Christie Digital / CAFKA Residency

In 2014, I was among 5 new media artists selected to take part in a joint residency managed by the CAFKA Biennalle. in Kitchener-Waterloo, and leveraging the technical expertise and equipment of Christie Digital, arguably the world's largest and most prestigious projector company.

While that seems a promising header... the experience was fraught with difficulties and shortcomings. I had originally applied with a project detailing research I wanted to do into the possibilities of Projection Mapping - making it interactive, realtime, and site-specific, instead of the pre-produced content that we so often see. My thoughts were to take back the art form for the artistic avant-garde that developed it, and away from the monied marketing departments.

When I was asked to select the time of year that I would like to attend, I chose the summer, as rainy/snowy seasons and outdoor civic projection events dont' necessarily mix. However, a few months before I arrived, I was informed that it would be hard to access the requisite gear and technical assistance from Christie, as they had various business - trade shows, concerts, etc. - at that time, and indeed, it was likely their busiest time of the year. So my original idea was suddenly off the table.

No problem I thought - they also have a CAVE. However, when I arrived, the CAFKA was getting ready to exhibit, and the previous residents, who had also worked in the CAVE, needed consistent access to the CAVE in order to finish their piece, which was to be show in the Biennalle. So I started to prototype my idea - a generative landscape made in realtime from brainwave signals that would be read from a user wearing an ECG. Because of the software that I needed to install on the host computers, I again needed access to technical assistance from Christie, and it was, for reasons noted above, non-existent. So in the end I was not able to access the CAVE in a meaningful way, and my project stalled.

Gordon Hatt, the Executive Director of CAFKA, recommended that I experiment with the space at City Hall, which CAFKA had a history of using for installations. The idea was that I would be able to access a number of 'Microtiles' from Christie, that were 1 foot video cubes that were modular, allowing for non-standard screen arrangements. As it had the benefit of being extremely close to where I was being billeted, I browsed the space and came up with a few inspirations... There was a beautiful old staircase that I thought it would be good to arrange Microtiles on each step and program a slinky animation... which would be fun, but was ultimately a vapid idea. The atrium in the Kitchener City Hall was circular, and extremely high. When I first arrived, there were these 12 beautfiul Mennonite tapestrys hanging above the columns. The patterns were geometric and made me initially think that I could replicate the patterns via code, and even more, make them animated, with generative growth algorithms. I imagined installing 12 Microtiles at the base of the columns, contrasting with the analog tapestry's. So, I put the wheels in motion, talked to CAFKA about the idea, and they forwarded the plan to both City Hall and Christie. I was only able to access 4 Microtiles at first, which was fine for prototyping. Of course, with the bureaucracy at a civic government office, it ended up taking a week for me to get into the space, after several coordination and safety meetings. In the meantime, I was able to spend some time prototyping the results. Once I gained access, I dollied 4 tiles into the space - CAFKA really wanted me to actually work daily in the atrium, to engage the public (which I agreed to, even though it was bound to be uncomfortable) - and the tapestries were gone. I immediately paged the contact who I had been put in touch with, and who minutes ago had given me access to the space, and he informed me that it was only a temporary exhibit and that they had been taken away last week. Why they planned to let me go through with the idea regardless, I don't know. Frustrated, but finally having access to at least a few tiles, I started to hook them up to my computer, but immediately had several significant problems with screen spanning and resolution. So... that project came to a quick end.

Since I now had access to Microltiles - or so I thought - I continued to imagine the possibilities inherent with modular screens - different configurations, sequencing, etc. My mind immediately went to the idea of a step sequencer... which was natural if you conceived of a row of 16 screens! In order to make it interesting, as is my tendency, I decided to make it generative... My thought process went something like this -> step sequencer -> electronic music -> Berlin (Germany, where i used to live) -> Kitchener (which used to be named Berlin!) So... I assembled a quick dataset of cities named Berlin across the world (in countried as disparate as Canada, USA, and South Africa), and assembled a step sequencer in Processing and Pure Data.

Source code for the various projects can be found on my GitHub for disconnect, kwilt, and Berlin Step Sequencer.

BerlinStepSequencer from Jesse Scott on Vimeo.

kwilt prototype from Jesse Scott on Vimeo.

Neurosky to TouchDesigner from Jesse Scott on Vimeo.