Aesthetic Technologies (2010)

This research, art practice, and pedagogical critique of the art/technology/cultural practice intersection and synergy is a collaboration with Katherine Milton, Ph.D., founding Director of The Aesthetic Technologies Lab, College of Fine Arts, Ohio University, and current Director of Learning and Innovation, Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Our vision of the emerging discipline of Aesthetic Technologies, and models for implementation will be presented and discussed here in a series of papers.

.

.

Aesthetic Technologies: the concept and practice of art and experience-making in the emerging temporal terrains based on the recognition that experience, understanding, perception, and communication in these realms are not less or more “real” than in the physical/proximal; rather, the implementation in one case is organic, in the other it is synthetic; in either realm experience, understanding, perception, and communication are processed and made coherent in the imagination. Aesthetic Technologies are one’s agent and probe into the metaverse; one’s implement/tool/instrument/studio; they enable social presence and authentic communities; and they are creative environments for teaching/learning experiences.

The trajectory of my work, spanning more than four decades, describes a process of migration, transformation, convergence, and synthesis.

.

.

.

In this process, each project begins with aset of concepts, intentions, and content that migrates through a series of technology enabled manipulations. Intention and design of the work is transformed in each media and mode, and revealed in new ways. Moments of convergence occur when vision, craft skill, and the particular capabilities of the medium come together in the realization of intentions that were not previously possible. Synthesis is the point at which the work emerges as more than the sum of its parts, it becomes generative. Modes and temporal terrains with which I am familiar include fiction writing, 35mm and view camera photography, 16mm animation, analog and digital video, digital imagery, analog and digital 3D modeling and animation, synthetic worlds, sculpture in acrylic plastics and airborne kinetic forms, alto sax, and drumming as ritual practice.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The efficacy of working in any mode remains the same for me: to implement the expressive impulse; to enable curiosity; to make work that transcends the tool.

My embrace of visions of the future and technology implements has its origins in my youth, mid 1950s, and my early contacts with notions of alternate realities and extended perception.

.

In particular the Space-o-Graph, the proprietary remote sensing technology of Ming The Merciless. I studied it closely on the B/W TV (a mid-1950s incarnation of the concept). My first personal electronic device was a Heathkit crystal radio set. Consisting of a small quartz crystal, a piece of wire, and a small earphone, this was my active probe into the stratosphere. I spent many late night hours, hunched over this rig, gentling stroking the crystal’s sweet spots with the “cat’s whisker”, listening to the sky – mostly static and country western honky tonk music booming out of Texas. But this elementary instrument was a portal for my imagination. Comic books were another mode of inspiration and visual instruction for me. I read the pictures and the composition of the page first, creating my own narratives. Later, I’d go back and read the words. In the early 1970’s bande designe, French comics, again altered my design sense and notions of narrative. In the mid-70s, the Space-o-Graph met One Hundred Years of Solitude in the mountains of Haiti.

.

The occasion of this 1975 photo was indeed a Magical Realism moment, as I lugged small format video into remote hamlets in Haiti.

Seventy years after Ming tuned in the Space-o-Graph, the trans-world cybernaut, Jacque Quijote, my avatar, is the daydream realized far beyond the young boy’s fantasy …

Or, maybe not.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The evolution of the current phase of my work begins, in 2004, with the vision and composition and intention of Lissen Here! “This book began life as a meld of black history and a celebration of black womanhood. It is factual, anecdotal, autobiographical. It is born of remembered snatches of my own, and anybody else’s family lore; of provocative family nick-names; of the knotted, worked out hands of my grandmother, folded so patiently in her lap. It is the fruit of a lifetime of standing back and watching the relentless energies of a race of stricken people, steadily galvanizing toward liberation. It is listening, always listening, to the cadence, the flow, the pungent getting-to-the-heart of it, that is our speech.” Dorothy Mallory Jones

Published as Limited Edition portfolio book, 50 pages, hand printed, signed, numbered.

.

.

.

.

.

