Fugio Friday – 7th April 2017

Happy Fugio Friday!

This week I’ve continued development of the 3D model loading plugin, which is going well, though it’s not quite ready for public consumption yet, so there’s no new binary release this week.  There are a few updates – mainly small bug fixes – made to the code on GitHub.

I’ve also been working on some new Fugio based artworks, like this generative one:

This is an algorithm I came up with a while back that takes the pixels from the previous frame and moves them around depending on their relative values.  It starts by draws just three pixels (the brightest points of each colour) each frame and the rest (including all the smoke like patterns) develop out of the code.

If you’re interested in following my art, you can get email updates from signing up to the Alex May Arts Newsletter.

Next week I’m off to Dundee in Scotland for a few days so I’ll be reporting from there on Friday!

Have a great weekend.

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Fugio Friday – 3rd February 2017

Happy Fugio Friday!

This week I’ve not had much of a chance to work on Fugio as I’m preparing an artwork for the HUMANS NEED NOT APPLY exhibition that’s opening at the Science Gallery in Dublin next week.

The Anti-Social Swarm Robots don’t like each other, or the walls of the pen they are contained in, or people.  They are constantly trying to get away from everything to find their own ‘personal’ space.

When we first exhibited them at the Royal Academy in London, they were described by Sumit Paul-Choudhury, the editor in chief of New Scientist, as “Antisocial swarmbots. This is actually proper brilliant: biomimicry of a behaviour we don’t consider useful”.

There is an exhibition launch party on Feb 9th.  I’ll be there, as well as giving a short talk about the project on Feb 10th.

Finally, Shadows of Light, which is one of my Fugio powered artworks that was part of the Embodied Encounters exhibition at the Beall Center for Art and Technology had a nice write up in a new article in the UCI Magazine.

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Fugio Friday – 7th October 2016

Happy Fugio Friday!

This week I’ve been in Los Angeles and Irvine.  The opening of the Embodied Encounters exhibition went really well, with Shadows of Light (my interactive, Fugio based installation) having lots of attention.

The exhibition is open until January 21st, 2017 at the Beall Center for Art and Technology.

Alex May with exhibition curators Simon Penny (left) and David Familian (center)
Alex May (right) with exhibition curators Simon Penny (left) and David Familian (center)

I gave a talk about Fugio and my art practise to students at USC Cinematic Arts:

And another talk to students at UCLA:

I’m back in England next week, teaching my new Digital Media Arts MA students at the University of Brighton, and giving another talk at the Lewes Light conference.

Fugio Friday – 30th September 2016

Happy Fugio Friday!

This week I’m in Irvine, California installing of my Fugio based artwork “Shadows of Light” at the Beall Center for Art + Technology.  The exhibition “Embodied Encounters” is open from October 1st 2016 to January 21st 2017 and features work by seven international contemporary artists.

There is an opening reception on Saturday, October 1st, 2-5pm – I’ll be there!

As I’ve been busy doing that, and the V&A show last weekend, there is no binary release this week, but there are some goodies to be had in the source code, if you’re compiling along at home:

  • NEW Kinect plugin (Kinect version 1 for Microsoft Windows only)
  • NEW MatrixInverse and MatrixOrthographic nodes
  • UPDATED Serial Port device configuration with many more options
  • FIXED rendering to OpenGL depth buffers
  • FIXED missing GL_INT_SAMPLER_2D support from ShaderCompiler
  • FIXED OpenGL command line option to make windows full screen

I’m not expecting to do a Fugio Friday next week as I’m taking a sort of holiday after the show opens, but I’ll be around to answer questions and such.

Free Brushes for Painting With Light

For the new art installation I just completed at Birmingham Open Media (BOM) for the upcoming Ingenious and Fearless Companions exhibition, I had to create some new brushes to use in Painting With Light.

You can click on each brush below to get each full size brush individually, or click here to download a zip archive of all four brushes.

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Machine Learning

After a long ten weeks, I’ve finished the Stanford University online Machine Learning course! It’s been a solid, if mostly science/engineering orientated, introduction to designing and implementing the basic algorithms. While it usefully touched on several image processing applications (road driving, OCR, pedestrian/face recognition), in all cases there was (by necessity) a clear result that each application was trying to achieve.

See my shiny Machine Learning Coursera certificate

To apply ML in an art context, past the ‘deep dreaming‘ quirkiness (that successfully communicated something tangible about how such algorithms operate, although I wasn’t able to fully comprehend what it was doing until I’d learnt how to code such processes) is probably going to take me much longer to conceive as one must skirt the ‘what is the purpose of art’ type questions, which is probably not the kind of thing that can be usefully defined in the way that a ML algorithm could be devised for.

For instance, I’ve seen various projects that take visual styles from one artist (Van Gogh seems to be a favourite) and attempt to derive or apply them to new or other works by different artists. This kind of thing is certainly fun, but is shallow (aesthetically, if not technically) and quickly becomes repetitive.

However, I do think there is scope for application in highly personalised interactive artworks that will either provide a deeply transformative human experience, or possibly nothing at all, which might be the most one (as an artist) can hope to achieve anyway!

If anyone is interested in exploring/discussing ideas along these lines, then do drop me a message, or please share to people you know who might be involved in such things…

2015

2016 will shortly start rolling around the globe, so I wanted to quickly get in a last minute summation of what’s happened in 2015 and an update on what’s to look forward to on this site in the new year.

Firstly, I want to thank all of you for reading and subscribing to this site, and for using and buying my software over the years.  I very much appreciate the support and feedback, which encourages me to find new ways to create useful tools and features that open up new creative possibilities.

