A Bayou Bouquet

Today was a Bayou bouquet, literally and figuratively. We actually did go out and collect a bunch of Golden Clubs from the Bayou, and the rest of the day was a diverse mix of class and individual visits, printing of Hurricane Alex print, processing of the shapes scan from last weekend, artist talk, and wonderful dinner out with our new Pensacola friends.

Maria spent a good part of the day altering and cleaning the scan of the shapes to get them ready to be masks in TouchDesigner. Here are some results from those efforts:

Alex spent a good part of the day processing the files from the Hurricane Alex scanning experiment for printing, including some detail subsets. When the first print came out we weren’t happy with the level of contrast but noticed that when oils from our fingers got on the print, the blacks became blacker. So we rubbed mineral oil all over it and this helped a lot. We know Carlos will be interested in our hands-on innovation :–) The print now hangs in the studio space. Below is a detail:

We also went for a quick jaunt to the Edward Ball trail head to gather more of the Golden Club that a student had gifted us a couple days ago. We collected a whole bouquet of them and found a couple of mushrooms to add to it. Almost every one of them were added to the progressive scan. Here is a scan snippet with a part of the original Golden Club:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have two scanners working now – one is working on the progressive scan mentioned above, and the other is our camellia scan. The camellia is deeply embedded in the culture of the Florida Panhandle and we’d like our final work to speak to its significance in some way. The image below shows a red variety crisply dehydrated:

we look forward to flowing the scans through touch designer back in Vancouver and discovering its potential.

The end of our day found us discussing our installation and artist residency discoveries in an artist talk held in the gallery. We had a warm and curious audience that through their questions and comments helped us see how much we had done here. The innovative open studio model of this residency has been excellent as a method of generating ideas and materials as well as a natural format of becoming integrated into a creative community. The final part of our day was spend in the quaint part of Pensacola at a great Indian restaurant with the friends friends we’d made here. As we left we looked up and saw this lovely ceiling bling.

 

 

 

 

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Foxtrotting

Today we walked with four lovely students! When we got to the studio this morning we were surprised to see people waiting to go on a walk with us because we hadn’t seen any names on the signup sheet before we left yesterday. So nice to have these wonderful enthusiastic people joining us. Rebecca, a student who knows the campus trails very well, offered to lead the group through the boardwalk bayou to the Foxtrot trail and back. The sky was cloudless, the air crisp and cool – a perfect day for an outing. We walked for 3 hours discovering more and more life within a seemingly dormant bayou. As happens every time we go on a walk, the eyes adjust to the details gradually. Initially we engaged in conversation about life, school, their experience with the campus, nature, etc. But as the enchantment of nature took hold, we started pointing out details like minnows, scales on scaly pines, spider webs, decaying trees, grasses.

We made a rule that we (Alex and Maria) would not collect anything on this walk. It would be the responsibility of the guest walkers. This would prove to be hard for us but ultimately the right choice as it was fascinating to see what they picked up, being locals. We did have some influence, particularly on how much of each thing was taken (they were more timid at first). In the end we had two bagfuls of bark, branches, grasses, mushrooms, needles, and more.

When we got back to the studio, we arranged our collection on one of the tables. Unfortunately Alex and I had to jet downtown for a talk but we left the very capable guest walkers with the task of coming up with rules for how we would set up the scan the next day. We still haven’t seen these rules but very much looking forward to the process of interpretation tomorrow morning when we quickly drop in to the studio before going downtown for the colloquium roundtables.

 

 

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Pensacola so far

We arrived in Pensacola on Saturday February 1st. It was cold. We didn’t expect that. Neither of us brought the required clothing. Since then it’s been up and down in temperature with a huge range (12-27C). So even though it sometimes feels like summer to us, it’s definitely their winter as evidenced by the vegetation, which is largely in a dormant state.

We were also surprised by the structure of the city especially since the University of Western Florida (UWF) where we are being hosted is quite far from the historic downtown area of the city.