The images are derived from our family archive, the work of photographers with whom I’ve worked, and “found” photos discarded in the amnesia of generational transition. From the beginning of the project and first associations of text and image as pages, I also envisioned these compositions as large transparent/translucent panels suspended in a gallery space. A labyrinth. The original Photoshop files are very large, to accommodate scaling for large prints.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I also envisioned a soundscape: discrete columns of voice and ambience that the visitor discovers by moving in the gallery, navigating the labyrinth of floating panels.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The next moment of recognition and evolution comes with the installation of a selection of my work, spanning several decades, in the ASU Art Gallery, 2006. Included were digital prints, video projection, video on monitors, a computer station, and Lissen Here! on a pedestal.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Standing in the midst of the gallery exhibition, I was struck by the compromises inherent in this presentation mode. This format of distributing individual “pieces” on the perimeter did not /could not convey the dynamic relationships between the elements, and the ways in which they speak to, and comment on, each other.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Nor could the analog reproductions and reflected light of framed prints and projections convey the luminosity of the original digital imagery. The impetus to develop a different approach to the design of an installation began here, as I glimpsed a deeper point to the work. It could/should be a unified and fluid experience, and has other stories to tell.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I envisioned these elements exploded in the space, immersing the visitor in multiple simultaneous compositions, sounds, and narratives. In my imagined installation, the work was luminous and translucent, not opaque. This vision required a new approach to the content and configuration of the space.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The concept and design challenge was to create an immersive environment and experience that illuminates these relationships and qualities, and to make this comprehensible and coherent to the visitor through the design and form of the installation itself.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

One year later, the Point of Convergence:

In the Sweet Bye & Bye, an immersive memoir, is a real-time interactive installation in the synthetic world, Second Life. It demonstrates the migration of content and installation design intention; the transformation of the collection, and expansion of possibilities; and the manifestation of ideas and concepts not previously possible for me to realize in First Life.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The narrative threads are presented on three levels: personal/family anecdote, communal lore, and allegory.

They are read in 3-dimensions, gazing thru multiple panels and planes, seeing the composition-in-depth.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

In each of the points-of-view of the avatar, a different perspective and understanding of the piece is revealed.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Several visitors have commented on their epiphany of recognition as they began to see the order and intention of the installation design. As they deciphered how to read it, the piece opened to them. The process of developing this installation in the Second Life immersive environment illuminates, for me, the coherence of this body of work as memoir; literally, the text is written by my mother, Dorothy Mallory Jones, derived from her life experience, observations and insights; many of the images and scenes are personal/family; and metaphorically, memoir as a form suggests glimpses, recollections, and ruminations.

A journalist, based in Paris, remarked that she was distressed that she might not understand the piece, not being fluent in English. I suggested she find sight-lines and multi-plane compositions that appear/disappear/are revealed as she moves in the space. To look for narratives that way.

.

.

Twenty minutes later she remarked, “I feel I am in the presence of ghosts.”

.

Elegua and Hecate flank the entrance.

.

In the synthetic world I am able to configure the container of the installation specifically for its intentions, rather than making the content fit the space. The installation is dodecahedron (12 sided). All angles are 30° / 60° / 90°. Animations and voice are triggered by the avatar’s position. Sight lines transform with avatar movement, elements are revealed and concealed.

.

In the Sweet Bye & Bye: An Immersive Memoir walk-thru machinima, 8:00

.

.

Among the migrated concepts and intentions fundamental to my vision of In The Sweet Bye & Bye, is an approach to narrative composition gleaned from the work of Charles Finch III, M.D., on the iconography of the Nile Valley civilization, and the definitive study of the architecture and iconography of the Temple at Luxor by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz. Briefly, Hieroglyphic is a symbolic language (non-verbal). Complex narratives and subtle meanings are conveyed in a single figure/image. The narratives and meanings are conveyed in their entirety, at the moment of encounter. The degree of understanding and perception of the viewer determines the depth and breadth of the meaning received. In the Temple at Luxor, the Hieroglyphic texts are composed as if walls were transparent or reflective. These interlaced texts are read “through” opaque walls separating chambers, combining texts that are not seen simultaneously, and/or on opposite walls in the same chamber.

.

Each hieroglyph passage is a coherent message, but reading the multiple texts as one blended text gives the whole, deeper meaning. How ones looks determines what one sees.

Dance For Absent Partners is one of the murals in the allegory sequence. This episode depicts The Sisterhood (a mythic trans-generational society of women) performing a ritual that helps sustain the community.

.

.

In front of the static scene, the ephemeral dancer with her partner float on translucent membranes. Avatar movement, pov, and direction of gaze alters and reveals compositions.

.

Dance for Absent Partners, 1:00

.

.

