Coastline Apparition – Old Habits

May 27th, 2015

I just finished my first music video. I shot it last Summer in West LA for the band Coastline Apparition with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Black Magic Pocket camera. I color graded and cut it in DaVinci Resolve and finished it in Adobe After Effects.

The piece features Swedish model Chloe Cole trying to find a future in a place that has a lot to offer but wont give anything away. This seemed to be a perfectly appropriate subject matter to frame the song with a visual narrative, and it gave Chloe a canvas to perform a fictional character that was close enough to her real self.

Delicious, 4397 bookmarks later

March 8th, 2015

I posted my first bookmark to delicious on 7/13/06, back when it was called del.icio.us. In spite of having changed owner a couple of times, and survived a couple of not very fortunate redesigns, delicious might be the online service that I have most consistently used to aggregate annotated content from the web. Gone are the days when I interacted with it socially; most of the users in my network haven’t used it in a very long time, but I still find pleasure using it to collect interesting links and track my browsing preferences by exploring my data. Unlike other services from that era, delicious has kept available a simple API without forcing any horrendous authentication protocols on their users. This has allowed me to keep my delicious tags page alive —a simple sketch where I render all my tags using size and color to visualize frequency of usage. At this point, it’s pretty clear what my favorite webpages and websites are about.

delicious

I wonder if any knowledge can be inferred from the tag diversity expressed by an active user in a given amount of time. Does it reflect something about the user’s vocabulary as well as the diversity of their interests? Is there something in common about a group of users that grow their collections of tags and bookmarks at similar rates even if the bookmarks and tags have nothing in common? Can this behavior be evidence of a personal and/or philosophical disposition from users towards knowledge? In section 2.2.2 of Mr. Palomar (The cheese museum), Italo Calvino conjectures that a proclivity towards or against sample diversity will influence —and even shape— the nature of the knowledge acquired from a given experience, in his case, the quest for truth in the appreciation of a particular cheese.

If you have been a delicious user, you can visit my delicious tags page and pass along your username as a parameter. My page will return a nicely crafted version of your delicious data, perhaps helping you learn something you didn’t know about yourself. Here are some examples:

http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=blackaller,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=vvva,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=buza,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=burnto,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=tang,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=golan,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=believekevin,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=victoreremita,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=kylemcdonald,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=arikan,
http://black.mitplw.com/delicious/?user=reas.

Artes Mediales desde Colombia

November 3rd, 2014

En un comunicado electrónico desde Colombia, Maria Paula Lorgia me acaba de informar que ha presentado al público el Catálogo Razonado de Artes Mediales correspondiente al Seminario Transmedia en que participé hace casi exactamente un año con la charla intitulada Propagación de Ficciones.

Este catálogo incluye mi texto Espacio público y participación narrativa en la era digital, escrito en su totalidad en el zoológico de San Diego, donde hago una reflexión alrededor de los trabajos que he tenido oportunidad de realizar en el espacio público geográfico y digital a partir de mi estancia en el MIT, donde trabajé con Antoni Muntadas, John Maeda y Henry Jenkins alrededor de temas relacionados con los medios digitales, sistemas de participación, y espacio público. Estos trabajos incluyen Querida encogí el barrio y Branches The Nature of Crisis.

El catálogo completo se encuentra disponible como PDF en la biblioteca en linea de la Secretaría de Cultura, Recreación y Deporte de la Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá.

mediales

artes mediales autores

PaperJS vs TwoJS

August 14th, 2014

Inspired by a morning discussion with Tom White aka dribnet about javascript and 2D vector graphics, I came home tonight determined to find out how far could I get in ten minutes using PaperJS on the one hand, and TwoJS on the other hand, with the sole constraint that somewhere along the way I had to make use of SVG.

For those who don’t know, PaperJS is the web-based heir of Scriptographer, a Javascript plugin for Adobe Illustrator that lived up until CS5. As far as I know, PaperJS is far more powerful than it’s predecesor, and has been designed keeping in mind the interactive, object-oriented nature of the contemporary web browser.

