The New York Electronic Arts Festival has pushed back its 2020 exhibition until the pandemic subsides. As a result, some of the artists that were to be exhibiting in that show were given studio spaces (in the exhibition location) on Governors Island. Governors Island is a tiny island in New York’s harbor. It’s open to the public from May to September. I am so lucky to be one of those artists given a studio space.
The space did have it’s restrictions/limitations, as do most things in life. Cell signal was spotty, if present. Wifi (for the most part) was mostly nonexistent. This was a blessing at times as it really created focus and less distraction. Yet when I needed to do research, this was crippling. We were also asked to take the staff ferries over (7am – 10am). The island closed at 5/7 pm depending on whether or not it was a weekday. All of these things gave a hard reboot to my schedule. It took a bit to get in the swing of things. Once I did, it was heaven! It’s soooo fantastic to have a separate space to work and to focus on working. No distractions. Just me and my work. It’s allowing me to strictly focus on this piece in the quiet solitude of Governors Island.
Throughout the residency I was developing Luciferins in a myriad of ways. I was machine knitting more material to create the fiber structures. I would then take that home to work on the surface manipulation and felting. Back on the island, I was refining the graphical animations and working out bugs in my code.
Since the studio space will also be the exhibition space, a huge chunk of time to experiment with the set-up and installation. This is key, as setting up the piece with how I envisioned it, will be tricky. The fibers should be in the center of the floor in a group. As a result of that, the projectors need to be on the periphery. The space is a bit small to allow the projections to entirely cover the fiber structures. I’ll have to do some projector magic OR I’ll have to experiment with different setups of the piece. Challenges allow possibilities for new visions. I’m extremely thankful to have the time to work this out.
This space, at Harvestworks Nolan Park 10A, would also be the exhibition site, once the pandemic subsides. This was ideal, as I could then fit the piece for the space. It was challenging. Despite the space being quite large, it still was not large enough to setup the structures in the middle of the space and to have people walk through the structures AND to map projections on the structures with a traditional projector. I experimented with different setups (fibers at the one end of the space, versus the middle, etc) and different possibilities with projectors (DIY short-throw setups, traditional short-throw projectors). In the end, I went with a short throw projector. This allowed the fibers structures to be in the center of the space, which was the goal.
I also experimented with different sewing techniques to create the structures with the fabric I was making from the machine knitting + surface manipulated + felted fabric. I absolutely love how the material turned out, as well as the shape/style the fiber structures are taking. They are becoming much more structural, beautiful, and unique. Yet, as I tested everything together, I realized with the help of fellow artist-in-residence Valérie Hallier, that I don’t think this is the piece for this material. This material is destine for another piece (in fact, the next piece in The Masquerades of The Soft Machines!). This was a critical and very valuable realization. I’ve gone back to felting with wool roving to construct the material to then create the fiber structures (more on this soon.
Thinking about speaker place was also something that needed to be resolved. When the piece is envisioned, the speakers are above the piece and not interfering with viewer movements nor bodies.
Carol from Harvestworks was kind enough to let me borrow several traditional speakers and an amp. While these were great, the setup concern still lingered.
I pulled these speakers I picked up *years* ago from my studio storage and brought them over to the island. I was a bit iffy on how exactly this was going to work out. But what can you do, but try stuff out.
Traditionally, I tend to use high tensile steel to hang things. This time I used picture hanging wire. It worked out great. It was a bit tricky with hanging two speakers and getting the wire taut with only one person, but I figured it out.
Cable management certainly needs revision. Yet, the goal here was to get everything up and running. Inevitably there are going to be tweaks to work out.
For the most part, things look promising. I worked with the fiber structure prototypes that I have, which include hand knitting with wool roving, machine knitted and felted, hand felted wool roving, and the machine knitted and surface manipulated piece that was cut and sewn together
Currently I have Max/MSP/Jitter running the tracking using openCV. These values are then communicated to Processing using OSC messages. Processing is where I’ve coded the graphical animations that are then sent out to the projection mapping software (currently, I’m using MadMapper). The tracking values are also sent to other Max/MSP patches that control the sound, as well as which speaker to utilize. The speakers close to the viewer or the disturbed fiber structures are the ones that sound. The sound also travels through the channels.
Sounds used are field recordings from my travels. These include wildlife, ambient city sounds (traffic, markets, passing conversations), as well as recordings from other outdoor environments.
The residency has been fabulous as it has given me so much time to focus and to see what needs to be changed, improved, and tweaked. The tracking software needs to be refined in how it picks up viewers. It’s challenging as we cannot fix anything to the ceiling in the spaces. Despite the depth camera being placed as high as it can go, it make not be high enough. Before I revisit the sensor choice, I’m going to revise my tracking code and try several different algorithms and combinations of algorithms to see if that improves the tracking.
The sound code needs to be refined quite a bit with regards to how much feedback is present, how long it is present and when it appears. I also need to refine the channel control as well as to choreograph the movement of the sound between channels.
I am also going back to felting the material from wool roving. I do love the surface manipulated fiber from machine knitting. Yet, it’s not the right material for this piece, using projections. I also need to consider how to construct each form so that they do not collapse. The thickness of the felt, size/dimension of the pieces as well as direction and placement of the darts needs refinement. I’m also thinking about reviving some glow-in-the-dark experiments that I did nearly 20 years ago.
The residency has provided me with the time and space to refine the graphic animations, explore new methods of computer vision techniques (tracking interaction), generate fiber materials (machine knitting), experiment with new fiber construction techniques (for the fiber
structures), and most importantly, to install the work in a scale setup. This is the critical step: bringing all 5 systems — graphics code, fibers, sound & sound code, tracking interaction code and projection mapping — together. I was able to install the 7 audio channels in the ideal manner; to projection map the graphics code onto the fibers; and to test the sonic interaction with the tracking interaction. While there still is more refinement to undertake, I now not only have a clear path, but fewer tasks to resolve before Luciferins comes to its final fruition. As a result of this opportunity, I was able to capture new documentation which is more indicative of the final state/goal of the piece for promotion and support.
My practice is one that takes many development cycles to yield a new piece. There are many technical stages, each requiring its own development cycle and iteration. This is true for each area of my practice: graphic software, interaction software, sound design, fiber construction and hardware construction. As such, it can take several years to generate a new piece. I work on one or two areas at a time, albeit separately, in my home studio. Since I do not have a designated studio space, I also do not have a designated space to simulate the installation. I’m constantly working in shared, multi-use spaces. While I have tested the separate developments within each area of my practice, bringing them together in the space is the most critical step to refining the work. The opportunity of working on Governors Island has made me incredibly mindful of how valuable it is to work in a designated space and to test the entire system together. This allows me to see how I need to proceed with refinements and to develop the work properly. This is critical. Without this, I am working in the dark, possibly missing areas of importance. I would be moving forward inches instead of miles.
I’m so thankful to Harvestworks for the gift of the residency! Having the space to work has helped Luciferins develop by leaps and bounds. Many revelations have been made here. There is still quite a bit of work to do. Onward!