Monthly Archives: April 2014

Breaking Boxes

Box box box box box

I order a lot of stuff online. In the past week I’ve ordered socks, postage stamps, 4 small glockenspiels and a new hammock for the office, among other things.

This means boxes, lots of boxes. I’ve got a process for breaking them down that is easy and doesn’t add strain to my hands after a day of typing and musicking. It involves using my feet instead.

My second secret channel is where I often share life tips such as how to squeeze toothpaste or press microwave buttons, and I’ve always thought box breaking might be fun to share as well. A couple months ago I was sick and kind of trapped in my apartment living via delivery, and with the boxes building up and not trusting my sickybrain to do more important work I wrote and recorded a script (you can hear my sickyvoice in it).

Then, I let the boxes build up.

And up…

Until finally I filmed the video about a month later, and returned my apartment to its box-free state, and edited and posted it a bit after that. Living with that growing pile of boxes was the hardest part of making this video.

The first minute-and-a-half are carefully written and edited. Then, instead of ending the video, the last piece of footage simply continues unedited for almost 11 minutes, until I turn the camera off.

I did this for a few reasons. First, might as well. The footage was already filmed and people can exercise their free choice to stop watching. Then, I figured some tiny percentage of people might actually want to see more examples of how to break boxes, or like the noise, or appreciate the excuse for a moment to relax and listen to ambient sounds before clicking back into the bright flashing whirl of the internet.

Mostly, I liked the contrast. Narration of a carefully-written and carefully-acted script over carefully-edited video, then the uneasy continuance of something clearly other, something unformed and unintentional, perhaps capturing the uncomfortable feeling of seeing someone who thinks they’ve already turned the camera off.

I’d like to explore that idea further, because looking at the comments I was clearly unsuccessful. I am surprised at the number of people who watch, or think they are supposed to watch, or that I want them to watch, the entire video, that the uncut continued footage is actually the substance of the video, rather than empty packaging.

There’s subtler meanings to the substance of the video itself that I won’t go into, but everyone seems focused on the box– after all, it’s the bigger and more easily-defined object!

I hadn’t planned to post here about this quick experiment of a video, but like many experiments with unexpected results I have more to say than I thought I would.

Speaking of unexpectedly interesting experiments, the latest microwave counting video has guest cinematographic rotation technician Henry Reich (who makes MinutePhysics). In retrospect it should have been no surprise that we would work so well together counting down with a microwave because we’ve done a fair amount of musical improvisation together, but it’s still fun to see how those skills transfer over. For me, at least. Watching, as always, is entirely optional.

Lost Memories: Interactive Art Code

Today I was reminded of a piece of “interactive art code” I’d created a couple years ago as a proof-of-concept of what could be done with Khan Academy’s CS platform.

The code and compiled result are shown side by side, so you can edit while seeing the result in real time. Editing is easy: click on a blue number and it turns into a slider, so you can try changing the variable “blowing_shifting_speed_of_change” from 10 to 0 or -129, stuff like that. Only this time, instead of editing this as part of learning to program, edit these numbers to participate in a piece of interactive art.

Lost Memories

You can save your result on the Khan Academy platform if you want (no signup necessary), as well as whatever you might choose to program (though I warn you that the way it is computed in real time does not always reflect what will happen if the code is run from the beginning, especially for cases like turning a speed to 0 when the thing moving has already moved). Variations of programs are linked to the original, which is how I re-found some of the earlier stuff I’d made that day that led to the above result.

It started with a cardioid generator that someone else had written.

Sum Of Circles

I didn’t have any experience programming in javascript, but I do understand cardioids and circle summing, which made the above example a great jumping-off point for me. Watching the thing change in real-time as I messed around with it was fun, so the obvious next step was to animate that action. I learned how to animate and came up with Drowning Bloom.

The embeddable player runs slow when more than one are animating at once, so I just made a slight variation with an integrated pause button of sorts:

"Drowning Bloom" with STOP

Next step, only slightly more complicated, an animation that loops back and forth: Phoenix

"Phoenix" with ASHES

One thing led to another and soon I had a simple animation I called Lost Memories of Desert Sand, and couldn’t stop staring. Here’s where I thought I was on to something, that there’s real power in the artsy interpretation of a simple piece of sum-of-circle code.

Thinking about code as an art form, I realized I wanted to write Art Code, that I wanted the code itself, and not just the resulting pretty image, to be the essential part of the art piece. I wanted writing code, editing code, changing code, to be part of the art. Not in a “coding is art” kind of way, but in an “interactive art code” kind of way. And thus Lost Memories of Desert Sand got a bunch of new variable names, ordering, and piles of comments, resulting in Lost Memories.

It is appropriate to the name of the piece that I’d forgotten it for so long, just one more quick project lost immediately afterward, then found years later, thinking “hey, that was pretty good, I should probably get that down on a blog before it’s forgotten forever.”

I think interactive art code is a genre worth pursuing, ideally by someone who knows or wants to learn javascript, which maybe is you? (If you make something, tweet it @vihartvihart)

My past self also managed to surprise me with this one: “Oops“.

Broken "Oops"

Oh, how I amuse myself.