Spontaneous Haiku


Art Strategies / Week 3 / Procedural, Aleatory and Instructional


Spontaneous haiku is an instructional set for creating a haiku. The procedure is highly dependent on chance, and the consequent end result might mean something to the reader, or perhaps it might mean nothing at all. And that’s the beauty of it.


Last week, I studied how Tristan Tzara’s instruction set on Dadaist poetry had given birth to the cut-up technique. The technique heavily influenced William S Burroughs who implemented a similar set into the audio format. Burroughs was a Beat author, through and through. Many Beat authors, most notably Gary Snyder, were inspired by Zen Buddhism and the Japanese way of living. They used to produce haikus on a regular basis. Haikus by the Beat generation were crude, spontaneous and mostly ambiguous in meaning. Through the following instruction set, I have tried to emulate a technique to create haikus that are Beat in nature, yet heavily reliant on chance.

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George Orwell. Animal Farm. Penguin Books. Page 27.
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Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice. Penguin Books. Page 150.
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Jack Kerouac. The Dharma Bums. Penguin Modern Classics. Page 52.
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Yo Arduino! ( PComp Lab 2 )


Introduction to Physical Computing / Week 3 / Microcontroller Basics


This week’s labs beckon the initiation of programming using an Arduino microcontroller, and processing analog and digital input/output.


I’m going to revise the concepts first (for embedding the definitions into my memory) : An Arduino board is a microcontroller that has a lot of circuitry built around it ( digital and analog ports, voltage regulators et cetera). The Arduino board comes with an Arduino IDE, which is a simplified programming tool that compiles commands into assembly language and loads them to the board. Consequently, circuits using analog and/or digital sensors can be connected to the board and the inputs/outputs can be processed using programming logic. Fun!

The labs from this week required us to deal with digital input and output, and then move on to analog input. Digital inputs can be obtained from digital sensors, which are sensors that can sense binary data ( 1 or 0, HIGH or LOW, ON or OFF). It’s basically like Hodor from Game of Thrones. It either says Hodor or nothing at all. Examples of digital sensors can be 2-state switches or pushbuttons.

Analog sensors, on the other hand, sense a range of values which can be understood and translated using programming logic. Examples of analog sensors can be potentiometers, variable resistors such as photosensitive resistors and force-sensitive resistors.


Lab 1 : Digital Output from Arduino


The first lab revolved around generating a digital output and passing it to the circuit using Arduino. The digital output periodically switches on and off an LED. The following example switches the LED on and off every 500ms.

Arduino Code:

digital-output


Lab 2: Digital Input/Output


The second lab is about receiving digital inputs into the Arduino using a pushbutton, and processing that input to light up an LED (using the digital output circuit from the previous example).

Error: I ran into an error while performing this lab. My LED was connected to the +5V line on my breadboard, which would render the LED on permanently on the board. The LED is supposed to be detached from the +5V line since it’s voltage is dependent on the digital output we produce from the Arduino board.

Arduino Code:

digital-input-output


Lab 3 : Analog Input to Arduino


In the third lab, I used an Arduino board to receive an analog input using a potentiometer and then processed the input and displayed the results on the computer.

Arduino Code:

analog-input

Results:
The values changed between 17-1023 depending on how the resistance was being varied on the potentiometer. My idea is that the output didn’t go down to a minimum zero because even when the dial was turned all the way, the potentiometer still presented some minimal resistance.

analog-input-results


Observing User Interaction in a Public Space, and a Simple Application of Microcontrollers:


I’ve observed that students spend a lot of time working out the codes to the lockers. And it’s a lengthy process, plus it’s highly prone to go wrong even if the student remembers her/his passcode. An alternative solution to this can be using a simple numberboard and a microcontroller to read the passcode and process it.

The idea is to use an analog input and verify if the correct password is being entered or not. The students can work out their passcode on a numbered lock and subsequently the code can be verified using a logic. It’s nothing new, this is being used all around us. For example, buildings, safety deposits, ATMs and even suitcases. However, using it in a school system would save the students some time, and perhaps prevent them from getting late to classes (haha).