Similarly, TwoJS is a relatively new web-based 2D drawing library inspired by the WebGL javascript library Threejs.

After ten minutes of PaperJS I produced a simple particle raster script that uses an image to draw a collection of SVG shapes over a grid, and I added some color manipulation and particle scattering functionality to produce images like the ones featured below, using pixel data from grayscale photographs of Brigitte Bardot and William Burroughs.

TwoJS took me in a completely different direction. All I did was write a script that pulled SVG code from the loaded page source, and created animations from it. Here are two examples: I<3VR and rolling W.

bardot-2

burroughs-2

Directing Motion

June 16th, 2014

A few weeks ago, @djabatt gave me a ticket to take part on Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion Tour. It turned out to be a great way to spend my Sunday, revisiting the basics of cinematic language, production logistics, directorial practice, and over all fooling around with a ton of equipment and DSLR goodies provided by the workshop sponsors, that included Canon, Atomos, Freefly MõVI, a few rental houses and some others.

The workshop structure reminded me a lot of a class I took as a film student in VFS, where a few groundbreaking scenes from classic films were deconstructed shot by shot and then reshot by the workshop participants. Pretty fun, like that version of Psycho shot by Gus Van Sant.

This exercise made me compare with my recent incursions developing video based virtual reality at Wemolab, and the crazy fact that the nascent medium of virtual reality is at a place today where traditional cinema was around 1895, where an equivalent language is yet to be developed based on the strengths of this new medium.

Virtual reality is more immersive than cinema because it happens all around you, so there is no screen and no frame to separate you from the content. In combination with sound, it becomes your surrounding environment, almost completely replacing your original reality —the actual promise of virtual reality is presence, meaning that you should actually believe with all your senses that you were somewhere else. This disruptive effect can not be achieved by frame based media like the picture, the page or the screen. They are nothing more than containers of symbols and images that gently occupy the place given to them in our naturally occurring reality. VR is something else. It suggests a different destination. It forces you to be there instead of being here, and for this reason, hints at potential new ways in which a story can be told, more like dreams, or vivid memories. What is the language that virtual reality authors can use to express a direct their vision?

Perhaps for now it’s better to forget about all that and concentrate on all these shiny camera rigs, HD monitors, and HDMI streams of 4K prores video at 60 glorious fps. And I really want a MõVI.

directing-motion-camera

directing-motion-atomos

directing-motion-script

directing-motion-script-detail

directing-motion-sequence

Tilings and Friends: Celebrating Roli

May 18th, 2014

roli

A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to participate in a math conference called Kaleidoscope. The purpose of this conference was to celebrate the 60th birthday of an important Mexican mathematician called Roli by gathering the people he has influenced to talk about stuff he likes.

Roli happens to be a very good friend of mine, as well as one of my all-time mentors. Together with Luis Montejano and Jorge Arocha, he introduced me to contemporary geometry, and helped me find new directions in digital art and computational design. It was a big deal for me when I was tasked to deliver the closing keynote to the event. A great honor, and a big challenge: I was expected to hold myself together for an hour in front of an audience of world-class mathematicians, and I haven’t practiced any mathematics since my days at MIT. But I have never stopped making math-inspired art, and luckily, most of the conference attendants were my friends, and there was a deep pool of shared memories I could use to weave a thread through my personal experience of mathematics, art, and Roli.

My talk, entitled Tilings and Friends, narrated the story of a thirty year old friendship centered in a passion for the intersection of art, history, and combinatorial geometry in the form of tilings and low dimensional polytopes. Here is an excerpt from my notes:

If you read the abstract of my presentation you might have realized it didn’t make a lot of sense. At best I hope it made you laugh. It was inspired by a legitimate desire to challenge traditional representations of social engagement as mere connections in a network where individuals are reduced to labeled points.

