Monday, December 14, 2015

Wander - Final Touches

The last week I spent creating sounds and animated materials in Unity. I modified sounds I recorded in Audacity and began thinking of how they could be represented visually. I also broke out my circuit bent guitar to add some really wild sounds. The program really fought me in animating objects so I did the best I could with what turned out as a sound wave in the monolith objects, a ghost effect for the trees, a glitching effect for the circuit bending sounds, and various others to create unique objects and make the world more explorable and intriguing.

Post 7 - Wander - Picking a location

It was an easy decision to pick room 116 in the J-School, dubbed the "Google Room". We wanted to make a space that people would want to spend some time with the work. To get a full experience of the game people would be required to sit for around 10 minutes, so the space had to be comfortable and laid back. The room already had speakers and an audio system installed so our game could really be turned up to get full immersion. We contacted Professor Larry Dailey to use the space which we reserved without a hitch. I then decided to place the projector and computer under the display tablecloth to clean up the space.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Artist Exhibition: “Dexterity” Student Art Show

After Kevin B. Chen’s talk, I attended the student art exhibition that he curated. The first gallery space, and the one I believed most interesting, centered around body image. I think this is a very under-explored topic in art, not that it hasn’t been in the past, it’s only recently that mass media has begun showing an extreme body image and it's not taboo to talk about it. Of course, this issue affects women more than men and I was glad to see my peers address this issue and help me gain a better understanding of their perspective. I was less interested in the pieces in the second space, they didn’t have a common theme like the previous gallery, thought that was a given since students submitted work individually and not for certain topics. That made the pieces on body image more interesting, though. It’s obviously an issue many artists and the public are concerned with, and creating art about, now more than ever. I really liked the piece on make-up tutorials by Jena Valenzuela. I thought it was so thoughtful and funny how she mocked the newest Instagram sensation. I had no idea how much of YouTube and Instagram now was all about makeup. All of these pieces seemed to stress the artificiality that has become so common in our culture. They also do it from a place of knowledge and you know that it’s this unrealistic image that they put up with daily.
The back space was occupied by a massive papercraft style dinosaur skeleton. It was covered in gasoline company logos, and while I got the joke it seemed like a one-liner. The interesting part to me was the construction. It must have taken weeks to create. Back to the concept, it seemed like the logos were doing such a large sculpture a disservice by reducing it to a joke. However, this also was probably not the intended setting for the piece. Outside an oil company’s office or even placing it at a gas station would have made its humor more poignant in my opinion. Also, I’m not sure if this piece was made by more than one student, furthering how difficult this sculpture must have been to complete. After the artist talk got me thinking, I wondered if the value of this piece lies more in its production and process, like Chen’s miniature paintings. It is funny to contrast the cardboard material with that of an actual dinosaur, using one of the cheapest materials as a substitute for one of the most priceless items in any museum’s collection.
I have been moving more and more toward making video games, and away from the practicing artist that the digital media program is trying so hard to make me. It is nice to see the works of my peers that have the drive to simply make art and I applaud them. Much of the work is better than I would expect and in a gallery context, some works would be on par with practicing artists today.

Post 6 - Wander - Creating a Visual style

This week I focused on making the aesthetic of the entire game fit together. I decided to change all the lighting to a soft blue to create a calm evening atmosphere to compliment the calm feeling of the ambient sounds. I also managed to make the grass change color from green to blue and to purple over time, it adds a surreal element and makes the landscape more fantastic. Efforts to apply this effect to any other object didn't work. Creating clouds was also very difficult as they wouldn't move and all had the same shape. Darius and I also painted in the grass which required us doing it by hand to avoid placing it on too steep of hills and mountaintops as well as placing more around water but not in it.

