Monday, June 22, 2009

But... what is it?

So I've been writing all these posts with all these ideas for what I'm putting into the project. But what the heck, exactly, is my project overall?

The Digital Calder Project has gone through various stages and versions-- from performance art to installation, but the one I have settled on is an interactive exhibit in conjunction with a Flash website, with emphasis on 3-D modeling/animation and Augmented Reality.

Here is a sketch of the project layout (imagine the center of the Atrium):

Red: All of the items used in the Augmented Reality Calder's Circus
Yellow: Computer screens.
Blue: Multimedia, non-digital.

Here is some background on what all these pieces are and why I have chosen to do them.

Background: For many years, particularly in the late 20's and early 30's, Calder put on performances of his circus for other artists, friends, and family members. There were several acts, from 12 to 30 per show-- resulting in a length varying from 15 minutes to up to 2 hours.
Motivation: An article depicting the troubles of preserving these pieces gave me a problem to solve. My goal here, by using AR, is to imbue a similar sense of unpredictability that came with watching a presentation of the circus. Users will experience both viewing and performing the circus, without the use of literal fabrications or imitations of the original items or performer.
What I've done: 3-D models of 3 acts, working toward 5 acts. These are animated and linked to AR tags to allow user interaction with and guidance of the performance. Users will follow instructions to act as Calder, and see their actions result in an unpredictable performance.

Background: Calder is well-known for his sculptures made of found objects. One such item, Chock, is made of Chock-Full-O'-Beans coffee cans.
Motivation: Where there's computers, there's coffee. And it's usually in a paper cup. My goal is to use Calder's design sensibilities, but place them in the digital age. Most people no longer make their coffee at home, but they do go through loads of Starbucks cups. Starbucks is very much an emblem of the computer age, gaining its popularity in the same years of PCs and laptops. I think if Calder lived today, he would have created Buck, instead of Chock.
What I've done/will do: Use Starbucks paraphernalia to create Chock's grandson, Buck. They have a striking resemblance in stature.

Background: Perhaps his greatest contribution to the art world, and unmistakably Calder's, is the mobile. He often used primary colors of painted, cut aluminum sheets. However, when metal was hard to come by, he used found objects for his mobiles. These were often named by what they contained, or what they represented to Calder. Several of them were called 'Universes.'
Motivation: With the idea of the digital universe close in mind, along with the obvious homonym of mobile phone, what better a found object piece than a mobile of mobiles? Just thinking about explaining the levels of this makes my head explode every time. Essentially, it mirrors his use of found objects. It mirrors his signature piece, the mobile. It reflects an idea of the digital universe as interconnected yet mobile, non-static, and always in precarious balance.
What I've done/will do: In the style of one of Calder's mobile Universes, use mobile phones as the weights, connected by wires.

Background: Calder once said, "I think best in wire." He was truly gifted in creating likenesses of faces of friends, as well as prominent figures, in wire. He could work it into a shape as fast as some people can sketch. Some of these pieces include Josephine Baker, a jazz star of his time; Romulus and Remus, a mythological tale; and Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States during Calder's most prolific wire-sculpture years.
Motivation: I am not much in wire, but the more I work on my skills in 3D modeling, the more adept I become at forming curves into recognizable shapes. What I liked most about seeing Calder's wire sculptures in person was the way they look at different angles, and postulating how they might have been shaped. 3D software and animation allows the finished piece to show a sort of construction/deconstruction...
What I've done/will do: Create President Obama's head in Blender. Animate it so that the path of the curve starts in a blank space, then traces along itself to reveal the finished piece.

Calder did not live to see the internet. He didn't make a website or think about how to share his work mobile-y.
Motivation: All of this hard work, why not share it with the world? Really though, here is my overall goal for the finished project: put forth a projection of how thinking about art in a digital sense can renew it, and help preserve it, without imitating, faking, or mocking it. It can give viewers a new appreciation of it, see it from a different angle. It does not try to bring the dead to life, but brings the living to a separate level of thinking about art. The Digital Calder Project would not be the end-all for this sort of endeavor, but a new beginning to unlock old doors of artists gone by.
What I've done/will do: Create an interface that matches Calder's style: early-mid 20th Century modern, primary-colors, found-objects, and surrealist tendencies. Upload images and videos of Barack, Buck, and Mobile, along with their (final draft!) background/motivations. Create separate interface for Calder's Circus-- upload AR script/webcam interaction and instructions. Link to videos of the originals on Whitney museum website. Provide printouts of the AR tags, and let the user play from miles away.

I hope this helps anyone who has undertaken reading all this understand what I'm working on and why I'm doing it.

1 comment:

Lucia said...

Lee - this sounds really great! You are very clear with your explanations, so it makes it easy for me to follow - thanks!

One question: where do Fanny, Little Clown, and Elephant belong in this project? In the circus animation?