Things we have noticed about Pensacola:

  • Their are many many baptist churches. And we have been told there are more than meet the eye. Some houses are churches. When one enters bookstores, there is a front section dedicated to God and religion. This is an important part of the culture here.
  • There are many Waffle Houses. We are not sure why. Apparently they are all freezing cold.
  • It is car country. The roads are ultra wide and there are not many sidewalks. We spotted one bike path. Our dream of getting around by walking was dashed. We rented a car. Turns out a tank of gas here costs all of $30 (CDN). It’s really hard to get our bearings because everything is so far apart and the visible landmarks are usually chains like Denny’s or Taco Bell.
  • U-Turns. The highways and main roads (and there are many) are extremely wide and are generally separated by a centre median. This means that to get to where you need to go (like a Waffle House, say), it is necessary to make a U-turn. It is sanctioned and encouraged (nay, planned well in advance) by the in-car nav. We miss the frisson of U-turns in Vancouver.
  • It is surprisingly easy to be a vegan here. There are some good grocery stores and a greater awareness about plant-based diets than one might expect.
  • When it rains it sometimes comes down in sheets. On the first rain we encountered here, 75-100mm fell in a few short hours. There was dramatic thunder and lightning. And then a couple hours later all the accumulated water was absorbed by the sandy soil.

We have learned a lot of about the area in conversation with our gracious hosts and other visitors to our makeshift studio in the TAG gallery. For example, we noticed that there are many camellia trees here and someone told us they know of a camellia tsar (his words). Turns out there is a camellia garden on campus and we walked through it today. It was absolutely amazing. We will do a camellia scan.

The campus is located on a hilltop and is surrounded by wild spaces. There are also many trees on the campus itself. Once we started walking, we loved it. There is a boardwalk trail through a Bayou a short 5 minute walk from the gallery. From there, there is a 17 mile network of trails. All of the trails warn of alligators and poisonous snakes but there seems to be no general fear about these encounters. We have seen one snake so far and it was a mutually benign encounter. We learned from Jeff VanderMeer (who gave a lecture today) that alligators are like scaly basset hounds, and that, if you need to, you can execute a well-planned jump over one. We also learned that there are attacking otters here. And that this area is the 6th most biodiverse area in the world.

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STEAM2020 Feb9 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (Pensacola) February 9

perdido toward perdido
never quite though
the indolent (beep beep)
keeps us rotating north

lime yellow green
spike stems
glowing in moist grasses
memories of horsetail
neither moss nor pine
vascularly rhyzomic
sporifically versatile
the original flash photography

happy black snake
not seen      seen
not bothered either way

long live the longleaf pine
from grass to tree
needly joyful fireworks
friends of fire
blue skies and wind

pine savannahs
pulped to near extinction
colonized by slash and loblolly
saved by love and rainwater
long live the longleaf pine

saw palmetto
pierce ground and brush
radiate blades
cut through uncertainty
with planar precision

scintillating
sleepy tubing river
I can see alabama from here

first timers greet
memories of the ancient
no hurry
the snake shall remain black
long live the longleaf pine

memories of alberta
wild rose country
catching
brambly
insistent

quiet budding
summer to us
winter to them

simple vertical
calming spindles
this forest is hope

—-
[
Start 1:33pm
End 4:53pm
From University towards Illian, recalculating,
recalculating, to Perdido River Nature Preserve,
onto trail, didactic panels, sunning snake, muddy patches,
to the river bank, a look at alabama, quick chat with the local,
back to trail, stymied by mud and brambles,
escape to private property, wet feet, lunch on the road,
boardwalk through the bog, sleeping pitcher plants,
long leaf pine savannahs, grasses, back to private property,
feathery finish to The Indolent (now loblolly).
]

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ObjectACTs Residency : Day 4

multiview performance - still documentation

multiview performance – still documentation

Today we worked on an experimental coordinated multi-view performance between objects. A Gear360 camera circles around an improvised paper structure, enters it, and eventually topples it. A GoPro camera captures the view from inside the paper structure. A third camera captures the whole scene unfolding as a slow inevitable drama. I have not had time to edit all the video sources together. But here is one of the three videos from the performance.

 

Tomorrow we will be integrating projection and augmented reality.

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ObjectACTs Residency : Day 2

On day two we spent some time discussing how we might create a performance that would include the perspective of multiple actors, including those non-human and non-personified.

Situation Rooms by Rimini Protokoll

Situation Rooms by Rimini Protokoll

The example of The Situation Rooms from Rimini Protokoll came up. In this theatre work, participants (~20) wearing headphones and carrying ipads are directed to perform specific actions on a set made of several different rooms. The participants are separated and their actions are synchronized to sometimes interact with one another. The topic of the story is arms dealing. A detailed description of the rooms can be found in the Ruhr Triennale catalogue.

