So I never know how long to steep my tea. It’s a problem, especially in the morning when I’m barely awake to turn on the kettle. The last thing I need to worry about is keeping track of time, so I decided to build a device that keeps track for me.
After I put the tea bag in boiling water, I turn on my timer at wait. At evenly distributed intervals the letters “R-E-A-D-Y” blink, one by one. This lets me know that my tea is still steeping. After 3 minutes (the amount of time needed for that perfect cup) they all blink together, letting me know that my tea is ready.
All I have to do now is sit back, relax, and sip.
After having very successful results destroying the quality of a video by uploading/downloading it to Youtube almost 100 times, I wanted to see if I could achieve a similar effect with a JPG. There were two different processes that I tried.
First I opened the JPG in photoshop and created a duplicate with Save As. I repeated this tedious process 300 times. The degradation occurred slowly, but after 300 rounds there was some extremely obvious data loss through the process. This made me start thinking about the security of our files and data. We depend on our computers to maintain high fidelity copies of our information, and hardly ever do we consider the fact that it could slowly be destroying what it saves.
The next test involved resizing an image in photoshop. I started by decreasing the size of the image by 1 pixel, and then sizing it back up to its original size. I then repeated this process 300 times. The result was astounding. The image distortion was so unexpected an unlike anything I had ever seen. A pattern emerged over the image, that looked like the circuit board of a computer or a complex maze. I then repeated this process and varied the initial amount that I resized the image. I tested it at 10, 17, and 100 pixels.
For me this experiment speaks themes of memory that I have been exploring in all my prototypes. Although this particular iteration comments on the loss of quality and data over time, I feel it correlates with my ideas of the fading of memory over time. I want to continue prototyping these concepts. I also feel that the process has been just as important as the product. Perhaps I should begin documenting my screen as I edit images hundreds and hundreds of times.
I am really enjoying working with Max MSP in developing interactive motion based experiences, so I wanted to continue working on my previous “Video Trail” prototype. This time I was interested in looking at the relationship between the past and the present. Instead of just projecting movement in front of the camera, I wanted to use that visual input as a mask for a delayed “live” video feed. In a sense, one can see the movement of the past, through the movement of the present.
There are lots of ideas I have about how something like this could work in a public space context. It would be great if the video being played was delayed several hours, so that what you were seeing was less of an immediate past, and more about who was in the space long before you. I am also interested in working with pre-recorded video.
Based on the feedback from my previous presentation, I attempted to bring a more personal aspect to my video prototype. I wanted to be able to show some of myself in the video, so it didn’t read simply as a video that was loosing quality. By narrating parts of the video, I felt like I was able to infuse my voice. I felt that it made the content of the video more important, and it instantly makes the viewer aware that the content is not arbitrary, but rather extremely personal.
The feedback from the class was that there was too much content. They found It was difficult to read the long sentences, and watch the video at the same time. There were also comments that the degrading quality of the video didn’t quite read in the context that I had intended in combination with the text. Perhaps I should just make a version without text.
So I decided to hunt around the interwebs for some fine art inspiration, since the majority of my prototypes have been heading in that direction. I came across this site, Art21, who had an hour long documentary about four different artists who have been using memory as a theme in their work. I sat down and watched it, and was very inspired.
The documentary followed the work of four artists: Susan Rothenberg, Mike Kelley, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Josiah McElheny. I was amazed at how different these artists were both in the art they make and their process. However, it was their approach to using memory as an impetus in their work which I found most fascinating.
In Rothenberg’s current work, there is a sense of displacement and longing. She recently transplanted herself from her studio in New York City, to the South West. The landscape couldn’t be more different, and this change has ultimately had an affect on her work. You can see a longing in her work, and she attempts to capture the essence of the city she left behind. She spoke about how the move changed her ability to produce paintings in a series. No longer are ideas explored over a period of several years. One of two paintings about a particular subject and she moves on.
I was very inspired by mixed-media artist, Mike Kelley. In one of his works, “13 seasons”, Kelley reproduces old sketches that he made when he was first studying art. His process became about the parts he couldn’t remember, and leaving them blank. In another work, “Day is Done, he builds 3-D models of the all the schools and homes he lived in from memory. All the details he can’t recall are left as literal holes. For Kelley, his inspiration is in exploring his past. I feel that the work I have been creating of late stems from a similar vein; motivating from personal experiences to express a larger theme.
