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…)

Artist reflections on perspective maps and mirror drawing on the “right side of the brain”

I would like to take a moment to draw a few threads together. Firstly however, I’ll relate a personal experience:

Many years ago a little boy was drawing the most beautiful, elaborate birds. They had wings, eyes, tails, legs, feathers in a range of colours. They were very detailed and considered images that involved the act of looking at birds and recording their features. Then one day the drawings stopped. Instead the boy was drawing an icon of a bird: a big letter ‘M’ for wings with a triangle for a beak. His mother was devastated. What had happened? It turns out someone at school had told him that his (original) birds did not look like birds, and showed him how to draw them the “right” way. It was a tragedy! The bird drawings were reduced to symbols, a means of communicating the concept of a bird rather than rich, creative explorations that involved looking and learning from was observed. I don’t know if she (the mother) ever got that door open again…

I feel very strongly that people – children especially – should be encouraged towards creative exploration. And I think that acknowledging there are many ways of seeing plays a role in this (such as our different points of view when taking the photos that make up our collaborative perspective maps). Another very tangible aspect to this position is the way the brain works, theory which informed our earlier mirror-symmetry drawing exercises. These ideas relate to one-another as follows:

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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.

Day 1 : Symmetry and the construction of seeing

Today I introduced myself to the kids. Even had them laughing at one point. What a lovely bunch.

Introduction: As a way of introducing myself and explaining what interactive art is, I brought in some of my work-in-progress, introducing them to the concept of sensors (photo resistive, aka movement sensors) and how these ‘sense changes in the environment’ which, in turn, changes the art work.  I showed them one of my mirror/light boxes: the mirror box becomes a lighted vignette when the sensor senses movement.

This work enabled me to discuss how perception is a constructive process. It set the tone for the following day’s excursion.

Symmetry: We also looked at some Quandong and Bohenia (“Camel’s foot”) leaves, discussing native and exotic flora as well as symmetry in their forms. This was followed by a drawing exercise where they were asked to complete some line drawings. In these drawings only one side of a leaf or seed was drawn. They were asked to complete each image, i.e. to draw the mirror image of the form that is there, its reflection around its axis of symmetry. The results were lovely. Very rich. I encouraged them to develop these symmetry line drawings further by looking at the real leaves and seeds I’d brought in; to find what was not symmetrical, to add details like sun burnt spots or insect trails…This exercise teaches them to pay attention to what they actually see and not simply what they think they see… A random selection of their drawings are shown below.