The Studio of Eric Valosin

Friday, October 18, 2013

Openings in Newark and Morristown

Venae Cavae at Aferro

An important note - if you go to see this installation, go after dusk! The projection will not be turned on during the day, and you'll be left scratching your head even more so than normal.

The opening for Aferro Gallery's Activate Market Street was jam packed, and Marc D'Agusto and I got a wonderful response to our collaborative installation, Venae Cavae. If you'd like to, you can track the progress of that piece from its beginning, starting here.

In the mean time, here are some pics and videos from that night. You can experience the piece in person every night through January 15th, at 77 Market Street, Newark, NJ.

Inside Aferro's 85 Market Street venue, which housed a series of concurrent solo shows (and fantastic hors d'oeuvres!)

My 15 month old enjoying the DJ and a cold one. One of the few times I'll encourage him to hit the bottle...

Morristown Art Walk

I also had a great time meeting so many interesting artists and artlovers at the Art Walk the sunday prior. It was a new experience for me to show in this sort of street-vendor manner, but I very much believe it takes all types of events and configurations to engage with the community revitalizing powers of art, which this walk tapped into very successfully. Plus, I enjoy contributing to the range of accessibility and conceptuality of these sorts of events. Kudos to Morristown on the diversity of the represented art! Even in spite of some drizzles, we had a steady flow of visitors, and great conversations!

My display, including 3 pieces from my Meditations series, and 5 from my Cosmos on Gray series, as well as my artist monograph. Many thanks to my fellow venue-mates, who generously helped this art walk rookie with the logistics of his installation...

...I quickly became aware that there's a science to displaying your art at this sort of fair-style event, and it seems the people I shared the venue with had studied this science extensively! We'll just say I was a bit out of my element...

Thanks to all who came out to these recent events! You made it a very enjoyable week!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Venae Cavae Opens Tomorrow!

It's a miraculous thing when a piece comes together and actually exerts a real effect on the world around it. Marc and I had designed this piece with relational aesthetics in mind, that is, the "art" is just as much the interactions and relationships that are cultivated as a result of viewing the piece as it is the piece itself. Tonight as we were finishing up installing for Activate Market Street, I really think we saw Market Street activated. I think we saw a glimmer of revitalization.

But the Real Magic Happens Thursday 10/10 (Activate) and Friday 10/11 (Open Doors)
at 6pm at 77 Market Street
for the openings! (shameless plug)

Have you ever been to Newark, NJ? It's not exactly a place many people want to linger after dark. And yet, in the light of our projection, stranger after stranger began to interact with each other as if in the company of old high school buddies! One man, after passing by and catching himself integrated into the video in his peripheral vision, stopped in his tracks and started asking us about it. He had no artistic background, and seemed at first to be very much the sort of person one might expect to be roaming the streets of Newark after dark. Rough around the edges to say the least. But as we began small talk about the work, something strange happened... He gradually opened up and found in us a camaraderie he must have badly needed. He unloaded a heart-wrenchingly terrible backstory - the kind that, in my experience, is usually followed up by a plea for your spare change. But no money was ever requested. Only an ear. No joke, Marc and I stood with this man and listened as he actually got choked up over his need for a revitalization story of his own. We called each other by first name, shook hands, and talked until he felt like he was ready to move on, and then he thanked us, swallowed hard, smiled, wished us the best of luck, and then started off down the street with a "God bless you guys." Stunned and a little caught off guard, we offered to keep him in prayer and wished him well as he left.

Social barriers of race, class, and background came crashing to the ground as people made instantaneous friendships inside our little virtual world! I was invited into my own projection by a guy who wanted me to join him on the girder for a silhouette snapshot, as if standing in the same virtual zone as him was like joining the same fraternity; as if it just wasn't right to be separated by virtual thresholds! I watched as a very compelling sort of kinship formed among people who occupied the same girder.

I drove home tonight proud of our completion of the installation, yes, but downright giddy with the thought that this is exactly why I make art - to create spaces where people can meet themselves and each other anew, and just maybe sense God in the midst of it all. I for one felt God today amid our new comrades, these strangers, and relationships were cultivated that would have had no business happening otherwise.

But that's of course skipping ahead quite a bit...