Hiroshi Sugimoto continues to use some of the earliest techniques in the field, not giving in to modern day digital imaging. He believes that this is the way to take the best pictures. He talks about photography being the “fossilization of time”. I found that to be so poignant, thinking about how true that statement actually is. It made me think about creating fossils of my artifacts, as a way of preserving my past. It is an idea I am interesting in exploring.
Sculptor, glass blower, installation artist, Josiah McElheny, takes a very different approach in his notions of memory. In his exhibit, “Total Reflective Abstraction”, McElheny creates a series of rooms all filled with reflective sculptures on reflective surfaces. This creates a seemingly infinite commentary on the past. He says that his “work is a memory of objects…derived from a previous source.” The idea of reflection as memory is one I haven’t thought of. I guess I find reflection to be more subjective and critical, where simply remembering is one of experiencing the past.
Over the past several weeks, I have been in the process of digitizing all of my home videos. I felt that this was a perfect example of an artifact that carries very specific memories for me. The majority of the videos are from the early 80s, so I have almost no recollection of any of this happening. Through these tapes I am able to “recreate” memories. This raised several questions that I was interested in exploring: “Do I actually remember, or am I remembering the media?” “What is the correlation between watching and remembering?” “How is the degradation process of my memory similar to the degradation process of digital media?” “What is the essence of these memories?”
I don’t think that these digital representations of events from the past can constitute as my actual memories. However, I do believe that they assist me in remembering the past. What I find interesting is the idea that memory slowly degrades as time goes on, and essentially no longer exists as a specific event but more as an overall feeling. For example: I don’t specifically remember what I was doing in my grandparents’ backyard when I was 2 or 3 years old. What I do remember is the feelings of excitement and joy, the giant blue swimming pool, the green grass. The memory becomes a wash of emotions and landmarks.
I decided to look online to see if there had been any projects similar to this. Patrick Liddell, took this same feat upon himself, and uploaded/downloaded a video of himself to YouTube 1,000 times. It took him one year. His interests in doing this were to see how he could “eliminate all human qualities [that his] speech and image might have.” 2 Although our intentions are quite different, I decided to begin doing exactly as Liddell had done. I was more interested in emulating the vagueness of my memories, than voiding them of any human quality. By continuously uploading, downloading, and re-uploading the same video, I wondered if I would find the “essence” of the video. Would this “essence” be similar to that of my memories?
The process itself is extremely tedious. Even as I am writing this I am continuing to upload and download. I have been doing it for the past 3 days, and am currently at version 57. The quality of the video certainly degrades, but at very small intervals. When looking at two sequential versions, it is almost impossible to see any change. When looking at version 1 and version 57, the change is very obvious. The images begin to become more amorphous, resembling human figures and objects, but the details are completely lost. Even the audio becomes distorted. It is clear that we are hearing people talking and singing, but much like the images, it is unclear exactly what they are saying. It becomes more of a soundscape than dialogue. Much like my memories, I am left with a feeling of the experience rather than an accurate account of what was recorded.
During this process of degradation, I began thinking about different artifacts that I could apply this process to. Photographs instantly came to mind. They are quick reminders of the past. How could I simulate the process of uploading/downloading with these tangibles objects? I decided that I would photocopy the originals and then photocopy the photocopy. I did two separate iterations with this specific prototype: one using color and one using black and white.
For the color iteration, I placed a variety of old photographs onto my copier, creating a collage of images from the past. As I expected the images became washed out with each copy, loosing their color and detail. However, a very interesting thing occurred with each version. The images at the bottom of the photocopy started to disappear and the images at the top moved down. The 14th photocopy left me with a blank white piece of paper. I found the results to be poetic, subtly commenting on the idea that our mind slowly forgets what it has once remembered.
The black and white iteration gave me results that I had been expecting. Overtime the image lost all detail and became shapes of black of ink. Although towards the last few copies, the black started to take on a purplish blue hue, which I found to be very interesting. I love that my results from these two iterations are tangible, just like the photographs that I started with.