I’d like to imagine—if not propose—alternative models, that will hopefully reflect upon things like friendship in a more truthful manner. Perhaps I am naive to be saying this, but we all know there is more to friendship than a simple connection. This is why most of our friends in Facebook are not really our friends.

Friendship is a process.

The reason I’m here is the friendship relationship I have with Roli, and with a group of mathematicians that were my teachers and classmates around twenty years ago.

To honor this relationship, and especially the projection of it that finds Roli at it’s epicenter, I want to suggest a model of friendship that goes beyond combinatorics, and takes into consideration the geometry of personality.

In this model, friends are tiles that share matching edges and fill portions of the plane. A friendship starts when a set of tiles match or fit-in together, and evolves as more tiles are added to the plane.

This friendship will be compromised once the tiles reach a configuration where they fail to tile.

A number of years ago, Roli told me a story about a construction worker or “maestro mosaiquero” as one would call him in traditional Alupyecan lingo. This worker’s job was to take piles of tiles and paste them over the surface of bathroom walls. He got used to work with squares and hexagons the most, a lot of times printed with patterns that limited the ways in which the tiles could be arranged. Through years of practice, he developed a good intuition of the seventeen crystallographic groups without ever knowing of their existence.

“What will he do if we give him a box full of pentagons?” —asked Roli. Years later I proposed this same question as the basis for my final project in the Symbolic Programming class at MIT, and the professor almost offered me a PHD based on it… just a good example of the depth in Roli’s insight.

For the next half hour I am going to touch upon ideas that are connected to an aspect of Roli that is not easy to find: His everlasting desire to establish a functional creative conversation about mathematical ideas with non-mathematicians.

One of them being me.

I met Roli a little over thirty years ago because he is the cool brother of my best friend from junior high and he once took us to a soccer game in the Azteca. We were roughly twelve or thirteen years old, and I didn’t see him again until college. But I remember that day well. A gentle and quiet man, he took us back to the apartment where he lived with Irene and Felipe in Villa Olimpica, and offered us limonadas. Felipe was probably seven eights of a year old, and was wearing a home-made helmet to keep him from bumping into furniture corners. There was a big tome of the lord of the rings on a table, and a blackboard with a drawing of something I had never seen before: a mathematical graph.

If you’re still with me after all this text, you probably got the picture. My keynote went really well and the conference was a great experience, hanging out with old friends and meeting some of my heroes from back in the day, like the legendary Egon Schulte (master of the polytopes), Asia Ivic Weiss (H.S.M. Coxeter‘s last student), and the not less amazing Chaim Goodman-Strauss, who’s had his own fantastic incursions in the realm of math-art.

IML400 Spring 2014

May 12th, 2014

I just finished teaching IML400 in USC for the third time. Over the winter break I had a chance to review my Syllabus and improve it, based on a few new insights I developed at the time. The course title itself is “Creative Coding for the Web”. When I was invited to teach it I was given freedom to propose my own curriculum, so I started by deconstructing its name. The result couldn’t hit closer to home. To me, creativity, programming, and the web are three of the most important things a human of our time should care about, comic books and ice-cream being the other two. They connect rational thinking with human imagination and communication in ways that have changed our world beyond our wildest dreams. My core goals have remained the same (to encourage a design-first culture supported by programming as a new kind of literacy, and the web as the mother of all media), but my approach to introduce them as a source of inspiration to students has become more focused. Here is some of what I’ve learned:

  • Design is a lens with variable focal length. Learn design first, and you will learn to see.
  • When it comes to programming, sink or swim is the way to go.
  • When it comes to sink or swim, don’t forget to make it fun.
  • Fun is good short-term, but it burns-out fast. Long term requires a deeper kind of value.
  • Let yourself sink if you want to go deep.
  • Too much freedom is confusing. Too much direction is frustrating.
  • To be creative you need to create something. Ideas are nothing without a good execution.
  • The web is your key to the world. Own it. It will never stop changing, so you should never stop learning.