The Studio of Eric Valosin

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Installing the Infinite

I am bit late on posting about it now, but last thursday I loaded up my car to install my interactive projection piece Dissolvation. (If context eludes you, you can catch up by going to my first post about the project.) I'm super excited about all the work in the show. There are a ton of really innovative, captivating installations and projects, including an immersive cosmological diagram that takes up half the gallery, line drawings created by mouse tracking software following the artist's day job activities as a photo editor (which give me big apophatic goosebumps all over in the sort of "why didn't I think of this first!?" sort of way), life-size cardboard ejector seats halted from hurtling into a projection wall by bungee cords and chain links, and video projection onto a relief black hole (created by a friend of mine, Gianluca Bianchino, who I'm very happy to get to show with).

During my test installation at home, you may recall I had to rig up a makeshift armature to affix the masonite boards to in order to get my project to fit on my wall. As if to scream that everything indeed happens for a reason, it was a VERY good thing I had that experience...

As I showed up at the gallery, I was greeted by a slight surprise:
Due to a typographical error and honest misunderstanding, the wall allocated to me turned out to be half the size I expected, and a good foot and a half smaller than the width of my project! As I racked my brain for a solution, the only thing the curator could offer me were some extra planks of wood leaned up in her office (...sounding familiar?)

So I began reconstructing - almost exactly as I did in my home - an armature that would hold my project and affix to the wall, extending its holding capacity to the necessary size! I have to thank the curator, Jeanne Brasile, for being extremely accommodating and helpful as we sorted out the mixup and worked for the solution.

a couple beams across to extend the width

adding the circle components

and finally the central mandala gallery form

After a few innovative hours, I was caught back up to the starting line and was able to begin installing the projector, computer, and camera, all which thankfully went off without a hitch.

Then to begin my ritual of aligning the projection and finding the crop points in the video capture (with some much appreciated help from one of the gallery assistants)

And we were soon ready to go!

The piece actually ends up being site responsive in yet another way I hadn't foreseen. Depending on the ambient light in the room, the colors of the projection alter. As the sun began to set, the colors became darker and bluer, and I expect when the gallery is lit for the colors to become slightly more natural, and with whiter highlights more of the time.

This project holds a lot of potential for performance too. One interesting discovery was that the delayed capture holds a memory of any light shone on the projection surface. For example, this shot below is from about 15 seconds after my camera had flashed its red autofocus light at the subject (The red light is no longer shining at the moment this photo was taken)

The possibilities for light painting are intriguing...

It will also be very interesting to see how the project behaves over the month and a half it will live at the gallery, constantly compiling and dissolving video footage. My suspicion is that each day when the projection gets turned off it will essentially reset the coloring of the projection, allowing it not to get too muddled. Who knows, maybe something unforeseen, strange and beautiful will happen!

Come see the show on Thursday 1/22, reception from 5-9 pm!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Solvere, Salvare, Dissolvation.

When last we left our hero (title used loosely), I had just finished up the digital component of my new project for the show Getting to Infinity.


The digital component serves the dissolve part adequately enough - the dis-solvere part - the part that pulls the viewer apart into his dividualized, digitalized pieces. But that's only half the equation. Being the good negative theologian I am - I'm apparently being very generous in ascribing myself titles this week; last post I was a "post-human post-structuralist relational metaphysician," if memory serves... - anyway, being a good negative theologian, I know that hand in hand with the solvere comes the salvare - the salvation, the recollection to wholeness (sozo, shalom). Only by being pulled apart and lo(o)sing the self may one find the self and be made whole. A dissolving salvation.

Given the implicit secularity of the gallery setting, I though it important to provide a physicality to the project that would be charged with a bit of salve. For this I turn to the meditative spiritual image, the mandala.

I've used this idea before, in Luma, turning the gallery floor plan into its own mandala structure. After all, conventional mandalas are in fact flooplans of Buddhist temples and such. I resolved to make a site specific mandala to be the stage for my interactive recursive video projection.

I began sketching...

