Archive for the ‘Questions for research’ category

Don Relyea – Q&A

October 18, 2008


http://www.donrelyea.com/hilberts_2007/15_03.PNG

Well I emailed Don Relyea as I said I would (https://qunud.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/don-relyea-artist/) and very kindly he responded in detail with some very interesting answers and observations:

I really like your work involving the generation of geometric shapes with programming in interactive applets. What would you say triggered your desire to use these types of shapes in your designs?

Since most of my work is created in some kind of programming language, it is natural to describe shapes and forms with math and both 2d and 3d geometry. I have always enjoyed math. From about 1999-2003 I developed severe sleep apnea, this deprived my brain of oxygen and meaningful sleep. Over that time I began to lose the ability to do math, solve complex problems, and even routine programming exercises became extremely difficult.

I thought I was losing my mind. When I figured out what was wrong and started treatment, it was as though I had just emerged from a thick fog into daylight. I immersed myself in math and exploratory programming with a new found zeal. The recovery and subsequent rediscovery of my love for math was the catalyst for the burst of abstract geometric and space-filling curve works.

Considering how much emphasis has been placed on geometry in the past and the desire to create artwork based on exact measurements of shapes (e.g the use of golden ratio), where do you see geometry fitting in contemporary art?

Geometry will always have a place in the world of contemporary art. Successful artists are successful manipulators. Geometry is a great foil for manipulation. Why is it that people are drawn to compositions with certain proportions? When something is out of proportion, why is it so jarring?

I think that a lot of the answers to these questions lie in neuroscience and the way our brains are wired to recognize patterns and forms. There have been a lot of recent studies that show that we have at a minimum 2 brain functions going on at the same time, the executive mind and the habitual mind. The executive mind is what we engage when we encounter something new or need to solve a problem, the habitual mind is our autopilot. This is not a new concept, ancient Zen masters were aware of this. The habitual mind is programmed through repetition to detect patterns and shapes and it keys in on certain proportions like golden ratios, facial symmetry, etc. As an artist you can play with this feature in your viewers brains to evoke a response.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s current exhibit at LACDA titled “Beautiful Mutants” is great example this manipulative technique in action. http://www.lacda.com/exhibits/mothersbaugh.html
In “Bottom Heavy Pug” Mothersbaugh is challenging both the executive and habitual mind simultaneously, the picture looks enough like the original that your habitual mind immediately identifies it as a dog. Your executive mind also immediately recognizes that there is something proportionally awry with the picture. The internal conflict makes the picture memorable and engaging.

Bottom heavy pug by Mark Mothersbaugh

Along the same line of reasoning, works that are geometrically exact are equally engaging. Geometric perfection is actually quite rare in nature and we can recognize when a form is artificially perfect. In “Bottom Heavy Pug” the vertical symmetry is exact, we recognize that this is uncommon and take note.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Don Relyea for taking the time to answer these questions, and with such detail 🙂

There are loads more interesting projects he is working on, so once again I recommend a look at his site. In particular I’ve just noticed this project based on html layouts and table based html structures which actually form interesting imagery when viewed in a browser: the reductionizer.

Identifying a line of inquiry – which one?

October 11, 2008

On my way to uni on Wednesday I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to formulate my ideas and project aims and objectives as best I could. I started writing notes most of the journey and, as it had been about a week since I had fully concentrated on summing up my project in such a way, I think it helped to make it more structured in my head. I was able to sum up the links a bit better than before. This is what I came up with in relation to the two key words ‘Shapes’ and ‘Space’ being components of a possible working title:

The first two words are key as they sum up the elements that the areas of research I will be looking at are anchored by. In other words you can always relate the subject areas, I am interested in, back to one of these words if not both.

We usually think of shapes as pre-defined areas of outlined space that have specific names. We’ll grow up knowing that these named shapes have properties that allow the shapes to be classed within certain gropus of shapes too. So a square is made of of 4 right angles at each corner and 4 sides. A triangle with three sides and of various angles and combinations of these.

But can a shape alway be defined? And should it be defined? And how about those shapes which have properties or characteristics that are overlooked? And which characteristics should we look more closely at because they’ve been overlooked in the past?

The second key word is space. My use of the word implies many senses of space including the mathematical and the scientific (these I believe overlap in some sense), as well as the physical, perceptual and conceptual. I cannot restrict my meaning at this point. I have no reason to restrict until I have conducted more research and found a reason to do so.

What about white space? Is it real? Does it mean something to everyone? What is it’s role? Is it intentional? Should it be identified in more places?

