Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Merge of Democracy and the Insurance Company



we each play a part in the system
one to their own way
the way we fill our time
the way we teach
the way we grow
the point of living every day
to play
is to teach
the radiation
from which the power does spread
the east
in distance waves
workers on the other side
earliest film
a post apcolyptic playground
rhythm in frames per second
moving in comfortable silence
the eye watching you
the way a child sees his father



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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Body as an Interface

Biomechanics is a rising field of interest for many different people from medicine to sports and even into the arts.  The human body can be monitored in a variety of ways from eegs which measure brain waves,  eogs to measure eye movement in sleep studies,  heart and breathing monitors. The depth of research into this world is an abyss that seems to be come ever deeper the more one learns about the subject.   My interest in the subject remains within the arts and with movement as a control of a non-clinical environment.   Our main limitation is that the human body can can only (as of yet) be interfaced superficially.   This leads to problems measuring human movement because joints which could be hard to measure on their own are even harder to access because they are deep to certain muscle groups and skin.  For a short example of the complications, take just the lower body from the superior structure the hips down to the inferior ankles.  By limiting possibilities to the larger movements of the skeletal system (particularly to those inferior to the transverse plane) you end up with only six large joints acting independently of all others. For monitoring, movement these joints can be looked at in 3 pairs of root sensor systems.

    - the hips
    - the knees
    - and the ankles

When standing, we can say that the body is at unity or the starting/natural state.    Most joints are in their natural state of extension in this position.  and then...

The Hips

When dealing with the hips circumduction becomes a problem because of the 3 Dimensional conic movement of a ball and socket joint.  The closest electronic analog i can think of is a joystick which measures potentiometers on two axis  and outputs both position values like coordinates (x,y). if we were to use a flex sensor we could only measure the anterior hip motion along the the sagital plane because of the gluteus maximus and hamstrings on the posterior which mask the small angle of movement we could measure if we had access to the acetabulum where the head of the femur makes contact with the coxal bone.  One might be able to measure the movement of the greater trochanter but that would still be difficult with the muscles which act as the flexors of the hip joint. This problem holds firm when you try to measure abduction(open) and adduction(closed) on the frontal plane as you would see it in Leonardo's  "Anatomy."
{as a side note measuring the medial and lateral rotation would be difficult as well}

The Knees

The knees being a hinge joint are the only joint on the lower body that can be easilly monitored using a flex sensor.   Hinge joints lend themselves to this type of monitoring because they have one state of extension and one state of variable flexion from 180 degrees all the way open down to about 10 degrees as folded as possible.  Flex sensors aren't really useful for any other type of synovial joint.

The Ankle

Measuring the ankle is weird because its natural state of extension lies between two points of flexion: dorsiflexion with the toe up and plantarflexion with the toe down.   One could put flex sensors along the achiles tendon and the dorsal part of the foot where the tibia and fibula meet the talus.  

More of the foot could be wired up to flex sensors for each of the phalanges and metatarsals but the shoe probably wouldn't be very comfortable.  For the foot I would like to develop some sort of measurement device that would be more intricate but similar to the type of system that you see in children's flashing led shoes.  the system would have quite a few pressure sensors embedded in the soul of the shoe to measure the anterior most end of the metatarsals through the phalanges and cuboid area and also below the calcaneus to measure the weight displacements as a user moved and balanced in different ways. 
So you see talking about the body could get complex, let alone measuring it. Then there is a whole new slew of fun to be had by all.  So the knees and elbows are easy bend sensors,  and then... fubar...

If you like the flexion measuring its worth a look at the MidiDancer developed at CalArts by Coniglio and Stoppiello of company Troika Ranch.   That's where it has all already happened in dance... has been happening since 1984...probably longer... at the risk of repeating the grand. 

I had original aspirations to use such a system for performance after having my brain fully warped by the book "Machine Musicianship" by Rob Rowe.   It was Morton Subotnik's work "Intimate Immensity" and his use of infra-red beams in a system technically executed by Clay Chaplin and danced by Nyoman Wenten that led me to CalArts in the first place.  My exploration of sensor possibilities for retrieving information from the human body began with the use of video to track motion, followed by research into things such as joint angles and rotations, muscle stretch or tension, and pressure for weight displacement on the plantar surface of the foot. 

anyhow...

In my search for better sensors I came across some interesting developers and their websites.

Poleema sensors use magnetic feilds to determine location.

The porcupine is made of several tilt / ball switches which recognize motion and orientation on the three planes, it could be quite useful.

I also found a similar sensor that reads full 3d motion and comes with software(very cool).  www.xsens.com.  It uses small blocks which could be fitted to the femur and the tibia/ fibula and would send out information about the orientation of those bones.  Really, useful stuff it also says how fast it moves etc.. check it out.

Also, there is a book called "Three Dimensional Analysis of Human Movement"  containing essays of many different scientists edited by Paul Allard. 