...and refining, converting doorways into the iconic gate shapes and simplifying the geometry into the recognizable circles and squares of mandala imagery.
(taken from Wikipedia)

And I began cutting the shapes out of masonite. Full disclosure: I decided to make it in pieces both because I thought it would connote a bit of pixelated modularity (a 4:3 aspect ratio of masonite squares), and because that's the only way it would fit in my car for installation!

And I began painting it in a way that was as subtractive as an additive method can get, building up white strokes on top of a darker background, harkening perhaps to the whites of Ryman, Malevich, or Rauschenberg.

And lastly I inscribed in white oil around the borders the code that runs the program to be projected onto it.

Now with the digital done and the physical prepared, I was ready to combine the two and see how it worked.

Naturally, because no installation would be complete without some drastically bootlegged, jerry-rigged, hack of a solution somewhere, I had to get creative with installing this at home, since I lacked any white walls large enough to accommodate the piece. Armed with Gorilla Tape, 2 screws, and some wood planks I found in the garage, I began propping together an armature to hold the masonite pieces, and filling in the faux-wood paneled gaps with white paper to simulate a gallery wall.

Tomorrow I'll be installing at the gallery. But until then, I'll leave you with these catalog images as a teaser! Come experience the real thing on the 22nd!

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To Infinity and Beyond

To kick off 2015, I've been invited to participate in a group show on the subject of infinity. Below is a short chronicle of the development of my project for the exhibition, but if your patience isn't so infinite you can jump here to read the press release, and come to...

On view 1/20 - 3/15
Opening reception 1/22, 5-9 pm

Infinity was a curious subject to ponder for this quasi-post-human, post-structuralist, relational metaphysician. As I continually aim to draw together contemporary thought and technology with the mystical and phenomenological, I thought back to a book by Brent Waters called From Human to Posthuman: Christian Theology and Technology in a Postmodern World. He discusses the trans-humanist desire to bridge the gap between the "good" and the "necessary" (the eternal and the temporal) by achieving technological immortality.

Infinity takes on a new metaphysical depth when post-humanism enters the equation. The dissolve of one's self into cyberspace is in some way an extension of our desire for the infinite - infinite space, infinite possibility, infinite dividuals of the self, to borrow from Deleuze (if subtracting his power polemic).

What if our endeavors towards this digitized infinitude were to marry with our other endeavors toward metaphysical infinity - namely interactions with meditative space? This is one of the prime motivators of my practice.

I thought back also to a prior project of mine, Circle, in which a custom designed table and interactive video projection (using a recursive video capture delay, projected back onto the drawing surface being captured) allowed me, in performance, to literally interact with my digital self and synchronize the two dividualized spaces into one meditative act: attempting to draw and erase a perfect circle. 

I wondered if this idea could be translated off of the table and onto a wall so that anyone might be able to interact with it instead of just me in performance.

So I started with the video delay patcher I had written in Max/MSP for Circle, translated it to Processing (oddly I found myself more comfortable tweaking and coding in Java than Max's visual interface), and set up my projector. Originally the camera was aimed at the paper on the desk and then rear projected the image from below. That created the recursive infinite regress, which I really liked not only for its relevance to the topic, but for its aesthetic quality of eventually dissolving the digital selves into the glowing blue mush of the compounding projection light. In this iteration I used the laptop's iSight camera (soon to be replaced by an external webcam) and pointed it directly at the projection

That yielded this infinite regress:

However, what made the Circle experience so magical was that the projected image and the captured image were exactly lined up so the proportions of each iteration in the regression remained the same (no perspective effect, just an infinite compilation of overlays). So I designed this test, using a stock image and Processing's texture mapping function
Top right: original image. Bottom left: testing the shape to be mapped to, which fills the screen. Top left: the finished crop, mapping the cropped image (to simulate cropping to the projection screen) to the whole output screen. Bottom right: empty quadrant of black stuff.
With it, I was able to digitally crop the video capture to the edges of the projection, yielding something more like the intended effect:

Playing around with a two-way mirror. Unrelated to this project, but I wanted to tinker...

With a few more tweaks I was then ready to start considering the physical side of this digital-physical metaphysic... Spoiler alert, the below video has glimpses of what I'm talking about. (Stay tuned! Cue curtain)