COLLISIONcollective

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*                        For engineers that moonlight as artists and artists that moonlight as engineers                                         *
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Solar Flowers

Aluminum, Brass, Steel, Rosewood, solar engine
2010
Artwork by [user-name]

I think of Sculptural Robotics first and foremost as a synthetic discipline. It's a way to explore the world around me, and it's also a delightful waste of time. My machines are designed according to a conceptual aesthetic that emphasizes minimalist design elements. I prototype and test my designs just like any roboticist, but unlike most I am not intersted in finding solutions to practical problems. Instead, I'm more interested in finding designs that produce flowing, graceful movement, and that are increasingly autonomous in control and energy acquisition, generation after generation.

Spring

Wood, aluminum, Formica, Garolite, brass, mechanical components, motor
Artwork by [user-name]

Originally inspired by looking at ferns on a walk in the woods, "Spring" is a mechanical abstraction of the same unfurling action that occurs in fiddleheads. The title is a double-entendre referring also to the coiled spring-like shape that the sculpture assumes. In fact, in an earlier version of this piece, there was a coiled spring incorporated into the mechanism.
Spring is the time of year most associated with hope and ebullience of spirit. I wanted to tap into that spirit and create a piece that embodies the gesture of reaching toward the light, in the sense of both offering and receiving. In the calculation of the relationships in the spiral the "golden ratio" was used, resulting in a spiral that is found in many natural forms as they grow. I believe that what in mathematical terms expresses balance and efficiency, by moral extension and cultural expression becomes the universal golden rule of human behavior. Spring is the part of us that aspires to unfold the golden rule in our interpersonal relationships and which is embodied in the gesture of reaching outward toward each other and upward against the drag of negative social pressures.
Ultimately, Spring is forward looking, but acknowledges the cyclical nature of optimism. It is also meant to remind us that optimism and patience go together.

MOONPENNY

plywood, digital print on vinyl, booklets, chains
Artwork by [user-name]

MOONPENNY is the code name for a series of structures at the US satellite and communications base at RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate in Yorkshire: part of the Echelon global electronic surveillance system run by the NSA. Menwith Hill is a *listening* station, as opposed to a broadcast station (such as the Lincolnshire Poacher number station) in the global spy network. It uses sophisticated equipment to monitor various forms of communication (phone, email etc), searching for particular targeted words and phrases. Set in the heather speckled moors of northern England the installation contains numerous geodesic radar domes (called "radomes") as well as a series of interconnecting roads and a central set of buildings. MOONPENNY is the rather poetic designation for the radio dishes contained within these radome structures.

MOONPENNY (the work of art) is a vector rendering of the Google maps aerial photograph of the Menwith Hill site. In keeping with several earlier works it addresses issues of secrecy, communication, forbidden territories, and the natural environment. Like much of my work MOONPENNY is also an investigation of mimesis and abstraction: the point at which a reproduction becomes sufficiently divorced from its referent as to become an object on its own. Finally, MOONPENNY comes with its own miniature library: print-outs of text and images culled from the internet and held in place by chains that mimic those of medieval libraries. I enjoy the humor of reversing the trajectory from print-to-e and of making copies "precious"; it does also make browsing rather easy.

Observatory

Glass, wood, metal, video screen, electronics
Artwork by [user-name]

Observatory is the thought-record of the observer, viewed from the location of perception inside of the body. From this vantage point, this observer is able to witness the act of observation, while maintaining awareness of the filters of perception. But perhaps this vantage point is not fixed, and it can experience self-awareness somewhere else, even outside of the body, or in other observers.

LumaTouch Synesthesia

wood, Plexiglas, fluorescent lights, computer with custom software, webcam, video projector, headphones, speakers
2010
Artwork by [user-name]

LumaTouch Synesthesia is an interactive system for creating abstract artwork with electronic music by manipulating tangible objects. The system consists of a light table with five movable objects on the surface, four small cubes and a small cylinder. By manipulating these objects, the user can simultaneously create an abstract painting and compose electronic music to complement the painting. The phenomenon of synesthesia is experienced literally in the creation of color and sound.
The location and rotation of the four cubes are detected by a webcam in the light table. The custom software uses these inputs to choose up to eight of 16 reference images to be morphed and combined for the painting and up to eight of 16 music loops to be mixed for the song. The cylinder is used to change the color of the images and the musical key of the song.
While a viewer is interacting with the piece, it will show the digital painting projected on the wall behind the light table, and play music at a moderate volume level in the room. Headphones are also available to allow the operator to listen more closely. The user can retrieve his/her painting by sliding the “ROBGON” gadget to the center of the light table. The image will be uploaded to www.RobGon.com and instructions for retrieval will appear on the screen.
LumaTouch uses OpenFrameworks, an open-source C++ library for creative coding. The tracking used by LumaTouch is based on the concepts from TrackMate, an open-source tracking system. The reference paintings are from the Smithsonian Institute Website, www.si.edu, and are used in accordance with the Smithsonian's terms of use. Some of the music loops are original and some are from looperman.com and are used in accordance with their terms of use. I would like to thank Jennifer Lim for her help with this project.

