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.

Making and animating Forest Creatures

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Most of the children have now completed their Forest Creature sculptures, using assemblage techniques and a natural pallette. Most have also animated these using the stop motion gear that I set up in the Ellipse room. Documentation of this process, and some of the results are shown below. Our documentary photographers were the children themselves – thus expanding their technical capabilities in working with the cameras as well as developing their aesthetic skills.

Since, for privacy reasons, the photos can’t show the children’s faces I’ve tried to find those that convey their engagement, concentration and excitement in what they were doing through hands and body language. The photos selected show the process of Making the Forest Creatures: our pallette (from the forest), making wings, the Forest Creature sculptures themselves, reflections and discussions such as how the light affects the sculptures… as well as the process of animating.

Inspired student, inspiring assemblage

Student workI was delightfully surprised when a student brought this in to show me after lunch the other day. He had found the flower bud (camelia?) and leaves and carefully turned the latter into the former during his break. His explanation of his process was succinct but detailed; while the result is a simple but beautifully delicate and colourful composition – balanced, with a harmonious choice of colours, a range of textures and repeating forms that unify it into a whole new form.

Student work

It is worth noting that he was not instructed, either in HOW or that he SHOULD do this. It was purely his own initiative. Perhaps he was inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s work and process, as well as our work creating assemblage from found natural objects. Certainly the result is inspiring!

Class reflections on “Rivers and Tides”

 

What did we learn or gain from this video? The following are some notes from Jackie’s discussion with the class about my presentation of the Andy Goldsworthy documentary video, “Rivers and Tides” [see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TWBSMc47bw]. Some are Jackie’s comments but mostly they are the children’s comments on what they learnt from the video:

  • enjoyment of making art
  • confidence in making art
  • if you do it slowly, it gets more detailed and if you rush it won’t look as good
  • inspired by the work
  • That art isn’t always about having to paint it. You can use nature to do it.
  • “what about Permanency – does it have to last forever?” No…
  • Time in nature itself. “Although he looked at his watch, he was also using the tides of nature, the time of nature, to challenge him”
  • “It was good to see adults getting challenged. Learnt about perseverance.” Adults never get challenged “- yes we do! “
  • Didn’t use tools to do it. Use nature to make it. And all the elements… as shown in the whiteboard snapshot above..
This effort was extended and developed in class on day 8 when the students were asked to reflect further on this presentation by writing about it in their diaries.

Day 7: Gestalt for abstract thinking as evidenced in landscape art, animation and painting

This post aims to provide some theoretical background to the art and landscape activities undertaken during the residency – collaboration. Much of this material was presented on day 7 of the residency. As the project progresses its influence and implications for learning and art will become more explicit.

Becher & Becher

Typologies are a conceptual art technique pursued by contemporary photographers the Bechers. The Bechers are a husband-and-wife team of artists who have influenced an entire generation of German photographers. The reference material below includes illustrations from their Water towers series.

  

This exemplifies their ‘typological approach’ where a single archetypal subject (the water tower) is described through an accumulation of diverse examples. When objects of a single ‘type’ are seen ‘en masse’ a new understanding of those objects also becomes apparent; that is a ‘whole’ emerges that is greater than the sum of the parts. This is the definition of a ‘Gestalt’, a key conceptual strategy in the Forest Reflections project.

Stop-motion animation involves changing the subject matter (e.g. forest creature) slightly for every camera frame. Here it is done by the children with the artist’s guidance. Surrealist animator Jan Švankmajer will be discussed as he used stop-motion techniques with everyday objects. Some of his work can also be seen to relate to the ideas of Gestalt. This is sequences from the animation Dimensions of Dialogue where many parts (broccoli, carrot, etc) are combined to become a picture of a face (see reference material on the DVD for still images from this). These ‘Arcimboldo-like heads gradually reduce each other to bland copies. Arcimboldo is also of interest and his painting ‘Summer’ is shown above. Švankmajer’s Dimensions of Dialogue won the “Golden Bear” Berlin 1983, prize for best animated film in Melbourne 1983, and in 1990 was awarded a prize for “the best film of all the years of the festival” at Annecy International Animation Festival. See a clip from this film online here.

