This project was about creating a control device with Arduino which can control a Processing sketch or other runtime software. We had to consider the keyword "Control" as a principal theme for the project.
By the end of the project, we had to build this device, present it during a dedicated exhibition and create a documentation video.
The launch was followed by our first workshop on Arduino.
We first talked about the brief, the different requirements of the projects and the overall schedule.
We also looked into the different potential outcomes for this project with references from ECAL, CIID and other digital artists. We also discussed what key things we had to consider for the project such as the inputs, the physical device format, what kind of visual are we using as an output, etc.
The project was 4 weeks which let us the perfect amount of time to do our research for concepts and be ambitious for the final outcome.
The first workshops aimed at teaching us the basic theory of electronics and Arduino. We learned how it has to be wired, how to code and launch a program on the Arduino board, the difference between digital and analog inputs. It was very important so we can understand what we could potentially do for the project. We then learned how to link it to processing with the Firmata firmware and create simple visual feedback with the controls of the Arduino later in the week.
During the workshops, we were also taught prototyping theory and how to troubleshoot any issues we encounter with processing or Arduino. It was really helpful to have such intense theory in the first week so we could clearly understand what are the available outcomes for the project.
I could have a rough idea of what I could do, and how to do it.
We also had a last lecture on prototyping and components guidelines.
Experimentation with a potentiometer and an old processing sketch
IDEAS / RESEARCH
The first week was pretty intense as we discovered a lot of things thanks to the workshops. It basically layed down (most of) all the project's possibilities with Arduino and processing. I dedicated the first week and a half to my research and idea development.
Just after the launch, I had the idea of working with fonts or poster design or 3D abstract shapes. This was the very first raw idea of visual I wanted to use for this project. As I said, the workshop quite cleared a path of potential ideas. I looked up the different definitions of the word control and used it as a starting point of my concept development.
From my point of view, I could tie it to :
- Checking / Verification
- Placebo / Notion of fake control
Having all those potential routes I tried narrow it down to a rather large but coherent and interesting path. I worked a lot of projects based on my personal life, like emotions and state of mind. This time I wanted to be more ambitious and somehow I wanted it to be hard by exiting my comfort zone. This article on I-D inspired me to work on something bigger and not based on my personal emotions and state of mind. It just motivated me to look at another creative process.
I developed 3 ideas from these routes :
- Placebo: making something about the fake sense of control?
- Rules: Fighting today's (society) rules maybe by inventing a new behavior?
- Self Control: make something that expresses the notion of addiction and inhibition in life?
I supported my idea development process by looking at different references. I was really interested to work with something tied to fashion and or photography.
In parallel of the course, I work with a friend in France on a fashion-based photobook as part of the Unseen Festival Dummy Book competition. It inspired me to look at fashion and photography for this project. I wanted to consider it as a visual source. I also wanted to work with bright colors and unusual compositions. I was really inspired by Paul Edwards a photographer based in Stockholm.
Finally, I looked at different ECAL works with electronics and the notion of control. It was interesting to see different visions and examples of work that could be tied to our project.
Vague final concept
Just before the tutorial, I chose to stick with the self-control idea as it is the most interesting.
Surveillance and today's rules are pretty "already seen" and famous topics to talk about, I thought self-control could have a lot of potential. As a concept, I wanted to pair self-control with deterioration, temptation, and satisfaction. I was thinking of an experience where the user deteriorates a visual and indefinitely tries to recreate it by controlling the device. The only way it could regenerate is by leaving the controls.
That was the vague idea of my concept.
TUTORIAL 1 (group)
At the end of the week, we had a group tutorial. We discussed everyone's first thoughts and ideas for the project. I exposed my first ideas and the one I choose to develop for the project. As my idea wasn't super clear at the time, I just evoked multiple paths I could take. As self-control is a very large notion there's plenty of ways to go. I could create something about temptation, addiction, emotions, satisfaction, etc.
It was interesting to see everyone's first ideas and thoughts so far.
PROTOTYPING / CODING
As advised by Jen during the tutorial I started to work on small and practical experiments in Processing using a potentiometer we had been given during the workshop. As I chose to base my concept around the deterioration I looked up different artists' works and how their process could help me create my own.
A lot of my references are based on typography and I loved the work on kinetic type from DIA Studio and Tim Rodenbroecker. I remembered he released a few months ago a tutorial on how to make kinetic type artwork with processing. I downloaded it and started to play with it.
In parallel, I continued to develop my idea and started to reflect on it.
I asked myself what kind of device I should build to create this experience, what kind of visual I should consider and how it is linked to the concept? What's the meaning behind this whole idea?