Artist Talk: Kevin B. Chen

Kevin B. Chen is a Bay Area curator and artist. He curated the student art exhibition this semester and gave a talk while he was on campus. He is based in the Bay Area and focuses his work on the city of San Francisco as well as big cities in general. In his curatorial work he was showing, he focused on how maps and cartography could create art. The works were about San Francisco and how maps showed aspects of the city that people might take for granted or be completely unaware of. I really enjoyed the procedural nature of the work, using software and statistics to create attractive visual art with a solid and powerful concept behind it. Kevin said he found maps were one of the most powerful means of visual communication. He brought up a picture of a map from the 16th century with dragons and other monsters on it as if to say modern maps have lost their sense of wonder or adventure and well as being clinical in their devotion to accuracy rather than user experience. Chen stressed how maps can be the greatest means of individualization and fantasy.
I really enjoyed the work of the artist Eric Fisher in Chen’s show. Chen said Fisher hardly considered himself an artist. As a former Google programmer, he used programs to create maps centered around data and visually representing that data. In one of his pieces, he used Flickr data and geotagging to see where photos in SF were being taken by locals, and where they were being taken by tourists. It was incredible to see how much work must have gone into creating his algorithms, to figure out by the regularity of people's photo posts in an area to figure out if they lived in the location or not. You could tell where landmarks were as well as local hangouts just by the colors of the map. The pieces were very visually interesting as well and offered more as abstract art than glorified infographics. Philip Roth was another interesting artist showcased by Chen, he created sculptural maps from a specific media. In his San Francisco centered piece, he used DVD cases from a movie set in the city, then burned the cases in the places of the map where the 1906 fire burned.
Chen’s own work was just as exciting and interesting. He showed an ongoing series of miniature drawings of cityscapes. These detailed skylines never exceeded the height of a penny thought they retained the detail as if they had been drawn at a much larger scale. Chen even lays out magnifying glasses with the works when showing them. It’s the attention to detail which is what I think the strength of these pieces are, the concept behind them has to do with increasing population and megacities, though the audience, I believe is attracted to the immense amount of work put into them. I also find it fascinating that his work was so physically demanding. Chen hurt his arm and wrist repeating such precise strokes, as well as straining his incredibly nearsighted eyes. The contrast between the monumental physical endurance and tiny size of the work is fascinating. It seems like the opposite of the abstract expressionists in terms of physicality, his work is meticulous and defines itself in its small size. Chen was incredibly interesting as well as inspiring to see a young artist carve out a niche by doing whatever he could in the art world.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Post 5 - Music/Sound Exploration Game - Recording sound

I have a background in music, which was part of my interest in making this game, so I have been tasked with creating the sounds in the game. I play drums and guitar and also have a somewhat working knowledge of electronics and have a couple circuit bent instruments. I have been working in Audacity to create some sounds for the game. I have mostly been working with atmospheric and ethereal sounds so far as I want to get a sense of the overall atmosphere of the game before working on specific sounds. I want the game to change someone's mood while playing so I've been wanting to create some dreamlike sounds, I have been making heavy use of some editing effects especially the pitch and time shift controls. I will begin implementing these in the game as well as recording more.

Post 4 - Music Exploration Game - Creating the Environment

After a few weeks of going through the Unity tutorials I felt comfortable enough to begin creating the environment for the player to explore. I looked into how to procedurally generate terrain so I wouldn't have to create complex landscapes by hand. This will also allow me to focus more time on getting sounds in the game rather than 3D modeling. I also figure out how to add trees procedurally and hopefully I can soon add other elements like rocks and grass. I have given some thought to the aesthetic of the game and would like to try something low poly in the vein of Journey

I was able to create a test environment that the player can walk around in, I also created wind to make the world more lifelike. I will continue to work on the aesthetic of the environment as well as begin implementing sounds. I want the sounds to be unexpected, such as the wind through leaves is a guitar sound. Hopefully by adding sounds in a formulaic way to the coding, they will begin to play off each other rhythmic. Unfortunately I have been having trouble with bugs and implementing sounds and need more time with the program.

Post 3 - Music Exploration Game - Unity Tutorials

I have started working in Unity and learning the basics and coding from Lynda tutorials. Unity is an industry standard program and Darius and I have been interested in getting into it for a while and this project has given me a reason to. We began working through the 2D tutorial since it was the most basic, neither of us had coding experience or used Unity before. We created a side scrolling game that generated obstacles and destroyed them once of the screen.

Post 2 - Music Exploration Game Project - Inspiration and direction

I have been watching Daniel Cook's talk on game design and theory. I have realized that my game will be most effective as either a first or third person experience, preferably on console, or at least using a console controller.
His chart on loops show how the exploration itself needs to be the objective that keeps players playing. The sound has to create a unique experience and must also be different each time a player picks it up.

I also attempted to contact Thom Judson, an artist featured in the Clicks and Pops show on campus. He is practicing at the nexus of where art and games meet. I was interest to hear his insights into this largely under-explored art medium. I am awaiting a response.

Post 1 - Music Game Project Concept

For my project I am interested in working in Unity to create a video game. More specifically, a game that deals with sound and music. Since Darius's idea and mine are similar we have decided to collaborate.

I was inspired by games like Seaquence, Impulse, Auditorium, and Incredibox (links below). I like how these games make music and sound accessible and fun without being overly complex or in jeopardy of playing anything "wrong".
The essence of my idea is a game that provides a unique experience to the player without necessarily having objective based game play. The player should be immersed in the audio of the game and be allowed to explore the world, and find new things whenever they play.

