Archive for July 2010

MA results!

July 20, 2010

I got my results this morning and I’m soo relieved and grateful to God that my efforts in the project were reflected in the marks.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Andy Stiff and Jonathan Kearney the Digital Arts tutors. They were both very inspiring and knowledgeable in the field and this was invaluable especially when receiving feedback throughout the course and through the tutorials.

I’d also like to thank past and present students who provided advice and feedback during mid-point and group reviews. Hope you all manage to continue working and expanding on your practices.

It truly has been an interesting and unpredictable journey but one that I enjoyed very much. I would recommend the course to anyone with an interest in the field of Digital Arts. So remember Camberwell when looking for a course!

I would also like to thank a few key people who have helped me in various ways during the course:

– My family for being unbelievably supportive and putting up with my endless chatter about the project
– Daud Sutton, author of Islamic Design – A Genius for Geometry, a small concise book but immensely useful for learning how to create traditional Islamic patterns
– Victoria Hotchin for proof-checking my write-ups without giving up in boredom
– Lindsey Auty for being the best personal memo pad
– Richard Henry for his tips on extending my pursuit of Islamic pattern-making (Issam Said’s book is ready and waiting)
– Sahand Hesamiyan for his vital advice on using metal
– Susan Mortimer for helping make the lovely books that have been admired by all
– My crazy uni friends (you know who you are) , you’re mad but at the end of the day you’re the best
– and finally all the artists and practitioners who have contributed to my research and provided me with the material to take it all forward for a possible PhD

I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, my memory is truly not the best so it’s nothing personal if I have.

So what of this blog now? I will be continuing with my research and practice but for the new phase I may start a new blog. I will add a post with details of this once the ball gets rolling with that. For now, a well-earned break perhaps.

Thank you for being such attentive readers (at the point of writing this post I had received 26,043 visitors to the blog since August 2008) and I hope the content of this blog will be useful to anyone looking into the areas of Digital or Islamic/geometric art or anything related to what was covered on this blog.

Thank you all again, Ciao 🙂

MADA 2010 – came and went (well)

July 18, 2010

MA Digital Arts show 2010 – Camberwell College of Arts

The private view was on Tuesday 13th July. People actually turned up on time which was a surprise to me, but I guess not everyone is like me then in turning up just a bit late.

It was a really good turn-out and I saw many visitors genuinely exploring the exhibition space and looking closely at the installations. I was pleased to see that the interactivity in my work was a success and many people seemed to be mystified by how the projection was activated with the movement. It was cool explaining to those who asked about the technical aspects such as the use of Processing, the infra-red camera and the projector all in one and then to hear their positive feedback. This direct form of feedback was invaluable, as even though I would stop and speak to various guests and visitors I was able to watch others playing with the polyhedron models and figure out how to manipulate the projection.

I really enjoyed the evening and really hope everyone else did too.

Here are some photos of the Reflect installation from when it was a bit quieter later in the week.

Reflect - This is the sculpture from the installation

Reflect - by Sara Choudhrey. This is the aluminium sculpture from the interactive installation

The look of the metal would change in different lighting and depending on the changes in the projection the Islamic pattern would be higlighted in different ways. The blue in the following images was slightly unexpected but reminds me of the deep blue sea/ocean:

Reflect - sculpture with change in lighting

Reflect - sculpture with change in lighting

And here’s another of my favourites – a closeup looking into the space created by the curve in the sculpture:

Reflect - closeup of sculpture with light effects in bg

Reflect - closeup of sculpture with light effects in bg

I am pleased with the outcome of the practical work and really hope I get the opportunity to exhibit this piece again. I have a few things I’d like to change in the way it is exhibited too, top of the list is changes to the processing to make coloured projections. And ideally in a more isolated dark space where there is no light spill/interference.

I’ve even had a few ideas which will allow me to return to some of my previous experiments with reflecting warped patterns created by reflecting light onto walls. Can’t wait to get started on those 🙂

Update – nearing the end

July 12, 2010

So the MA degree (end of yr) show opens this week, which houses all the pathways including ourselves – Digital Arts. Our work was assessed last week and the external examiner was in today asking us about our experience of the course.

Now its all about those final tweaks for the private view tomorrow and the general opening until Saturday. We’ve all signed up for shifts of invigilating and I’ve used up some more of my holidays from work for this. And it leaves me with very little annual leave left for the rest of the yr. That’s a big shame but it was necessary. And then we have our results coming out on the 20th! It’s quite soon compared to how long students usually have to wait for their undergrad results or for A-levels or GCSE results. But even then I would rather know now than in a week and half’s time.

