Monthly Archives: February 2008

HDR Photography

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is a set of techniques for allowing a higher range of values between the lightest and darkest areas of a digital image. The results can be truly breathtaking, here are some examples from Wikipedia.

The practical details involved with achieving these effects I’m not sure of yet, I literally just stumbled over the technique, but I’m going to do some research into it.

Mars Bar Art (bArt?)

The (insert-any-letter-here)Art puns continue. But in all seriousness, I think I’m ready to make Mars Bars go Far, work. This was one of my very early creative ideas developed during a furious period of brainstorming just after I was offered an interview for University. My notebook was this envelope;

My first ever ideas!

Ideas 2006

The concept embodies my target of making art work that is dependent upon its audience to actually power it, and although intrinsically links to a corporate giant, its simplicity seems quite attractive. Until now – that simplicity has been shrouded by my own hang-ups about achieving the technical side of things. This is something I’m learning to check, when I encounter it, as it really can destroy my motivation. If my Photobombing trial in the summer was anything to go by, just making something work is so much more valuable than making sure its perfect. Anyway, that’s an aside!

What is Mars Bars go Far?

Take a number of chocolate bars and give them away! The twist is that each one will carry a logbook and instructions. Whoever finds one of these bars must log their find in its logbook. They are invited to eat the chocolate if they wish, and then they are asked to pass the package onto someone else (having replaced the chocolate!!)

I see it as an experiment in good-will-induction. Induction as in forced induction for car engines.

I think people would find it fun too, and tasty.

More ideas..

More Ideas 2006

Manchester Tremors

I just experienced an earthquake for the first time in my life, in Manchester, of all places.

It was a truly weird experience; I was sitting on a chair working on the computer.  I noticed a swaying motion and looked round expecting to see my girlfriend there. Unfortunately as I turned I saw she was sitting on the sofa staring back at me with an air of confusion.

I didn’t relish it, to be honest.

Second Life Art

I’m collaborating on a project with various people on my course to create “David Bowie World” on Second Life. That is a separate post on its own – but its got me to thinking about a few things:

  • Geocaching for Second Life (or a Geocaching-like game)
  • Photobombing for Second Life
  • Travel-bug games for Second Life (passing a “token” around many people) – this is my favourite. It’d be cool to track the bugs path through SL but also track where the people involved are in real life.

Infrared Pen for Wii

I’ve made my own Infrared Pen for use with a Wii controller; interactive white board a-hoy. Hopefully will use it somehow with Zimmy’s feedback project using Johnny Lee’s interactive white board software. See this post for some cool videos demonstrating it.

For anyone’s reference; I got the infrared LED from Maplin. The part is “High Power Infrared Emitting Diode” – it is rated at around 1.5 volts, so you can just directly connect it to a single AA battery. I then stuffed the whole lot inside a pen casing, with a push-to-make button on the end. Brilliant!

Infrared Pen for Wii

ps I do not sell these pens. If you want one, I suggest making it or if you can’t employ the services of an electrician! :o)

Feedback Things

I’ve started working with Zimmy on creating an multi-faceted installation based around audio visual feedback. It stems from Zimmy’s experiments with pointing video cameras at projections of what the video camera is looking at… thus creating a feedback loop.

It is hugely fun, and awe inspiring in a way- I really love things that make you stop and think about all the technology we’re using day-to-day. Normal usage doesn’t have this effect. With the video feedback it really makes you stop and think about how it can happen, and therefore how the components in the loop can actually function.


I think our (my & Zimmy’s) aim is to create an interactive installation, whereby everything you can see and hear is created by feedback; yet both audio and visuals will be controllable by the audience (or at least influenced by them). I’ve created a system whereby an audio feedback loop is created and then modulated by movements of a Wii remote controller- I’m pretty pleased with it! It sounds good (reminded to self, make a video for demonstrating this…)

Some Research

There is a plethora of many existing Wii hacks, and even more examples of using feedback principals to augment or create audio (and video) – I’ve done quite a bit of research into GlovePIE. It is a simple programming language that allows you to program the information from the Wii remote controller. I am only using two factors from the Wii remote – the “roll” and the “pitch” of the device. For my purposes I then convert that to a MIDI (MIDI is a standardized protocol for communication between electronic music devices) signal which is finally sent into an audio program – I am using one called Ableton. Ableton then processes the signals and changes various internal parameters to control the feedback.

I’ve also done quite a lot of practical research experimenting with shepard (or risset) tone generators. According to WikiPedia a shepard tone is;

A Shepard tone, named after Roger Shepard, is a sound consisting of a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves. When played with the base pitch of the tone moving upwards or downwards, it is referred to as the Shepard scale. This creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, yet which ultimately seems to get no higher or lower.

