3DKaraoke in Flint, Michigan – Flint Public Art Project

November 15, 2012 · Posted in Documentation, Interactive, Kinect, performance 

Stephen Zacks, James andrews and Jerome Chou have started up a new project in Flint, Michigan called the Flint Public Art Project. They are there to re-imagine ways to stimulate that post-industrial town. They’ve been doing public art projects and conferences with designers, city planners, architects and visionaries jump start a city that has taken a fall. They invited me to do a project and liked the social aspects of 3D Karaoke. So I hopped on a plane and flew to Flint, MI. If you can believe it they have an airport. The flight with transfer was 2 ½ hours from New York. When I got there I was put up in a 14 room house that had been abandoned before going through a two week renovation. It was typical artist housing. Not fancy but clean and warm. The block it sits on has around ten homes. There was probably twenty at some point but most had been abandoned and ½ had burned down. Other visiting artists were there as well as the FPAP crew.

Two Artists from Buffalo, NY, Andrew Perkins and Matt Bain are doing very interesting hybrid sculpture habitat work on a building across the street. The artists are working with some of the notions put forth by Gordon Matta-Clark in the 1970’s. Of course these young artists are approaching Flint as a different set of problems for a sort of post-disaster American landscape that is becoming more and more familiar. Flint’s predicament was brought to attention by Michael Moore’s film Roger and Me. I look at Flint as if it’s after the fall of the Roman Empire. People living in the ruins. The key fact is that people go on living. As a cultural matrix it becomes interesting. Especially when you are trying to experiment and find new approaches to art making.

I think it’s fascinating that the whole idea of social sculpture put forth by Joseph Bueys and many other 1970’s utopian communal is continuing in Flint. James is  part of a loose design/art collective called NSUMI and Jerome is the former director at Design Trust for Public Space. They were invited to help Stephen energize the town and “consult” on different approaches.

So I took 3DKaroake to Flint. The piece uses two Kinect Cameras to create a live 3D video that is exported into meshlab. Meshlab is an open source (free) software program. I used Processing (which is another free program) for the piece and got help from Tom Schofield in Newcastle, UK for the initial coding which we released under GIT-Hub. This is also open source.

The piece 3DKaraoke is very odd. The singer experiences themselves as a 3D shape on the screen. Tom & I lowered the pixel scan number to give live refresh to the image. It’s intentional insofar as it’s not standard video. We also set the virtual camera to spin which adds a disorienting aspect. The piece also functions on a media memory level since it uses pop songs that the singer must know and there is the social aspect of the group sing along. This is quite a hybrid using digital 3D, open-source hacker aesthetic, pop media, and social sculpture to function.

FPAP was giving an empty bank building in downtown Flint to host the event. We had quite a crowd. I’ve posted photos on facebook. We had a drag queen do her performance art, a walk-in karaoke cowboy brought his own music and entertained everyone, there were several people who sang 96 Tears, a sixties hit by ? And the Mysterians. There was one scrawny blond fellow who did impressive punk twitching as he sang. Another singer, an elegant black man in a maroon suit and cowboy hat surprised us with his version. Also on the great list was a mullatto Rastafarian intellectual who did Space Oddity by David Bowie. He was better than the original and gave his own angst to the piece. Rob McCullough who is a project manager at FPAP led the group and various partners through Lean On Me by Bill Withers. And Britney Spears song Hit Me Baby One More time was rendered several times by different women and men perhaps being the top song of the evening. My personal favorite was a duet I sang with FPAP curator Stephen Szacks – Jackson by Johnny Cash. I wound up singing the June Carter bit! Good fun was had by all and I believe that the healing power of art was putting out the positive vibes that evening.


Leave a Reply