Final exhibition: Interactive Artwork 1

Forest Reflections 1 is a computer based interactive artwork that uses a candle as an interface. This richly afforded interface device is immediately intuitive in the movements and behaviours it facilitates. The overall interaction is similar to Spotlighting for animals in the bush, an analogy that highly suitable to our project. The experience is slow and explorative, and dreamy or “mesmerising” at times.

At the exhibition our children would use the candle to explore and light up  their winged Forest Creatures for their parents. These Forest Creatures are the Assemblages they created throughout the artist residency project and which were later stop-motion animated before being combined into a virtual “swarm”, or gestalt as the interactive artwork Forest Reflections 1.

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Forest Reflections open studio

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We had our open studio today. The Forest Creatures were set out on the tables and the children showed these, as well as their visual diaries, to their parents. About a dozen parents came, and we had about a dozen come in at any one time to the Ellipse studio where Forest Reflections1 was set up. I discussed the interactive art system with them. As you can see from the photos, this work uses a candle as an interface. Moving the candle would reveal parts of the screen image, interactively. Most of the image appears to be in shadow and in doing this ”revealing”, stop motion animations of the Forest Creatures (created by the children) would be ”lit up”. Moving the light also disturbs ‘leaves’ in the ‘water’, and a fluid, dynamic movement accompanies the interaction.

INTERFACE Two children would move the candle at any one time. This candle holder was kindly loaned by teacher Jackie Semple. It is normally part of the Montessori birthday ceremonies. It is a heavy glass and metal construction – perfect for the behaviour I wanted to encourage and the corresponding interactive experience. That is, being heavy and fragile, it necessitates slow, careful movement. This works better in ‘revealing’ the image. It is also consistent with the reflective experience I wanted to engender. Using interface materials that correspond to the concept behind the interactive artwork is consistent with a Constructivist aesthetic (as in the Constructivist Art movement). It also draws on the concept of Affordance, a tenet in Gibson’s theory of perception as something which is interactively constructed between the individual and their environment; i.e. the glass material has a meaning to us that is based on our lived experience of it as something heavy and fragile; thus we see frame our view of it, and our understanding of it, in these terms.

Of course my investigation of alternative interfaces is key to the way that I work. That is, I reject the paradigm of an interface as a typewriter or television – at least for the artwork I’ve done so far:)  Using a candle as an interface is also consistent with the idea of spotlighting. This is walking at night with a torch to ‘spot’ nocturnal animals for viewing. Things are changing – only one girl in the class said that she’s been spotlighting 😦

CONCEPT & METHODS OF CONSTRUCTION The reference to spotlighting was an early starting point in defining this interactive artwork and the Forest Reflections project as a whole. I had it in mind right from the start. It did, however, develop and absorb some of our collaborative encounters: reflections and looking into the water as we did on our first excursion is the most particular example. Other concepts, strategies and techniques brought into the project include concepts relating to the Gestalt – where many parts combine to create a whole that is more than simply the sum of those parts; and ideas relating to perception and having a reflective experience. Techniques include the children’s use of assemblage techniques to create the Forest Creatures and stop-motion animation techniques to animate them. These animated creatures contributed to my pallette as I wove them together into the interactive artwork composition; the ‘parts’ that I combined into a ‘whole’.

During the course of making this interactive artwork I have also been investigating concepts relating to the texture of the gum trees, which children have photographed during the Perspective maps exercises; and the habitats of animals of the forest, as discussed at the educational session at Walkabout Creek yesterday. These ideas may still inform the Forest Reflections interactive artworks for our final installation on Saturday September 10.

Images shown above are from the installation of Forest Reflections during our Open Studio today.

Day 2: Teacher Reflections on our first excursion

Several children tied in their work with shadows that they have been doing in science (working with sundials).  They held their leaves up to the dappled lights from the trees and played with the blocks of shadow shapes made with their hands.

Quite a few children were interested in the writing instruments which led to discussions on the history of writing and how humans could have communicated to each other- what tools they could have used ( this leads in beautifully to our cosmic education great lessons!).

One child also discovered a beautiful brown garden spider camouflaged on a piece of bark from the tree –  the children discussed that the forest belonged to the animals so they helped me carefully ensure that it was safe in its natural environment.   Several children also noticed the soil slowly filling up their containers after coming dislodged from the Quandong seeds.  This led to the discussion of the importance of soil to plants and animals in the forest.

Some children debated whether or not they were considered a part of nature or were separate from of which of course I am sure will stimulate further debate in the classroom.

Thanks for a successful first excursion!

Cheers,

Jackie.