Seaquence -
Impulse -
Auditorium -
Incredibox -

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Artist Exhibition - Tehching Hsieh

Tehching Hsieh's exhibition was my favorite that I've attended in college. His installation was very simple and incredibly powerful. It's amazing to see how dedicated he is to his work, especially when it's quantifiable in all of the pictures laid out on the walls. I could see just how much work went into the piece. The idea that really shows the power of his time clock piece was his choice to cut his hair and not cut it for the duration of the piece. This puts just how long the piece was into perspective and provides a visual reference point behind the concept. I imagine Hsieh is critiquing the mentality of capitalist industry with its nonstop work and punch in, punch out mentality.
One of the aspects I liked most was just how overwhelming the installation made the project feel. Hsieh seems inhuman in taking on this project and in turn asks if maybe the ideal worker in consumer society must be inhuman. There is a tremendous amount of authenticity in his work, he had a witness validate the time sheets and admitted the times he didn't punch in on time. The concept behind is work is strong and it's this authenticity that takes his work to another level. I thought the video was more powerful, yet the amount of pictures on the wall certainly added to the moving quality of the work. It was better to watch his hair grow as a stop motion animation than see walls of seemingly similar pictures. The thing that I noticed in the pictures that I didn't in the video was that Hsieh has a faint smile on the final day. I was very surprised an artist like Hsieh would be shown at UNR and I feel lucky to have seen his work in person. It is a testament to how much passion and dedication an artist can put into their work.

Artist Talk - Joel Swanson

I attended Joel Swanson's talk on campus. His work focuses on language and typography. His pieces all have a black and white palate and typically feature words. Much of his work is  focused on wordplay like the piece Homophone that has the words right, write, and rite overlaid over each other. His work all focused on the idiosyncrasies of language and how to represent these things we take for granted and make them exist in a sculpture. He doesn't use color in his works and typically uses black text on white backgrounds, and is usually minimalist. In contrast he made an entire wall of handwritten ampersands that was very labor intensive and visually busy. In another piece he has an LED light up whenever Lady Gaga tweets, I thought his works were all very similar except for the two i just mentioned.
He talked about his work being in conversation with Sol Lewitt and Heidegger.  I didn't think his work approached these influences really, Swanson's work seemed like one liners to me that were more focused on being clever than making a statement. I was most interested in his idea that language really affects how a person thinks and how it effects the culture that it's spoken in. I wish he would show more of that idea in his work, however I was impressed with the technique of his work and I liked the clean aesthetic. It could make his message very clear if there really was one. Overall I think Joel Swanson could potentially make very interesting works about language and how it affects someone's world view, and his current work feels more like design than art.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Final Project

My project deals with the ceaseless need of society to be generating new content. Today as more and more creative mediums like film and TV are “dumbed down” and content constantly rebooted versions of past sources, we see a rise in quantity over quality of entertainment. My piece creates an endless stream of content that creates itself and contributes to itself without a user creating new content. It uses video and audio feedback loops to make swelling waves of sound and images. I want to symbolize this reboot mentality as well as a sense that new content is unoriginal, uninspired, and a sense of the public’s mass media hypnosis.
I returned to a focus on sound and instrument electronics in this project. I am more familiar with instrument and sound electronics than maybe my peers and that is a point for my work to have its own unique voice. I used a headphone speaker and microphone to create a feedback loop that would oscillate based on motion of the speaker. The speaker was suspended over a series of magnets to keep the sound random and interesting. I would have like to taken focus away from the form of the pendulum apparatus and I would have liked it to continually move. The magnets only kept it in motion for around two minutes, I would have liked it to move for hours. The other aspect that I felt could really improve is the video quality, due to the price of webcams I could only get ones that recorded in low quality. Better quality would have made the infinite video loop more clear and go on longer. Overall this was one of my best projects in that it had strong video and audio elements though the level of refinement could be improved upon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Artist Exibition - Nick Van Woert

