Between now and November 11, I’ll be in residence at the the Understory, the public part of the Amazon Spheres, at 7th & Lenora Street in Seattle. During this time visitors are invited to contribute to a crowd-sourced animation project. I’ll also be there most Thursdays working on more animations.
I’ve put 300 magnetic 4″ square “pixels” on a board, painted in shades of red, green, and blue, which anyone can move around, creating patterns or pictures or words (although the staff told me they’ll scramble the naughty ones). Hanging from the ceiling is this punk-rock high-tech/low-tech concoction:
The pink thing is a tiny Raspberry Pi computer. Attached to the ribbon sticking out of it on one end is a camera, which is aimed at the pixel board. The computer is programmed to take a picture every minute and feed it to the green USB drive, from which I periodically harvest the photos, compiling them into stop-frame animations. These crowd-sourced movies go into the rotation on the video loop on the main screen. That is, the “pixels” get converted into actual pixels.
Oh, did I say “programmed”? You may be wondering, what or who is the subject of that verb?
C’est moi! I learned some Python language from various helpful souls on the internet and wrote a little script to make that cute pink computer do my bidding. I am beside myself every time it actually works.
This project is a sort of complement to my relentless fascination with CMYK printing colors, but this time I’m breaking down the ubiquitous screen images of contemporary life rather than the printed ones of yore. The pixel blocks are painted in three shades of red, blue, and green, to approximate the primary colors of light that make up the millions of colors visible on a screen.
It’s also related to what the Impressionist painters were up to: They were interested in the way that visible light was composed of discrete wavelengths of different colors. They painted “broken” strokes of color side by side, allowing your eye to “mix” them, to replicate the dynamic experience of seeing light in the real world. That’s what I’m hoping will happen on the pixel board, but you can’t really exert that much control over a public art project; it’s as much a social experiment as anything.