art and technology / participatory art

Stars end of semester reflection on learning MAX MSP/Jitter

In approaching our final project, I found myself with what seemed like a straightforward idea for interactive performance wherein folks with flashlights could shine their lights towards a sheet with a projection of a night sky and make stars appear. This idea came from a lab during humane tech week with Norah Zuñiga Shaw’s Interdisciplinary class, considering ideas for a podcast walking/movement tour for participants to take individually using headsets in a given space. When thinking about physical instructions, I decided I wanted people to lay down and look at the ceiling, imagining the stars that are there whether they can see them or not. The impulse towards imagining something we cannot see comes from an ongoing interest in interactive performance that engages horizonal conceptions of time and operates around a theory of becoming that draws from the idea that “Potentialities are different [from possibilities] in that although they are present, they do not exist in present things…Reading for potentiality is scouting for a ‘not here’ or ‘not now’ in the performance that suggests futurity.”
To incorporate my fledgling patch into my thesis work, I imagine sound recordings of guests and performers in the space, describing memories, wishes, remedies, and song over the course of the interactive performance, that are fed into my patch so that as a star fades in, a recording plays as well, making the night sky inside our sheet fort a gathering place for the collective mini-world, layering our sense of time and self with others. That said, animating the stars and incorporating sound are what I propose for my independent study next semester! Which brings me back to the programming aspect again and what I spent a lot of my focus on: trying to use zl objects to take all the x and y coordinates sent by findbounds detecting the color red in specific locations for a set amount of time, and store them to accumulate a collection of coordinates for a collection of stars. Working with Matt Lewis to understand the different programming elements was essential to approaching this, and this was actually programming project 3 in the system diagram we came up with. Thinking about the project as made up of a series of programs was essential to being able to see what was easy to figure out, what would take more time, and what could be “solved” with an elementary version of my original plan. This last bit was what ended up being crucial in order to get a working patch. While I had hoped to return to zl objects and animated stars, I was glad to have a still image that could accumulate the stars, so that I could spend time troubleshooting how the findbounds operated with particular lighting, shaky hands and other variables.
To move forward with the project, I know it will be important to use multiple approaches to thinking about this, reading and help patches, talking and drawing through (especially on tangible material), and breaking things into separate programs so that I can consider what’s necessary in smaller bites. I’m also hoping to try communicating max and isadora patches since I already have some isadora patches I like using and while the precision and endlessness of possibilities with Max MSP is exciting, I think elementary fixes are sometimes necessary to keep my head in the game. Excited to hit clear and send a bang again soon.

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