo motor, while the light bulbs operate on an algorithmic output from the arduino to relays. Both mechanisms work with ultrasonic distance sensors.

Expansion for final

There will be an arrangement of 3 blinds consecutively, the middle blind will be larger than the second. I am also thinking of arranging them in an angled manner. My intention is to create a sort of unearthly god-like/worship effect. The participant should feel like a moth drawn to a light in a human context, and also experience a certain level of sensory tension as the lighting conditions change in reaction to their proximity to each individual blind and the light. The blinds will preferably be suspended by nylon strings. The following a flowchart of the logistics of this project.

Peer Experience Feedback

General good reception of the phototactic sensations and theme. Some phrases used to describe the experience was ‘sculptural Mise en Scene’, ‘entrancing’ and ‘drawing’. On the other side, there is some worry about the  loud mechanical sound of the relay and the servo motor. The clothes rack that I used to suspend the blinds temporarily was also not too desirable. Lights were too harsh/light bulbs too visible.

Edits

The blinds will be suspended to the ceiling along a narrow corridor to give a larger sense of dynamic and salience of the motion. There will also be sounds attached to the response of the blinds to conceal the sound of the motor and emphasise on the kinetics. Light bulbs will be diffused and more spaced out for more elongated shadows.

Sample sound effect:

 

 

 

 

Technology as a tangible and intangible data tool (re: James Bridle – Naked Lunch conference)

Reference material:

James Bridle – Naked Lunch 

Data, meet technology.

Just decades ago technology had only numbers or binary matrices to understand data. Fast forward to the current day’s digital scene, data manifests as pixels, variable not just in value but also in form and animation. We are living the contemporary wave of data visualisation, our human behaviour is now characteristic and characterising the function of advanced technological devices. Artificial intelligence is no longer the absurd caricature of a science fiction future, it is household and mobile. Artificial intelligence is not just part of our lifestyle, but an extension of our intelligence and an integral tool to learning. It is not too far a stretch to say that technology has far surpassed human capability.

James Bridle cites Hawk-Eye, a computer system developed for sports, as a visual recognition technology that is advanced but ‘not as perfect’ as the human cognitive ability.

Image result for hawkeye cricket

Hawk-Eye simulation in Cricket game

Hawk-eye is used commonly in many sports, especially tennis and cricket, to predict the trajectory of an object of play such as the ball. This trajectory is then used to determine whether the ball is in or out, which in the words of Bridle is not the ‘truth’ and just a ‘prediction’. This example is a strong testament for the extent to which intangible has infiltrated and effected on physical, human activities – the ‘algorithmic process’ that is intensely varied can determine the result of a game.

Let us take a step back and revisit the advent of computer recognition capabilities. Fei Fei Li’s TED talk appropriately titled “How we’re teaching computers to understand pictures” draws links between technological visualisation ability to that of a child. Just as a child can recognise visual objects to be ‘cars’ or ‘apples’, technology is able to parse slices of images and recognise them in the same means of finding patterns in data. There is an almost human ability in this algorithm to be ‘unsure’ and deduce a simpler, broader, insecure answer.

Broad-scoped answer when computer recognition system is ‘unsure’

How is this intangible data being translated or applied in our tangible world. I look to another example from Bridle’s conference, one involving surveillance, one of the biggest bane and boon of technological advancement.

People walk past a 'spy bin' in the City of London

Bins with screen displays installed in London

These manifest tangibly as bins with an elevated digital advertising feature, but the technology that lies beyond this is not just limited to display. Controversy surrounded these ‘spy-bins’ as they are revealed to have intangible surveillance capabilities installed in them, tracking and storing Mac addresses of devices on those who pass by.

Data is an abyss, our entire lives flow in and around our digital devices. I guess a more understanding description of our fear of data surveillance is our lack of knowledge and the fear of another person’s knowledge of us. There is a frightening volume of grey in our usage of technology, especially to us who are layman to code and are so distant from the servers who manage this cyber reservoir of data. Once upon a time data existed physically on paper or inscribed, archived on shelves and facilitated by human hand. It is hard to say that such a system operates with efficacy given our level of supply and demand today, but occasional glimpses of the humanity behind these digital productions are pleasantries.