I went to the exhibition at the Shepard gallery, by the artist Nick Van Woert. The title of the show was Pink Elephants on Parade. None of the works had titles, so the viewer couldn't assume anything about the meaning of the pieces. It also makes it difficult to talk about his work since people may call his pieces different things. His works were all three dimensional, most were sculptures and one piece was tree bark in frames on the wall. The pieces in the gallery included sculptures utilizing exhaust pipes, coral, a chair made from boxes of sand, an industrial iron contraption, a welded copper piece that looked like a giant popcorn kernel, a black rock with a pole through it, two framed trees, and a statue covered in what looked like glass or wax. Van Woert uses a wide variety of materials and techniques.
The first piece in the entry of the gallery, is a statue of Poseidon face down in a pool of black wax. This was then presented upright in the gallery, with the hardened wax pool facing the door. It was the most interesting and unique presentation of Van Woerts work. This was the best piece in my opinion since it was both visually interesting and it had a message about pollution. I took the wax to represent oil, and the statue was covered in it like a bird covered by an oil spill. I then began to think maybe all of his pieces were about oil, but I couldn't make the connection. The exhaust pipes could represent a car that uses oil and gasoline, and the tree bark represents what the oil is made of. However, now I don’t think that’s what the work was about, I believe all of the works are about natural resources and how humans manipulate them. The tree bark was manipulated to be completely flat on a wall, the steel or aluminum of the exhaust pipes was bent, twisted and burned to create the blue finish on the tips. The colored sand was manipulated into a chair by putting it it plexiglass boxes. The copper sculpture was hammered and welded. The iron tower was also welded. I don’t know if Van Woert is trying to make a statement with all of these pieces or if hes just trying to work with as many materials and styles as possible. Most of the work doesn’t look like it was created by the same artist, the only unifying mark is his welding is consistent in the metal pieces.
I found most of the work aesthetically unappealing. The forms were usually bulky and unbalanced, especially the rock with a pole through it, I’m not sure if it was supposed to represent coal, it just looked fuzzy. The work was very random and seemed as if it was made by a collection of artists rather than one. The Poseidon piece seemed separated in style from the rest of the show, and also was the most successful piece in getting its message across. Visually the rest of his pieces weren’t nearly as striking, in fact they were boring. Most were just clumps of metal or other materials, and the tree bark felt completely out of place. Unless that was the point, that nature doesn't fit into this view of man manipulating resources. Nature is an afterthought, if even, to what we as a society create. If that was the message then it is made collectively by all of the works and the gallery space putting them all in context. This makes the Poseidon piece strange to include because it has the same message but does it itself, without the need to be combined with the other pieces in the space.
I can acknowledge that all of the works took time to build but I don’t think it makes them successful, they look over-thought and like a simpler approach might have made the sculptures more unified. I did like how he left it completely open to the viewers interpretation of the meaning. He also utilized the gallery space to allow his works to contrast in form and texture. As a whole, his work was more successful than his pieces because each material’s texture contrasted with the sculpture next to it. Too much contrast made the show feel somewhat disjointed. Overall I would say this exhibition was interesting, perhaps for reasons different than the artist intended, even if I didn’t think the art was very pleasing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Assignment 2: 3D Vignettes

The concept of my vignette project was to contrast video games and drone warfare. My 3D model was a joystick, which is an item used by both video games and drone pilots. The video was projected into a corner with the game half on one wall and the drone half on the other. I then placed my model in the middle.
In the game footage I made a machinima where the character flys a military vehicle, both a helicopter and a jet. Right before crashing them he wakes up falling from the sky, when he is about to hit the ground he is put back in the cockpit of a different vehicle. This draws a parallel to drone pilots who are not in danger of dying regardless of what happens to the drone. Finally on the last sky dive, he hits the ground and the iconic "wasted" message pops up. In GTA no matter what happens to your character, he will walk out of the hospital in a day, regardless of whatever trauma he endured. It's impossible to die in the game and it's no different with drones. The difference is the drones targets actually die, and what might feel like a game to the pilot has real consequences and takes real lives.
In my research I found out that US Army recruiters use war video games as a recruitment tool to lure kids in to joining. They pursue gamers as young as 12 as potential drone operators. I may have became too journalistic in my approach to this aspect of my piece as the narrative became driven by the people in the found footage more so than my own voice. I do want to use what I learned to create a projection mapped piece for my final.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Assignment 1: Response to Heidegger

For the first assignment I attempted to create a machine in response to Heidegger's essay. I was interested in making a machine that dealt with the futility outlined in the essay, in hopes that I could use technology to criticize itself. I wanted to build something that was difficult to turn off once it is turned on. I thought it was interesting in class when we brought up that if we wanted to go back to a time un-entrapped by technology, we would either need to stop using it or reveal its true nature. Heidegger seems to state that technology is man's way to dominate nature to his will. This was not the true purpose of technology and it was the duty of artists to begin revealing that truth. I wanted to make a machine that would be as difficult to stop as it is for society to give up their selfish use of technology. In hopes that this would show a Heideggerian form of art and and an object that shows how technology can be manipulated to critique itself.

My machine spun around in circles symbolizing the futility and self serving nature of technology. The idea was that the machine would spin the more light was shone on it, the more it was "revealed". I didn't intend for it to destroy itself but during the gallery presentation the batteries became intensely heated due to a wiring issue. This suggests the only way for the current uses of technology to subside is for them to run their course, or to destroy themselves in the process.

Practically this project was one of the most difficult to create, I spend twice as long if not more on this project than any other in this class. The work didn't show and my piece looked largely incomplete and didn't function properly in class. This was my first conceptual work and it was challenging being as my artistic focus is largely visual or sonic in all of my past projects. Responding to Heidegger is no easy feat and I'm not sure my project said much about technology other than it's unmanageability and futility.