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ITP Winter Show

I will be presenting the head(banger)phones.  Please come 🙂

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28 Minutes Later

What happens when 100 people have 28 minutes to make a movie? Here’s a pretty good answer:

We shot the video and audio for this movie in Red Burn’s Applications class on Tuesday. We really only had 28 minutes to record! I played the voice on the phone telling Mario that he has gonorrhea.

Thanks to Alex Kauffmann, Adam Lassy, Si Youn, JeeHyun Moon, Jonathan Nachum, Nathan Roth, Caroline Brown, and Brian Carey Chung for organizing everything.


ICM Midterm: Portrait of Mao

UPDATE 22 Feb 2009:
I have written a new concise description of the Portrait of Mao:

The Portrait of Mao is a 42 inch by 42 inch color print on archival paper. The image was generated by a Processing sketch I wrote, which reads pixel color data from an image file and replaces each pixel with a text character with the same color as the original pixel. In the case of the Portrait of Mao, the source image was obtained from a Cultural Revolution-era LP cover of revolutionary songs featuring Chinese leader Mao Zedong and a bright, motley array of proletarian workers, representing different ethnic groups in China. My Processing sketch used this source image and replaced the pixels with the Chinese-language text of The Little Red Book AKA Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, a required text for every Chinese citizen during the Cultural Revolution.

In creating the Portrait, I wished to explore how text and images play a role in political propaganda and how they serve to construct a cult of personality around a paternal and pop-cultural icon. We know that words and images have persuasive and seductive powers, but how, and why? In reappropriating the propagandistic images and text and by depicting the controversial leader in an irreverently kitsch, Pop-Art way (Andy Warhol’s Mao paintings are an obvious point of reference), I sought to deconstruct the aura surrounding such a well-known figure who is still revered by millions in China.

The fusing of words and images also plays on the pictographic and ideographic nature of the graphemes used in the Chinese language. Chinese characters are simultaneously words, images, and symbols. In the Portrait of Mao they become both semantic and graphic building blocks of a text, an image, and an ideology.

Original blog post from 29 Oct 2008:

I presented my ICM midterm project yesterday.  I wanted to explore how text and images play a role in political propaganda and how they serve to construct a cult of personality.

The image above is just a scaled-down version, the real version is a 42 inch x 42 inch poster.  The poster consists of a text mosaic derived from a scan of a Cultural Revolution era LP cover of propaganda songs.  My Processing program reads the color information in the pixels of the source JPG and replaces it with characters from the Chinese version of The Little Red Book.

Here is a close up of the text mosaic, taken from the Technicolor Dream Coat guy on the bottom right.

I hope to one day present the poster in an over-the-top kitsch setting.  I want to frame it with red Christmas lights and build a “shrine” to the Chairman, with flowers and Tsing Dao beer bottles.  I also have another poster in the works featuring the Dear Leader composed out of the Korean-language text of his On the Juche Idea.  Ultimately, I want to create a triptych, but I haven’t decided on a third subject yet.  Uncle Ho?  Or maybe Grandpa Marx?

Here is a snapshot of me presenting the piece to my class.  Photo credit: Catherine White.

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Visit to PS1 in Queens

I finished my midterm projects for Physical Computing and Intro to Computational Media on Friday, so I decided to get out and get some “culture” by attending the ArtOut with Marina Zurkow at PS1 in Queens.  Elizabeth, who I worked with to make the Herbivores animation, has an in-depth post about the visit.  I don’t have a whole lot more to add to what she said.  I also thought the Børre Sæthre piece was incredibly immersive, especially the part with the unicorn in the partially fogged up glass and the “bathroom” installation with the gun and balls.  I can definitely identify with his boyish sense of humor and mischief.  I don’t want to give away too much, just go and see it for yourself – it’s only a few minutes from Midtown Manhattan, and admission is only $5 or $2 for students (a lot cheaper than the main branch of the MoMa which charges $20).  I found Olafur Eliassons’ Take Your Time stunningly imersive as well.  The photo doesn’t really do it justice because it can’t really capture the size of the installation nor the interactive effect of the mirror.

Lest you think that PS1 has been totally taken over by the Scandinavians, I also highly recommend the NeoHooDoo exhibit for a defiantly New World perspective.

While I was a little burned out with working with physical materials after the struggle to build the Electric Chair Bear, my trip to PS1 has injected me with a bit more inspiration and a renewed desire to work with different materials and to create works on a large scale.

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ICM: Sakura (Revisited) and Koyo

This week in Intro to Computational Media @ ITP, we learned how to add text into a Processing sketch.  I used my Sakura (cherry blossom) sketch from week 3 as a departure point and added the Japanese characters for sakura さくら into the new version of the sketch (above). I wanted to create a kind of “digital calligraphy” that explored the relationship between words and abstract shapes and set everything in motion. I also made an autumn leaves (koyo) sketch with the Japanese characters for koyo 紅葉 and an autumn color story.  To make things more visually appealing, I increased the size of the triangles and added some transparency to the background to create a more stylized sense of the passage of time in the animation and to create an illusion of three-dimensional depth.

There was a slight problem in getting the sketches to execute correctly though.  Although Processing is able to deal with Unicode-8 character sets, I was unable to get the Japanese characters to display correctly in the calligraphy font that I wanted.  The Japanese characters were showing, but in a default san-serif font and not the font that I created and specified in Processing.  I realized that I had to import the full character set and not just the default characters that Processing turns into bitmaps when you create a font.  However, when I checked “all characters” in the Create Font menu and clicked on “Create”, my computer froze up, probably because Japanese fonts have literally thousands of different characters, unlike the 26 letters and handful of punctuation marks we have in English.  Since I was only using 3 different characters in the Sakura sketch and 2 different characters in the Koyo sketch, I thought I that I might try creating SVG files in Adobe Illustrator for each character and then importing the Candy SVG library into my Processing sketches, which would then allow me to import the Japanese characters as vectors instead of bitmapped fonts.  Also, I only had to load the characters that I needed, and not the entire character set of the font.  As you can see from the screenshots, this approach worked!  I got the Japanese chracters to display in the calligraphy font instead of the default Processing font which didn’t work in the context of the sketches.

Click on the screenshots above and below to play with the sketches.  Drag the mouse around the frame and hold down any key on the keyboard to scatter cherry blossoms petals/autumn leaves.