Although not a feedback element itself – its something that Zimmy wanted to use in the audio-element of the work. In my feedback machine using the Wii remote, a shepard tone modulates any audio signal it creates… which will then be fed-back. I’m pleased with the result, although it can sound quite harsh if you aren’t careful.

So far I’ve only used the sensors in the Wii controller that sense whether it is pointing toward the floor or the ceiling and whether it is on its front, back or side. They also have accelerometers, sensing what direction it is moving in – although I find this hard to work with. Finally, they also have an infra-red based ability to tell exactly what the remote is pointing at. In games the infra-red sensor is used for things like pointing guns at enemies or drawing a circle round something. Using the GlovePIE software I talked about earlier you can use this to control the cursor on a computer screen.

In theory (and practice, it turns out) it should be possible to “paint” on-screen with the remote. Combine the on-screen painting, with Zimmy’s video feedback loop, with my audio-feedback loop (which is controlled by the same remote control as the on-screen painting) and there you have it… I’ll put this to Zimmy, and see what he thinks.

Whilst researching other Wii painting projects and things on the internet, I discovered Johnny Chung Lee‘s website. He has done quite a lot of really amazing work with the Wii controllers – much more sophisticated than what I’m trying to do (but I think we have different aims, after all). What I learned from his site was that the Wii controller actually has a high-resolution infrared sensor on it (which works in conjunction with a little infrared emitter that you put on top of your TV, for gaming). Its very high resolution, and very sophisticated. Johnny Lee’s videos demonstrate various things including “painting” but also using the controller as a so called “multi-touch screen” and interactive white board applications – all at a fraction of the cost of the normal hardware required for these applications. One of the coolest is using your fingers as points for the sensor to see.. see it to believe it. Brilliant!


Interactive Whiteboard

Prayer 2.0 Technical Issues

Just as everything felt as if it were going well… I discover I’ve somehow managed to spam everyone who got involved with my “Prayer 2.0” project. I had a feeling something was up, should have sniffed it out. Idiot me… Makes me think of Bob Dylan again;

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out but when they will I can only guess.
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy,
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.
Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at,
I couldn’t believe after all these years, you didn’t know me better than that
Sweet lady.

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin’ south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

I ran into the fortune-teller, who said beware of lightning that might strike
I haven’t known peace and quiet for so long I can’t remember what it’s like.
There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door,
You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done, in the final end he won the wars
After losin’ every battle.

I woke up on the roadside, daydreamin’ ’bout the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are makin’ me see stars.
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies.
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes,
Blood on your saddle.

Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on your tomb,
Blowing through the curtains in your room.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage but it just wasn’t enough to change my heart.
Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped,
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom.

I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
I can’t remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed, your eyes
don’t look into mine.
The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone-faced while the building
I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress trees, while the springtime
turned Slowly into autumn.

Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishin’ I was somebody else instead.
Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy,
I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory
And all your ragin’ glory.

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.

Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats,
Blowing through the letters that we wrote.
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves,
We’re idiots, babe.
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

What a Wiki

During my last years study I was very interested in WikiPedia and the potential of creating or using a Wiki for developing creative practice, as well as using the structure of a Wiki for some sort of creativity. I explored creating a self-referential artwork through sabotage of WikiPedia; an interesting concept but in reality something that comes down to just being sabotage for the sake of it rather than sabotage for creative ends.

Over the last few days, working with my tutor Jane Brake, I’ve managed to set up a Wiki to be used for various purposes. Although the potential reaches beyond Interactive Arts and beyond my University completely; the starting point is as a resource for Interactive Arts.

Interactive Arts has had a web forum for some time, but these days is rarely used or read, as such it has become redundant. Personally I think that forum could easily be revived by making it more valuable to “us” (students) however that is an aside. The function that the forum performs – I expect – will be easily incorporated into the new Wiki. As well as that the Wiki will provide a framework for delivering other materials to students and also letting the students contribute, what they want as they want to.

Aside from “What? Why? How? Who?” type questions (to quote BBC4’s “The Late Edition”) – the point is the Interactive Arts Wiki has been created and I will be putting together the initial structure and content before “launching” it with my fellow students.

The big question with a Wiki once it is installed and working is; “Now what do I do with it?” Having set about this question with earnest, I’ve come up with;

  • Documentation. This section of the wiki will effectively be a showcase of artists’ work (to start off with, Interactive Arts students). People will be able to create a page under their own name, on which to write about and document (with photographs, sound or video) their creative practice.
  • Learning Materials or Lecture Notes (what should I call it?!). This section is as described, with learning material from Interactive Arts and MMU lecturers, as well as any others where its applicable.
  • Editorial or Opinions. Here anyone can post their views, opinions or reviews of each others work or any other work they wish to comment on.
  • Ex-Students. An archive of ex-Interactive Arts students and their practice and work. Obviously this will grow as current students become ex-students; hopefully some former students can be contacted and asked to contribute to this.
  • News & Events Listing. Hopefully this will become an online version of the content of “morning meetings”; information about events, shows, competitions and general information.
  • Collaboration & Project Listing (Advertisement!) A section of the Wiki will be dedicated to people writing about collaborative projects their working on, or requesting help or collaboration with something they’re doing. (Thinking about it, maybe this should just be part of “News & Events Listing” – if there’s only one place to look, maybe more people will look there and it will work better all round.
  • Links Archive. A free for all of “good websites to look at” – be it for inspiration, amusement, or otherwise.

