Week 7: Recreation and Material Discourse

This week was a little more interesting than the previous weeks – we have now moved on from researching to actually doing things! Our task for today was to choose a category that we felt aligned to our interests. The categories were:

  • Expressing Digitality
    • Textuality and expression
  • Variable Materiality
    • Materials and immaterial processes
  • Multisensory Interaction
    • Light, shadows, and displacement
  • (Re)configuring Spacetime
    • story-telling through sound,  image and interaction
  • Generativity: Difference and Repetition
    • Algorithm and Reproducibility

If you’ve kept up with my posts so far – you’ll know that my choice was obvious – Multisensory Interaction.

We were then grouped up into teams that also chose that same concept and then given a choice of 3 works to recreate. In our category, the 3 works were…

Diana Thater, Life is a Time-Based Medium, 2015
Olifur Eliasson, Your Uncertain Shadow, 2010 
James Turrell, Afrum (1966-67)

We chose to re-create Olifur Eliasson’s Your Uncertain Shadow (2010) – one of two groups to pick this work. It was very interesting to see our different approaches to this work, which I will elaborate on later. Firstly, though, I will outline our process to our final product.

Firstly we had a brief look at the original work and how it was created – by placing different coloured lights in proximity to each other, each of the shadows were a different colour as the shadow blocked the illumination of the other lights. By having multiple lights lined up in a row, multiple shadows are produced, all different colours. Knowing this, our first approach to the work was to borrow about 5 lights from the TO Glen, with different coloured gels (cellophane-like coloured plastic that changes the colour of the light beam). While we were waiting for them, however, we had a quick chat with Matt who suggested we use projectors instead – this appealed to us as another group had chosen the same artwork to recreate – and had been using lights with gels. We settled on 3 projectors (not too large a number so as to disadvantage others in our class) as we had the ability to change their colour at any given time. This gave me an idea.

I left the other boys in the group to set up while I ran off to the computer lab to set up something special.

Why settle for a static colour when we could have ALL of the colours?

I had a few hurdles to overcome, mostly being a little rusty with the chosen programs I wanted to use that would help me achieve the vision I had – a loop of a block of colour changing through the entire rainbow spectrum, set to start at different times. But then I thought I could take this even further still. We had 3 projectors – so I could have 3 sets of these spectrums playing at different speeds! This would mean that no 3 colour combinations would be the same for the duration of the 5 minute loop.

Here’s where we get into the really technical stuff behind the project. The idea was now to project the entire colour spectrum animated to different speeds and there for creating many different colour combinations where no two were the same. I decided that the entire spectrum would be shown through one slow, medium and fast speed – 30 seconds, 15 seconds, and 10 seconds respectively. The idea here was that by the time one slow loop was done, two medium speed ones would be finished, and three fast speed ones would play through. I set these to repeat for five minutes, as there is a loading screen between each loop on the Qumi projectors that we used which tended to be quite jarring as we had discovered the first time we set up our projection.

After timing the loops effectively, the next hurdle we had to overcome was the fact that the Qumi projectors apparently didn’t like playing the quicktime format (you’d think that being forced to export into that format through an industry standard program that it would be a little more technology friendly, but alas…) so after a quick chat with Glen he informed me that the computers have a program called Handbrake that can convert quicktime files to the more user-friendly mp4 format. After many trips back and forth and waiting for over 15 minutes for all the projects and loops to render and convert, I finally had something workable. I rushed back to the now empty gallery (I assumed everyone was on break – they were not. Awkward.) and set up the projectors to play the loops.

The last hurdle we encountered was that one of the Qumi projectors just… sort of looked like it was giving up on life. It was dull and faded, and barely visible – which when testing out the result of our work, had a significant impact. I couldn’t show this to the class! So I waited until another group had finished presenting to borrow one of theirs. A quick change and we were ready to present.

Before moving on to the discussion shared with the class, I will show you the final results – I think they looked fantastic!

These images were taken about 30 seconds apart from each other and I love all of them.

I pitched our process to the class for the class discussion. What made this particularly interesting was the comparison to the way the other group tackled the same work. They used a black box (small black soundproof room) with a white screen set up in the center. On the back end they used 2 lights of differing colours, and on the front they used 3 lights. The result was very soft colourful gradients moving into each other with soft shadows. The audience were free to roam on either side of the screen which enhanced the shadow effect and created many different colours. The audience played with the scale of their shadows and even interacted with the audience member on the other side of the screen. It was quite playful and if I could describe the work using one word, it would be ‘soft’.

In comparison, ours felt a lot sharper and the colours much more pronounced. It reminded me of the older ipod ads – or an 80s music video. To me it felt quite psychedelic, and this was something that others picked up on too. It was great to watch the class interact with the work, standing there for 30 seconds on average to observe the different colours that their shadows created. An unexpected effect of layering the rainbows on top of each other with the projectors was that a large rectangle in the center stayed largely white – and acted as sort of a blank canvas to experiment with form and colour. It would have been great to have a camera on a tripod capturing the interactions on this blank canvas through a long exposure photograph.

If I were to revisit this work in the future, I would add 2 more projectors and experiment with each projector not just going through the entire spectrum, but have them change from a gradient of two or three colours exclusively (for example, red to yellow to green, or blue to purple to pink) and overlay those. It would take a lot of experimentation to come up with something that audiences would find very playful to interact with. I really like the idea of the shadow being split up into different colours – it feels like different facets of the self that you are interacting with.

One of the promo images from the 12-year-old iPod ads which I felt strongly resonated within this experimental project.

I could see myself incorporating this into my MVP if I were to change from the headset idea – I could place proximity sensors around the room and rig them to play sounds when you come near them. I could use the entire black box space and make the walls white and place multiple projectors and lights around the room to have the shadows reflect on all the walls instead of one. It is definitely something to consider…


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