Extending the idea into mobile applications, we have numberboards on our cellphones. Perhaps, a student can connect to the lock using the wifi network when in the vicinity and open the lock as he/she walks up to the locker in the hallway. This makes the opening of locks super easy and more time-efficient.

Tristan Tzara and The Cut-up Technique


Art Strategies / Week 2 / Procedural, Aleatory and Instructional


Dadaists and Surrealists have been commonly associated with lack of meaning. Abolishing common-sense, they operated in the territories of weird, grotesque and disorder. Tristan Tzara is known to be one of the founding members of the Dada movement. He was a leader of sorts. despite his dismissal of authority. His statements were contradictions, and his life was immersed in ambiguities. And all of this very interesting when I try to figure out the Dada movement, and the ideals behind it (or the lack of it).

The Dada Manifesto was built using contradictory and ambiguous statements, and was reflective of Tzara’s tendencies. Tristan Tzara, in the Dada manifesto talks about how he is against principles. Yet, he was a determined Communist, which is a political philosophy residing on certain principles. William Burroughs had accused Tzara of consuming his creative energies into becoming a Communist Party bureaucrat (link).

Using disorder, meaninglessness and ambiguity, Tzara had created an instruction set for writing a Dada poem. Underneath, I have posted Tzara’s instruction set, and results when I applied the set to a quote from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

 

dada-poem

I believe that instruction sets can be highly instrumental when the purpose is to propagate something. The intent is to spread the instructions, let people indulge, be inclusive, and produce the desired art in multitude. The Dadaists and Surrealists, whatever form they used, were not representing art/ideas for the elite or the bourgeoisie. Hence, incomprehensible pieces of art that defied the traditional practice. Their art was meant to be distributed and to be misunderstood. Hence, the manifestos and theatrical appearances.

And similarly this instruction set by Tzara was meant for people to replicate the Dadaists ideals of inclusivity and challenging the bourgeoisie by mocking them. Through replication, the art/idea gained popularity and the Surrealists/Dadaists gained prominence. Over the years, did they turn into elitists themselves as Burroughs accuses? Or did they not?

A few decades later, Sol Lewitt was using instructional strategy for a similar purpose. To develop a unique style and create it in abundance. Around the same time, William Burroughs and Brion Gysin took Tzara’s instruction set and applied it to the audio format. Unlike Tzara, for Burroughs, this was an experiment and not an instrument in a movement. He derived understandings around the present and the future.

“When you cut into the present, the future leaks out.”
– William. S. Burroughs (link)

 

Signage Research


Visual Language / Week 2 / Signage Research


Examples of bad signage:


Police Department flyers : While walking through a street in Lower Manhattan, I chanced upon a sign put up by the New York Police Department (supposedly?) which disallowed the public from parking on the street on Thursdays. The sign was basically a flyer and the placement was terrible. If it was a warning issued by the police indeed, they could’ve at least used a visible cardboard sign which is noticeable underneath the obvious parking instructions.

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Apple Bank for Savings : I feel that another bad example of signage is the logo for Apple Bank for Savings. As a bystander, on a first glance, the bank looks like a fruit vendor or perhaps, an electronics store. Even the name feels like a fruit vendor with some great offers! The blatant red apple is the first thing that the eye catches sight of, and it fails to guide the viewer to believe that the place has something to do with money.

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The New School Library Door : The library entrance door for the New School is also a bad example of signage. Like most doors, it is supposed to be pushed from one side and pulled from the other. However, when a person is walking towards the entrance and is supposed to pull, he can also view the push signage through the transparent door. It leads to an initial confusion regarding what the user is supposed to do with it.