.

.

.

.

The creation of this Miniature Replica was enabled by characteristics and peculiarities of the perception of scale in Second Life.

~ exact miniature replica of the full-size installation

~  evolved through a lengthy series of scale, dimension and aspect ratio adjustments, involving several hundred objects

~ a complete installation, and can stream the same video and audio media

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The replica is viewable from the outside in the avatar’s three points-of-view: 1st person, 2nd person (default), and 3rd person (autonomous camera).  Access to the interior, to the piece itself, is only possible in 3rd person pov (cam view). The camera can maneuver into and through the interior space with fluidity and precision, creating the same sense of presence, interaction and scale as the full size piece ~ also points to next steps in immersive environment development and narrative composition.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Moving my vision and work from the analog/physical/proximal realm of gallery installation and book, to an ephemeral synthetic world presence, is a paradigm shift in perception, both for me as artist and for the audience/visitor. This transformation demonstrates that experiences created in synthetic worlds can be more profound, in terms of engagement with the artwork, and the meaning and understanding received, than encountering the same content in the physical realm. There are ideas, practice, visions and discourses emerging that are native to synthetic realms, including new genres of narrative composition and performance. This is frontier territory for unleashing the imagination, and innovating solutions. I am not suggesting that the synthetic environment can or should be thought of as attempting to replace the physical. Kinetic proximal engagement with objects and space, real-time presence face-to-face interaction with people, and the superior range of sensing in the body are a different order of experience.

Each mode has its particular strengths and appropriate applications. In the Sweet Bye & Bye is also a teaching/learning environment, and has hosted lectures and classes in Game Design, History, Writing and other subjects for courses at Duke, Stanford, USC, and schools in the UK, Denmark, and Portugal.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I listened to Keith Jarret’s Koln Concert, a 60 min improvised solo piano performance, exclusively, at least once each day, for the year that I worked on this piece. Making the piece was a meditation, on the music, metaphor, form, light, illusion, and chord progressions – how he got from A to B. It was always logical and yet always surprising.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The mode in which I addressed this challenge was plexiglass, with brass and stainless steel accents. The piece is composed of over one thousand hand cut and polished plexiglas acrylic shards. All angles are 30, 60, or 90 degrees.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Transparence, translucence, reflection. Changing one’s view/perspective by moving around the piece, or changing light conditions in the space, transforms the figure.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

After several scary incidents with solvents, fumes and plastic dust, I finally recognized that the materials with which I was working were extremely hazardous. I migrated to another form and approach to kinetic sculpture. I got airborne, and sound generating. The Bermuda Octagon is six feet in diameter, made of translucent mylar, orange, red, yellow, purple. The tail is twenty-five feet long, composed of many strips of mylar. Also strips fringing kite body. In the wind it hums, swooshes, whistles. Backlit by the sun, it glows, and splashes colors on the ground.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Synthesis: Enter the immersive graphic novel, Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, and step into the Chicago South Side during the period spanning the Great Migration, the Great Depression, the Chicago Renaissance, World War II and the post war decade. It is a tapestry, woven of the tales of a family and community surviving and sometimes thriving, and personal discovery. Locations range from the bustling streets and crowded apartments of the South Side, to a sharecropper’s yard in Franklin County, Kentucky, to a dusty road in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  Time and place can shift with the opening of a door, or the turn of a corner.

Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs is a work of imagined memory and expressive visualization, a collage in motion, theater-of-the-surround. The stories are derived from the fiction, poetry and oral history recordings of Dorothy Mallory Jones, and other witness/participants in the times and places depicted.

.

.

.

Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs is currently being developed as a web browser app, accessible via desk top and mobile devices.

.

The setting is an impressionistic rendering of South Side Chicago, 1925-1955, and the neighborhood is populated by distinctive recurring characters, interactive objects and dramatic tableaux. The visitor enters a richly detailed immersive environment, dynamic with activity, and responsive to the visitor’s presence and interaction.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The environment is embedded with media elements that are the social/cultural/political context in which the episodes unfold. Newspapers, magazines, radios, televisions, posters, and cinema clips are woven into the scenes, and are responsive to visitor manipulation. The embedded media might impart elements of the stories, or provide a bit of the context of the time and place..

