Co Hoedeman

I attended a masterclass with animator/film maker Co Hoedeman at the NFB Mediatheque today. Hoedeman is perhaps best-known for his 1977 short film The Sand Castle, which won an Oscar for best animated short film that year.

He talked about his experience working as an assistant at a film studio in the Netherland in the 50′s, and eventually making his way to Canada, where he worked for the National Film Board for over a decade. He started in the department of documentaries and educational films, before beginning to experiment with puppet animation. He shared with the audience excerpts from his old films as well his latest piece, 55 Socks, based on a poem by Maria Jacobs about living in the Netherlands during World War II.

While most of his works have been made with stop-motion animation, and even today he still tries to do as much as possible in camera instead of in post-production, in each of his films he has challenged himself to use a new material. The film below, the Garden of Ecos, for example, uses handmade paper puppets.

All in all, it was a very enlightening talk, and I hope to incorporate a diversity of materials in my own work as well. Most of the other films Hoedeman made with with NFB can be found on the board’s website.

Coalition Gallery, TELUS Spark, and Northern Lights

Just returned after a short but exhausting trip to Calgary and Chicago. With all the connections between Calgary and Chicago and back, I ended up taking 6 flights in 6 days. However, it was good to be moving, and the trip turned out to be quite productive.

Midwestern Voices and Visions Exhibit at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition Gallery

On Friday, I attended the artist reception for the Midwestern Voices and Visions Exhibition, which was running as part of the Alliance of Artists Communities’ 2011 Annual Conference in Chicago. It was great to finally meet some of the other MVV artists in person, as well as to catch up with the wonderful people behind the Alliance and the staff from the Bemis Center.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out the exhibit at the Coalition Gallery, I’ve added the piece I presented, Roller Coaster, to my portfolio. Below is the actual video:

I had taken this series of photos during my residency at the Bemis, and if you look past the balloons, you can see what the rest of the studio looked like. I had been accepted on the basis of my balloon work, but for quite some time had been interested in exploring animation. During my time, I began to play around with both hand-drawn animation as well as stop-motion. The idea of turning one of my sculptures into a roller coaster ride just popped into my head one evening, and with the help of a fellow resident artist and a ladder we found on the floor, we made this short film. I didn’t get around to mixing and editing it until about a year and a half afterwards though.

While in Chicago, I also had the chance to catch up with an old friend, Annie Peacenik, a tap dancer and historian. Two years ago, Annie and I had gone on a small tour to New Orleans, combining tap dancing with balloon twisting.

TELUS Spark VIP Opening & Shadow Rock ‘Behind the Scenes’

The next day, I took a 7 AM flight back to Calgary to attend the opening of Calgary’s new science center, now named TELUS Spark, along with the Aesthetec crew. While there, I also got to capture footage of Shadow Rock being installed and people interacting with the exhibit during opening night.

Northern Lights

During the flight back to Toronto from Calgary, the captain announced that the northern lights were actually visible from the windows. Thus began a game of musical chairs between myself and seat mates in the same row, standing in the hallway and climbing over each other to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. It was definitely worth the havoc, and we saw shades of green as well as red. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to take any photographs, but I doubt that they would have properly captured the moment.

Midwestern Voices and Visions

I received in the mail a few days ago copies of the 2011 Midwestern Voices and Visions publication, which profiles the seven artist who received the award in 2010, and their individual artist residency experiences.

For those of you not familiar with Midwestern Voices and Visions, it’s a program organized by the Alliance of Artists Communities and supported by the Joyce Foundation. Seven artists are chosen from the midwest area, and awarded one of seven residency programs.

I was one of the recipients of the award, and spent last April and May at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska. The other recipients are:

It was very interesting to see the other artists’ works and read about their residency experiences. It seems for almost everyone, the residency offered a time to reflect on their creative practice and also to try something new.

My residency last year at the Bemis Center was definitely one of the best experiences in my arts career. As someone without a traditional background in the arts, the residency was my art school, and was where I first became aware of myself as an artist and began to treat my work seriously.

Even now, I still think residencies are one of the most important elements in any artist’s life. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an emerging artist or an established artist, a residency can be tremendously helpful experience.

For me, my time at the Bemis not only gave me the opportunity to explore the field of animation, I also began to think critically about my creative process. It was then that I began to incorporate the concept of play and experimentation into my process, creating without necessary having an end goal in mind and exploring new topics and techniques solely for fun. It’s been a wonderful addition to my practice, and I’ve found that a lot of my best ideas emerge from this process of play.

If you’re interested in applying for a residency, the Alliance of Artists Communities’ website is a good place to start. And if you’re in the Chicago area, the alliance’s annual conference is actually taking place there this year from October 19 – 22.

Of course, if you have any questions about residencies at the Bemis Center, or just in general, feel free to get in touch.

Various interactive installations

While working at Aesthetec Studio, I developed ShadowRock, which is currently being installed at the Telus World of Science in Calgary. The final version seen in my portfolio is something like the twelfth version that I made. Here are a few of alternative versions that didn’t make the cut, and one installation I made for fun while learning contour analysis.

 Shadow Sound Interactive Version 1

One of the earliest versions of ShadowRock I developed. I had just gotten blob detection to work, so that the image of the shadow is treated as one physical object by the software, allowing it to collide and interact with other objects. Each musical object is programmed to behave like a spring, so that when they are dislocated from their original position, they bounce back with a force proportional to the distance moved.

Each musical object has its own unique sound, and when it collides with the shadow or another musical object, the sound is played and a burst of particles is generated.

Shadow Sound Interactive Version 2

Later on in the development stage, I thought that one way to make the installation more interested was to make the sound emitted by each object be depended on the object’s location, so that users would be encouraged to create different shadow shapes and interact with the objects in more interesting ways. In the video shown above, the musical objects each play a note in a scale when contact is made, and the exact pitch of the note depends on the object’s y-coordinate.

 Shadow Sound Interactive Version 3

This is an extension of the same idea explored in version 2, in that the position of the musical object affects the sound that it makes. The difference here is that instead of having the notes be on a scale, each musical object represents one of five instruments (drums, bass, guitar, piano, synth), and samples one of 3 tracks, depending on the y-coordinate of its position. This resulted in a very different interaction, and the user is encouraged to hold certain positions in order to let the tracks play and mix, as opposed to version 2, where there needed to be a lot of up and down movements in order to create interesting sounds.

Falling Water

Somebody in the openFrameworks forum had posted a video of a similar exhibit at the Arizona Science Center, and was asking how such an installation worked. I thought I’d have a go at it and created the above piece. It uses the openFrameworks box2d library to handle the contour analysis as well as all the particle collisions. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to optimize the program so you can see that it’s lagging in some parts, especially when there’s a build-up of particles.

All of these were written in openFrameworks. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to release the source code. However, I will try to do a tutorial on blob detection and contour analysis at some point in the future.