An area of study that connects to this idea of space around shapes (and here I wonder – is this space not then a shape too?) is that of Geometry. These shapes are formed from vertices (easier to think of as dots in an invisible grid of any size). These vertices may then be connected with a line from one to another. these lines will be joint in such a way to form a shape. Various shapes are then placed together to form a larger formation. They could arguably be described as a system of shapes. This system could be called a pattern. these patterns can then become quite complex and due to their placement, repetition and possibly the ability to tesselate them – they can be endless and seem to go on for infinity.

One of my biggest aims in my project is to look into the history of Geometry – how it was developed and how it has been used over the centuries (more specifically in art work).

Then there is the branching off of Geometry in nature. I think this is a highly important and interesting subject to delve into. Not only because it entails many mysteries and brings into question the secrets of the Universe. But also because there is a tie with religion and sprirituality which is something that I can relate to on a personal level. Believing in God means that when I see the beauty of nature and proofs of perfection in nature (such as the way the body works and the structures and symmetry in plants and flowers to name a couple) I link it to Divine Creation. This is another aspect I would like to look into further. Especially as belief in this isn’t restricted to just one religion.

Geometry allows for the representation of space in 2d, 3d and even 4d and beyond:

Science.ca - Donald (H. S. M.) Coxeter, Pure and Applied Mathematics

4. Hypercube: If you pull a cube into the fourth dimension you get a hypercube. Eight cubes make a hypercube. The figure you see here cannot exist in the real world, which only has three-dimensional space. It is a projection of a four-dimensional object onto two dimensions, just as the cube before it is a projection from three-dimensional space to the two-dimensional flat surface of the paper.

5. Regular polytope: If you keep pulling the hypercube into higher and higher dimensions you get a polytope. Coxeter is famous for his work on regular polytopes. When they involve coordinates made of complex numbers they are called complex polytopes.

http://www.science.ca/scientists/scientistprofile.php?pID=5&pg=1

These main topics then branch off into other areas but are still anchored by the main theme of shapes, space and I guess now geometry too. By always having my main question along the lines of ‘ the place of geometry in the world around us’ I will have something to refer back to. Is that what I am looking at? Am I any closer to finding the answer? Am I looking into something that is relevant or have a veered off too far down a small cobbled street?

Outcomes for project: My background has been predominantly in expressing some form of communication and his has been mostly interactive. I would like to continue this by producing work that compels the user/viewer to become involved with it. I believe that the most interactively creative works are those that captivate the viewer and involve them within a process. This can be in many forms such as when using sensors to trigger some kind of behaviour or change in the work (lighting, sounds etc). This could be on an abstract level too where triggering thoughts and movements in people and influencing these is enough of a form of interaction. Only that this can be more difficult to measure.

However, my interpretation of an interactive work would be using multimedia as a possible option. My work has always been either viewable of a computer screen (short video clips), graphics, websites. Or viewable on some form of small physical and traditional media such as paper or canvas. I would really like to create some sort of installation to take my experience and work to the next level or beyond for this project. This installation would be my blank slate. Possibly like a box or container that allows a person to fully submerge themselves within it – literally or mentally. The key is for it to be thought provoking. I would want the person to question their surroundings, the purpose of the installation and investigate it too. Possibly manipulate their thoughts by pre-determining the factors the could influence their senses and perceptions related to the space around them.

And that is the end of my notes from my journey to Uni. Yes I am one of those people who can write loads of notes whilst travelling on the tube/bus/camel 🙂

We had a sort of informal feedback session after one of the Critical Framework lecture where we were required to write in one sentence what our project was about. I knew it would be a bit crazy to even attempt this so I decided to use the key words to form almost a sentence. I came up with ‘Shapes and space – the place of these and geometry in the world around us’ using my notes from the journey in. It could be the closest I’ve got to a working title yet so I just let that be discussed in the group.

After some discussion with Andy (course leader) and some feedback and questions from fellow students it would seem that perhaps I should narrow my field of research down a tad bit so that I can concentrate on finding the niche in which my project would excel. Something no one else is questioning, expressing or even addressing. Or maybe they will have but I’ll be doing it from a different angle? a unique p.o.v?

Only time will tell.

It’s not easy making a connection

October 6, 2008

I’ve been trying to anchor my thoughts – they really are flying everywhere. Ok so I said i was going to look into the different types of geometry but then I became sidetracked by one kind – Islamic geometry and it’s possible symbolism. I think there are some very important relationships that can be drawn from the accuracy and detail and near perfection of the patterns that are created in Islamic and even non islamic but similar geometry.

