Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Residency Work Environment

 This was our studio.
These are screen captured animations of the motion capture data creating traces. Our friends Jim and Jodi were the subjects. We wrote a set of visualization software tools in Pd/GEM so we could analyze the data for composition of the installation and for water jet cutting files.

 Elly, our studio dog, became quite the shop dog.

This drill press was a part of the studio and a source of fascination. 

Outside the studio - lots of machine shop stuff - lots of room to move around with fork lifts (and wheelchairs).
Right outside the studio was a loading dock between buildings ...
... where we laid out the piece...

...and Elly was groovin' in the grass.

Our piece shot from the loading dock area.

"Approach" FAQ

Who are the artists? Drew Browning and Annette Barbier – creative and life partners. Our art collaborative name: unreal-estates .................................................................. How was it made? The trailing line forms were generated from motion capture data recorded with a Motion Analysis system using infra-red cameras and retro-reflective markers on the subject. (It would be possible to use less expensive, less exact capture technology, but this is what we had access to).
Why use motion capture at all? The practice of data visualization has become commonplace in numerous fields including the arts, the idea being that it reveals new information and allows the subject to be understood in a new way. Data can be mapped to other visual representations or to other mediums such as sound. For this piece we wrote software tools to analyze the data in time and space allowing us to find the right traces for a particular interval. Fractals, for eg., can be instantly appreciated from an image, whereas understanding the theorems requires a highly sophisticated understanding of math. Lev Manovich, artist and researcher, is a well known and articulate proponent and practitioner of visualization for understanding large databases. ................................................................... What’s it about? Part of the idea for the piece is the relationship between human and environment, calling attention to human scale and presence in an industrial context. Is there an irony in using technology to do this? We think not, since technology is the medium in which we all live and breathe. It has become indispensable and enriches our lives in many ways. People with disability are a relevant example – assistive devices make it possible for many people to lead productive lives. And since technology is what we have used to compromise the environment, it makes sense to use it to try to restore balance. ................................................................... How did it start? We have always worked in a way that favors neither content nor medium but engages in a dialog between them. So, surprising as it may seem, what looks like a straightforward self-portrait really started as an investigation of a tool – the mo-cap system – and grew into the story of our lives. Although this is not meant to foreclose on other interpretations of the work – for example, we were also thinking about the ability of data to make visible information that is normally invisible and the traces as representing the effect of an individual’s presence in the world. .................................................................. What was the final medium? We used 4mm corrugated plastic, which was flexible enough to follow the vagaries of the fence but stood up to water jet cutting. The water jet gave us the ability to not just emulate but exactly follow the curves generated by the subjects’ motion. Installation took 1 ½ days, and we were assisted by Ron Ray, director of the Center, and Jim Zeske, fellow artist in residence. Ron’s idea, and we hope it comes to pass, is that when the work begins to deteriorate, as it undoubtedly will, the fence will be painted before removing the work, thus leaving yet another, more subtle trace of its presence in the environment. .................................................................... Many thanks. Creating this piece in a residency context gave us the required amount of time undistracted by other obligations, so intense work over a two week period would otherwise have required two months on an ordinary schedule, and we’re grateful to the Center for the opportunity.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Press release for “Approach”

Our Press release for “Approach”: “Motion Capture” is a technology heavily used in movies such as Avatar or Lord of the Rings (Gollum) or almost all contemporary video games. It’s generally regarded as a way to transfer the movement of a live person to a computer generated one. But two artists in residence at the Prairie Center of the Arts, Drew Browning and Annette Barbier, are using it to create a mural on the 75’ fence adjacent to the Center’s building. Two people approaching one another, one walking and one using a wheel chair, are the subjects of their most recent work, “Approach”. Seen from Washington St., with the giant processing plant Archer Daniels Midland in the background, it reminds us of human scale and presence in a highly industrialized environment. And it also speaks to the traces we leave behind us in our passage through life, knowingly or not.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Water Jet Work

Today we did some work on the water jet cutter – admittedly overkill in terms of power since we’re just using corroplast – but still, a lot of fun. We can’t operate it ourselves, but we did get splashed and watched the cut traces emerge …
Paul (thanks, Paul) stayed late to help us, we got two sheets cut and will hopefully cut a few more tomorrow – we have 9 sheets so have to fit the work into the available space. Nesting the lines, you can get more out of a sheet than just the 5 that will actually be displayed in the vertical dimension. It would be so wonderful to use a material with some durability, stability and bling – like stainless steel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Name for the Piece

So we've decided on a name for the piece on the fence: Approach. It takes into account the two sets of traces approaching one another - one from a walker/runner and another from a person using a wheelchair. Where they meet in the center, their figures will be sketched in. Meanwhile, today we are working on what the figures will look like, and getting the traces to repeat without an apparent break. A few feet away in the woods, life goes on, with native flowers and plants blooming and the little stream bubbling by.
Jack in the Pulpit
The stream

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Prairie Center of the Arts Residency

We received a 2 week residency at the Prairie Center of the Arts in Peoria which has been a boon in terms of concentrating on the most recent projects involving interpreting motion capture data in sculptural form. The Center offers residencies that allow the use of studios and facilities in the warehouse district of Peoria, right along the Illinois River, and housing in a beautiful, semi-rural house set on the edge of an un-glaciated, wooded area with a small stream 20 min. from the studios.
We recorded motion capture data at Columbia College's Media Production Center in March with subjects doing two classes of activity - walking/rolling and yoga movements. The walking/rolling is destined for the fence adjacent to the facade of the studios that runs for 75' along Washington St., a highway-like street with not much foot traffic.
This is a mockup of a couple of cycles of the walking/running movement just to get an idea of what it would look like and what color material to use (black disappears). We went through many, many options in terms of where to put the work and what materials to use, finally settling on corroplast (corrugated plastic) which we will cut on the water jet machine here. Also, we plan to use mo cap traces from various yoga movements/postures to engrave on stone, and will be doing some tests with stone of different sorts (of the stepping stone variety, but different substances like marble, granite, etc.) to see what doesn’t explode.
Here’s a mockup, and below some of the traces prepared for cutting. If the water jet ends up destroying the stone, maybe we’ll try sandblasting (have to send it out for that).
The idea behind all this has to do with motion capture as metaphor for our movement through time and the invisible influence we have on the world by passing through it.