Its something to think about...more...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

DEFINING EXPERIMENTAL FILM

Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary:

experimental- a. [french experimental, from the latin word experimentum, an experiment
1.  of or based on experience rather than based on theory or authority.
2. based on, tested by, or having the nature of experimentation
3. for the sake of experiment; testing
4. tentative
5. of or used for experiments

experiment-   a trial test, from experiri to try, to test
1. a test or trial of something; specifically, (A) any action or process taken to discover something not yet known or to demonstrate something known; (B)   something tried to find out whether it will be effective;  as giving students complete freedom to to choose their courses is an educational experiment

film- n. [ME. fylme AS. filmen,  a film, membrane.]
1. a thin skin; a pellicle; a membrane;  a delicate coating or outer layer, partially obscuring what lies beneath; as, a film of gelatin; a film of lace.
2.  a sheet or roll of a flexible cellulose material covered with a substance sensitive to light and used in taking photographs.
3. a thin veil, haze, or blur as over the eyes.
4. a motion picture
5. a delicate thread, as of a cobweb


Together the words, experimental and film, seem to mean more than the definitions imply.    By following the history, one is introduced to experimental film at an almost identical point to that which film in its self as an art form is being introduced.  In a almost fanciful way one can say that any of the films being made up to and into the 1920's were experimental since making a film itself was a young and untapped art.  All of the pioneers were attempting to do something for which no template had been laid out.  Surely it must have fascinated artists such as Melies,  Rene Claire,  Louis Feuillade, Dmitri Kirsanov, and Man Ray simply to watch this machine feed tape through recording pictures.  These primitive beings, mostly standard artists had the power to capture life in any way they saw it and the possibilities were endless. Ferdinand Leger captured the machine and tied it into our human reality with Ballet Mechanique.   But at this point the experimental art of making any film can be further broken down into more aesthetic issues.  The experiment becomes:    How do i make something new and fresh even fresher?  Should I just show pretty pictures or try to shock the audience?   Should I try to tell a story?
    I will divide here into my own aesthetic categories of experimental film: films with out a narrative and films with narrative.  It is my opinion that both films without narrative and films with narrative must be looked at very differently.  Personally I have enjoyed the narrative films more.  Which is not to say that I have gotten nothing from those films with out this element of story line. Actually, almost all of the films have some form of a life running through them.  The city films show this in an interesting way.  In place of standard characters the films focus on the overall image of the city, be it though a few hours on a rainy day or through the entire day as in Berlin.  This tampering with scale does some interesting things to the mind.  These films teach you to focus on imagery and smaller things with in the whole of the film.  It becomes the subtleties that define the film.   The art resides in the dance of the hop scotch playing children in a Bronx Morning.  Its in the connection between lunch break and zoo animals in Berlin.  The tempo and musicality of the non-narrative films play an important role also.  The human body has a tie to this pulse present through all motion films.   The music of motion seems most accessible in animations.  Symphonie Diagonal by Viking Eggling even has a sonata form.  Composition in Blue by Oskar Fischinger is probably my favorite films to view though it is simple and easy to figure out the stop frame methods of creating it, it made me happy to watch it. It is fun even border line cheesy when placed with the music but hey, what can you say its an opinion.  Colour Box by Len Lye with the paintings on film is  beautiful and intriguing I enjoyed its musical quality and nature even more with out the Beatles than with the arbitrary soundtrack.  I am continually reinforcing my love for the way that almost any kind of music can be played to a film and will sync up in coincidental ways and shape the entire viewing experience of the film.
    Narrative forms hold a special place in experimental films for me, my limited knowledge of experimental film begins with David Lynch which has nothing and everything to do with my interest in the matter.  The final place I am going to go is where I was left off,  with the film The Blood of The Poet by Jean Cocteau.  This to me had that same great narrative quality as Lynch where the actual story line is experimental in its self with artistic photography cast aside. If one were to just read the screenplay the overall arch would lead you into an alternate reality where the goal is the journey which has an ambiguous place in time and space where anything is possible and all the things that living on earth teaches are rendered worthless.   In my past this type of film is what I would seek out as experimental film and to a great extent it is my preference.   Narratives for some of the experimental films I have watched have not all had this element.  Some of them are labeled as experimental on the basis of how they are filmed or edited.  You could look at the film Life of an American Firefighter by Edwin Porter and easily see something that by today's standards seems cooky and strange or at least out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.  The Idea of space and time is altered here but not in as abstract of a way withing the story.  Here we have an example of a very basic scenario, a totally realistic occurrence.  But the way that it is shot holds the integrity of the space with more value than the integrity of time continuity.  First it is filmed from inside showing one side of the drama as if it were a stage play, and then it starts back at the beginning and shows itself from another view point outside the house.  I was immediately taken by this. Les Vampire by Louis Feuillade though presented as such didn't seem to have any experimental element it them at all.  My ability to decipher films out of context with the other normal films of their time severely stunts my ability to label anything that is not extremely obvious as a an experimental film.  There is just nothing to compare it too.

so...
What separates experimental film from traditional film?   In modern times where Hollywood has developed a cookie cutter example of what will make a film "good" where "good" is infinitely interchangeable with the word "marketable"  it is easy to pick out something that is different.  Ironically there really isn't any thing new going on its just a recycling of discoveries previously made through out the course of the century.  Fortunately, these lost experiments and the rediscovery and reuse attempting to expose a modern audience to a narrative of filming trick that isn't always used fits the vague definitions of experiment laid out at the beginning of this essay.  Some films are easy to watch some were more difficult, some seemed to meander about aimlessly.  Keep in mind I am not trying to offend any film.   I am mearly trying to find a definition to the combined idea labled with the name Experimental Film.  Aesthetics should not determine the expiremental nature of a film, but rather the composition should define the label.  One should ask what is it about this film that is unique or experimental in nature.  What has the director/ artist done outside of standard practices.  So in conclusion My definition falls most closely with the first definition of experiment, any action or process taken to discover something not yet known or to demonstrate something known.  Experimentation is not being the first to do something but to do something to open the mind.  perhaps?