Painting With Light has had quite a few new features added to it over the year, including audio playback support, a built-in video sequencer, new layer blending modes, more advanced mapping controls, and layer masking.

Over the year, I used Painting With Light to create art installations, including a live video mapping performance at the inauguration of Serre Numérique in Valenciennes, France, and running workshops.

Fugio was announced, which is a project I’ve been working on for a couple of years that provides a high-level visual programming interface to low-level coding, including Oculus Rift support, DMX, OSC, and a powerful timeline system.

I’ve been using Fugio to create art installations, including a permanent interactive artwork at Eden Project in Cornwall, and a Virtual Reality experience at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,

I initiated a Fugio beta testing program to get some feedback on the software before I attempt a public release.

What’s next?

Early 2016 is already shaping up to be rather busy, including workshops and talks on the west and east coasts of America, as well as many UK activities being finalised.

I’ve recently added (but not yet released) HAP video support to both Painting With Light and Fugio, allowing for playback of more HD video streams simultaneously, with synchronised audio.

There is also native support for high DPI screens in both applications, such as Retina displays on OS X.

There are also plans for a new mesh tool in Painting With Light to address situations that aren’t currently addressed with the existing tools.

I’ve got Fugio compiled and running on Raspberry Pi (although the OpenGL rendering is still giving me a few headaches), with the aim to be able to create live digital artworks that can be physically installed without leaving valuable computers around.

So, with so much talk about Fugio, the question that is most asked is regarding when it will be released.  To answer this clearly, we need a bit of context.

Hard Fail

I started Fugio as a timeline project to control PWL, and synchronise lighting and audio for a theatre performance back in 2014.  As the project developed I started to see great new creative opportunities with being able to finely control the timing of media playback coupled with live interaction.

Close to its initial release, I tore the whole thing apart and rebuilt it as a node based visual programming system so that I could reconfigure the components as needed.  This system now forms the core of my art projects.

Once I had amassed a certain level of functionality, I decided it was time to get some more eyes on the project and ran an open call for beta testers.  The feedback came in slowly and was pretty crushing.  As well as the expected level of early bugs, no one could see how to use it, it wasn’t clear to anyone what it was for, or what everything did.

In hindsight this was all very valuable, though I’ll admit after working on the project for over a year at that point, I felt like I’d just ploughed a lot of time and effort into a stupid failure.

It’s taken me a few months to recover and regroup from that experience.  I had a good amount of travelling to do in that time, and fortunately had the opportunity to sit on the hot sands of Laguna beach in California, stare out to the Pacific, and do some soul searching.

Guru Meditation

Where I got to, and the reason I can relate all this publicly, is that my priority and passion is making art.  Sometimes, when I get all caught up in the excitement of coding, I seem to forget this and seemingly form aspirations of running a company selling software.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m very thankful for the money that comes in via sales of Painting With Light and my plugins.  It really helps justify spending more time adding features and fixing bugs.  But turning it into a larger commercial organisation just isn’t where my heart lies.

With this new found clarity, I began to re-evaluate my original aims for Fugio and what I want from it.

While a full discussion of this subject would at least double the size of this already weighty post, the core decision came down to one of ‘when’, not ‘if’ to open source the project.

Open Source

I talked to a whole bunch of people about this including a kindly Mitch Altman who talked with me about it and ended with saying “go for it”.

I feel a heady mix of fear and excitement at the prospect of being on show that much, of releasing almost two years work into the public realm, of giving up the money I might have made by selling it, of no-one caring, of no-one understanding…

I choose to do this because I want to make the best art that I can make – the software is, and will always be, secondary to that.

So, this is how I greet 2016: with blood pumping from adrenaline, riding fast into the night with the headlights only illuminating the road a short way in front of me.

When, then?

I have one main feature to add, which is the ability to group nodes into components that will make organising, reusing, and handling large patches infinitely better, I’m aiming for a February/March release on GitHub.

I wish you all a very happy new year!

New Painting With Light installations

This weekend I set up a new Painting With Light audio/visual installation at Watermans Arts Centre in London using the new audio playback features in the 1.5 beta.

I also ran a workshop with Exploring Senses through a Brighton Digital Festival Education Award for thirty 13-19 year olds who hacked toys, built a cardboard city for them, created animations about them, and finally used Painting With Light to bring everything together into a digital metropolis!  And all in just 7 hours!

And finally, I was featured on BBC News 24 and BBC Global World News talking about the My Robot Companion art project that I’ve been working on in collaboration with Anna Dumitriu as part of my ongoing artist residency at the University of Hertfordshire.

Alex-May-BBC-News

Fugio Update – Oculus Rift Support

Oculus Rift support in Fugio

I’ve been somewhat busy installing new work, doing a video mapping performance in France, and doing talks, but development has continued apace on Fugio.  Most recently I’ve just added Oculus Rift virtual reality support, which means its very easy to update an existing patch into an Oculus enabled one by the addition of one extra node.

I used Fugio to animate this exploding Stanford Bunny as a test for the 3D model loading and OpenGL shader code:

I’ve been adding some basic audio analysis nodes, so now there’s a FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) and an initial power spectrum node (works, but needs cleaning up):

Fugio Audio Analysis

There’s now a node for loading Whole Genome Sequencing data for an upcoming artwork that I’m currently working on.

Not to mention lots of basic work on logic operations and maths.  Lots of documentation to do now…

Also exhibited my humanoid robot HARR1 at NESTA’s FutureFest and Ravensbourne.  Sometimes HARR1 makes a portrait of me:

Alex May portrait by HARR1

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