Related image

Photo of Foxconn factory worker discovered in distributed iPhone

This iconic photo of a foxconn worker was found in an iPhone after it was distributed. It is also an example in Bridle’s conference. He expresses his amicable feelings towards this photo and talks about how glimpses beyond the cold mechanics of technology, or in other words the presence of human hands, can comfort us.

Bridle himself is an artist and has dabbled in the topic of surveillance that is expressed through New Media narrative art. Dronestagram, a piece that is simple in theory yet complex in nature. The simple act of posting the drone view of a drone strike to an instagram page forms both a physical and mental bridge through a digital space. It appeals to me in its bonafide explorative nature and its ability to expand the potential of a digital art work.

https://www.instagram.com/dronestagram/

Instagram is one of the biggest photo-sharing platforms of the century. There is a personification to an Instagram account, and that nature is leveraged by companies and figures to inject a more personal approach to their endeavours. I believe this sensation plays a major role in Bridle’s piece, the ability to characterise an issue larger than our scopes and our narrow grievances. These images are camouflaged by the myriads of casual updates that flood our feeds, yet at the same time create an uncanny sense of real-time danger.

I also find interesting the double entendre that exists between the platform aand surveillance. Social media is our biggest surveillance, it transform every mobile device with photo capabilities into a surveillance tool. Gone were the days that we reel back on cctv footage, it is not uncommon for parents to receive real-time feeds of their homes while they are at work. Applications are developed in every imaginable way to increase the ability to surveil at any mobile spot. Most intangibly, social media is the biggest indicator and live feed of our world. Geo tags allow us to visualise frequently updated feeds of places, and for those who update, geo tags are their personal geo indicators. There is a certain casualness to self-surveillance when put in contexts such as this.

It is hard to say the nature of our relationship with these technological advancements. However, we have to acknowledge and perhaps harness its ability to visualise data and therefore express ourselves. It is the new core of communication, art and narrativity.

Descendants of Mohan

*disclaimer – event is completely fictional

Client
Singapore Zoo

Event
Descendants of Mohan

Brief Description
A live storytelling session of the brave journey of the first White Tiger, Mohan (ref. to video at end of post), with master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran in front of the live white tiger enclosure

USP of event
Storytelling in front of actual descendant animals, immersive experience

When
Father’s Day

Where
In front of white tiger enclosure

Who
Family-friendly (flexible age group)

Animal
White tiger species

USP of animal
White skin & descends from Mohan, the first white tiger with this genetic mutation (lack of orange/brown pigment in skin)

Design Principle (Main)
Gestalt, Scale, Hierarchy

Focus
Enclosure setting, Mohan as a main character

Character
Brave, lonely, old, adventurous Mohan

Tone
Solemn, captivating, courageous

Style
Aged, narrative, reflective, captivating

Colour
Unconventional tiger/monochromatic w accent colour

Simulated experience materials:

Ad placement exploration

Other enclosures

Buses

Taxis

MRT

Invisible Children & Factory Made Blinds

The invisible children of China are a result the one-child (now two) policy, materialised in 1979 as means to manage the birth rate of China by nullifying any child that is not the first. These children are denied identities, citizenship, proper jobs, education, as if they were never born. Naturally, it is not unusual for Chinese to go through procedures such as abortion and sterilisation, sometimes even at the selective compromise for a child’s gender (preferably male). Yet, some families have no problem with raising multiple invisible children for them to be exploited, either by themselves (mostly rural labour family business), sweatshops or sex trade.

For this project, I would like to design for a female invisible child. It will be an idealistic gown for her, slightly Western influenced but with significantly Eastern. It is meant to mimic the industrial/mass production culture with blinds that is both literally and metaphorically significant of the Invisible Children’s plight.

Blinds

This symbolic motif tackles the issue of invisibility, shutting these entities out and denying them of the basic visibility or right to existence. The noun “Blind” can also be read as an adjective descriptor for what the policy is doing to the invisible children and the eye in which occupational and educational institutions, or even parents are forced to turn toward.