I’m also trying to mentally prepare myself for all sorts of outcomes. For example I am contemplating where my threshold for satisfaction in achievement is so that I can determine what marks I would need to achieve in order to be happy with my grade. But at the same time I don’t want to think about it at all in case I don’t get it and then feel really sad. Hmm but then again is it the marks that I should be happy about or the body of work? The work was definitely an achievement regardless of any one else’s opinion. I went for something quite ambitious and now that I think about it, I didn’t have to go all out but I did and I’m hoping that was perceived as a very strong point rather than a foolish or over-ambitious one. Only time will tell!!

On the up-side, I managed to get three prints ready in time for the show opening too. These were of photos taken in Unit2 and highlight the significance of my newly developed practice. I think they are worth some focus in their own right and have received a lot of positive feedback. Having taken that on board and with there being some spare wall space in the lighter room of the show I thought, why not?

Mounted A2 prints of photographs taken during project development

From left to right: Electric, Wave and Citylight all photographs taken during Unit2 development

The one on the far left is actually one I took last week – you might recognise it being similar to that in the previous post. I’m now very strongly contemplating ways in which to customise my Processing and OpenCV code in order to achieve coloured feed to project in order to create results similar to the images above. I think I might spend a couple of months after the MA just trying to improve the manipulation of lighting and adding in the element of colour. Simply by projecting my desktop screen  has created interesting reflections and shadows so it’s worth looking into for even better results.

Well I’d better be off – tomorrow is an early start. I’m now aiming to just look forward to the Private view where good friends and practitioners who I’ve come to know through the project will make for good company.

Installation pt2 and last minute bits and pieces

July 5, 2010

So today was quite an achievement. There were things that needed sorting, small problems that couldn’t be solved properly in full in time for tomorrow’s assessment of the final piece but I managed to come up with temporary solutions to deal with them instead.

For example – the curve of the mirror card was kind of flopping on each side. I quickly cut a few pieces of wood and screwed them together in a t-shape so that I could place them under the curve and therefore support it where needed. I think I need to do a better job of securing it to the wall for the exhibition show, probably by screwing them if I can. But for now I’ve used gaffa tape to stick them in place. I ended up using 3 supports and still want one more:

Hidden support under the curve

Hidden support under the curve

I spent some time yesterday calling up many art supply stores trying to get hold of some clear acrylic or perspex but the biggest sheet I found was an A3 one at the London Graphics Centre in Covent Garden. It’s quite a good size store with loads to buy. I love these kinds of shops. Anyway, knowing the perspex was too small I bought it anyway to use as a temporary cover over the camera and if time permitted to make it so that it could hold some of my plastic shapes to encourage interaction.

I haven’t mentioned the shapes in a long time as I didn’t think I would have enough time to actually include them within the final piece. And I still don’t know if I will be able to as I only just managed to spray paint the shapes I bought for this purpose. They were basically blank dice in polyhedron forms but in yellow plastic. They were the only plain shapes of this type I could find and when they arrived they looked quite large compared to the image I’d seen online.

Blank dice in yellow plastic - polyhedron shapes

Blank dice in yellow plastic - polyhedron shapes

Anyway, so I bought some silver chrome spray paint and now they look like this:

Silver chrome sprayed on yellow dice

Silver chrome sprayed on yellow dice

They look really nice and I’m hoping they will dry in time but even then I have a feeling the paint will come off as painting plastic is never easy and I did not have time to think about looking for or applying a suitable primer.

The alternative option is to use some of the off-cuts from either the mirror card I have cut recently or from the MDF that was laser cut. Both has nice shapes which could be used but both are also flat and would be harder to hold and move around on the perspex surface.

Anyway, back to the perspex. So I bought the A3 piece as it was the right thickness and not too small so wouldn’t look completely ridiculous. I also wanted as close to the full set-up for the assessment so decided to get it and bring it in and if possible squeeze in adjustments to it at the workshop.

So when I got the chance (between sanding and adding another coat of paint to my never-ending plinth-making) I cut out small cube like pieces of wood, sanded them down so that they wouldn’t have splinters hanging off the edges and then marked the center on each.

I then drilled holes into the corners of the perspex and screwed the cubes in under the perspex. I also added some random screw cap covers which I had bought to show someone in order to order silver versions to use on my metal. I was very proud at my little handiwork – with no assistance from any technicians whatsoever!

Small cube feet added to perspex

Small cube feet added to perspex

I waited till the end of the day to take my plinth up. This was to allow the most recent coat of paint and polyfil to dry. The edges of the plinth still looked bare as they needed a few more layers before the paint would actually seal and stick rather than seep in.

