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…

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Diana Thater, Life is a Time-Based Medium, 2015
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Olifur Eliasson, Your Uncertain Shadow, 2010 
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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.

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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.

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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…

Week 6: Project Pitch – The Multi-Sensory Experience.

My idea for a final project for this subject would be to engage the viewer in a multi-sensory experience. During class we were given the chance to mind-map our fields of practice and our interests, and brainstorm ideas that would align with those. My mind map was… messy – however it greatly clarified the type of project I would like to undertake in the future for this subject.

The other students were then able to add their own feedback and ideas – however having overheard other students struggling to work out where exactly I was going with my thoughts (I thought I’d made it clear, though perhaps it was only clear to me!) I decided to come home and make the thought process a little clearer. From our mind-maps we were told to pitch an MVP (minimal viable project IIRC) – however I believe I would be able to turn this into a full-fledged final project.

I started by centering my initial concept – The immersive digital space. Around this, I placed my 4 key interests and practices: Photography, Digital Media, 3D work, and Sensory Experience. I was then able to link these keywords and create new ones by highlighting their commonalities, in which I was able to come up with concepts for works that I could create. From that I managed to combine several points of interest to create one MVP.

I recreated the mind-map at home to make it a little bit clearer:

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Pink indicates the core concepts and keywords linked directly to those concepts; yellow are ideas created by linking these keywords and concepts together.

The MVP pitch ended up sounding like this:
“To create a 360 degree photographic space viewed through a Virtual-Reality headset, accompanied with a soundscape with headphones”.

I realised upon creating this MVP that I wanted to expand upon this concept entirely and create an entire immersive and 3-dimensional space using sound, image, smells and textures.

There are a couple of artworks I could reference from various gallery visits, but I am particularly drawn to those from the 2012 Biennale in Sydney, entitled All Our Relations; and from the 2014 Biennale, entitled You Imagine What You Desire.

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Looking at all the above images of installations that I have previously experienced reminds me of the experiences I had when viewing them and interacting with them – all very clear memories. This is the kind of response I hope to have with my own work.

As stated previously, I want to expand on my own MVP – to include an entire room and incorporate smells, as well as have projections in 360 degrees of images of places with a soundscape in the room, perhaps with objects that can be interacted with.

I have still yet to decide on exactly the subject matter – however having experimented with soundscapes and panoramic photography in the past, I have a few ideas on how to go about it. I feel like this project would be best achieved in a group – however I am not above doing it myself if need be.

Week 6: Having a closer look at Materialising The Digital

This will be a brief blog post having a closer look at one of the works at the Materialising the Digital exhibition from last week’s trip to the Powerhourse Museum, Sydney. We teamed up into pairs and chose one work that we liked and answered a set of questions. The work we chose was from Aki Inomata’s series, Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs? (2014-15).

How was the work made?
CT scans of hermit crab shells, 3D “casting” made with design on top, then 3D printed.

What materials were used?
Clear 3D printing resin

What kinds of processes were used?
She used a CT scanner to capture highly detailed and 3 dimensional renderings of unoccupied seashells that her own hermit crabs had abandoned. She then prototyped several habitable shelters based on the interior of the shell. Initially her work was based on Tokyo house-style and apartments in Paris, and then city architecture, and then mimicry of certain structures.

Was there much experimentation involved? What purpose did this experimentation serve?
Initially the shells were prototyped based on a basic shell concept, however all shells ended up being rejected by her hermit crabs. This presented a hurdle of understanding that Aki Inomata was forced to overcome in order to create something that the hermit crabs would use.

What decisions were made?
As an ongoing project, Inomata is still creating more of these shells for her hermit crabs. Now that she has the basics of the hermit crab structure understood, she is able to use these as blank canvases for her statements in regards to how the architecture of Japan echoes designs and draws inspiration from other cultures. Her decisions mostly revolve around what statement to make next.

Other Questions to consider are:

  • Why were these decisions made?
  • Why these materials?
  • Why these processes?
  • How did these ‘serve’ the ideas explored?
  • And what are these ideas explored?