One such relationship is that of the divine creation and the indications of this that are found in nature. It can be argued that the artists of the early Islamic art movement were trying to portray the perfection of God’s creation through the use of geometry and without the use of imagery showing any living beings (reasons for doing this will be discussed in future – or you can nudge me to tell you sooner – any feedback or questions are appreciated). This is a plausible point as symmetry and geometry can be found in nature all around us including our very own bodies.

This then closely relates to the idea of the Golden mean. The ancient Greeks placed much importance on this and here is a quick explanation from wikipedia:

In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.

To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty. Both ancients and moderns realized that “there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth.”

The Greeks believed there to be three concomitants of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, Paideia and politics. They judged life by this mentality.”

Ok so now I’ve lost track of where I was going with this. I want to quickly mention the Golden ratio also known as Phi. As seen in the image below:

The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line divided into two segments a and b, such that the entire line is to the longer a segment as the a segment is to the shorter b segment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

Ok so back to the point – I am going to concentrate on drawing a connection between the ideas presented in the theory of geometry and symmerty in nature, golden mean and ratio, the divine creation and symbolism that can be found in artistic interpretations of these ideas/theories. Am I taking on too much? well considering that I keep coming up with new topics to look into means that at least my thoughts are developing. Lets just hope they are sinking in and remain relevant to my project.

Geometry

September 25, 2008

Ok I know I said I would look into colour inversion some more but I just had too many thoughts, ideas and avenues that I also wanted to look into. They all relate to the use of shapes, space and composition in one way or another. The one at the forefront of all this is geometry and then closely behind this follows symmetry.

So…I think I will make categories of all the subjects/areas and then add to each whenever I come across something of relevance for each.

Now back to geometry. A quick definition from wikipedia:

Geometry (Greek γεωμετρία; geo = earth, metria = measure) is a part of mathematics concerned with questions of size, shape, and relative position of figures and with properties of space. Geometry is one of the oldest sciences. Initially a body of practical knowledge concerning lengths, areas, and volumes, in the third century B.C., geometry was put into an axiomatic form by Euclid, whose treatment – Euclidean geometry – set a standard for many centuries to follow. The field of astronomy, especially mapping the positions of the stars and planets on the celestial sphere, served as an important source of geometric problems during the next one and a half millennia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geometry

Ok so we can see there are actually different types of geometry too – but we’ll have to come back to this later. Now for a definition from Dictionary.com:

–noun, plural ‑tries.

  1. the branch of mathematics that deals with the deduction of the properties, measurement, and relationships of points, lines, angles, and figures in space from their defining conditions by means of certain assumed properties of space.
  2. any specific system of this that operates in accordance with a specific set of assumptions: Euclidean geometry.
  3. the study of this branch of mathematics.
  4. a book on this study, esp. a textbook.
  5. the shape or form of a surface or solid.
  6. a design or arrangement of objects in simple rectilinear or curvilinear form.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/geometry

It seems to me there’s more involved in geometry than I originally thought. It’s not just about fitting shapes together to make them look pretty – Ok I knew there was some maths involved too, calculating angles – making sure that the outcome could be continued for eternity using tiling and rotated symmetry. So my next step is to look into this further. Find out where this study of lines, shapes, depths and space came from and why it links to astronomy and even spirituality! Looks like I’ve given myself even more homework to do!

Why do we see what we see?

August 23, 2008

What intrigues me is the way our eyes see certain things over others. Ok so theres a lot that we can go in to as to why this is the case. Colours, shapes, size, recognition, and all kinds of other physical or social aspects and influences, not to mention the scientific explanations.

Eventually I’ll go through as many of these aspects and influences as I possibly can. But I wouldn’t want to overhelm anyone, just yet.

The aim of this is to see what ideas I can produce to form a project that will somehow convey what I have learnt from my investigations into the topic of space, shapes and anything/everything that has a bearing on both. Let’s see where the journey takes me. Because believe me – I have no idea either.

To start this off I’m going to look at the idea of colour inversion. So firstly we’ve all seen this image right?

Goblet illusion, black on white  Goblet illusion, white on black

And we all know that it’s called the goblet illusion because the goblet is the first thing you see. Why is that? Why don’t we all see the two faces first? Would it work if we inverted the colours?

What do you think? I certainly think the faces are easier to see when they are in black but the goblet is still a very prominent part of the image – stands out a lot. I thought maybe it would be the fact that a larger part of the image was taken up by the goblet? Or maybe it was just the central positioning?

I’m going to leave it here for now. Do some research and see what I find.