New Work: Spirits Melted Into Air

22 November 2012

I’m excited to be able to share Spirits Melted Into Air with you: a two-week exploration I produced with the Royal Shakespeare Company, as part of their myShakespeare project.

The work is in parts a technology prototype, data visualisation, and artwork. Custom-built, open-source software is used to analyse performance video and generate plots of actors’ positions on stage from a perspective viewpoint. These plots are then used to generate new, secondary artworks: posters, and laser-cut wooden shapes.

Spirits headline

The project emerged from an initial workshop and commission by Caper, where we explored various potential ways for technologists to collaborate with the RSC on short projects. From there, I dealt with the RSC direct, meeting key members of their team and understanding a bit more about the various factors influencing performances and productions there.

It was great to be able to take such a fluid, interpretative approach to the work. With hindsight, this was unsurprising: the RSC’s business is interpretation – taking Shakespeare and producing entirely new productions each year, of plays they have often performed countless times. My work was similarly interpretative: initially, building software to explore the data, and then exploring that data as a material – before moving onto the further material exploration of output formats. It’s the sort of structure to work that I’m fond of.

It was also great to have a brief to shape, and ultimately push myself: not just exploring a single technical idea, but seeing it through, end-to-end, to output and display. It was important to me that whatever came out of it – however prototype-y – was both beautiful and accessible. I think the output – especially the lasercuts – has stood up to that internal demand.

Thanks to Rachel and Kat at Caper for setting up the initial commission and the workshops; to Sarah and Ida, for producing the work from the RSC so superbly; and to everyone I met at the RSC who offered insight, ideas, and knowledge.

You can find out more at the Spirits Melted Into Air website.

And, if you’d like to know more about it, or indeed, to work with me on similar work – be it investigative, creative, or artistic – do get in touch.

Raining on bus (s)tops

05 February 2012

BusTops Shoreditch profile

or: “I made some public art”.

It’s been lovely to see Bus Tops finally emerge into the world. If you’re not aware: it’s a series of LED-matrix screens on the top of bus stops around London, displaying a curated programme of art that anyone can submit works to. It’s been beautiful to see it come to life so well: feels like a thing, has its own aesthetic, the public nature of it feels exciting and odd and transgressive.

I decided I ought to start making some things for it. I’m particularly interested in the screens as an animated medium. So far, I’ve submitted two works; one, an original, and the other, very much not, although it’s the kind of thing that needs to be on giant red LED matrixes.

Anyhow.

Ripples has been selected for display, which is quite exciting! It’s a short animation that makes it look a little like it’s raining on top of the bus stop, even when it’s not. It was a nice exercise for me: making something attractive, graphical, in code (which is not my sweet spot of programming).

An hour or so with Processing later and I was getting somewhere, and it didn’t take much longer with the rather lovely gifAnimation library to spit out an animated gif to import into the Bus Tops editor.

The original animation that Ripples is based on can be viewed here. The source code for it is also on that site.

This feels like a good beginning, and I have a few more ideas for abstract moving works that would look good in red, black, and nighttime, from the top of a double-decker.

(And, as reference primarily for myself: the way you fixed “sad about not making things” is by just starting things, ideally small things, and before you know they’re done.)

Update: and here’s what it looks like on top of a bus stop. Static:

and in motion:

(thanks to the Bus Tops site for the images)

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