This is something I’ve decided I will answer in greater detail in my analysis of the exhibition, due in week 9. I will most likely choose this same work to focus on!

For reference, the questions I will need to be answering are found here.

Week 5: Researching My Project

I have decided that I am very keen on creating a multi-sensory experience installation for my final project – with or without a group.

For this to happen I need to engage at least 2 senses, but ideally, I’d like to engage 3-4.

There are the so-called “5 senses” that we are all taught from birth:

Sight, Hearing, Smell, Touch, and Taste.

The obvious senses that I would appeal to would be sight and hearing. Touch would be the next step – and then perhaps even smell. I believe with the time and physical constraints however, it would be a bit hard to incorporate taste effectively.

So how do we engage with the senses?

I believe the easiest sense to engage with is sight – it is the foundation of art, after all. There is the colour theory that dictates the mixing of colours to create harmonious effects – which colours go well and which ones clash, for example.

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The basic colour wheel

Then there is colour psychology to consider – which colours and colour combinations can combine to evoke certain thoughts, feelings, associations and memories.

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A more complex graph that also includes basic colour psychology

In basic colour psychology, the following colours mean the following things:

  • Yellow: Positivity, light, warmth, creativity, motivation.
  • Orange: Vitality, fun, playfulness, exuberancee, youthfulness.
  • Red: Aggression, energy, provocativeness, passion, power.
  • Purple: Royalty, sophistication, nostalgia, mystery, spirituality.
  • Pink: Tenderness, sensitivity, friendship, beauty, compassion.
  • Blue: Trustworthiness, dependability, security, integrity, calmness.
  • Green: Wealth, health, serenity, prestige, abundance.
  • Brown: Earthiness, natural, simplicity, durability, rustic.
  • Black: Prestige, value, timelessness, sophistication, formality.
  • White: Pure, noble, clean, soft, freshness
  • Gold: Elegance, affluence, quality, elite, idealistic.
  • Gray/Silver: Scientific, balance, calm, maturity, cold.

The source for this is quite a fantastic read in itself; although there are flaws – in particular, cultural ones. For example, colours in different countries can mean different things – red in western culture may symbolise passion or aggression – in Chinese culture, it is the colour of luck.

Moving on to sound – sound is a great way to evoke certain feelings – such is the theory of music. Beautiful melodies can evoke feelings of gaiety, and carelessness. Harsh shrieking tones may evoke fear responses – common in soundtracks to horror films; while high pitched notes held for a period of time with harmonies in minor tones emit an overall feeling of melancholy or sadness.

Let’s for one moment divert from these theories and look at how I could apply them to my own work, though.

For example – I will create an immersive, intimate scene of a warm, sunny afternoon at a beach. Here’s how I would do this in a single room with a single projection screen with no images, which the senses engaged.

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Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a beautiful, calm beach, surrounded by white sand…

Sight: Lights firstly – shine the lights on the screen and use the colour yellow for warmth. The brighter the light, the warmer it will ‘feel’ to look at – we wouldn’t want the light to be too bright or it will feel too harsh and look hot, instead of the relaxing warmth we’d want. The ground could be blue.

Sound: create a soundscape with stereo speakers or even surround sound – being sure to create a “3 dimensional” space by engaging with each speaker in production of the sound. Having the sounds of rolling, gentle waves emerging from the front speaker, with perhaps the sound of a gentle breeze blowing from behind. Throw in the occasional gull, perhaps moving from the left rear speaker, to the right front speaker. This places the audience into an immersive space in their head.

Smell: Here’s where it gets tricky. When I go to a beach I smell salt and seaweed. The most obvious way to recreate these smells is to bring the source into the location – however this isn’t always practical! Perhaps a small amount could be placed into a box, and we would direct the audience to go into close proximity to the source.

Feel: There are a few ways to approach this, too – lay a tarp or large box down and cover it with sand, for example, and instruct the audience ember to step inside without shoes. However, this may also not be practical. In this example, the most obvious approach to me would be to have a fans circulating around the room (perhaps in front of the salt) to imitate the ocean breeze.

Taste: For this example, I would not deliberately go about engaging with taste, however the effect of tasting the salty air may coincidentally be achieved by combining the fans in front of the salt.

