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…)

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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

NEC M260XG purchased

I bought the video (data) projector on Monday. It is a vital part of the project as it is used to present the Forest Reflections artwork and enables us to explore aspects of interface design, i.e. it helps us to get away from the “typewriter” and “television” metaphors of interaction design and instead explore alternative interfaces and alternative interaction experiences.

Thanks again to Arts Queensland (Qld Govt) and the Australia Council for the Arts – as well as contributing to the Forest Reflections collaboration, this projector will remain with Grovely State Primary School to continue to serve the school community after our project has finished.

SAVE THE DATE! Final exhibition date set for 10.9.11

The culminating show at the end of our project has now been confirmed to happen on Saturday 10 September 2011! This will be at Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre on Mount Nebo Rd in The Gap. More details will follow, but essentially the show will include an installation of the interactive art work “Forest Reflections” and the children’s visual diaries.

This embodies our project’s philosophy of ‘beginning in the forest and ending in the forest’

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.