The work of landscape installation artist Andy Goldsworthy will also be discussed as he often uses many similar elements to make up a whole composition; and the similarity between this technique and other Gestalt efforts; as well as his use of natural found objects and Assemblage make his work highly relevant to our project. The materials used in Andy Goldsworthy’s art often include brightly-coloured flowers, icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, snow, stone, twigs, and thorns. For his ephemeral works, Goldsworthy often uses only his bare hands, teeth, and found tools to prepare and arrange the materials; however, for his permanent sculptures he has also employed machine tools. In the course of the project the children will be shown excerpts from “Rivers and Tides” a documentary of Goldsworthy’s work. Photographs of his work are shown above and a clip can be watched here.

Švankmajer and Goldsworthy also relate to our interest in Assemblage, an art process which consists of making a three-dimensional artistic composition from putting together found objects. 

Artists such as Arcimboldo, Svankmajer, Goldsworthy and the Bechers will be discussed throughout the project. Photography, Assemblage and stop-motion animation as well as other visual arts techniques and computer interaction will be explored. Typological approaches and Gestalt theory will combine to inform the creation of Perspective Maps as both an exercise in seeing and as a conceptual technique to facilitate (and teach) abstract thinking. Assemblage will also be explored as a conceptual mechanism. These efforts will parallel our ongoing poetic interpretation and reinterpretation of the landscape.

Jen Seevinck Lastly I am also showing examples of my own work and process as it brings together these concepts of Gestalt theory, abstraction from landscape using typological studies, extracting visual forms, reflecting using visual diaries and finally creating interactive artwork. This is especially the case with my art work +-now which uses sand as an interface and real-time computer generated imagery. It was installed at Beta_Space in the Sydney Powerhouse Museum in 2008 and developed from landscape studies made as early as 2003. The work is shown below. More information can be found on my website and publications (Jen Seevinck. “Tracing Moments.” Leonardo 43.3 (2010): 312-313. The MIT Press.)

Day 4: Forest Creature Sculptures Stage 1

This week students took one of their found objects from our first excursion to the Kedron Brooke area, and developed this into wings. I had them trace this object on the fold of some tracing paper, then cut out and “work it up” into a set of symmetrical wings. This could involve gluing some broken leaves in between the papers; an effect that will enhance the wings and refer to the ‘membrane’ quality of insect wings such as cicadas that we had looked at in class. This is particularly the case when the çreatures’ are animated, since they will be backlit during the process, creating a delicate, transparent quality to the wings. This also resonates with some of the students experiences with dappled light coming through the quandong leaves during their first excursion (described in an earlier post “Teacher Reflections” by teacher Jackie Semple).

The process of making the wings also involved preparing them for subsequent animation. I had prepared some wire armatures and so these were also glued to the inside of the wings. We will use stop motion animation techniques later on to move the wings by moving the armatures.

The completed wings will be added to the original traced object. Thus each creature involves using a natural form in different ways, repeating its shape. So we are building on previous investigations of symmetry to create repetition and in working with repetition of elements we contribute to that creature’s visual unity and harmony. This is one way in which I’m introducing them to compositional concepts (i.e. unity, harmony, repetition).

We are also building on previous investigations of the value of found objects (natural objects) with which to make art, and how interpretation and ways of seeing play a role in selecting these, recognising them, and in making and appreciating art.

Examples of student wings are below. Here the glue is still drying, hence the pegs! You can also see how one pair of wings that were created using a Bohenia leaf are transparent when held against the sunlight.

Day 2: Excursion No1 to the Kedron Brooke area

This morning we went to the Kedron Brooke area behind the school. Children were tasked with (1) finding bauhinia and quandong trees (2) looking at the water in the creek to see it behave as both a mirror (what does it reflect) and a window, something to look through (what do you see). Lastly they were asked to find and collect symmetrical and interesting things (3). The following is some photographic documentation of this trip.

Introduction from the Artist

Hi, I’m Jen Seevinck, an artist and researcher. I’m very excited because I’m about to start an Artist in Residency project with the lovely staff and students of Grovely State School!! Yes, I just learned that the art project I proposed to Arts Queensland back in April – with the fabulous input and support of Grovely staff Jackie Semple, Katrina Mills, Vicki Baker – was successful! Arts Queensland are funding a residency and collaborative project between myself, the two teachers and their 47 students. I will be “in residence” for about 2 months during the next school term. That is, I’ll be working in the background and also interacting with the kids to create “Forest Reflections”: a series of 2 interactive art systems and a bunch of other complementary, creative efforts. This web log (blog) documents and describes the progress of Forest Reflections. You can find out more about Forest Reflections here and about my artwork here.