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Faiyaz Hussain and Kelly Nicholson’s work for their final MEDA302 project on display at the DMC. Photo credit: Paul Jones

I have attached the above photograph of the final work of two friends of mine for MEDA302. The installation consisted of balls of ice suspended by fishing wires and frozen on to fishing hooks with a light in the corner and a candle suspended in the centre. The work was over a tarp which had salt spread on it during the UoW Grad Show Out There (2016). I have included this work as an example of the above; I remember that upon being present for this installation, one of the first things to hit me was the very strong smell of the salt on the floor. As I recall, they sourced the salt from bags of pool salt. It was so thick in the air that you could almost taste it on your tongue!

Of course that is just an example of how I would approach one single project; I have not yet decided on which feelings I’d like to evoke, or how. All I know is the general area that I would like to work in, and what general concept I’d like to approach.

Week 4: Opportunities in my Field

There are two fields that I am trying to break into for my own career; photography and general digital media (anywhere in TV, online, or film industries). I have already considered my pathways into both – however I am still always on the lookout for new opportunities.

There are two ways of breaking into each industry: to work for a company, or to freelance. Currently I would call myself a freelance in the photographic industry, but I intend to work for a company as my way into the media industry.

For the sake of this week’s exercise, I will be working my way up the chain to my ultimately desired position/dream job of Creative Director of a company. Generally, a creative director is a graphics design position – however this may also apply in other fields as well, such as for TV shows or even video games.

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Example of a hierarchy in a graphics design agency.

As Creative Director, I would be the top of the hierarchy; I would have a team of people and head larger projects which my team would then work on. I would be in charge of coordinating the team and maintaining consistency, deadlines, and negotiating the project with the client. Generally, to reach the top, you would start right at the very bottom of the hierarchy and work your way to the top – be a part of the team and then take the promotions as they come.

For example, if I wanted to become the Creative Director of say… WIN Television (I wish!) I would start by applying for an internship with the television station to get some experience on the job – and then apply for a job editing tv shows or news. After a couple of years, should a managerial position open in the editing suite, I would take that, and then keep climbing the ladder as promotions become available.

I know that WIN has a few internship positions available every year – so I need to act soon to apply for them as they are in high demand. Fortunately, due to my past studies and my current degree, I do have a chance of being successful in applying. WIN always has positions available from time to time, varying in nature – so it is a mix of being informed as to what position is available, experience in the field, as well as having good references as well. I would be open to moving around the country if necessary.

The careers page can be found here; at time of writing there is only one position available in Wollongong advertised – a Broadcast Digital Technician – which is an engineering job for someone experienced in that field – so not something I could do. In this case, hoping the internship would lead to a job offer is the best option at this point.

There’s also the issue of having appropriate references. I have a few in the way of teachers and a few friends that I have in the industry. I also have a contact fairly high up in the media industry that has said they are happy to be a reference for me.

I guess time will tell.

Week 3: A brief look at the work of Callum Morton

Changing fields yet again for the purpose of the project that I would like to undertake this semester. As previously stated, I am a practitioner of photography – however I am wanting to expand my field of practice artistically to incorporate full installations that evoke different responses in my audience by engaging the senses of sight, sound, touch and perhaps even smell. For this reason I have chosen to have a look at the work of Callum Morton – previously referenced with “The Other Side” that I had the privilege of experiencing myself during the 2014 Sydney Biennale.

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Callum Morton, The Other Side, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 19th Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island.

“Callum Morton’s installation and sculptural practice is inspired by architecture and the built environment. His works explore human interaction with architectural space and ideas through scale models and facades of well-known buildings. He represented Australia at the 2007 Venice Biennale with a scale model of his childhood home, designed and built in the 1970s in a modernist style by his architect father.”
MCA Artist Profile

In The Other Side (2014), the viewer was instructed to sit in a small- childlike train on tracks facing a gigantic view of the famous Google Search webpage. The train moves through a door and into Cockatoo Island’s eerie Dog Leg tunnel, which has been totally transformed into an multi-sensory experience. The tunnel has been filled with fog, lights and speakers. The train moves past lights of different colours flashing through the fog which is thick enough to barely see the person in front of you. You experience blinding flashes of colours as you speed past the sounds of thunderous booms and crashes increasing in intensity before mellowing away at the end.