The opening of the blinds can also be seen as a means for people to look past their cloak of policy and recognise them as identities despite their lack of documentation. It can also represent birth and invoke a cathartic response in both the wearer and the audience. I wish to create a connection and unravelling bond between the two with this dress.

Auspicious Ornament

There is an auspicious hanging ornament on the chest of the dress as ode to the Chinese heritage and also to act as a caricature for auspiciousness and the burgeoning of the invisible wearer.

Related image

Kinetic Movement

Different parts of the dress release, contract or pulse when a person approaches it. The duration of contact between the person and the invisible child will lead to a progressively large opening motion (ref. to sketch).

Pattern/Motifs/Light-Shadow Play

mono-ha work paper search movement mono

Mono-ha Movement
Left: Kishio Suga – Situated Underlying Existence. Image via artinasia.com / Right: Lee Ufan – Relatum Silence, 2010. Image via forbes.com (2010)

The following a sketch of my design:

 

The following a moodboard for blinds:

Some links for further reading:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-children-policy/lost-lives-the-battle-of-chinas-invisible-children-to-recover-missed-years-idUSKBN1431CX

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/2056885/battle-chinas-invisible-children-victims-one-child-policy-recover

Mono-ha & Wolfgang Laib’s Milkstone

Simplicity and nought are frequent talking points when it comes to Minimalism and its related movements, they are a longstanding preoccupation of radical art forms. Yet, on this particular guided visit to the Minimalism exhibition at National Gallery (my third one and pre-eminently with the head curator Silke Shmickl), what gripped me was the unrelenting means of an artist to contain great amount of effort and narrative in an unassuming item. They were not much of an image, but nevertheless striking and probed us to think. This notion is exemplified in the works representing Mono-ha and Wolfgang Laib’s Milkstone of a similar nature.

Mono-ha

The Mono-ha movement originated from Japan as a response to technology and forces that take away from the nature of things. The works from this movement generally harness and manipulate the given properties of natural materials. Most significantly, Mono-ha was a brave rejection of Western ideas and notions towards art. I will be writing about two works from this movement.

Oneness of Concrete & Oneness of Wood,
Jiro Takamatsu (1971)

I am enthusiastic to write about this piece because it is my favourite in the Minimalism exhibition. Oneness, a series of rectangular blocks of material that is broken down and returned to its original piece to form a whole. The nature of the work is strangely captivating and plucks an unusual string in my sense of empathy towards inanimate objects. Wholeness, or more suitably oneness, is very fulfilling to see and can come off beautifully like in this piece, extremely sophisticated. There is an elegance to the difference in scale and form between the block of material and it’s smithereens. In smaller terms, the blocks are larger and rectilinear and the latter is a smaller and a more organic permutation of that. Takamatsu’s intention for this piece was to explore the the material’s transformative potential and singular identity (q. National Gallery).

Infinite Situation I (Window),
Kishio Suga (1970/2018)

During my first two visits to the Gallery, I had barely noticed this piece. Suga’s not so simple concept of placing a plank diagonally across the window is a piece that works not just with the object but the space around it. Once again, there is an immense transformational ability with an unassuming block of wood. It acts almost as a light sculpture, transforming the familiar mood of a space to have its own characteristic and flair. The scale of this piece is relatively large, though it may still come across as part of the space, rather than a standalone item.

Milkstone
Wolfgang Laib (1980)

Laib’s milkstone – an offset marble stone with a thin layer of fresh milk upon it – is elegant and minimal to the point that one could easily look past the amount effort that goes into creating the piece. There is a phenomenal fusing of the solid stone and liquid milk, the stone being a material of longevity and milk, a perishable. The basis of this work is the ability for both materials to identify as a singular object, and quite successfully so. Tension and harmony co-exist in this piece as the milk blends in seamlessly with the indent and edge of the stone. It is almost hard to believe that it is in fact a layer of milk on top of the stone, let alone discern where the milk ends and stone begins.