Masked Thoughts

wood, mirror, computer with custom software, webcam, video projector, foam board, mic. stands
2008
Artwork by [user-name]

Masked Thoughts is an interactive video installation that allows viewers to try on virtual masks, and think virtual thoughts. The installation is comprised of the following components: a large mirror mounted in a wooden frame, a video projector and video camera mounted on top of the frame, and two projection surfaces mounted on mic stands in front of the mirror. One of the projection surfaces is a mask with eyeholes cut out. The other surface is a thought balloon - comic book style. Both surfaces are front/back symmetric and can be swiveled around to face the other side.

A webcam provides a video feed to the CPU, which scans the area and detects changes to the mask and thought balloon. Swiveling the surfaces cause the projected images to change in real-time. Turn the mask around, see a different face. Turn the thought balloon around, see a different thought. Note that the surfaces can be changed at any time, in any order.

A variety of recognizable faces are available to try on: politicians, historical figures, entertainers, etc.

Mechanical Universe, Part I: The Pastoral

Oil paint on wood, aluminum (steel brackets), motors, solar panels, wire, electronics
2008
Artwork by [user-name]

Mechanical Universe originally was created for the Boston Cyberarts Festival and shown as part of the 2007 festival at TransCultural Exchange: Punzo shipped his cyber insects to the Boston, where I created their ‘living spaces’ - part irreverent homage to Donald Judd; part reverent homage to Jean Tinguely and Alexander Calder. But pure Punzo and Sherman.
Each 'box' is a collage of highly textured paint and polished aluminum.
At the push of a button, the doors open at staggered intervals, revealing a host of musical 'cyber insects,' before slamming close. The individual 'boxes' also can be re-configured to respond to the architecture of the space in which the piece is exhibited. The idea is to create an up-dated, modular version of the 17th century Italian pastoral by way of the 21st century
Special thanks to George Bossarte for electronic/programming help; and Nexus Machine Shop and Gallery for use of the shop

The Rotapult

Wood, metal, plastic
2008
Artwork by [user-name]

A whirling automaton that plays catch with itself. In a continuously repeating cycle, a solid plastic ball is catapulted nearly four feet up from a rotating platform; then caught on its way down, 180° of rotation later. Installation includes a pushbutton activated timer.

Lincolnshire Poacher

Printed vinyl, wood, plastic, FM transmitter, radios, audio
2009
Artwork by [user-name]

“- Shortwave numbers stations are a social experiment being conducted by the aliens.
- Actually they are mostly tenticle-enlargement spam, but we don't have the proper char-set support yet. Hopefully this will be included in Vista.(1)”

Lincolnshire Poacher combines a number of my fascinations: Google maps, text, sound, nature, camouflage, humor(2), and enigma. Its subject is the most famous of the cold war era Number Stations(3): the similarly named Lincolnshire Poacher. The Lincolnshire Poacher broadcast for over 30 years always using the same format: the (sampled) voice of an English woman reading out sets of 5 digit numbers, prefaced by 10 repetitions of one set of 5 numbers and bookended by several bars of the English folk song “The Lincolnshire Poacher”. I am intrigued by Number Stations for a variety of reasons, particularly their reductivist use of text to pass secrets by the most public of methods.

The piece’s main element is a vector drawing based on the Google maps aerial photograph of Akrotiri, Cyprus: the presumed location of the Lincolnshire Poacher. An orange dot on the drawing marks the likely location of the station's transmitter believed to have been operated by the British Secret Intelligence Service. A series of additional orange dots within the exhibit lead to the location of a sound piece: a recreation of an actual broadcast by the Lincolnshire Poacher station made in October 2004.

I have been fascinated, if not obsessed, with Google maps for almost two years. The resulting undertakings are a reflection of my examinations of mimetic process, a sense of unrequited wanderlust, and a latent fondness for the cold war's quaintly stylized tropes of aggression: poisoned umbrellas tips, modems in the stratosphere(4), and Number Stations. A reflection of my own peripatetic history (I am a multinational and have travelled widely) Lincolnshire Poacher is simultaneously symptomatic of my rooted present. I am now an armchair traveler who indulges my yearnings through virtual wandering in forbidden spaces.

1 - Comments about an August 2006 article on Slashdot about VoIP Number Stations: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/05/216229

2 - I was pleased to discover during the course of my research that there is a type of artisanal cheese named Lincolnshire Poacher.

3 - for additional information about number stations see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station

4 - sputnik

FaceLifter

Acrylic modeling resin, foam board, wood, steel, servo motor, micro-controller, custom software, webcam, video projectors
2009
Artwork by [user-name]

FaceLifter is an interactive video installation that allows the viewer to see his/her face projected on a 3d mask. The mask is mechanically raised and lowered to allow the viewer to see him/herself eye-to-eye.
An outline of shoes marks the spot on the floor where the viewer can get a closer look at FaceLifter (and FaceLifter can get a closer look at the viewer). The viewer's faces is illuminated by lights mounted on the column. A web camera mounted above the mask captures the viewer's image, which is algorithmically identified and processed with a hidden computer.
The mask, rendered in white acrylic resin, is mounted on the surface of a column attached to vertical rails. A computer controlled motor inside the column lifts the mask to the height of the viewer.
A video stream of the face is projected via two ceiling-mounted projectors. The projectors are mounted diagonally to allow the viewer to get close to the mask without casting a shadow. The images are adjusted vertically by the computer to track with the mask.
The overall effect of the installation is to allow the viewers to see themselves as they appear to others.
The face finding algorithm is by Philip Abbet, from the IDIAP Research Institute, in Valais, Switzerland.
Thanks to Jennifer Lim, Vivien Leone, and William Tremblay.

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