Cameras as Projectors

Earlier this month, Nikon announced their CoolPix S1000pj camera, which has a built-in projector — the first camera to do this as of yet.

I’m not a gadget whore nor am I advocating buying this product, with its $430 price tag, but it does bring up some amazing social possibilities.

Imagine this: instead of 3 or 4 people huddled around a 3-inch LCD screen, you instead project your images from parties and travel against the walls of the local bar or restaurant. While some people don’t approve of this, I say why not? Cafes have become laptop opium dens, people gab on their cell phones on sidewalks, and I have been asked to move aside while looking at artwork for the sake of a quick photo.

Public space is replete with devices and this one will at least foster face-to-face social communication rather than isolation. I can’t wait.

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Better Diagrams

This is a more readable diagram than the chicken scratch one I wrote last Friday.

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This shows the Open Hardware modular component design for the custom LED projectors that I have begun  prototyping at Eyebeam.

The gray boxes are the mandatory components and the white ones are optional, depending on the design. The idea here is to let others come up with better battery systems and LED bulbs but still keep the structure of this project intact.

Incidentally, if you are looking for a good Arduino startup kit, check this one out from adafruit — just $50. I just ordered one as a prototyping tool for things such as the PWM for the LEDs.

BiW at JTTP

Brooklyn is Watching (BiW) hosts a sim in Second Life which is a wonderful curatorial project that invites SL artists to create artwork on their space. The resulting creations range in quality and are subject to commentary by a weekly podcast by several commentators. I’ve been a guest podcaster a few times, participating in a production of the absurd: a radio podcast commentary of an entirely visual environment that most people don’t understand.

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Jay Van Buren, the main guy currently behind BiW

On Friday I went to the BiW presentation of The Final Five at Jack the Pelican Presents (JTTP) Gallery in Williamsburg. These were the five selected artworks which were presented on montiors with headphones and a voting sheet. My major critique is that the BiW project seems to presents Second Life art from the vantage point of an insider’s perspective rather than a contemporary art point-of-view.

This doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of works which bridge the virtual and the real including RMB City (Cao Fei), Invisible Threads (Stephanie Rothenberg and Jeff Crouse), The Salt Satyagraha (Joe Delappe), in all fairness to the dialogue, my collaboration with Victoria Scott, No Matter and not to overlook the recent Summer of Love 2.0 (Patrick Lichty)

The presentation of the BiW works at the gallery reinforced this — a level of confusion for the viewers who often had more general questions of what is Second Life and so often didn’t even understand what they were judging. Coupled with the fact that you had to put headphones on to listen to one our rambling podcasts, I wondered how successful this physical exhibition was.

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Final Five at Jack the Pelican Presents

The strength of Brooklyn is Watching is in the community it creates — and I would like to see them explore this side of things: discussing Second Life works but in a way that creates a tangible bridge to the real. This is why the podcasts have been sucessful because it makes the broadcasters and the audience strain to understand what is not in front of them: an imaginary realm that reflects the nature of Second Life itself.

I had a little fun of my own and during the show itself, I sneaked onto the computer and transferred $50L to my own avatar, Great Escape from the BiW avatar. Hey, performance art costs money!

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First Week at Eyebeam

I’m excited to be one of the Resident Artists for Eyebeam this Fall along with the other artists: Diana Eng, Nora Ligorano & Marshall Reese, Rashaad Newsome and Marina Zurkow. Today marks the end of my first week: getting oriented, research, setting up my workspace and more — a real treat to be in Chelsea and part of an amazing organization that has funded and assisted so many artists as well as public programs for students and much more.

For the last 3 years, I’ve been focused on a studio practice in San Francisco which has been developing many individual works including popular video and prints including Future Memories, Uncertain Location, Video Portraits and Paradise Ahead, along with several collaborations such as No Matter, Wikipedia Art and Second Front.

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While this period has been prolific and fruitful, I could feel myself straying from my roots of community activism and group collaboration. Here at Eyebeam, I will be developing some open source and open hardware technologies which will enable mobile and networked video projectors using LED bulbs for power.

It is ambitious, I know. But, I think this is an amazing and prescient technology that will soon be ubiquitous. I’d like to make the means available to modification and customization by artists and others. I have my own ideas for several projects which could use mobile and cheap projection systems which can synchronize video channels.

So far, my favorite links for the build-your-own projector community has been the one at Lumen Labs which is a storehouse for ideas and conversations. Additionally, there are some useful examples on Instructables and on engadget of DIY projectors. Most involve ripping apart off-the-shelf components and modifying them to make them into home-brew projectors. Remember that the DIY projector is different than the open hardware designs.

Here is a crude diagram, which illustrates my poor handwriting, of a general design for opening up the hardware I want to make a design that is cheap, modular, open and effective. All of this for less that $500. Each unit will be able to be synchronized using custom iPhone software that I will write during my stay here (more on that later).

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