Computational Arts Research & Theory Blog

Post 6 - Nov 15th, 2018
I can has more reading week?

The title of this post is dated - going back to the halcyon days of 2013 before I can has cheezburger was sold and destroyed by whatever corporation but the sentiment is 100% pure nonetheless! I looked forward to reading week to be a time to catch up on work, but this opportunity was lost to assignments, workshops, and a day of talks. I also badly needed and gladly took a full weekend off - all of this meaning there was little time to catch up, reflect upon, or do any further research into topics we've learned so far. Conceptually though, the idea of a reading week in the middle of the term is brilliant and all universities should do this in the US - especially University of California schools with their relentless quarter system!

This week in the Creative Coding workshop we discussed and experimented with slit-scan photography. This was developed first by John Whitney for opening credits of the film Vertigo and then famously adapted by Douglas Trumbull for Stanley Kubrik's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Slit-scanning was used primarily for the "Star Gate" sequence and required a custom built machine. Douglas Trumball in the son of Donald Thrumball who created visual effects for the 1939 film The Wizrd of Oz and later for Star Wars. According to Wikipedia, Douglas Trumbull contributed to, or was responsible for, the special effects on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner.

I have read about slit-scan photography before never really understood it. When we explored it this week, I got a pretty good idea of the technique once we applied it by using the camera on our computers combined with openFrameworks. We took a line of video on the Y axis and sampled it in time from the cached frames in the buffer. You can take a line from an image on frame 1, the second line from frame 2, and so on until you have one image sampled from different frames. I'm still trying to wrap my head around slit-scanning to be honest which is amazing considering it is over fifty years old.

This week I finally made it to the South London Gallery to see Knock Knock: Humour in Contemporary Art. On the South London Gallery website, they write that the exhibition "explores the enduring use of humour as a device in contemporary art."

The show was curated by South London Gallery Director, Margot Heller in collaboration with English conceptual artist Ryan Gander and featured work by Maurizio Cattelan, Sarah Lucas, and Ugo Rondinone.

I am interested in the use of humour in any work as I feel the use of humour and satire disarms viewers and allows for lateral thinking. Once a participant is entertained or amused, they are more open to considering alternative points of view and new ideas. My favourite work by far, was a pair of animatronic eyes by Gander himself. These eyes were programmed to generate every expression that can be registered through the eyes, from boredom and worry to curiosity and surprise. It was hilarious to see eyes looking back at me - animated and expressive eyes - disembodied on a wall - watching me as I watched them. These eyes were simple, yet complicated - comic but not without underlying themes of figuration, identity, and existentialism.

Responsive Figure
Ryan Gander, Dominae Illud Opus Populare, 2016
I first learned about the exhibition in an article in the New York Times and was very excited at the thought of a show dedicated to humour in art. When I went to the show, I enjoyed it but felt it lacked depth or had missed an opportunity. I enjoyed being exposed to the work of artists I wasn't familiar with but I missed the presence of artists like Florentijn Hofman, David Shrigley, and Cindy Sherman. Overall I'm glad I went and I would go again just for the eyes alone.
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