There were several harrowing days of install before we got to enjoy these moments. HUGE thanks to Aferro Gallery for being so supportive, generous, and curious. Their belief in this project made it possible. Here are some shots from the journey: 

(and if you'd like to go back in time to the beginning of the project, here are the other posts about it, in chronological order:

Two parts to the installation: the projection (which is being set up here) and the sculptural installation of Marc's architectural forms. After testing a few projectors and deciding on the best option we encountered harrowing moment #1: scraping off the window of frosted glass where the Kinect would peer out, praying that it wouldn't refract the light away from the sensor and make the whole project impossible last minute. This was unlikely, but a very real and VERY scary possibility, since I don't think there would be a way to fix it ...

...This test thankfully confirmed that everything worked as it was expected to, with no technological disasters on the part of the Kinect! You'll hear Marc's reactions as I go out and test it for the first time in situ.

Harrowing moment #2: Marc's plaster beams had picked up quite a bit of moisture in storage and were therefore much heavier than they used to be...

...and did I mention that they are meant to be free-standing? Yes, that is indeed a 200 lb plinth balanced precariously on the intersection of 3 other pieces all cantilevered together by nothing but wishful thinking! ...Apparently wishful thinking goes a long way around here. What doesn't go a long way, however, is measuring wrong and setting up all 400 or so lbs of plaster in the wrong spot, right in front of the projector....

...a projector that doesn't quite throw a wide enough image to fill the whole window unless it resides just behind the wall. Here was our first makeshift projector mount, extending off the back of the top of the wall to give it more distance. We certainly earned our merit badges on this one.

...that is until we realized that it needed to be a good foot and a half higher than our first platform would allow. So I pulled some tricks out of my old grad school hat and built a ceiling mount!

I'm hoping this mount is useful to the gallery in the future as it is perfectly positioned to project the size of the window!

Next we began lighting the sculptures in order to get cast shadows that would echo the landscape in the video, which was, after all, derived from shadows created by these very forms in the first place.

A panoramic shot of the sculptural installation in progress, paper over the window on the left to hide our work until the big reveal!

Rubble is good for hiding technology. The Mac Mini that Aferro Gallery so generously lent us to run this project. Harrowing moment #3 came when I realized how horrendously short we were on wiring, needing the projector, computer, and Kinect all to be hooked up together on completely opposite ends of the room. Luckily, another old grad school trick in my hat (cuz that's where you keep tricks) involved a 25 ft VGA cable in my studio that just barely reached and solved the problem.

Marc's flowering buiding, Paraxusmos

 Harrowing moment #4 came when everything was all hooked up and ready to go, and I hit play, only to find that the projection was but a fraction of the window size, even with the projector as far back as it could go. The answer came with a bit of poking around in the computer settings, and once I adjusted the resolution to that of the video as opposed to the projector's max resolution, it all began to fall into place. Here we have a first glimpse of the projection with the sculpture.
And we here get our first peek at real passers by out on the street, as we watch from inside. We still hadn't quite resolved the lighting (harrowing moment #5) so the image is a bit washed out, but that was soon remedied by some clever masking and snooting. You can thank your theater tech professor later if you understood that.

Aaaand... Voila!

(more photos and videos to come - Marc got some great ones. I believe he has some including our encounters with our new friends, too.)

And so now, there's nothing left but to hope the technology does what it's supposed to and continues to cooperate in the time between now and the opening, inevitably frantically fix something, and then enjoy your company! See you there!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Venae Cavae Just Before Install

I felt like Alexander Graham Bell making his first successful telephone transmission as I called Marc the other day to report that I had finally worked out all the kinks in our interactive video installation's programming, and that we'd officially have something functional to install this coming week!

To follow this project from the beginning, click here for the first post about it...

Countless hours went into creating and compiling the video of the stock silhouettes and motion background elements with Marc's still image in Final Cut, only to find that Processing just wasn't having it!

After 9 different configurations of Final Cut export settings, I finally stumbled upon the codec that wouldn't cause the video to crash or drop frames when importing into processing, solving problem number one.

With that weight lifted, I began translating over the programming from my prototypes to the specifics of our final imagery. You can imagine my terror when I finished, proof-read it, and clicked play only to find a black screen. No video, no Kinect, nothing!

Panicking, I googled every possible keyword that came to mind, and came up with nothing. Many harrowing hours later, I finally came to the realization that I had always been overlaying the Kinect imagery with a jpeg in my prototypes, figuring video would be the same, since processing handles them both as images (one just gets replaced every frame by another image). When overlaying with a video, it began to try to mask itself using the current frame of the video, which only exists for about 1/30th of a second, resulting in a flash and a black screen. 

