20,000 Processing Particles

I’ve played with Processing a fair bit over the years, but never really got stuck into anything solid – most of my time has been spent fixing up my students’ projects!

Over the break I’ve been playing with some other ideas, working through the very good book by Casey Reas and Ben Fry, Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of introducing and explaining how to code for people without a computer science background.

Inspired by Robert Hodgin’s wonderful Processing work I thought I’d have another crack at particles as they seem to be all the rage at the moment. The particle creation part is easy, but getting them to interact with decent physics was getting too much for my mathematically challenged brain. Thankfully I came across the Traer Physics Engine by Jeffrey Traer Bernstein, which handles a lot of that maths for you.

My “Hello World!” code for any platform tends to be a bouncing ball (or an array of them) because it covers most of the structures – if…then, variables, arrays, etc.

So I started building and engine that has a bunch of particles that are all attracted to each other, but more attracted to a single one which is following a target invisible bouncing ball around the screen. (It would make more sense to collapse the particles into the ball code, but at the moment I’m just plugging stuff together.)

It’s very simple at the moment – just an ellipse as the graphic with some trails going on. The above is a version that rendered out in non-realtime with 20,000 particles. I like the way they seem to rope together and struggle to break free. Sometimes there’s a kind of breakaway flare.

There’s also a bit of gravity going on, which drags everything down. Any particles that go off the bottom of the screen are simply recycled up the top (you’ll see this in the initial explosion). A interesting upshot of this is that sometimes the tail of the flare/rope falls off the bottom and those particles make a break for it from the top.

You can play with a 2,000 particle version of it here (and view the source code)..

There are also a couple of other versions on Vimeo.

[tags]processing, particles, generative, video, vimeo[/tags]

Another Antirom RGB performance

I was clearing out some old CDs and found a Videobrasil XII one with this Antirom RGB performace on it. I think Gisela may have shot the footage as there are also some interviews with us at the Antirom office (looking very young). But I’m not sure where this performance was and have no doubt violated someone’s copyright.

Sorry about the ultra-compressed low quality, it was a Cinepak, tiny QT movie and the framerate seems a bit broken too, but it gives you a good idea of the flavour and atmosphere of the performance all those years ago.

[UPDATE: I’ve re-compressed and re-uploaded the video above (and removed the old one). It’s still pretty rough, but the frame-rate is better.]

Antirom Performance

I love YouTube, it really is becoming the archive of the world. Here’s a bit of the RGB performance Nic Roope, Joe Stephenson and I did when we were at Antirom. We performed a selection of our interactive sound toys – this climax of the show really where we jumped around on pressure pads triggering sounds and animations. Joe is in green, Nic in the Red and I was blue. Way back in 1997 I think. We really couldn’t dance (three middle-class white boys) but it really was a good time. You should have been there.

Thanks to Nic for finding this and whoever Newbrow is for uploading it to YouTube in the first place.

UPDATE: So, Nic reckons this is the Cybertheatre in Brussels and Shane thinks it might have been the performance we did for the 2nd onedotzero festival at the ICA. It was all a blur at the time for me – maybe someone remembers?


Schlossplatz in Berlin showing the City Castle Schlossplatz in Berlin showing the GDR's parliament building

ART+COM have just launched a project called Timescope, which is allows you to visually travel through time using a telescope like the ones commonly mounted on the top of historic buildings.

Instead of zooming in and out over distance, you do it over time so that you can see how the cityscape has changed over the years. In Berlin it has obviously changed a great deal thanks to the World Wars.

More info and the Berlin site here.

(Images stolen from ART+COM).

Interactive Tedium from ISEA

I didn’t get to go to ISEA this year (not that I’ve been for ages) and I actually pretty pleased I didn’t. I really wanted to like the stuff I saw online, largely thanks to Brett Stalbaum doing a trawl of YouTube for all the videos from ISEA.

But, as usual, there were the crazy modern telematic dance to squeaky violin crowd, the utterly pointless matrix of infrared LED’s, invisible to the human eye, which can only be seen through the viewfinder of a digital camera. (On the video you hear people discussing its pointlessness). And of course the usual array of ear-splitting electronic feedback with quivering, dull, dull, dull visuals and the blinky-blonk laptop music crew.

