Posted tagged ‘installation’

Excitement begins

October 3, 2009

I am experiencing a surge of brainstorming (I am told this is no longer a P.C word but I can’t remember what the new term is so no offence to anyone) in relation to the work I must complete by December for my assessment.

We’ve been told we should have something along the lines of a proto-type complete for that stage in our course but with all these new and exciting ideas I want to have more than just one project outcome.

I am very excited about creating the physical pieces that reflect the research I’ve been doing for the last year and have been particularly thinking about the space in which my work will be displayed,shown or installed.

There are many different ways a person can present their work and these have inspired me to think of all alternatives – not just as Plan B’s in case my main work doesn’t turn out how I wish but also as accompaniments.

At the moment I am contemplating having 3d shapes with patterns either on, around or made up from the patterns. It’s hard to explain this so I’ll leave it to when I have some pictures once I get experimenting with the shapes.

I have been doing some very bad sketches in my notebook in order to consider how lighting needs to be placed within a rectangular room for example. There also the need to consider where a person might enter from and how they may navigate through the space according to what first comes into their sight. This is very important because I am planning to have my work illuminate itself based on the viewer’s movement into the space. They need to be able to see where to go for safety reasons but it also needs to be dark enough for the light to make the right kind of effect when it comes on. I also need to consider if my work will be one large focul piece or made up of three or four pieces.

Page 1 of sketches and notes

Page 1 of sketches and notes

Page 2 of sketches and ideas

Page 2 of ideas

These sculptures/shapes also need to fit to either the walls, floor or ceiling but with the light source either pointing towards or from behind them. Once again I won’t know which is best till I try it out. The light source itself is also something I am looking closely into. In my last tutorial Andy and I discussed sensor activated lighting and he agreed this may be the right thing for me to use. I’ve had a look at PIR lighting products and am trying to find something wireless which would be less of a safety concern as well as less shabby looking once up. Pricing is also a factor and how it might be fitted to walls/ceilings.

Another really cool idea I had was to have a sort of very large 3d hollow shape, perhaps made from card or papier mache (or maybe something a bit like stiff canvas or whatever is used to make lampshades), hanging from the ceiling but high enough off the ground to allow someone to pass under it. As they would come closer it would light up and then they would be standing beneath it. When they look up into the work they would see layers of shapes cut into the material and these would overlap so that the shadows and holes would create an ever complicated pattern. What I imagine in my head certainly looks quite spectacular. I wonder if I can actually achieve it.

It reminds me of the Muqarnas found in many mosques around the world, some of the most famous being at the Al-Hambra in Spain and at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran as seen in the image below. It is a very interesting architectural feature which I will just show you instead of trying to explain:

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from

And yet at the same time what I have imagined also reminds me of a kaleidoscope. As my youngest sister was sitting next to me as I jotted this down I asked her if she knew what a Kaleidoscope was. She’s ten years old and, well, her generation is quite different to mine so I can well imagine that they aren’t likely to be as familiar with a non-electronic/digital toy such as a good old kaleidoscope. And I was right, she didn’t know what it was so I did a quick search and had a look through google images as I explained it to her. I then came across this very interesting image of a human mirrored kaleidoscope:

These kids are clearly having fun, and it means they are engaging with the space too. The effect is brilliant and I think if I could adopt this in some way but have my patterns in there too then it would just be sooo good. But I’m not sure if it would be over ambitious for me to go down this route, least of all because I’d have to actually build an enclosed space with mirrors inside. Or maybe I could make a cheap and tatty/plasticky version? We’ll see. But the use of mirrors is certainly worth keeping in mind.

All in all I am really getting into this and I knew it would be the stage I would enjoy the most. I may be thinking about some of the aspects of the installation a little to early but this is how I have always worked – I like to get down to the nitty gritty much in advance so that I have contingency time as well as other work in place if needed.

Another idea

January 16, 2009

I’ve been thinking about how I can take my experimentation and pattern-making to the next level. I have my mid-point review coming up in March and need to start making some significant progress otherwise I won’t be making the most of it. Plus the way I see it, the more work I do now the more I can develop my ideas and learn from my mistakes and early prototyping which should then lead to something much stronger at the end.

In the next few weeks I’m planning to make a small interactive installation which basically consists of a circuit of lights (LEDs) on a grid where the user can switch them on and off to then produce a pattern. The control of the lights would be through another grid of buttons that correspond with the lights on the other board. Each button would control the corresponding lights – turning them on or off.

I was trying to imagine how the user would react to this piece. Would they know what to do with the buttons/lights? Or would they need to be told. Then I realised that the user is not going to have a clue what this grid of lights is and will just start playing with it. What if they create any type of image out of the lights, random doodles, shapes, anything? Why would they assume it had anything to do with patterns? And how would I restrict their use of the device and therefore make it related to my actual subject of Islamic patterns?

Well, whilst discussing the practicalities of making the piece with Kenji (full time student) who knows a bit about electronics, I realised there was a way to not only restrict the user from doing something completely of their own accord, but also make them aware of some characteristics that make up an Islamic pattern. I don’t want to give the game away just yet though as I want my fellow students to figure it out for themselves when it comes to the mid-point review. I’m hoping to have this ready by then.