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 An example of good signage:


nyc-taxi

NYC Taxi : I believe the NYC Taxi cars are a very good example of signage. The striking yellow and black combination makes it very distinguishable within a crowd of vehicles on the street. Moreover, the consistency of the color and the NYC Taxi logo gets embedded in the public’s subconscious wherein they don’t have to think before they stretch out their hand and call for a taxi. You can also visit this interesting link which talks about how black on yellow is the best visible contrast.

Switches and LEDs ( PComp Lab 1 )


Introduction to Physical Computing / Week 2 / Switches and LEDs


My previous experiences in dealing with a circuit were not great. I had a few mandatory classes during my undergrad that dealt with electrical circuits and theory. However, being in a program that was trying to ‘focus’ on teaching software, the faculty as well as the labs were not good (they were bad and uninspiring). Personally, what this transpired into was an absolute befuddlement with how circuits worked, and barely getting through these courses with a minimum passing grade.

So yeah, there were some apprehensions as I was preparing myself to work on circuits. And to simply see that LED light up was magical. What felt better was to finally understand how a breadboard is structured, how the current flows into the wires, and how to deal with the anodes and cathodes. For the first time, I made a circuit without help or a grudge (haha).

I experimented with two kinds of switches. One was a basic switch, wherein connecting ends of a conducting wire would turn on the switch and holding them apart would turn the switch off. Very basic! A second switch was implemented using, well, a switch.

After this, as illustrated in the previous class, I played with a series circuit and a parallel circuit. The series circuit didn’t work the first time. The LEDs I was using worked with a higher voltage, apparently. So post-modifications, I had built a series circuit successfully. The parallel circuit was smooth.

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Shoelace switch:

shoe-lacesThe lab also asked us to think about a simple application for a switch and LED circuit. One useful application that I could think about was a shoelace switch. When the shoelace is taut, the current flows through one part of the circuit, hence lighting up a green LED. When the laces come undone, the current starts flowing through another segment of the circuit lighting up a red bulb. A simple circuit that could notify a person and prevent him/her from tripping over. Voila!

Below is a circuit diagram for such a circuit. There are two resistors and LEDs connected in parallel. The resistance for R1 is significantly lower than R2. Following the path of least resistance, the current across the green LED is high, and the current across the red LED is very low when the laces are tied together. I haven’t implemented the circuit yet, so I’m not sure if this will work. I’ll post a picture/video for a working model soon.

shoe-lace-switch

Soundwalk – Passing Stranger


Video and Sound / Week 1 / Soundwalk – Passing Stranger


I’ll be honest. My expectations from a soundwalk weren’t very high. “Coupling a walk in the street with an audio file, what’s so new about that? People do that all the time.” is what I had in my mind.

beat-generation

The soundwalk turned out to be a revelation, a new experience. I opted for Passing Stranger, due to my affinity towards the Beat Generation ( incidentally, I had presented the book cover for Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums in the visual language class earlier in the day ). Kerouac, Ginsberg, Whitman, Hara, Mayer and so many others; to listen to their voices, to listen to their words, to be acquainted with where they spent most of their lives, it was beautiful. Listening to unashamed, charismatic, cracking, prophetic voices of artists and finding my way through the concrete structures, through their tombs (in a metaphoric sense) I felt transported back in time.


“PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you”
– To A Stranger, Walt Whitman

The first verse from Whitman’s poem ‘To a Stranger‘ talks about how the poet longingly looks at the passing stranger and gets nostalgic. The difference this time round was that it was not the poet looking at the stranger, but the stranger looking at remnants of the poet, a place that has established itself as a reminder of the poets and authors who had prospered in this very setting. The place has changed, of course. But there are still clues, hints, memorabilia, remnants that can be found here and there, trying to retain themselves in the ever-changing city of New York.

The audio was what made it all come together. The incoherence with which Passing Stranger switched from monologues to jazz music to the commentaries, it was historical reverie. My favorite bit was the story where Jim Jarmusch talks about Ginsberg’s apartment, of how poets would come there to collaborate, to drink, to celebrate, of how Ginsberg would throw down his key from the fourth floor apartment in a sock, of how Kerouac used to write in that very place. And to look at the structure, while Kerouac recited his spontaneous lines, I could visualize it all playing out in front of me.

