The Studio of Eric Valosin

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Sneak Peak at a New Project - Digital Performance Art

Firstly, check out my previous post if you haven't yet - I have some questions on there I'd love your thoughts on.  Leave me some comments and I'll use them for a project I have in mind...

Now then,

As I've been working towards publishing my first monograph as a part of my MFA thesis, I've been trying to get a sense of the whole conceptual terrain of my current body of work, and then make work to fill in any crucial, implicit subject matter that has yet to be addressed.  One such topic is the role of artist as participant in meta-postmodern theology and the credibility of creator as spiritual guide.

Here's a sneak peak at a performance/installation piece I'll be showing on Monday in the MFA gallery for Mindbody, a two person show with Natasha Jozi:

I invented a cyclical rear projection drafting table, which seats a translucent piece of paper on a plexiglass window in its center.  Suspended above is a webcam that feeds live footage of what it sees on the paper to a computer program that delays it 20 seconds, then pipes it out to a projector underneath the table that shoots the delayed live feed video up onto that same paper, rear-projection style.  Thus, it perpetually watches itself projecting what its watching itself project, 20 seconds behind itself (and so forth).

Here's where I come in with a demonstration of a ritual of making.  However, in a meta-postmodern turn, I wanted to retain the sublime without deifying the artist, and confound the notion of the ideal as graspable.

On the paper I draw a circle, completing one full lap in 20 seconds.  Thus, by the time my hand reaches the top of the circle again, the digital image of that hand (20 seconds ago) starts to be projected onto the paper.  On lap 2 I attempt to match my hand to the motion of the digital lap 1, forced to embrace and rehearse its eccentricities.  Lap 3 synchs up with digital laps 2 and 1.  Theres a constant struggle to unify the physical with the digital self, all while embracing the imperfections and calling into question the "ideal circle" as the pride of the artist.  Here's my first test run (the two videos are of what would be projected alongside each other in the finished installation after the performance ends)

To throw in an apophatic twist, after a few such laps, I will begin to alternate drawing the circle with erasing it, so that at every moment, between the real hand and the digital one, the circle is simultaneously being created and destroyed.

As it turned out in my test runs, the hotspot of the projector, though subtle at first, gets compounded with every recorded lap and eventually overpowers all of the imagery, until even my hand is obliterated by the light.  I'm looking forward to tinkering with it a bit more and working out some of the glitches (which aren't actually the worst thing, in light of the acceptance of the error as beautiful and valid process).

Here are some process shots of the construction of the table, which is itself quite a feat of marrying the digital with the analogue.  With all the technology involved, I wanted a high quality yet definitively handmade feel to it.

An MDF table top with a hand carved recess to set the plexi in flush with the table, and 4 clipboard pieces to hold the paper in place.
Underneath the table, a projector mount that holds the projector vertically
A custom box to house the webcam...
...which after being finished, was attached with plumber's putty to a bendable copper pipe fastened to the back of the table.

Using a VGA splitter, the live-stream video is piped from one computer to two projectors, one being the one aimed back up at the table, and the other out to the adjacent wall for viewers to more easily see what I see sitting at the table during the performance.
See that?  Two projectors, one computer!

Add to that this Max patcher that takes the webcam footage, delays the video (thanks to "KillingFrenzy," who wrote and posted part of this patcher in Cycling 74's forum for people like me to use), and outputs it to the projector, with an option to record the video.

And voila!

 When I'm not performing this, the installation will consist of the table with the finished drawing in the corner of the room flanked by either video (what was projected onto the paper as well as one documenting my actual performance of it all).

I have to say, its refreshing to have found a way to legitimize drawing a circle as worthy of an MFA.  Beauty is often in simplicity.  Then again, leave it to me to invent a piece of technological furniture and write a custom computer program in order to make that simplicity possible!

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