I’m really looking forward to this! Let’s just hope that it actually works when the time comes!

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

November 8, 2008

Prepare yourself – this could quite possibly be my longest post so far. I always say to myself that I’ll make them more short and snappy but they never are.

We went on a bit of a school trip last week Wednesday (29th Nov 2008). Ok, I know we’re not in school and we didn’t have to hold hands with partners but still; it just reminded me of school.

Our first stop was at Haunch of Venison near Bond Street to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s collection of work. These were spread over three floors and amounted to 7 very different projects. I won’t talk about all of these in detail so here is a brief description:

Microphone (2008) – spotlight on solitary microphone. Speak into it, your voice is recorded and then a previous message recorded maybe a couple hours ago would be played back to you in response. This cycles through so that later in a similar situation your message will be played to someone else.

Alpha Blend Shadow Box 7 (2008) – a framed plasma screen television is divided into four blocks. Each block showing a different video of the same view of yourself. An inbuilt camera enables the viewer to be captured and reflected back to them through the television. The images of previous viewers are blended and layered so that it appears that someone else may be standing next to you when there actually is no one there. As with the microphone the image of you is recorded and kept and then shown to someone else later on. Quite spooky.

Glories of Accounting (2005) – The following is taken from

“an interactive installation with a surveillance system that detects the position of the public in the exhibition room. When someone walks into the room, large hands appear on the screen automatically. The hands rotate along their forearm axis, following the visitor with the open palms always facing him or her. As more people enter the room, more hands appear and each follows a member of the public. “

Less Than Three (2008) – This took up a very large wall with the accumulation of tube lights from one side to the other. They formed a network of various paths from one end of the wall to the other. An intercom was placed at each end. It took us a few minutes to figure this one out. When you speak into one intercom your message is converted into electric form to create a flashing path through the network of tubes and then finishes at the other end where your message is repeated through the other intercom. The longer the audio the longer the path of flashes is and the longer it takes to get to the other side.

Reporters with Borders (2008) – The following is taken from the Haunch of Venison Press release

“A new installation Reporters with Borders dominates the top floor gallery. Infra-red sensors detect the presence of viewers, bringing large composite projections of Mexican and American TV news reporters to life within the viewers’ silhouettes. Arranged according to distinctions such as male/female, Mexican/US, light-skinned/dark-skinned, eyes open/eyes closed, the previously still figures begin to report the news animatedly, their voices rising to a cacophonous chorus.”

Airport Cluster Plot (2001) – Ok to be honest I really didn’t get this one. It was not interactive as the others were and didn’t seem to do anything which was a stark difference as well. This was a graphic representation of the floor plans of 35 international airports all overlaid by a computer programme. According to the leaflet we were given at the reception desk, this piece “suggests the accelerated movement and hyper-activity of the contemporary global condition“.

Pulse Tank (2008) – I was very impressed by the interactive elements of each piece but my favourite was the ‘Pulse Tank’ which uses different elements including water, light, electronically controlled pistons, sensors, and a glass tank all connected together in some form but with no visible wires.

At the head of the tank there was a metal panel with the outline to two palms. This indicated that the viewer is required to place there hands upon this . There would then come the sound of a slow heart beat like rhythm which would begin to speed up after a while. There were also small thin plastic tubes around the tank were other participants were required to place their fingers (indicated by small graphic labels).

A metal piston type thing (really not sure what it was) would then jab/tap the water in the tank at the rate of the person’s pulse as sensed through the placement of the finger into the tube. This would create a ripple effect in the water. With all tubes occupied, ripples would meet in the centre of the tank of water to create a myriad of circles, lines and diagonals from all sides. The sound of all pulses could be heard from the speakers and the light shone onto the tank would be reflected by the water onto the floor as well as the ceiling. The overall effect was quite lovely.


Our second stop was the Barbican to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s other installation ‘Frequency and Volume‘ in the Curve Art Gallery. Once again this was a highly interactive project using radio technology to pick up on radio signals at different frequencies.

As you enter the space you see a tower of aerials in the shape of a pylon. I almost dismissed this myself. I somehow knew it was just part of the method for obtaining the signals and so carried on till I came to the curved wall section. The spotlights on the inner wall create giant shadows of you as you move past. These shadows would then be outlined onto the outer wall onto a large black projection. As you move the channels change. You become the tuner of the radio and can choose to switch from BBC Radio 4 to some random pirate station for example. Sometimes the signals were strong and clear and you could hear a loud chart hit. At other times you would hear rushing sounds and distant murmuring.

There were a couple of kids mucking about in the middle – experimenting with the effects of their shadows and playing out a sort of drama for their unexpected audience. They were revelling in the attention they got from us few viewers. This made me laugh but I could see the fun. If I was by myself I would have run from one end to the other to see if the channels would change as fast as I was running and if the transition from one to the other would be smooth or erratic.

This was a cool project. Most of Lozano-Hemmer’s stuff is cool. I don’t use the word lightly. He has done something quite different from other electronic/digital artists and combined it with the activities of humans – engaging their interest through sound and movement and most importantly their participation. Therefore I cannot wait for his new project for Trafalgar Square!

You can read up more about Lozano-Hemmer’s history, background, past and future projects on his site:

More useful links:

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: - 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.

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.