Having done a little research into the Chelsea Wiki I noticed a glaring omission – a help section. Given the slightly steeper than usual learning curve a Wiki has, compared with more ‘everyday’ websites this would probably prove to be a good idea.

Very good! And interesting. I hope.

Gregor Neuerer; Left but a Trace

I liked Gregor Neuerer, and I thought his work was of interest. However it doesn’t detract from an element of irony in the title of his latest exhibition; at least there is irony for me having listened to his lecture! It left a trace, but it was but a trace! I found the presentation reminiscent of Paul Eachus’s lecture; in the way it was delivered. Neuerer was delivering his lecture almost word for word from a prepared text. He did however make an effort to counterpoint this with short spurts of ad libbing. Despite a less than brilliant manner in delivering his lecture, I found the content of some interest.

Architectural Yet Abstract

Neuerer’s work included places in the city (of London) where people interact in ways differently to how an architect or designer may have intended.

Strangely, when he moved into a studio in London, Gregor Neuerer began making sketches using his position in the room as a method for working. He marked pencil onto the wall, from the confines of his chair, the result being a circular form with its darkest point in the middle and then graduated shading outward. The basis and context for these sketches was complex; architectural in origin but with the primary notion of confinement in architectural space and constant revisiting of the same place- at least this is how I understood it.

At the same time as working on the drawing, he coincidentally discovered an all but identical mark on the wall, outside a tube station just about the level of the pavement. The same dark patch at the centre and graduation out to nothing. It transpired that this patch was caused by a beggar sitting in the same place each day and rubbing against the wall.

Gregor Neuerer - Left but a Trace

Great work and ideas come from strange coincidence like this. Not only was the resultant shape identical, Neuerer’s original concepts were about revisiting places. Brilliant.

Later works were more developed conceptually, so far though that – for me – gaining an understanding of what the aim of the work is, was extremely difficult. It is apparently very abstract; something the artist seemed to acknowledge and (in fact) he said he was aiming for it.

Although much of the work was “real” – and interesting to me because of that – Neuerer “faked” these black marks in other situations. Creating a similar effect, but doing it himself rather than identifying places that it was occurring naturally. I really didn’t like that. Loosing the raw reality really detracts from it.

Good things; the way his ideas came together. Despite the complexity, I think the artistic logic was good. He seemed to have well thought through ideas that were presented on almost every different “level”.

Bad; despite the simplicity of presentation, the context itself is extremely deep. This seemed out of balance some how – “top heavy”.

Overall though, I was intrigued about the work, and although I don’t think I enjoyed the work myself- in terms of learning it was certainly useful.

Cornerhouse Qualms

I’ve found a slight edge of nervousness inherent in the Cornerhouse’s Tuesday Talks – this lecture was an example of that. Although the intent is obviously otherwise the way in which the question and answers session at the end of each lecture is handled seems to stifle discussion rather than promote it. I always feel terrified about asking a question. Funnily, after the Q&A session at this lecture – which featured only 1 or 2 questions from the audience and conjecture from the lectures’ curator Pavel Büchler the first non-official question to the artist was “So… how is the smoking in Vienna?”. Although I didn’t learn anything from it, it made me smile!

Febuary Work Plan

This is my current work plan – although its getting to the point where “juggling work” almost deserves its own place on the plan.

  • Prayer 2.0 fixes and development. I’ve somehow created some bugs in the Prayer 2.0 website that need fixing urgently, also I’m planning to launch some similar websites with different purposes.
  • Photobombing development. I’m applying for travel bursary from University, to enable me to do country-wide photobombing hence development of the site has a new urgency.
  • Second Life / David Bowie Project. I’m taking on various parts of this collaborative project; setting up/ maintaining a project blog, various writing tasks, floor plans for “Bowie World” and development of graphic themes for some of the pods.
  • Feedback. My friend Zimmy is working with visual feedback and we’re looking at collaborating to create a fully interactive audio/visual/feedback experience. I’m researching using Ableton Live, GlovePIE and Wii controllers to enable digital input to control the A/V aspects of this.
  • Phase Loops. Using techniques pioneered (as far as I know) my Steve Reich many years ago, I’m creating a sound piece using a single voice loop of Branka’s voice.
  • MMU Wiki. Setting up a Wiki software to be used by the Interactive Arts department at MMU, research the various software options.

… and “god” knows what else!