The Ancients

For my final project I wanted to explore the relationship between magic, mythology, & ritual and scientific & technological advancement. My final piece was something of a museum exhibit but from the perspective of a new species of human evolved from homo sapiens that migrated from earth after its destruction. I hoped to raise questions about our relationship to our things, how myth is created and transformed, and the loss of information over time.

Exhibit set up includes the title of the exhibit, a present-day cell phone and earbuds presented as acient artifacts in a display case, and a proximity sensor that allows visitors to cycle through educational videos explaining future-scholars’ understanding of their meaning and use

The exhibit allows visitors to play clips separately. All the clips have been edited together and put up on vimeo.

Inspired by Michal Rovner’s mesmerizing pieces of abstract forms and Curious Rituals, a blog and book that catalogs the behavioral changes that have accompanied the adoption of different technologies, I set out to find a way to document the habits, now taken for granted, that have transformed our interaction with the world and keep us perpetually tethered to the internet.

Many objects that now inhabit our world, including cell phones, laptops, and the servers that power the internet, are monolithic, giving little clue as to their use without previous knowledge and context. I wondered how people trying to reconstruct our way of life might understand them, imagining that their connection to networks would be rendered invisible. I also considered Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade, which re-interprets archaeological literature and proposes new theories of understanding our past, raising questions about the original mis/interpretation of cave paintings and artifacts from different societies.

Continue reading The Ancients

360 photos and aframe.js

At some point I’d like to play with compositing, and I recently saw some great examples using the aframe javascript library. To try it out, I put some sample images taken with the Ricoh Theta online.

It took me a while to realize this, even with the javascript console yelling at me that the images are not power of 2, but my equirectangular images were 5376 × 2688 so I needed to resize them to 4096 x 2048. Either size worked on my local host but once uploaded online, only the 4096 x 2048 dimension images worked (otherwise it was just a black screen).

Every image is an accidental self portrait! I wear this pink skull necklace a lot.

Museum of Ice Cream

DUMBO Waterfront

Greenpoint at Night

Projection mapping: Popcorn & Vomit

Having never projected any video, let alone on a bright New York City street, I took special note of the fact that in class the video that looked best projected was very bright and high contrast. But feeling uninspired by the light, animation, architectural illusions, and EDM that seem to largely accompany the medium, I thought it might be interesting to instead do something to elicit discomfort and unease and at unusually large scale. I was inspired by the ending of Eraserhead to overwhelm the space with something particularly disgusting.

Still wanting to play with scale, Zach and I decided to manipulate a popcorn maker and the size of the popped popcorn. We both liked the juxtaposition of the popcorn maker spewing popcorn and the people vomiting.

Vomit from jfunky on Vimeo.

Why vomit?

The first reason is Teddy, the spiritually advanced 10-year old child of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.

“You know that apple Adam ate in the Garden of Eden, referred to in the Bible?” he asked. “You know what was in the apple? Logic. Logic and intellectual stuff. That was all that was in it. So–this is my point–what you have to do is vomit it up if you want to see things as they really are.”

The second reason is because it’s usually hilarious. There’s something about the bared honesty of disgust or illness that makes it so compelling. Our class laughed at the transition to the vomit projections, which makes us think this was effective.

Barren Island History VR documentary

Fascinated by the community that inhabited Barren Island when it was the main dumping ground for New York City’s garbage, I decided to experiment with VR and the Ricoh Theta at Dead Horse Bay, where refuse from the era still washes up on the beach. While many people have heard of Dead Horse Bay, I think it’s still a surprise to learn of the marginalized labor that sorted through garbage there, and these people’s fate when Robert Moses decided to build Marine Park Bridge to connect the island to Brooklyn. It amazes me that this history is overlooked, especially when those that pick through recycling for a living are still visible in New York. And of course, people still make their living this way in dumps around the world.

My main source of information for the audio is from Benjamin Miller’s Fat of the Land, which provides a much more in-depth history of New York City’s garbage. There’s also a great short overview of present-day Dead Horse Bay on Atlas Obscura, which also gives instruction on how to visit.

Video portrait

Tasked with creating a video portrait of a stranger using only still photos, my personal goal was to learn how to take photos with a 5D camera. My focus was on the experience of a protester.

The timing of the assignment coincided with a new wave of Black Lives Matters protests across the country in response to the the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. In both cases, the shootings were caught on video. I attended one of the protests in New York. Experiencing a protest through a camera was a very different, and it was challenging to adjust manual settings in such a rapidly changing atmosphere.

I realized while reviewing the images that many of the photos I’d taken were of people policing or observing the protest, and the general surveillance atmosphere (cars, helicopters, signs). I was documenting while being documented. I recorded the audio after putting the images together based on the almost-verbatim goodbye a friend (much more active in political organizing than I) gave before leaving midway.