Standing Whimsey

I am continuing to work with the theme of time and representations of time, with an emphasis on the relativity of events. There is a quality of action and reaction — moving the mouse changes the cycling patterns of the time cones. I have left the background semi-transparent to add a persistent quality of transition. Each frame slightly blends into the other. The resulting animation is chaotic and angsty, though these qualities may still need to be adjusted. I almost find this one too difficult to watch due to its busy-ness. There is also the risk that the flashing quality limits access and excludes people with sensitivities to this type of imagery.

Firefly Burnout

The inspiration for this sketch comes from a number of sources. Artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin created a banner for the #2020 Awakening Project in the US that states “What is made bright by the loss of your light?” This statement, made in solidarity with mothers and femme caretakers, encapsulates the ongoing grind of this pandemic, the disruption of care networks, and isolation of the family during this period so well. I have spent much of the past year persistently trying to balance familial responsibilities with my job, research, and creative work, though now in August 2021, I find myself in an persistent state of lethargy, digging deep within my being to draw up the energy to keep going. Angst gives away to exhaustion.

The image of the fireflies is taken from the book Survival of the Fireflies by Georges Didi-Huberman. He appropriates this metaphor from filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who describes the how luminosity of creativity is being lost to the night. However, Didi-Huberman shifts the metaphor:

It’s not actually into the night that the fireflies have disappeared. When the night is darkest, we’re capable of seizing on the faintest glimmer, and even the expiration of light remains visible to us in its trace, however tenuous. No, the fireflies disappeared in the blinding glare of the “fierce” spotlights: spotlights from watchtowers, on political talk shows, in sports stadiums, on television screens (12).

These metaphors are merged in this sketch. While I am not fully satisfied with the aesthetic quality of this sketch — the timing and shifts are not quite right — it conceptually captures this particular type of pandemic fatigue.

Wandering Error

This sketch is based on code from Generative Design, which involves the creation of growing arrays. It involves growth structure of complex shapes from agents, reflecting the growth processes of plants and minerals (Generative Design 112). I modified the code to include interactive elements, where the user influence changes the process of growth — aspects of action and reaction.

Intriguing Relativity

I am continuing to work in 3D, with this sketch returning to representations and sensations of passing time. Inspired by Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time, I am responding to the limited and inaccurate attempts to quantify time through visual representations, like the clock. Here I work with the hour glass shape that also resembles the light cones that Rovelli uses to illustrate the relativity of time. This perpetually creating and dissolving array of hour glass forms is contrasted with the accumulated traces of particle forms — a merger of metaphor and affective sensations of lived time. The array moves in relation to mouse position/placement of finger on touchscreen.

Beautiful Game

I have been working on variations of a theme as I continue to experiment with the form of the mobius strip, after receiving some feedback that the form of the strip tends to have a “science-y” quality to it. It is not surprising, since as a geometric form it is engages with such mathematical precision. The model evokes the double helix of DNA. How then to engage with the form without falling into such semiotic trappings? As I become more familiar with working in 3D space and becoming familiar with the trigonometry involved in modelling the mobius strip, I am trying to find ways to push its edges into less than perfection. The challenge is to maintain some semblance of aesthetic cohesion without falling into messy digital chaos. I am not quite there yet.


I have finally made the jump and started with 3D. I was trying to create a Mobius strip in reference to the Mobius Artists Group, which I have been part of since 2009. I did not anticipate the challenge of producing this digital object, though managed to find some code to adapt in the Processing Forum (GLV and Mcintyre). I continued my explorations of the 3D, with the introduction of the Z-axis changing my overall sense of how this virtual space functions. The fluttering swarm brought to mind images of insects, hence the title debugging.

Debugging is proving to be a creative process, as I come up against the limits of what the computer is able to do. These moments is when the digital feels most like a material — a medium of constraints that I mold to realize artistic intentions as my intentions modify in conjunction with the capacities and limits of the medium.

Paper Flowers

I continue to work with the grid theme, adapting code from the Wireframe sketch. The pink overlaying shapes, or what loosely take the form of flowers, is adapted code from the shape example presented in the Generative Design book. The combination of pseudorandomness with user interaction has been an ongoing aspect of exploration throughout this project. Computer as collaborator or co-performer, enabling what artist and technologist Amelia Winger-Bearskin describes as being able “to do things that I couldn’t do by myself and being able to collaborate with machines meant that I could do things I do poorly faster and then do things that machines do poorly better.” I have never been good as drawing or painting, but working in code enables me to compose in a 2D space without a camera. Computers, at least at this stage, are only capable of doing what they are programmed to do, so I invite the capacity to engage with the computer as an aesthetic encounter (via Simondon), introducing a pause into the interaction with the interface.

Atom Riverbed

I make interfaces messy, leaving traces of entropy as afterimages of gesture. This sketch is more of a doodle, combining aspects of previous sketches. It is a means to pass the time while making; to adapt, combine forms and colours in different ways, and just see what happens.

As part of this process, I have come to treat the internet browser as my medium, which I did not intend when I started. I thought I would be creating animations and videos as I was before, but a technical constraint of p5.js (the limited capacity to save frames) shifted my process and output. I am aware that there is a library to assist with recording videos, though I am letting this project take me where it goes. I think is an incomplete project, usurped by apps and UX design. There is still so much room for critical play.

Expanded Present

I started this sketch adapting Dan Shiffman’s repeller example from the Nature of Code. I am interested in capturing qualities of action and reaction, and this example represents it well. I made a number of modifications, such as having the repeller move along the x-axis along with the mouse/touchpad and the qualities of movements of the particles. I added a grid as well, though making it appear at a slower interval than the framerate. I tried experimenting with giving it a more cyclical form, though that one was quite chaotic. Even though I refer to these as sketch of the day, it took me two days to work this one out. Some of the challenge is creating distinctive animations, but also as these sketches get more complex it takes longer to work them out, including debugging.

Glib Drive (Biometric Version)

I have not been posting much lately in terms of the daily sketches because I have been working to prepare four sketches (Viral Time, Peat Bramble, Tether, and Glib Drive) for public presentation. This process has involved adding text and buttons to move between pages, as well as integrating biometric data in Glib Drive. I downloaded data from my FitBit, which I acquired in 2020 during the first period of lockdown in Ireland, and have set it up so one day is selected as random. The heart rate data for this day is used to determine the hue of the rotating rectangles. I compliment this with the hue changes of the circles controlled by the mouse/touchscreen. That way, it becomes an asynschronous performance between myself and the audience.

The production of this piece involved a number of challenges, including a timing issue that impacted the functonality of the site and enabled me to become more familiar with Javascript. Since I needed to preload the list of file names and could not select a file name until after p5.js was running, the loading of the JSON file was moved to setup. However, the data did not upload prior to the draw loop (Javascript is an asynchronous language), and the sketch couldn’t run unless it was. After spending some time debugging and identifying the issues with Gerald Glynn, I tried to brainstorm ways around it. I realise there would probably be a way to introduce a loop that delays the start of the sketch until the data is uploaded, but instead I built this delay into the design of it. I set up a delay of about 200 frames after the start of the sketch (time is treated in terms of frame count in Processing) , before the rotating rectangles appeared, which need the data to function. I synchronized their appearance with the text, again drawing attention back to time and how we experience it using digital technologies.