The unique beauty of the travertine exterior of the Getty Center is the result of complex geologic processes. Its intricate structure is derived from the rapid precipitation of calcium-carbonate from geothermally-heated hot springs. Calcification reveals the nanostructure of the walls of the Getty. An animated rendering of calcium-carbonate suggests a landscape as substantial as the quarries from which the travertine was cut. The animation was projected on the exterior stone walls of the museum as part of Jennifer Steinkamp‘s [re]vision project at the Getty Center in May 2011.


SASIC 9: Tracing Chaos

A few grads from the department have been invited to present work at SASIC 9 in La Jolla this weekend at the Scripps Oceanic Institute. The 9th annual Surfing, Art, Science, and Issues Conference examines the relationship of science and art through one of its most cogent and unexpected points of contact: surfing. Originally started by Glenn Hening, co-founder of the Surfrider Foundation, this year’s conference was organized by The Modeling Agency.

One of our professors, Peter Lunenfeld, will present “Gidget on the Couch: Freud, Dora (No, Not that Dora), and Surfing’s Secret Austro-Hungarian Roots”David Wicks will show some sweet new work where he floats an iPhone and an HD camera behind his surfboard; Mark Essen will show off his crazy new game for Adult Swim: PIPEDREAMZ; And I’m going to talk about sand crabs, reef squid, and a game I’m building where you use hypodermic harpoon dolphins, remora bombs, and suicidal dogfish to defend the west coast from nuke-toating elephant seals, leatherback sea turtles, and juvenile white sharks.

The highlight of the weekend is a morning surf session where we get to test ride experimental wave craft. I’m excited about this one.

[update] The conference was amazing, and even more important, I had my first real ride on a long board—not just pushed by whitewater, but actually carving across the face of a large, beautiful wave. Life-changing.

Squid Wall

Another piece from leaving here, being there.

Squid Wall explores the effects of human interaction on natural patterns and processes. A projected particle system reacts to motion detected in front of the wall. When all is still, the particles move freely—flocking and interacting with an underlying mathematical structure. If motion is detected, the particles form a rigid defensive stance, returning to their natural motion only when all is still again.

Many in the gallery missed the flocking patterns completely, but I don’t mind. We miss much in the world around us simply because we’re there.

Based on the behavior of reef squid and other cool creatures. Boid and flocking by Dan Shiffman. Underlying structure from a flash construction by Jared Tarbell, originally inspired from work by Martin Wattenberg.


This is a series of photos from leaving here, being there.

I got a lucky last-minute invite to backpack with my nephew and his scout troop into Havasupai on the southern end of the Grand Canyon last month. The trip was amazing, and I experienced nature that left me speechless. Unfortunately, I shared the experience with 170 other scouts and tourists (the campground holds 300)—many of whom were packed in by mule, horse and helicopter. Even the most careful left a mark. Hava__pai takes “us” out of the picture and replaces that mark with the natural landscape. The top set was hung in the gallery. The bottom set hung less-prominently on the backside of a wall outside the gallery, not far from the trash cans.

See more photos of my trip on Flickr.

leaving here, being there

leaving here, being there

David Wicks and I installed our show this last week. Things were strangely relaxed leading up to the opening. We had a few surprises, but in the end everything clicked. We were fortunate to share the evening with a great fine art MFA exhibition across the way, so we got a lot of cross traffic. Trace was reinstalled on the lawn out by the Richard Serra sculpture. The sound was distant enough to create a nice ambience, and it was particularly enjoyable to watch a lot more people interact with it. Some even sat among the plates and relaxed.

I had two other pieces in the show. A small series of altered photos from Havasupai that highlight the impact humans have on the canyon and a projected particle installation with motion and interaction inspired by reef squid. We served dried squid, but had to place it outside because it was smelling up the place. (tasty)

David created a particle projection using Cinder—the latest and greatest open source C++ library. He also had a sculptural piece called Tamerisk that explores the role of salt and fault lines in the desert, his Portable Forest, a jacket that generates natural sounds the more you zip it up, and some amazing work from his site Time Spent Alone.