As I worked on code experiments I realized I wanted a super simple device without any labels. This way the user could focus more on what's happening with the visual/imagery thus the whole concept rather than the artifact itself. I really wanted to focus everything on the discovery and understanding of the concept.
Deterioration, temptation, and satisfaction. How and why?
How can I create an experience evoking those three variables? why these three?
I felt like it could interesting to work with three variables to create a meaningful, complex and impactful piece. It also clearly felt like a logical path I could use. (each variable is a step).
FINAL CONCEPT IDEA
So the final idea was to create a digital piece evoking this notion of self-control as you encounter it.
I wanted the user to discover and understand this piece without hints, all by itself. As the user starts to control the output, the imagery starts to deconstruct and deteriorate, but in a kind of satisfactory way. The choice of the deconstruction process and imagery is very important. A simple and impactful combination can trigger a lot of interest, satisfaction and hopefully temptations.
As it goes, the user should realize it can't really go back to the original visual, the only way is to stop controlling the device. As a hint, as soon as the dials aren't moved the imagery starts to slowly regenerate. The whole concept should trigger a temptation to play with the device and visual output and then as soon as you understand that the visual regenerates when not touching, an inhibition.
The whole concept goal is to not control the device and thus evoke self-control.
During the second tutorial with Jen, I talked through my experimentation in processing with Tim Rodenbroecker's tutorial and my final concept developments.
At the time I wasn't about the visual output though, thus I needed to discuss it. I also asked for methods to create this imagery regeneration in processing. I also asked if there was any technical problem with my first device design. It helped me start to seek different visual paths to explore.
Discussing the concept, the visual output and some technical parts of the idea helped me to decide how the output will be controlled. After the tutorial, I ordered the electronic parts I wanted to use for the device.
PROTOTYPING & EXPERIMENT
During the third week, I had my idea quite well set up in my mind. I had to figure a lot of technical stuff like the device design and assembly and the code for my processing sketch.
I chose to take Tim Rodenbroecker kinetic type as a base for my code. He used a function call copy to create a sort of visual grid where a visual output can be deconstructed. I added modifications to this code to meet my concept idea. Instead of moving by itself as in the tutorial the imagery position reacts to the potentiometer. The way it moves also changed as the grid format.
I received my parts pretty quickly so I could start to test them out with the sketch. I also was able to measure them and finalize my device design as we had our laser cutting induction this week.
After our soldering induction on week 2, I soldered my component to wires and then to a solder board so it would make the whole wiring a lot easier and stable compared to a breadboard. I really enjoyed this part as it was very new and kind of relaxing. I tested the soldered components afterward and it all worked perfectly.
We had our laser cutting induction on Tuesday, leaving us just a couple of days to finalize our design in illustrator with all the technical requirements. It was very interesting to discover all the school's resources in the Reid workshops. It is also interesting to know that as we can consider using laser cutting for future projects maybe. On Friday I laser cut my final design. Fortunately, everything went perfectly so I could start the assembly over the weekend.
After trying all Thursday to create this regeneration part in my code I asked Jen for help during studio support on Friday. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it could be done. The way we looked at resetting the visual output controlled by the potentiometer wasn't right and very complex. We ended up with a semi-working sketch at the end of the day.
Jen very kindly worked on it over the weekend and found a fix that resolved every issue we've identified on Friday. I also worked on it and found a way to bypass the issues with a less ideal fix.
Finally, I combined both fixes to the final code. I understood later that I focused too much on a very small scale of the code and that I should have considered the code as a whole. It's interesting to see how taking a step back in these moments can be so helpful.
Started to build the box and added the electronic parts to it.
Having my device done I could focus on the final adjustments of my code. I mapped the different potentiometer and sliders to variables that deconstructed the visual output in their own way.
The three potentiometers were controlling the visual position within the grid. They each had different behavior. The two sliders were controlling the grid cells X and Y numbers.
Potentiometer 1 was mapped on a big range of values, letting the control very smooth. Potentiometer 2 & 3 were mapped on a smaller range (10 values), thus giving a different behavior.
The two sliders were mapped on a 2-50/60 range enabling the output to be visually interesting. If it was mapped with 0 or 1 as a minimum the visual would either be gone or as the original which is the opposite of what I wanted. Then I chose 50/60 as a maximum so it was still aesthetically pleasing to watch. Going above was creating something too complex and glitchy.
Converting the inputs into int() and mapping them also made the values way more stable.
I first was considering having only one input as a condition for my regeneration function as it was too unstable, fortunately, after having all my inputs values stable, I could set each potentiometer as a condition to activate the regeneration.