I regrouped, added a dummy still image to be the overlay against which the Kinect could show up, and then layered the video on top of that, only to find that, though now masking properly, it woudn't overlay. Somehow I gathered the presence of mind to apply the tint() fuction, which made the Kinect transparent enough to see the video underneath. Yet, it was too washed out for my liking. Figuring I couldn't mess it up much worse than a black screen, I tried increasing the opacity in the tint's arguments until it was nearly opaque, but still overlaying. Just for kicks, I dialed it up to what should have been complete opacity and, to my surprise, found that it was indeed still overlaying, but with fully saturated colors, just as I wanted...

Then it hit me that the final object displayed in the code was displayed as transparent, and so each run of the draw loop still retained that info from the previous run, applying it to the first object displayed as it looped around. By telling it explicitly to stop that, it turned out to actually be a pretty easy fix! 

With a brief respite to run around the yard and do a cartwheel or two, I sighed a breath of relief and could move forward!

Then it was just a matter of getting my very patient wife to flail her arms compliantly in front of the Kinect while I tweaked the locations, colors, and thresholds for the final product.

So without further ado, here's a demonstration of the final product in my studio before installing this week, followed by the statement that will accompany the piece. Hooray!

Statement for 
Venae Cavae

Venae Cavae is an interactive video installation centered around themes of decay, revitalization, and the relational aesthetics that underpin such transformation. Like the veins of the same name in human body, which carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart to be revitalized, the viewer and passersby are transported into the landscape, to become signs of life, light, and vitality amidst the ambiguous landscape. This landscape becomes a new arena for bodily interaction, in which virtual space is intermingled with real space. Just as the passersby activate the virtual space of the installation, they simultaneously activate the physical space of Market Street itself, becoming analogous signs of life, light, and vitality amidst Aferro Gallery’s revitalization of Newark as a whole. This multiplicity of space is folded into yet another dimension with the accompanying light and sculptural installation in the physical space behind the video. The projected, sometimes inverted shadows, traversing these disorienting spaces ultimately generate relational encounters in which creative acts coauthor a further understanding of our surroundings and ourselves. Venae Cavae marks the first of a series of collaborations between artists Marc D’Agusto and Eric Valosin, who extend similar relational revitalization efforts to their work with Gravity Arts Initiatives.

Only thing left to do was to test it with a projector. Voilá!

Life is good.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More Installation and Studio Progress

Been putting more pieces in place for my upcoming collaborative interactive video installation with Marc D'Agusto, which will be going up in just 2 short weeks at Aferro's Gallery 77 location in Newark. (You can see the first post on this here, and the second, most recent post before this one here.)

First, more testing and prototyping with the hacked Kinect and Processing. As you see below, I've got the viewer showing up in different locations as a silhouette or inverted silhouette depending on his location. As the viewer moves further away, he shows up down in the bottom right, but when he's closer he shows up in the top left.

This week Marc and I were able to get access to the space to see what we'd be working with and get some measurements, and here we have it! At 77 Market Street, we have the right half of this storefront, to project our video onto the frosted glass.

When we realized the guts of the installation would be visible from the side, we decided to make things a bit more interesting by concocting a sculptural projection installation in the interior using Marc's corresponding architectural sculpture and some cast shadows/live capture video

My prototyping has been using stand-in stock imagery so far, but now we're beginning to put together the real pieces, with Marc creating the still imagery and me putting together some video components. Ultimately, it will look a bit something like this (though probably tinted a slight color, rather than straight black and white...)

Drum roll... here's the big reveal!

Now time to program in the specific measurements for the interaction between the physical space and the final digital layout, get it to work with the projector, and then get to installing itself!

Looks like we've got at least 3 venues to grow this project into as well! After this event, Aferro is giving us nearly an entire block of storefront window space to expand into in January, and then we will be reconfiguring it for a gallery space for a solo show Marc has in Philly coming up (which I'll be crashing, it seems!) Exciting stuff!

In the mean time...

I've been moving in to my new home studio (aka rearranging 3 rooms of our house in order to put together a space I can work in, in time for a studio visit tomorrow night!). You'll remember the beginning of this quest from my earlier post.

Pretty proud of how it's turning out! Not only did I manage to move musical equipment including a full drum set into a room where a 15 month old was sleeping, without waking him up, I've carved out a pretty nice space for myself. Laid down some contractor's material to protect the floor and then went at it. Ultimately looking to build some false walls I can destroy without worrying about repairing them when we move as well...