March 9, 2013 · Posted in Documentation, Interactive, Kinect, performance · Comment 

I’m working on a new project for a residency in Newcastle, UK. The piece involves data visualization using a Kinect camera as an interface. There’s an outfit called NGI, Newcastle – Gateshead Initiative that will be supplying the data for the visualizations.

My proposal to them was to take their data and make a virtual 3D space with the kinect scanned person in the space. I referred to the movie, Minority Report, where Tom Cruise is sorting through evidence floating in the air. There’s another cyberpunk movie, the name escapes me at the moment, that has a data hacker moving through graphic representations of data looking for a path to a file that is also stuck in my mind as an inspiration.

I’m using the Processing development environment to code the piece. One of the developers of Processing, Ben Fry has written a book called Visualizing Data. I’m using this book as a starting point along with, Making Things See by Borenstein.

I’m trying to get a handle on types of visualization. The standard list is maps, scatterplots and tree hierarchies. I’m also inspired from art sources in particular Duchamp’s piece, Network of stoppages.

Duchamp's Network of Stoppages

Duchamp's Network of Stoppages

Here’s the gallery label from a recent MoMA show,

Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925

December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013

In 3 Standard Stoppages, Duchamp had explored the possibility of adjusting the metric standard through a random procedure. In this large canvas he complicated that idea, multiplying the curves of the fallen threads from 3 Standard Stoppages by reproducing each one three times and positioning them in a diagrammatic arrangement. He also made the work by painting over the images on a canvas he had already used, those images being a female figure and a schematic, quasi-mechanical drawing of his ongoing project The Large Glass. The visible and semi-visible layers of Network of Stoppages seem to contrast three representational systems: traditional figuration, chance operations, and the diagram, which maps the world without picturing it.”

I’m also inspired by Beck’s London Tube Map;

The first diagrammatic map of London’s rapid transit network was designed by Harry Beck in 1931.[3] Beck was a London Underground employee who realized that because the railway ran mostly underground, the physical locations of the stations were irrelevant to the traveller wanting to know how to get to one station from another — only the topology of the railway mattered. This approach is similar to that of electrical circuit diagrams; while these were not the inspiration for Beck’s maps, his colleagues pointed out the similarities and he once produced a joke map with the stations replaced by electrical circuit symbols and names, with terminology such as “bakelite” for the Bakerloo line.[4]” from Wikipedia –

The project breaks down into two separate coding/ creative problems. One is how to represent data in a fresh way and the other is how to use the 3D controller. The Kinect for example can scan and represent hand joints and or the full body via a skeleton. This is an interesting place where the physical world intersects with the data world. It’s something like a dancer focusing on specific movements. The data visualization part is also exciting. I’m not hampered by a commercial contract but I am simply using the data as a starting point to make art. The questions then are what data to use, what to leave out and how to make a really good artwork with the visualizations.