 

Kim showed us some of the environments she created using Roller Coaster Tycoon editor.

Image made with RCT

Image made with RCT

She explained the modelling of the terrain as “scooping up dirt” which had a really nice resonance with the object clumps we had been discussing. I love the floating islands and wondered if we could somehow fit the concept of roller coaster in the project to get around the fact that we can’t export from the RCT editor.

We also tested the Structure Sensor to see if we could get workable scans of some of heart trinkets that Catherine brought to Vancouver. It turns out the objects were hard to scan because of their small size and material properties (too reflective and transparent). Still one of the scans ended up intriguing enough that we may use it as a prototype or stand-in.

Here is the first working scan we got of a small rock heart. If you are viewing this on an iPhone and you want to use Google cardboard, use this link.

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ObjectACTs Residency: Day 1

Today was the first day of the ObjectACTs residency which will continue until the end of the week. We took the morning to introduce everyone and share our thoughts on objects and agency. I took some notes and they are somewhat disjointed but at the very least I thought I would share some themes that arose during the discussion and a few things that particularly caught my attention.

James Luna - We Become Them

James Luna – From “We Become Them”

Richard Hill talked about coming across Jimmie Durham’s work which became the subject of his PhD dissertation. He talked of the deeply contextual nature of objects and our mutual co-creation. Within this discussion emerged the work of James Luna, We Become Them, where he embodies masks of different indigenous cultures as they are projected on slides. This struck me as quite interesting in the context of performance and getting at the question that Ian Bogost poses “What does it feel like to be a thing?” It also reminded me the first ten seconds of the Charlie Chaplin Dictator speech. In that ten seconds, which I could watch over and over, he settles into his body and grounds the work of rising. The very essence of becoming, embodied.

Mimi Gellman talked about the design of The Exploding Archive, a traveling structure which contains and activates maps and teaching bundles. This work has not yet been fabricated but forms the basis of a discussion of how sacred or ritualistic objects can travel with their own contexts. She talked of the Archive as being empowered to carry these objects that she herself is not empowered to carry. She also talked of the power of an object being enacted by its parts being joined (a pipe, for example). Even though she did not discuss it as much this morning, the maps that she has collected for the Archive are varied and are themselves of guides or paths to enactment.

At some point the question “do objects talk back?” arose and Mimi recounted an experience of seeing a mask in a museum which related to her so directly that she did not know that it was in an acrylic case until she asked for a photo of it. I talked of my Amazon Echo which quite literally speaks to me and has become an agent, a kind of person in my life. Alexa is real until she bumps up against the implicit expectations of conversation (see the post on virtuality). Richard pointed out it becomes even more strange when you know that through legislation Amazon is considered a person in the USA.  Alexa is the distributed avatar of Amazon. He also spoke of Daniel Dennett’s concept of the Intentional Stance.

Catherine Richards - I can't let go of them

Catherine Richards – I can’t let go of them

Catherine Richards spoke of her work with heart transplant recipients who have a complicated relationship with their donated heart. She spoke of the trauma always present in that moment where a heart goes from one being to another and how the “intruder” heart is always evading an immune system on alert for what is “not me.” In her work, I can’t let go of them, heart trinkets given to a cardiologist by heart transplant patients are represented in stereoscopic layers. She spoke of the deep meaning that these objects have for the cardiologist who could remember each one (and there are dozens, perhaps hundreds).

I spoke about my curiosity about the representation of objects in virtual environments, as familiar or more abstract entities. Is there a way to design an environment where objects have a kind of life force, that is not fully knowable and is alluring? I also spoke of my recent fascination with Karen Barad‘s work “Meeting the Universe Halfway” where she speaks of Agential Realism which posits that objects come in and out of existence as a function of relations. Catherine spoke of her encounter with a physicist who emphasized that we “cannot look without touching.” This surely relates to virtual environments, though, as Richard points out, we are always venturing somewhere between the “factual and poetic register” when it comes to language. Quantum physics is a good example.

We spent the afternoon experiencing VR apps in the HTC Vive and the GearVR. Kim Parker was our able guide on the Vive. I’ll be posting more about experiments in VR during the week.

A Zotero list has been started to host the references brought up during the residency.

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