All Posts Tagged ‘art


★ Screaming Rapture Takes Off

I’m loving these shots of Screaming Rapture, by Sydney photographer Edwina Lyons. It’s so good to see something you dreamt, come to life. It’s an honor to work with my collaborators, it’s a privilege to create things for people to interact with, and it’s a real pity I can’t be there to enjoy it in person!

Vivid 2012
Vivid 2012 - Screaming Rapture

If you’re in Sydney in the next two weeks, get down to Circular Quay to check out the festival for yourself. Screaming Rapture will be there waiting for you!


★ Frustration Ltd.

Sadly I cannot share any details with you, dear readers, though I can share with you my response, and my spirit.  I am currently enjoying the lead-up to a multi-continental world trip extravaganza, the likes of which this young soul certainly hasn’t had the chance to experience before.  I’m about to embark on a long journey folks, and you’d be well informed to know that I’m packing board shorts.  So where does the frustration enter into this picture?  Well, suffice it to say that I’m on the cusp of committing to deliver two incredible, innovative and new artworks into being, in two different cities and with a venn diagram of participants.

Two projects that I was instrumental in shaping, in conceiving, in designing and in selling are just about to land – and I’m just about to take flight.  One brand new, one that’s been in the works for around 9 months now.  That’s frustrating.

I can’t help but think that you’ll hear more about these two projects whilst i’m abroad.  We’ll see how easy it is to do remote artworks from central and south america.  I hear there’s good Internet over there!


★ The scream

The other day I mentioned that I’d put together a small artwork concept for the upcoming Vivid Sydney light festival.  Turns out that Screaming Rapture made the first cut, and is on it’s way to melting your hearts.

We’ll be meeting the organisers next week to assure them — once again — that yes, we do know what we’re doing.

When I know more, dear readers, you will too.


★ Vivid Creative Sydney

On another note, here’s a talk Frank, Liam and I gave at Vivid Creative Sydney earlier in the year. We were asked to discuss the theme of play and how it influenced our Vivid artwork Social Firefly. We had a blast getting up on stage at the Sydney Opera House and its memory now lingers in video format. Enjoy!


★ social firefly

A brief disclaimer: The following is an account of a recent design proposal I worked on with a few mates, guys I’ve worked with before, and most definitely will work with again. It’s an account of the exciting combination of ideas, communication and a deadline that can pull the most interesting work out of you, and how this piece came to be. So, without further ado…


Recently Frank Maguire, Liam Ryan and I came together to discuss the brief for the latest Vivid light art festival, slated to run later on this year. The theme of the festival, fiat lux, didn’t give too much away regarding conceptual or curatorial direction for the festival, so we took that as licence to think as broadly as possible. In part the desire to work on something small for vivid was to stretch creative wings which had remained folded since November last year , but for me the idea grew out of a desire to work with these two talented designers on a project of our own direction. We met to talk about ideas and thoughts on where we might take this festival of light, and within a matter of minutes we’d settled on the crux of the piece, the conceptual core which would flow through right to the delivery and communication of the idea.


Our piece, quite simply titled Social Firefly,is an active social network of small electronic fireflies, all vying for the attention of their peers, interacting and communicating primarily through the silent medium of light. Messages spread from one part of the social network to another, only through the incidental connection of neighbouring fireflies, with messaging patterns and behaviour emerging over the colony as a whole. We were inspired by the emergent synchronising patternsof fireflies in real life, and the incredibly fascinating implications of social network theory, taking these two ideas as our conceptual cornerstones, to anchor and frame the design.


It took a few attempts to get the thing off the ground, with Frank being a proud new father, and suffering a few missed connections ourselves, but take flight we did, and we’ve been informed that we’re on the short list for artists to take part in the festival — which of course we find incredibly exciting. To us, the piece has been alive since before we submitted the design proposal, we imagined the movement of the lights, the interaction between socially connected fireflies and those who live more on the fringes, we see the waves of communication propagating over a large tree canopy, observed by curious human observers on the ground, from the nearby ferry terminal, from the high rise buildings that peer over the social miasma that is Circular Quay.


The design of the fireflies is relatively simple — it’s a small arduino controlled robot, with servo motors moving a small 4W LED light, using an array of small LDR (light dependant resistor) light sensors to pick up ambient and nearby firefly light. Each firefly will happily blink and move around by itself, either content to be alone with its thoughts, or eagerly reaching out to others nearby trying to make a connection. When the light sensors pick up light coming from (in all likelihood) the other fireflies in the tree canopy neighbourhood, the otherwise lonely fireflies perk right up, moving around to find their new friend and blinking brighter to signal their existence.We’re interested in a number of things in this artwork, in the interplay between actors in the crude network we’re establishing, the interaction these strange creatures will inspire in their friends. Can’t wait!