Underneath, are some photographs taken while I was walking through the East Village:

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Design Analysis – Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, by Penguin Modern Classics


Visual Language / Week 1 / Design Analysis


jack-kerouac-dharma-bums-penguin-cover

Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums is a book about detachment from the modern world, observation, meditation, introspection, Zen Buddhism, hitchhiking and mountains. One of the most prominent Beat authors, Jack Kerouac is known for his trademark style of spontaneous prose. Dharma Bums, as a book, is a personal favourite since it resonates with my own ideologies and helps me in being disillusioned from many unimportant aspects of the material world.

I particularly love the Penguin Modern Classics cover of Dharma Bums. Below is a design analysis of the cover:


Grid Structure:


dharma-bums-book-cover-design-analysis

The text and image have been very neatly organized into a grid structure. The dexterous placement of the elements makes the cover more appealing, and it also highlights the many subtleties which I will be discussing moving forward.


Colour Palette:


dharma-bums-book-cover-colour-palette

Penguin Modern Classics have released many titles using the same colour palette, which includes a monochromatic image and clear, concrete text placed on top of it, completed by the trademark Penguin logo in a corner. Find some examples below:

1984 albert-camus-the-fall on-the-road

The use of a monochromatic image is an effective instrument that is being employed to make the user aware of the time period in which the book was written. Moreover, the distinctive placement of text and the lack of arbitrariness make these covers easier on the eye. Both good strategies to attract book readers to these titles.

Plus, the covers are beautiful! My artwork has often been based on a monochromatic palette.


Design Analysis:


dharma-bums-book-cover-monochrome-analysis

It’s time to revisit the three basic rules for a successful design:
1. Simplicity – Use of a minimal colour range and the use of less than two typefaces make it a simple design.
2. Clarity – Large and bold placement of text over the image gives clarity to the book’s author and name.
3. Consistency – As noted above, Penguin has been using this technique in a consistent manner to release modern classics by Kerouac, Kafka, Camus, Fitzgerald, Orwell and Sartre, to name a few.

Why I chose this cover is because it’s simplistic, yet contains depth. On a preliminary scan, the author and the title are obvious. On a second look, the logo can be pointed out since the orange is conveniently distinguishable from the dominant grey tonality. However, on a more sincere inspection, the cover also brings to light certain nuances such as the Chinese tea cup and Kerouac’s detachment from the moving crowd. To conclude, here’s a quote from The Dharma Bums:

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

What is Physical Interaction?


Introduction to Physical Computing / Week 1 / What is Physical Interaction?


Prior to laying out my ideas about physical interaction, I’d like to talk about interaction as a concept.

in·ter·ac·tion
ˌin(t)ərˈakSH(ə)n/
noun
noun: interaction; plural noun: interactions
1. reciprocal action or influence.

 

Simply put, interaction is a reciprocative conversation.
And Chris Crawford puts forth the concept of interactivity in a very articulate manner. An interaction is a conversation between two subjects that involves listening, thinking and speaking (input, process and output). My understanding of interaction is an experience where the user talks to a system, the system understands the needs of the user, and reciprocates.

“Interaction: a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, speak” – Chris Crawford

There are misinterpretations of interaction these days, which weren’t clear enough to me before I went through the reading. The reading clearly draws lines between visual experience, user interfaces and interactivity. Visual experiences, such as books or films or music, can be highly immersive and can shift the listener/viewer to a different space of experience/contemplation. However, that’s an extreme reaction and not interaction. Such visual mediums do not think or listen, they simply talk. Similarly, user interfaces are forms through which the user interacts with a system. Such interfaces are generally not involved in the functioning of the system. An interactive system is one, which through an understanding of function and form, conducts all the three tasks in an effective and reciprocative manner. While the function can be designed well through implementation of concepts such as machine learning and thorough algorithms, the form can be bettered through graphic design and animation.