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I am developing mind maps as research, compilation and organizing tools for historical documentation, developing the narrative threads and episodes, and plotting the navigation paths.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The structure of Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs is episodic, with each episode presenting a chapter in the life of that episode’s central character. Characters, narrative paths, themes and events from one episode intersect scenes in other episodes, opening alternative exploration choices for the visitor.Through exploration and interaction, the visitor encounters characters and scenes, finds stories within stories.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Some elements of the narratives may only be accessible through one of the pov, but not others. How one looks determines what one sees.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Romare Bearden’s influence on my thinking and vision is foundational. I study his writings and collage work before beginning new work.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

In his transfigurations of one thing into another I find the essence of Alchemy, which is, revealing the sublime in the mundane. I am instructed by the precision of his compositions. Their geometries are grounded in the mathematics of Russian Icon painting and cathedral architecture.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Bearden observed that he learned to paint by listening to Earl Fatha Hines play Stride piano. Rhythms are created by the silence between notes. I find this sensibility again in Jean Cocteau’s visual compositions in La Belle et La Bete. What is not there is as present as what is there..

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

From Bearden’s combinations and collisions of scale, perspective, and content I get license to be bold. Finally, one is always aware that the work is about touching Spirit.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The distinctive visual style of the Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs environment is intended to evoke, at times, an experience of exploring a three-dimensional collage in motion, a glimpse through a mind’s eye, fracturing point-of-view, extending moments.  Moving the Bearden, and some Jacob Lawrence, influence into an immersive environment adds depth, both perceived and compositional, change and duration, navigation and choice, interaction with the environment and characters, and multiple points-of-view. This is the temporal terrain of magical realism. This dimensional expansion of the visual also expands the possibilities and challenges of the narrative composition. How the story is told, and the meanings conveyed, are integral to the design of the environment.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

motion study 1: The Neighborhood 4:00                                   (Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues, Charles Mingus)

.

.

motion study 2: Show Lounge Interior 2:00                                (Cleo”s Back, Junior Walker & The All Stars)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Bronzeville & The Chicago Renaissance is an augmented reality gallery installation. The central gallery display is a 3D tabletop model (6’x8’) of the contemporary Chicago South Side/Bronzeville area, accurate and detailed enough for visitors to recognize locations and landmarks. But the model is blank, devoid of color and surface texture.

.

An augmented reality-enabled tablet, focused on this cityscape, becomes a time machine. Visitors will be able to view 3D animated recreations of particular locations at several different periods. The interface on the tablet touch screen will access the archive of relevant photos, print documents, media clips, etc. An audio narration component can also be available through a headset.

Through the tablet screen one sees richly colored, detailed and accurate animated recreations of Bronzeville locations, characters in period dress, vehicles, etc. that were important elements of the Chicago Renaissance period. The South Side Community Art Center, the Parkway Community House, the Regal Theater and the Savoy Ballroom, the Rhumboogie and Club Delisa are among the locations to be featured. This project is intended to create a landmark presentation and interpretation of the Chicago Renaissance, and to be a model for innovative use of technologies for outreach to and engagement of underserved audiences.

.

Project of Arizona State University, Arizona State Dept of Education, and Helios Foundation.

These are concept sketches for an immersive environment (SL or other) in which teachers and students examine and interact with a set (or sets) of “table top” environments. Each model is designed with features/behaviors/animations to illuminate particular curriculum content and objectives. The environments can be customized to present concepts and processes in geography, geology, climatology, ecology, history, economics, and other areas. The overall environment in which the models are installed would also contain other elements and media related to the topic and model(s).

The miniature scale of the environments utilizes the three points-of-view of the avatar. In the default and/or first person views, the avatar can walk around the display and grasp the overview of the region and its features.

The prototype region is 1 sq mi., scaled down to a 10’ square table top

In the camera view, the student can drop down to ground level for another level of immersive perspectives.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Blended worlds: web & touring museum installation

This project develops possibilities for blending online and physical worlds to enhance the museum visitor experience, and create an engaging, complimentary and expanded web experience.

The web site will be an interactive immersive presentation of the historical, societal and cultural significance of the Idlewild, MI community, spanning the first century of its existence. From the pioneering settlement of the community in 1912, through its ascendance to prominence as a Mecca for African American middle class vacationers, famous celebrities and world class black entertainment, to its decline in 1970’s and revitalization in the present, the Idlewild community affords a rare opportunity to illuminate little known aspects of American social, economic and racial history and dynamics.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: