Final exhibition: Interactive Artwork 2

Forest Reflections 2 is an analogue iteration of Forest Reflections 1.

Forest Reflections 2 consititutes a physical installation of the children’s Forest Creatures. The creatures are framed and laid out in a swarm formation. Like their virtual counterpart (Forest Reflections 1) they, too, live in darkness until illuminated with a candle “interface”. Once again, participation is essential for the work to “come alive”. Until then it remains in shadow.

The framed works are reminiscent of the insect collections common to museums. When the Old Museum on Gregory Terrace was still Brisbane’s premiere historical museum, masses of pinned butterflies, moths and other insects would educate us on the subtle differences as well as similarities of their species. Today, this type of display resonates with our studies on the Bechers, Typologies and Gestalt theory. For me, Forest Reflections 2 is both a poignant reminder of the past and, simultaneously, an insight into the imagined forest of a child.

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Forest Reflections 2 is very much a collaboratively created interactive artwork where students and teachers (Jackie & Katrina) were fully involved with me in both the creation of the parts (the Forest Creatures) and the creation of the whole’, Gestalt swarm

Interestingly enough (from an artists point of view) this real world, physical swarm came AFTER the virtual swarm. I love this journey and the tightness of the conceptual structure. As a researcher in interactive art, I feel the symmetry between the 2 works raises all sorts of questions (the nature of the interface in the physical world, the contrast between interacting in the physical or the virtual or the horizontal plane and the vertical plane…)

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.

Open studio this Friday

dear parents, carers & staff,
Please join us this coming Friday afternoon 26.8.11 at 2pm in the Ellipse room at Grovely primary for an open studio. I will have the interactive artwork Forest Reflections installed for informal viewing and discussion about the process of making it – as well as all the beautiful forest creatures and animations your children have been working on so very hard!!
This open studio is in preparation for our final installation at Walkabout Creek visitor centre on Saturday September 10 (which I DO hope you already have in your diaries! 🙂
Hope to see you on the 26th and again on the 10th!
Jen Seevinck

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!

Thaumatropes of Winged Creatures

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Most of the children have now completed their Thaumatrope drawings. These drawings are based on a template sheet that I made. This uses a branch on one side, inspired by Joel M.’s thaumatrope discussed here in an earlier post. The children were asked to draw a winged creature on the other circle, and they could develop the branch or winged creature as they wished. They also have a second pair of circles if they wish to make a second Thaumatrope, with whatever content they desire. The variety of ‘winged creatures’ is pretty impressive, ranging from birds to insects, planes and more creative, imaginative creatures… even some that could be Forest Creatures like the assemblage they are currently animating. The results are shown below. I will update this post with the remaining students’ images who haven’t done theirs yet, over the next couple of weeks.

Over the coming weeks they will be cutting out the circles and gluing them onto the sticks to make the completed Thaumatropes. For sticks we will be using unsharpened, round pencils…

Day 9: Stop motion animation, Persistence of Vision and the Thaumatrope

Today I started working individually with the children. I am helping them to complete their ”forest creature” by attaching the finished wings to the body. We then animate these wings using stop motion techniques. The creatures are animated against a light table.

We only got through about 6 people today. The process will be ongoing over the next few sessions.

Before I started working with them to animate these creatures, I reminded them about the process. (I’d given an overview last week). I also demonstrated the principle of persistence of vision. This enables us to perceive a series of changing things as moving, or as constituting some sort of illusion. It is achieved through the rapid succession of images, each of which persists as something called an ”afterimage” (which seems to stay on your eyes like an image of a bright light remains on your retina after you close your eyes). In this way a ‘blend’ occurs with the next image. A sustained, continuous illusion of an object that seems to move or of a bird that seems to be sitting on a branch (below) can be created in this way.

I demonstrated this by showing them the Thaumatrope and providing them with simple materials to make one. They will be able to continue working on their Thaumatropes over the next few sessions, individually. Its a fun exercise…

Bird Thaumatrope

There are many examples of Thaumatropes available online. I find the Bird Thaumatrope designed by Joel M quite beautiful. It can be downloaded here for printing out, cutting out and gluing onto a round stick, such as a pencil. Of course I’m very excited by what the children will come up with to draw on theirs – the limit here is only their imagination!