During this last tutorial, we talked about the overall progress of the project. The device and the code part were all good. Only the visual was left.
I was still not sure of what to use for the imagery. I showed some personal experiments and references I had in mind. I was interested to work on something pretty abstract and intriguing. We talked about potential abstract choice, and whether or not it was a good path to go with something really hard to visually understand. It helped me a lot to question my choice and consider other paths that may be more coherent for the whole piece.
Interting visual reference for potential semi-abstract imagery. Work of photographer Kenta Kobayashi
I first wanted to exploit pictures I distorted in Photoshop.
I did some experiments and concluded it was better to use a clear visual. During the tutorial, Jen talked about a series of photographs that are taken out of their context and therefore are complicated to make sense of. I was really interested in this idea and started to look into some film and digital photographs I did over the summer. As I said earlier I wanted to have something visually attracting, with bright colors and interesting textures.
I finally chose this picture for the final source image. It is a close-up shot of a jacket in a concept store.
It's really bright and has a multiple texture layer. You can understand some parts like the zipper, some plastic piece but it's really hard to imagine an object from this. It has also a rich texture with different fabrics, shades, and patterns.
The final visual
Final visual in the final set up
STAGING & PRESENTATION
In parallel to sorting my imagery source, I started to do some staging experiments in the studio.
I tried multiple set-ups.
Different staging tests
It was a good way to experiment a few things because I could really reflect on how the user should interact with the piece. I liked one of the set up on the floor but it didn't feel right though. The controller was on a plinth which put the user way too far from the screen on the floor.
So I decided to put it all on the floor. I also went with two monitors to enhance the focus on the visual and offer different perspectives and angles of view. As the user will have to crouch towards the floor he will have a better vision of the monitors and less focus on the controller. I voluntarily placed the control a bit far from the screen to enhance this. Having it all on the floor offers more flexibility with the installation and also an interesting perspective compared to a big plinth or a table where there are boundaries. I find also more aesthetic to have a contrast between the white controller/monitors and a dark floor.
Here's the final staging for the presentation we had on Friday afternoon.
DOCUMENTATION VIDEO (WRITE + PROD)
As this is one of our biggest projects of the year and so far the more ambitious I really wanted to create a nice documentation video with a nice narrative and great imagery. I thought it could great if I could shot the whole video in a big space and with multiple "actors" (my peers). I started to do some space spotting and a shot list over the weekend so I can sort it quickly the last remaining days.
Shot types during the pre production.
Setting up the piece in the space for the shot list
The video would have 3 to 5 shot types. The narrative is simple, multiple "actors" encounter the piece, play with it, try to recreate the original. The final shot is the piece without any user showing the visual regenerating.
Here's the documentation video
I loved to reflect on this project because it involved so many different types of questioning. It was really interesting to work on something like this. The fact that the project was 4 weeks made it ambitious, therefore more complex.
I wanted to get out of my comfort zone which is myself I guess. I usually talk and express things that affect me. Like my emotions, state of mind, personal experiences, etc. I wanted to push a concept to the next level and talk about this notion of self-control without referring to myself. I focused more on my personal creative tools like imagery, concept ideas, and aesthetics. During the whole project I reflected on so many variables; the idea itself, what it meant? the choice of components, the device design, the color, the imagery, the type of deterioration, the source visual, the staging.
Reflecting continuously during the project made it easier to make choice and troubleshoot issues I encountered. I could reconsider things and react fast. I think I managed my time quite well and deliver a piece that I'm happy with. The concept not being about myself this time made it open to so many interpretations. I had a lot of interesting and different feedback during the presentation and I was really happy people engaged with the piece like this. It triggered a lot of reflection and interesting thoughts.
I guess if I had the time and more resources I would try to scale up the installation and have more monitors. Maybe having a system with different images on each screen but having the same deterioration. Having multiple images could create a narrative maybe?
This project was so far the best I ever did. I was so happy with the outcome. I found the whole organization of the project amazing. The launch and workshops were super helpful. A lot of support and tutorial made it also super helpful to stay on track. I felt it was perfectly scheduled, it was the right moment when we had to discuss ideas and the right moment when we had to get work done and having inductions.
It was wonderfully executed by Jen. I (and my peers) felt the engagement was amazing in this project. I was feeling everyone was excited to work on this and Jen as well. She help us so much and made sure everything was on track. It was really exciting and satisfying to see such engagement from our project tutor.
I was also impressed by everyone's work and engagement for the final presentation. It was amazing to hear so much feedback. The presentation format (silent crit) and the exhibition were really good and helpful.
I loved this project in every possible way!
I documented some parts of the project on my Instagram account with multiple posts and stories