Moving on, physical interaction is about tools. Tools, that can think, that accentuate human capabilities through intuitive and easy-to-use design, and have an effective function. This is something that is resonant in Bret Victor’s rant. His singular point in the article is to question why technology is still hanging onto the two dimensional surface. He poignantly remarks that a two dimensional device no matter how advanced, is eventually going to using two fingers. His vision involves working towards developing a better system that can develop over the many other human capabilities. And this can be done via good physical interaction.

“With an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?” – Bret Victor

For me, a good and very basic example of good physical interaction would be a musical instrument. Lets say, a drum kit. Through the use of the human limbs, the drum kit reciprocates and is capable of producing various amplified sounds, something that accentuates the human capability to produce music. Mr. Victor might agree to this. But Mr. Crawford might not. Since, the drum kit doesn’t think. But what if it did? Maybe, the drum kit could modulate the volume levels by determining the extent of the theater. Or maybe, the drums could preset themselves based on which song is to be played next. Both the readings have given me a clearer definition of interaction, and have raised some interesting questions in my head. I’m anticipating that the coming months will give me many opportunities to ask similar questions to myself, and look for possible solutions.

A Response to Bloodchild


Video and Sound / Week 1 / Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild


Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild is a short story about the human species settling on an extraterrestrial planet, and the symbiotic relationship between human and alien. The story presents a relationship where human is alien. Most notably, the story offers a different perspective on maternity which includes men impregnated with alien children ( which is a means to maintain harmony and find accommodation in the host world ).


Creative Process:


As indicated in the afterword, Octavia Butler tried to highlight three themes when she was writing Bloodchild:
1. Fear of parasites through her study of botflies.
2. Switching of maternal perspective between woman and man.
3. “Paying the rent”.

As part of the Art Strategies class last week, we tried to look at the execution of a certain form of art and their historic relevance. Using the same line of thought, stylistically, I found the story to be highly unapologetic in terms of the explicit gore used to describe the scene of alien birth. More importantly, the story explicitly switches the gender roles through the depiction of feelings that Gan ( a coming of age boy ) experiences, feelings that are generally associated with maternity, feelings such as protectiveness, warmth and a desire to be loved, and taken care of. These are feelings that are welcomed and accepted in the alien world. Historically speaking, the story was written after the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps, the movement might have introduced the author to ideas associated with gender equality and redefinition of gender roles. Interestingly, the story very blatantly projects the humans as a feminine entity, while the alien female as the masculine entity ( in terms of how the society stereotyped these two entities at the time ). The humans are protective, caring, housebound, bear children, and ask for love and attention from the Tlic. The female Tlic on the other hand, lead the house, feed the humans, run governments and impregnate humans.


Dissection and Analysis:


The story can be bifurcated into three segments:
1. Buildup or Exposition- The introduction of the family, and an evening of reverie.
2. Conflict and Climax – Bram Lomas birthing Tlic children.
3. Resolution – Gan’s intimidation and eventual submission to T’Gatoi.

Each segment inspires a different aural image in the mind. The first segment inspires a mellow music, which is pleasant but includes distortion, sort of an eerie otherworldly happiness. The second segment includes the killing of an animal, a violent operation, viscera and worms feeding on the dead. It insinuates chaotic feelings. The associated sound would probably be a mixture of noise and arbitrary high pitches. The third segment starts with an alerted Gan, but resolves to his admitted love for T’Gatoi and the eventual embrace. This can be translated to disturbing, yet romantic music ( maybe psychedelic ).


Conclusion:


Through the analysis, I’m presently thinking about creating a musical composition, that can be translated into a narrative listening experience. I’m presently looking at The Velvet Underground’s The Gift or Belle and Sebastian’s Space Boy Dream for stylistic reference. The style that I will go for, has to be alien, distorted, random and unexpected.

Below are some bad images of the sketches I came up with while reading the story ( note: better illustrations to be posted soon ).

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