Mining Emergent Quanta – 2016

Mini Lecture #2

I do not consider myself an artist or a composer… at least not in the traditional or classical sense. Artists have a good idea of what they are about to create and then execute it. I do not work that way. Instead I feel I am more of a “catalytic agent”. My role in creating art is that of a “catalyst of creatively induced phenomena”. I am constantly setting up situations that are conducive to the production of what could be called art. As such I act as a miner of emergent quanta.

So, what does this mean? Please allow me to demonstrate.

I was recently working in the Cube at Virginia Tech, a beautiful venue for 3D spatialization of music, and they mentioned that they were installing a 32’ in diameter projection cylinder. This 16’ high cylindrical video projection screen splits in half allowing viewers to enter and experience video being projected by four projectors onto the two screens. Quite an immersive experience. Below is a drawing from the top view of what it looks like.

The screen is supposed to be nearly 100% permeable to sound and so will not interfere with the sound projected from the 144+ speakers in the space. After speaking with them about the cylinder, I was quite inspired and so went home to play with the idea. Like all creative people I immediately began thinking about pushing beyond the boundaries of the cylinder. I imagined that it is set up to algorithmically “flatten” the image projected onto it so it will not look curved as it is projected onto the surface of the cylinder. Therefore, I imagined creating a similar cylinder using Maya that would create a video that would intentionally make the image look curved and I set out to do just that.

I first generated a cylinder and split it in half. Then I mapped a mirrored texture onto it and placed it within a much larger mirrored sphere. Then I created straight glass tubes that extended through the space and then rendered the image. Here is what was produced.

Ok… that is pretty decent but remember I am a miner for emergent quanta and so far all that can be seen is what I expected. So I began moving the glass tubes around and changing the camera perspective and came up with the following rendered images.

Getting better… there is a hint of something unusual going on in a few of the areas but I am still not getting excited about anything.

Then I changed the texture of the glass tubes and made them mirrored like the rest of the environment. Below is the first rendered image. In it, I begin to see something unexpected and interesting. The area is circled below.

Now we are getting closer. Something is emerging from the evolving conditions set forth. So I made a change in the image that zoomed the camera into the area that was interesting and now I see something worthy of deeper exploration. You can see it in the rendered image below.

How did that come about? I cannot really explain it nor do I want to question it. Instead I focus upon bringing it out… emphasizing it and see what happens. So then I went to work setting the mirrored tubes into motion and subsequently rendered a 2400 frame, 100 seconds long, video clip. Here is a link to an unedited low-res excerpt.

So this is a good example of mining for emergent quanta and then, once discovered, bringing it out to play.
This is the same process I use whether painting, composing or working with video. I set up conditions that are conducive to something unexpected occurring and then, when it happens I bring it out. When painting, this might mean beginning without a plan or if there is a plan it is a very general one. I begin applying paint to the canvas and wait for something unexpected to emerge… moving from the general to the specific. The fun part is choosing when to stop… how far to go toward the specific.

This approach, in effect, sets up a feedback loop between the phenomena being induced and me… for instance between the canvas and me. In this way I, at least in part, remove my conscious volition from the process and am thus able to create something beyond what I could on my own. In a very real sense, the art has an active role in its own realization and I act as a facilitator of it. In a way it is as if the art takes on a life of its own and I am just a participant in its manifestation. This is a step toward removing the ego from the situation, which is, to me, the only way creativity can occur.

Thank you for your attention!

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