I find my life is more fulfilling when I am working on at least one creative side project. Together these projects have taken me on a journey through numerous interesting cognitive landscapes and helped keep my mind fresh for other challenges. My art tends to make use of new technologies – I enjoy the feeling of discovering the first artistic possibilities of a new medium. Working on such projects also gives me the well-rounded feeling of pulling on a variety of skills from both the technical and artistic sides
Here’s a sample of what I’ve done in the last couple of years:
Depth-Sculpting Reality with the Kinect 3D camera
The Kinect 3D camera (made by PrimeSense) captures the world in true 3D, acquiring distance information along with color in real time. I created some software to merge multiple 3D images and video streams captured by the Kinect into a single 3D space. Objects from each video stream are superimposed as if they occupy the same physical space, with nearby objects from one video occluding more distant ones from another. Sometimes objects overlap, creating interesting mutant forms. Here are some examples of what I made with it:
Wood grain for artistic visualization
This series of projects explores the use of wood grain as an artistic visualization tool. I use software to model 2D vector fields inspired by equations for magnetic and electric fields, and a laser cutter to cut these vector fields out of zebrawood, which provides a high contrast. It’s appealing to work with organic materials to render precise mathematical equations; the wood provides a rough appearance with beautiful specular reflection properties.
- Photos of various zebrawood spirals in Golden Gate Park
- “Studio” photos against a white background
- The assembly process and the software I wrote to prototype designs
Specific designs with videos showing how the light dances over the surface as it’s moved:
Dandelion (aka the world’s largest koosh ball)
For 2010’s Ephemerisle, I wanted to create something that would be both beautiful to look at and playfully interactive. In keeping with Ephemerisle’s theme of expanding human settlement across the ocean, the Dandelion represented a seed that could float across the oceans and give birth to new (presumably foam-based) civilizations. The Dandelion turned out to be more difficult to climb than expected, but the challenge added to the fun.
More about the Dandelion
- Design: Part 1, Part 2
- Construction: Part 1, Part 2
- Deployment and testing
- Its post-Ephemerisle incarnation as a chandelier in HackerDojo
I want to help herald in the era of mass customization of cars. Cars are difficult to successfully customize, as you must choose a design that works for all occasions. To make an analogy, if clothes worked the same way, we’d have to choose one outfit to wear to every work and social setting. I created an intricate fractal design and used a vinyl cutter to create a layer I could apply to the car. The design ended up pushing the limits of the CAD software I was using, and gave me a very thorough introduction to vinyl cutting.
Infrared “silent” movies
I got the chance to borrow a thermal infrared camera, which shows an image of the temperatures of objects. Over the course of a weekend, I made a series of silent-movie-style films exploring the strange visual properties of the world in thermal infrared.
The Taming of the Shower-Beast
Hot and Cold Water Balloons
Making interactive fractals without a computer
I used multiple overlapping projectors and a video camera to create video feedback of a sort that (to my knowledge) had never been created before and allowed for the creation of much more complex fractals than is typical with video feedback.
I was heavily involved in creating interactive experiences for the Ephemerisle festival in 2009 and in organizing not-Epmeherisle in 2010. Ephemerisle is an annual floating gathering of people interested in creating permanent settlements on the ocean.
It’s similar to a Burning Man regional, but with more of a focus on politics and self-organization. The focus on self-organization became even stronger after the central organizers pulled out for insurance reasons. The challenges in creating floating art and settlements are immense.
In 2009, I did two projects, the Ripple Theater and the Achievement Lounge.
The Ripple Theater was a floating interactive installation that used the reflection of a projector off of water to create a constantly distorting, rippling image. People could manipulate the ripples with a long pole, swimming in the water nearby, or dancing on the attached floating platform. (Original design proposal here)
The Achievement Lounge was a cushy floating relaxation space with a cooler full of beer. However, anyone who wanted to get there had to cross a 4 inch wide, 32 foot long beam suspended over the water. No one had any trouble getting there. However, once people had relaxed in the lounge and had a couple of beers, they had to get back…
My Flickr set for Ephemerisle 2009 gives a sense of what the festival was like.
In 2010 I did the Dandelion (mentioned above) and organized the Memocracy conference on the roof of one of the houseboats. The 2010 festival was further from the shore, out in the middle of a large channel of the Delta. See my Flickr set for Ephemerisle 2010.
I have numerous postings about the Ephemerisle experience, art projects, and philosophy over on my blog.
A giant version of the board game Settlers of Catan
This was originally intended as a project for Burning Man. There’s a lot of Burning Man art that just consists of taking Thing X and making it bigger. Much of it isn’t that interesting. However, what made a giant boardgame special is that it made the game (with teams and “ambassadors” instead of single players) feel more like a live-action government simulator than a board game.
The game now has its own Twitter account at @giantsettlers, which reports its upcoming appearances.
The mix of gases in our atmosphere is not the only one that supports life. Here’s what happens when you play with the atmosphere’s dynamics.
Hilbert curve sculpture
I used the intricate form of space-filling Hilbert curves to create a variety of sculptures using laser-cut paper.
Misc lasercutter experiments
- Christmas tree ornaments and coasters
- Putting designs on jeans
- Multi-mirror reflections from mirror boxes
- Space-filling curves