However, I decided that I could bring it up for the assessment as planned and then take it back down later in the week to get it ready for the private view and show.

This was the moment I’ve been waiting for since aaaages. And have been anticipating more so recently with all th madness and efforts made to this end. I lugged my plinth out of the lift and bought it to its rightful space.

I then started preparing my area a bit more to ensure it was clean, tidy and that the wires would be easily stored. I taped down the cable for the extension so that it would be hidden under my plinth and neatly stuck to the floor in straight lines rather than in a mess.

Neat and safer cables

Neat and safer cables

Top of the plinth with perspex covering

Top of the plinth with perspex covering. This is a temporary cover which I'm hoping will be replaced by a bigger one with a nicer footing

Hardware within the plinth

Hardware within the plinth, all equipment attached and ready for testing

And then there was the metal. I finally got round to removing the film and to my horror there was a lot of what looked like saw dust staining and residue underneath. It needed a good wipe down but whatever I tried kept getting shredded by the sharp edges. I resorted to carefully using a dust cloth with water and then drywiping it with my hand after. I think I got most of the muck off but it took me a long time and it was getting very late.

Removing the protective film

Removing the protective film - which clearly do as much protecting as it should have

I also added a few more screws to the sides of the edge curves with the help of kind Raquel. These were placed along-side the metal just close enough to keep the edges firmly straight and against the mirror card to allow for a better mirroring of the edge of the pattern.

Mirror effect achieved

Mirror effect achieved

And then just as we turned the lights off and turned the projector on we saw this, prior to my turning on my MacBook:

Accidental blue projection looked quite stunning

Accidental blue projection looked quite stunning

The downside to being in the space we’ve been allotted is that a lot of the pieces that need full darkness can’t have it. I have Ina projecting on the wall behind but on the side of me and as her projection is mostly white it lights up half my work prior to any interaction via the camera.

It makes the metal look quite different. And unfortunately a lot of the light effects that would be thrown onto the nearby walls and ceiling will become invisible as they would only work as illuminations in the dark.

Anyway so here is a weird angle image of the sculpture and the plinth in the room to illustrate the final set-up I’ve done for my final piece:

Final set-up, plinth and metal

Final set-up, plinth and metal

Installing the aluminium

July 3, 2010

College was open today. I got my dad and cousin to help take the aluminium in. We drove it in the big family car and it just about fit which was a relief.

Waterjet cut aluminium in the back of the car

Waterjet cut aluminium in the back of the car

Looking in to one of the curves whilst in the car

Looking in to one of the curves whilst in the car

I had to leave the fitting of the mirror card (on which the metal would be mounted) till this point as I decided not to use the backing plain metal to mount on and to instead screw both the cut metal and the mirror card straight into the wall. This also meant I wouldn’t need the bolts (and wouldn’t have been able to use them as the board for the wall was already up). But screwing it all in would be a lot easier.

However, installing it actually took longer than I thought it would. I had to measure everything over and ensure the metal was in the middle, both vertically and horizontally. But it kinda looks odd to me with the wall being so much bigger than the metal now that it has shrunk due to the curves I added.

Got the metal screwed into the wall - protective film  still on the aluminium, 'just in case'

Got the metal screwed into the wall - protective film still on the aluminium, 'just in case'

The curve of the mirror card behind the metal isn’t right though – it kinda flopped. So I need to actually place something like maybe a bent ruler or some kind of curved object – perhaps just taped down with strong gaffa/duct tape to give the card something to rest against and to maintain its correct curve. Will have to remember to deal with this on Monday morning!

I also used some aluminium car repairs tape for the sides. It’s usually used for exhaust pipes but looks and works like foil except it is adhesive. I used this to stick the edges of the mirror card down so that it would be flat against the wall from either end.

After my two personal assistants had departed I started measuring the bottom area of the wall which had a huge gap as the college had no more wooden boards to cover it up with. I would have left it as a space for light to spill into but another student is exhibiting behind that wall and has therefore covered her side of it to keep it dark. It looked a bit funny from my side so I used my leftover mirror card to cover this. Thank God I had just enough left in the roll. It took me a while to cut it to the correct size using a giant wood block as my ruler and then Ina and her friend Luke very kindly helped me nail it in and ensure it was as flat as it could be.

Metal mounted on top half and mirror card covering bottom half - very space age looking

Metal mounted on top half and mirror card covering bottom half - very space age looking

So now my whole wall looks like its been covered in huge sheets of tin foil lol

I’m really hoping it doesn’t look tacky. At least not once the show is up and running. That’s the added advantage of being in a dark space I suppose.