For the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, internationally acclaimed Australian artist Callum Morton has transformed the Dog-Leg Tunnel of Cockatoo Island into a readymade site for The Other Side (2014) – an experiential, ghost-train inspired journey. Visitors will enter into the tunnel on a purpose-built train and, once inside, will be transported through the tunnel and experience a range of surprises devised by the artist. Morton will use light, sound, wind and smoke to create a type of black hole or deep universe, an elemental atmosphere that is unexpected in rides of this type. This elemental darkness is the base note for what will be both magical and frightening.
Biennale Website

It was this work that drew me into considering the multi-sensory experience as an art form to explore in my own artistic practice. However, this work seems to be an outlier to the rest of Callum’s installation and sculptural work.

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Morton Callum’s Monument #28: Vortex (2011), on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Monument #28: Vortex replaces the human element behind the closed doors with a natural one, opening up a portal from business end to back end, from built to excavated. In doing so, he toys with the disparity between what facades reveal and conceal and hints at the political realities of Australia’s mining boom, commodifying natural resources as it drills deeper into the earth.”

MCA Description

Something I haven’t previously considered incorporating into my own work are political statements – which as an academic, Callum seems to have an interest in. He combines his interests with his skills in architecture and observations of human interaction to create installations and sculpture works which are on display in many galleries throughout Australia and a few throughout the world.

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Reception (2016) Installation at the Anna Scwartz Gallery

So, what to make of this?

Looking at Morton Callum’s work has given me a few ideas and a few questions about how I’d like to create my own work and shape my approach. The biggest question that I have is whether or not to have my multi-sensory experience intimate or have it shared with a larger audience.

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Week 2: A Brief overlook at my main practice: Digital Photography and Manipulation.

As stated in my previous blog post, I find it very hard to narrow myself down to one single field of practice when I think about my art creation – I feel like I am somewhat of a jack of all trades and master of none. However, strictly speaking, if I were to define what I do now as a job, and therefore a field and practice, I would say that I am a photographer.

I feel that most of my photography as it stands, however, lacks artistic presence and my camera simply serves as a tool for me to capture either what I find aesthetically pleasing, or to capture memories and moments for my clients. Ignoring my university assignments – which are artistic in nature – my two main forms of photographic practice revolve around hobbyist photography (in which I lump my macro, still life, and land/urbanscape photography) as well as portraiture (headshots, families, events, and single person photoshoots for either cosplayers or other models).

So, rather than trying to have a crash course of photography summarised in my own messy words and risk boosting the word count of this blog into the thousands, I will pop this video here and then look more at the sort of photography in the past that has influenced my artistic style now.

In terms of my own stylistic inspirations; I have found it very hard to pinpoint the exact historical movement that influences me – perhaps because my style is very much contemporary and not inspired by a particular person or movement at all. I see something that I like, that is aesthetically pleasing to me, and then I research the technical ways of achieving the matching vision in my own head.

In fact, most of my technical style also comes from looking at the work of my fellow contemporaries – I wouldn’t call these people artists per se, but practitioners of the craft. I do not believe that my work, or that of my peers, significantly contributes to the art world at all.

On the left hand side: an image similar to those that I drew inspiration for my own macro work from; on the right, my own work.

I am drawn to colour or drama in an image – I love contrasts, colour theory, moods evoked by the warmth or coldness portrayed in an image. I suppose that could also apply to my artistic practice eventually too – when I want to create work, I want to evoke certain responses, emotions and feelings in my audience. I want someone to experience more than just something on their eyes.  I want my audience to connect to my work by associating what they feel when viewing my work to similar feelings they have felt in their own life.

This is what I would like to expand upon. However to expand upon this I feel like I need to move beyond photography entirely and incorporate other methods – more than just the sight that you see from a photograph, but also creating soundscapes and engaging with something tactile – heat, or wind perhaps; perhaps drawing inspiration from various “4D Cinemas“.