What a disappointment. This stuff just hasn’t moved on for a decade and even back then we used to find it tedious. All the decent work is happening in more commercial areas such as tour visuals and public installations. So, new media/electronic artists out there remember:

Plugging the feedback from a rubbish circuit board you cobbled together for the first time into an oscilloscope and dancing around in front of it may be art and you might love it, but its boring as hell. Try making something beautiful, it’s a lot harder.

I’m going to miss Ars Electronica, which I’m much more upset about given that I live so close, but I’ll be in Barcelona. So there’s some compensation.

Invitation to play at the Game / Play exhibition

Game Play logo

I recently wrote a catalogue essay called The Invitation to Play (thanks to Mark Pesce for that phrase) for the Game/Play networked exhibition displayed simultaneously at HTTP in London and Q Arts in Derby.

The essay explores ‘art games’ and when and why they are successful at engaging players and when they are not (more frequent). This, more often than not, comes down to the artists ability to construct the ‘invitation to play’. That is, to seduce us into playful behaviour and playing with the work – if they fail at that any other message and idea is pretty much lost and why make an interactive artwork in the first place?

Some info about the exhibition:

Game/Play is a new collaborative exhibition between Q Arts in Derby and HTTP in London. Game/Play features goal orientated gaming and playful interaction explored through media arts practice.

The exhibition at Q Arts features works from Giles Askham, Low Brow Trash, Jakub Dvorsky, Paul Granjon, Long Journey Home/Q Club/PRU and Simon Poulter. At HTTP Mary Flanagan, Jetro Lauha, Julian Oliver, Kenta Cho, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern will be exhibting their work. For the duration of the exhibition networked exhibits by Furtherfield VisitorsStudio and Tale of Tales will appear in both sites and online.

I’ll post the article online soon once the exhibition has got started, but I can e-mail you a copy if you contact me. If you are interested in visiting the exhibition the launch is 22 July 7PM – 9PM and you should visit the HTTP and Q Arts websites for location details.

Home Entertainment

Fabrica's Home Entertainment installation


The folks over at Fabrica have created a new interaction installation called Home Entertainment for the windows of “style, design, art, food” shop, colette, in Paris. It is a ceramic iMac set amongst other ceramic versions of bygone consumer technologies and follows in the line of several of the Fabrica window interactives, which capture footage passers-by when they press a button:

… the electronic display shows a moving image sequence of hundreds and hundreds of ghostly faces, peering intently out of the window and trapped in a never ending video loop. These are the faces of passers by in the street who, by touching a special sensor set into the store window, have triggered a video camera to record a short sequence – 24 frames or one second of moving image – of themselves to add to the exhibition. Each day the exhibition grows as more and more passers by add themselves to the artwork.

The ‘curator-speak’ paragraph at explains it to the art-crowd (though let’s face it, the important part of this is the fun):

It raises questions about the relationships between technology, innovation, nostalgia and the uncanny. At the same time it articulates an approach to interactive art which stresses a transactional or relational form of audience engagement whereby passers by in the street are invited to take an active part in the ongoing construction of the show. This approach derives equally from video game culture and the critical art theory of relational aesthetics.

Sigh. Cameron, was that you who wrote that?

Time Sketches (2006)

Time Smear Finger in the Ear  Time Smear Long Punch

Time Smear in action (click to enlarge)

Time Smear and Time Slicer form part of a series of live video works called Time Sketches that experiment with interactivity and the viewer’s image. Using video processing technologies these works play with time; chopping it up into fleeting moments and stretching it out across space. The result is a digital hall of mirrors, where you can see warped versions of yourself.

Time Slicer

Time Slicer (click to enlarge)

Currently on display at the Powerhouse Museum supported by the Creativity and Cognition Studios at UTS and their beta_space project at the Powerhouse. Also supported by a research grant from UNSW.

Read more about this work here.

Photos by Greg Turner.