Not in the mood

July 3, 2010

I am exhausted. Things keep coming up that I wasn’t expecting. And yet I know that if I had managed to organise my time differently I might have known about those things before hand. Even though I’ve used up almost all my annual leave from work to dedicate myself to getting it all done to a decent level and within time, I still feel it hasn’t been as smooth a process as I wanted or had planned for. It’s quite odd being in this situation as usually I have things completed way in advance. I guess with practical work of this kind you just don’t know what may come up until you try it.

For example the MAC mini I was supposed to be using was borrowed from college. However, it’s one of the older models which doesn’t have an intel chip and therefore my files won’t work because the OpenCV library cannot be installed on it.

Therefore my plinth becomes useless unless I use my personal MacBook pro instead. I feel really annoyed because as I mentioned above, it’s something I could have been aware of before and then made a plinth much bigger in order to house a G5 instead. I could still use the G5 but it would have to sit on the outside of the plinth. The amount of work that went into making the plinth (and it doesn’t look like any ordinary plinth believe me) would be soo sad to put to waste like that, although it would still house the camera and projector.

Now that my ideal set-up has been disrupted all my previous options and decisions have been thrown up in the air. I’ve been reminded of my initial idea to have the camera and projector overhead.The wiring would have been an issue as well as the need to install a specific shelf/tray for the projector. Apparently the ceiling in the space is concrete so we can’t really drill into it anyway.

But as I’ve been discussing with my family who have been closely observing my practical work – TIME AND MONEY are two factors that always come back to cause you problems. no matter what you are trying to achieve. If you have neither then you’re basically limited. In this case the time was the bigger problem and the money an additional one.

An example of where more money for the work would have been handy is for the metal I am using. I realised it might have been better to leave an uncut border to my piece. It might have been a better finish. But then again I wouldn’t know unless I tried it. As it stands I bought some huge clippers for cutting sheet metal. They are really heavy but do the job very well and were handy to cut off the sharp small ends where the pattern ends abruptly along the edges of the aluminium sheet. This gives it a tidy finish as well as a safer edging.

Another aspect of the metal not being quite right is the reflectivity. It does have a nice finish, just not a mirror finish. I’ve looked into polishing techniques and let’s just say it wasn’t feasible to do it myself or to pay someone else to because of the cost of the service and collection and delivery.

As an alternative solution I have backed the cut aluminium with a slight gap against a large sheet of mirror card. This means that at least the back of the cut sheet will be reflected and give a slight raised 3D graphic imagery effect. This makes me feel better about the installation.

I have to say though everyday seems to be a bit of a rollercoaster. I go from being really motivated, determined, positive, and task oriented and then skydive to frustration, fatigue, sometimes even anger, worry and then memory loss. The last one can be a bit funny sometimes but a bit of a risk at the moment. My memory is in full capacity mode and I’m not sure how long it will last. I’m counting down the days till my anxiety will go though.

So yeh time would have helped – but then even if I could extend the project length I might become super sick of my work. Sometimes if you work on something for too long you don’t know where to draw the line and you just keep going at it until it completely changes or you have ruined it. So maybe it’s a good thing that I’ve run out of time at this stage of the work. Hmm, I might just be feeling like this because of the smaller issues the crop up. I’m going to reflect on this again next week after the assessment date has passed. I might feel differently about it all once that bridge has been crossed.

DIY Day four

July 2, 2010

The days I’ve been in this week have actually merged into one huge chunk of time. But I can now report on the further developments in making my plinth.

If I could I would actually exhibit my plinth as a piece in its own right. It’s actually turned into something quite unique and nice to look at. I’m already contemplating its locality post show.

So let’s see, in my last post concerning this I had finished off all the pieces of the panels. I had started painting them too as I wanted to save time later and just assemble it when I next came in to the workshop.

We had also left a laser cutting of pattern into 3mm MDF (I still had spares from before) after I had left the previous day as we realised the lack of border on the other one I was going to use would make it harder to attach. I made sure the 10-point stars were in the middle of the cutting and Karel (3DResource manager) used his AutoCAD skills to size it exactly to what we needed in order to fit it into the previously routed front panel. This looked great and fit almost perfectly. There were only a few gaps which could easily be polyfilled later down the production timeline.

So the next day I took some extra MDF in to make the top and also the spindles I bought to cut up and stick under the top layer to raise it a bit higher and to leave a further gap for ventilation.

I told Karel my idea for construction, he slightly adjusted it and we went back to what I was originally thinking of: instead of just screwing the panels together edge to edge I would use the spindles as the main frame for the whole structure and attach the panels to this.

