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.