Many thanks to all who attended and to the department for opening up the space for us to use. It was memorable evening. I’ll post additional photos and documentation of the work soon.


Last October, David Wicks and I attended a Dry Immersion Symposium near Joshua Tree. Participants were asked to submit proposals for work based on the experience. In March, we returned to 29 Palms to install Trace: Resonance Field as part of Dry Immersion III thanks to a generous grant from the UCIRA.

David and I were both impressed by the remnants of activity we saw in the desert. Most of what happens there occurs unseen. What we experience are the trace elements of the past—snake tracks, cracked clay, burrowed holes, lizard poop, cracked rocks. Even a lush oasis exists though the activity of fault lines that bring water and minerals to the surface.

Trace uses Python to convert seismic waveforms from the mountains near Wonder Valley into data loaded onto an Arduino board. The board sends signals to small solenoid motors that strike a series of ceramic plates created by ceramic artist Elaine Hu. Participants walking though the installation experience a sonification of the seismic activity from the past.

The experience was fantastic and it drew a lot of local press. The Palms Bar & Grill alone is worth the trip, and hanging out in the desert with other artists—especially when they bring a dog—is time well-spent.

Flickr set: Dry Immersion III
The Press-Enterprise (+ inaudible video interview)

Dry Immersion

Joshua Tree

Last month David Wicks and I rented a car and headed out to Joshua Tree about 3 hours (5 with traffic) east of LA. Dick Hebdige from the UCIRA and the Sweeney Art Gallery of UC Riverside organized a Dry Immersion Symposium for UC art and design students. 50-60 students converged on the small desert town of 29 Palms, just north of Joshua Tree State Park. We had a rented house way out in the brush. Most pitched tents and the rest crashed in bedrooms and on couches. David and I spent the second night on the roof. You could hear distant artillery from the military base over the mountain range to the north, and the stars and meteors were amazing.

29 Palms

We listened to guest speakers and artists on topics ranging from edible desert plants to gps-based art-making. These were interspersed with field trips to odd desert structures, even odder desert artists and the many beautiful nature sites in the area. In the evenings we all gathered at an isolated desert bar to mix with a few of the locals. There was live music, country karaoke, and some weirdness with masks. At one point David busted out his classical guitar and brought the place to a complete, silent standstill.


The highlight of the weekend was a hike through protected dunes and a fault-line oasis with a naturalist from UC Riverside. He talked about the history of the valley—how unlimited recreational use had nearly destroyed the native habitat including a few native species found nowhere else in the world. He pointed out a sidewinder under a ledge as we walked past. Odd that after so much time wandering around southern Utah that this was the first time I’ve ever seen a rattlesnake in the wild. The oasis was amazing. Untrimmed palms covered in hanging dates. Cool and damp, full of mineral springs and birds. Quite the contrast to the dry expanse surrounding it.

dunes and oasis

other observations:
– Trees that leach salt from the soil and then disperses it on its leaves—killing off competing plants.
– There are bushes in the Mojave desert older than the great sequoias.
– Look for the hidden but occupied trailer behind the church before ringing its bell at sunset.
– A cross made of christmas lights is not a welcome invitation to come visit.
– Rats can climb sideways on stucco walls.
– Palm dates are tasty.
– You can learn a lot from lizard poop.
– The most dangerous “cougar” in the desert walks on two legs.

Moody Monsters

Moody Monsters

This is from a series of early exercises in my Processing class with Casey Reas. The assignment was to create a monster, draw it with code, then give it a personality. Fun project. When people ask me how to learn Flash, I usually tell them to build a game—no better way to learn all the ins and outs. In retrospect I think a game is far too daunting for most, even if it is a good teaching tool. The monster project is much better. Accessible, fun and a great way to learn code.

I found it especially interesting to observe Casey’s approach to teaching Processing. To all my students from UVU last Spring: Sorry for doing such a hack job of it. Processing is a far better tool for introducing creative minds to code. Flash is no longer the simple, accessible tool it once was—far too many things going on and enough to scare off beginners before they get started. So far all those out there who want to see what code can do for creativity, give Processing a whirl. It’s well worth it.

Here are my MONSTERS!