We, then, however, needed to cut some more wood as I had only taken in a couple of my spindles when I actually needed 4. This wasn’t hard and I started screwing the prepared panels to these. I ensured my measurements were accurate and double checked them many times along the way to make sure one wasn’t shorter than the rest and to make sure it didn’t wobble at the end.

Attaching frame (which also forms the legs) to the side panel

Attaching frame (which also forms the legs) to the side panel

legs/frame attached to side panel (prior to error checking change)

legs/frame attached to side panel (prior to error checking change)

My arms aren’t the strongest and as I was drilling into 18mm MDF and then through to the chunky wood frame I slightly struggled to hold the drill down. But I thought it was a job well done and made sure the screws were sunk into the MDF rather than sticking out.

However,  there was an abrupt change of plan when we realised we had not made it correct in order to leave the walls on the outer parts of the whole plinth, and allow for the door to be attached using hinges. This was partly also due to needing to place a shelf in for the projector and keeping the width to a suitable amount to fit it so the lens would come to the middle. So the consequence was me having to undo half a day’s worth of work.

The panels fit together nicely on top of the legs/frame which were inset by the thickness of the side panels (18mm).

The panels fit together nicely on top of the legs/frame which were inset by the thickness of the side panels (18mm).

However, Karel very kindly decided to dedicate himself to helping me get the majority of the construction done that day. I drilled and screwed what I could. glued and nailed what I could and handed over tools and parts when I couldn’t do the more difficult and muscle needing tasks such as bending some chunky metal to make me a hook for hanging a padlock on.

Part of frame cut on one side to make room for projector, and side hole aligned with position of projector vent

Part of frame cut on one side to make room for projector, and side hole aligned with position of projector vent

Second shelf cut with square in corner to fit with frame and hole at back corner for cables to pass through

Second shelf cut with square in corner to fit with frame and hole at back corner for cables to pass through

The day was full of huge ups and downs. But the end result of my plinth was worth it and I am super grateful that we have a place like the 3D Resource center to work in/from.

Top added, hinges added, holes for cables and two extra support beams aligned with the top and bottom of the door

Top added, hinges added, holes for cables and two extra support beams aligned with the top and bottom of the door

Filling holes and gaps with Polyfiller. It's better to have it bumpy than sunken so that when it is sanded down it can be flattened to the same line of the surface

Filling holes and gaps with Polyfil. It's better to have it bumpy than sunken so that when it is sanded down it can be flattened to the same line of the surface

Using a metal pole bent backwards and then bending again from the back to allow for attaching a padlock

Using a metal pole bent backwards and then bending again from the back to allow for attaching a padlock

To add the finishing touches I polyfilled all the gaps and then the next day, after they had been sanded down I prepared the hole on the top for the camera to come through. I almost forgot about this and it should have been done before the top had been attached. But Karel was in super sonic  mode at the time of cutting it down and drilling it on that I dared not protest. Anyway, I drilled a big hole in the middle where I’d marked out the shape of the camera. I was going to arrange it so that the main bulk of it – i.e the lens and infra-red LEDs would be raised above the flat level of the top of the plinth. This would hopefully allow for the lighting recognition to still work in the dark and not be limited by the cut off of the area around the camera formed by the hole itself.

Cut hole needing to be chiseled

Cut hole needing to be chiseled

I then jig-sawed the rest of the rectangular shape out of the top piece and then filed it away for a while. I then slanted the angle of the file so that the camera could slot in easily from the bottom but stay within a snug fit at the top of the hole. I made this a slower process so that I could continuously test the fit and file away where necessary until it was right. I think I did a pretty decent job at getting it to fit right. This meant I wouldn’t need to use duct tape to secure the camera in place either.

Slotting camera in place for a snug fit

Slotting camera in place for a snug fit

Next I started the main painting of the whole plinth. I used a gloss based paint – the one coat one I bought from B&Q. It gave a nice smooth finish once dried but I could tell it was better to do the 2 coats anyway.

The edges of the MDF were really hard to paint as the paint kept seeping through rather than staying on th e surface of the edges. If I have time I am going to try to sand and paint a few layers on the edges. If I can’t do this before assessment then I’ll definitely do so for the exhibition.

And this is it – the finished plinth!

I really like it and so does everyone who has seen it so far. I think one person even thought I was doing another pathway of the course (like designer-maker) when they saw me working on it in the workshop. But I said to him that was the cool thing about the course, you start it off with your one practice in mind but you get to the end and you have the opportunity to include many other practices, skills and techniques for the final stages.

I’m very proud of my plinth, it’s why I said earlier – it’s no ordinary plinth. And as a result I feel very grateful towards the 3DResource team in helping me get it to look the way I wanted and even better than what i wanted. It was worth all the downs encountered.