★ fluid updated

I’ve spent a bit more time cleaning up the fluid blobsexamples I made last week, this time limiting the Region of Interest and fiddling with the fluid interaction.  Also newly included is a smarter way to interact with the blobs (in the code, i mean), pulling out more precise locational data.  I’ll be looking to mine this one a bit more extensively than I did with the filtration fieldsinstallation – and since I seem to be getting better now at things I was attempting before – this should be a lot more fun.In the mix still is some video over network action, as well as potentially a database record of the motion over time.  I’d like to develop this as an interactive (from the visualisation point of view) interface where you could select a day, week or month and view the fluid ripples as they occur, like a fluid time-lapse of the actual motion from the courtyard.  We’ll see.

Fluid Blobs v2from Jason McDermotton Vimeo.


★ fluid blobs

Linked below are some early results from a new series of sketches I’ve been working on using Processing.  These sketches continue in a long line of projects I’ve completed recently using simple camera tracking algorithms to infer interesting patterns of movement in urban spaces.The first example is a calibrated blob tracking experiment, using the excellent and very well documented OpenCV library for processing.  A few simple modifications to the setup parameters allow for a very customisable tool, able to withstand many of the constraints live webcam installs can throw up.  I’ve tested this in a number of places (my bedroom wall, lit by a single lamp tends to be the best contrast) and will have more to say on the nature of live webcam video in the future.

OpenCV blob tracking – calibratedfrom Jason McDermotton Vimeo.

The second example is a first attempt at combining the live blob tracking with the wonderfully funky and playful MSA Fluid library also for processing.  This lib is geared towards touch screen interfaces and screen based mouse interactivity – but I immediately thought it would be the perfect partner for my webcam based projects (or even accelerometer/phidget/slider/midi sensor data).  It wasn’t very difficult to swap out the mousex/pmousex variables for centroid x/y data, so the first test has been deemed a success.  I showed this yesterday to Frank/Ale/Amy/george/anyone who would stop for more than 2 minutes in the interactivation studio and it was a big hit 🙂

OpenCV + MSA Fluid (Processing)from Jason McDermotton Vimeo.

The third example is significant for a couple of reasons – it is another combination this time using recorded video of an actual installation space (filtration fields/ DAB courtyard) thus requiring another version of the calibration – but also my first experiments in putting together an arrayed interface between the blobs and the fluid.To explain further; Firstly it’s easy to switch out the mouse for ‘something else’ and inferring movement velocity for a single object/blob is simple.  Secondly I wasn’t so sure about the way to apply this singular blob mousex/pmousex-esque technique to many objects at once.  Thirdly I wasn’t sure if it would all explode in one big fluorescent, particle mess!

OpenCV + MSA Fluid (processing) test 3from Jason McDermotton Vimeo.

[Update]< <note, v3 will be embedded when vimeo uploads my video. since when does a new video have to wait in a queue for 30 minutes??>>In the end I’d say it’s mission accomplished, certainly with calibration tweaks to occur before I’m happy to unleash this on an unsuspecting public.  I’d be interested to see how this could influence peoples’ behaviour in the space – whether or not we would see people dancing/swimming/painting the space of the courtyard.  I’m curious also to see how this kind of new interaction with the space of the DAB could filter into a new perception of the building as not merely a space to move through but one which is open to new forms of physical conversation.


★ Smart Light Fields

In addition to my involvement with the janus project for the Smart Light Sydney Festival, Joanne Jakovich and I were invited to collaborate with the NSW Department of Planning in an ambitious short term project during the festival. The Department of Planning, along with Metropolis and D-City had the initiative to setup a small amount of resources for live event data tracking to be visualised for the duration of the festival.  Our first taste of this was in an email inviting us to join, with a specific aim towards generating realtime visual information using passive bluetooth tracking technology. I’d worked before with bluetooth tracking (in the 2008 UTS MDA masterclass Street as Platform), and I’d recently mastered the small monster of embedded MySQL insert queries so it felt quite appropriate to combine these two techniques in producing the visualisation. In essence, the project asked for the following;

  1. Networked and located sensor nodes, tracking any visible devices nearby
  2. Central storage and collation,
  3. regular output of recent activity (the last 3 hours)
  4. visualisation of current activity and any paths of movement picked up by the sensors

The project had been allocated resources for sensor nodes, internet connections, software programming and some kind of visual output – in this case a projector.  Joanne managed to secure space in Customs House for the project to live, we arranged for the hardware and software combination to be installed and we were off the ground. Ben Coorey (who had been a stellar student in the streetasplatform masterclass) came onboard to help us produce the visualisation in what ended up being a solid fortnight of work.  We went from concept through design and installation in just over two and a half weeks – not an insignificant feat!

This project marked a first in many regards – it was the first time I’d worked in this capacity as an artist/designer with an external client, providing data surveillance and visualisation with aesthetics and information.  It was the first time I’d been given access to such a large data set, with potentially hundreds of thousands of visitors making their way to the SLSF precinct during the three weeks of festival activity.It happened to produce the first meaningful coalescence of a body of researchers Joanne and I had been working to pull together for the last 6 months – into the newly founded and launched  We were now an organisation, able to pull in assistants and coders, all within the framework of a budgeted project, able to provide payment for their time. 

This mightn’t seem like much of an achievement, but having worked with friends and colleagues for some time now (relying on generosity and willingness to help), it gave me a huge sense of pride in being able to offer a small sum of money to repay the hours of work put in. See Also;