I just got a new cell phone, a Samsung SCH-I415. It has a physical keyboard, but it also comes loaded with Swype, a virtual keyboard that uses word patterns on the keyboard to interpret input. This annoyed me, because I’d wanted to do sculptures based on these shapes and don’t want to be considered as derivative. I’d done some maquettes in recent years and posted about it here, but hadn’t showed anything, except for a small piece I showed at the Samson Project‘s Chain Letter show in 2011. For the curious, documentation occurs on the far right panel of the 13th image from the show, it’s the little wooden piece to the left of the tangle of wires. My own documentation of the show is here.
Well, I started playing with Swype, and it works pretty well as an input system, much better than pecking at a virtual screen with fingertips and missing every sixth letter. It doesn’t much like usernames and oddities, but it does a decent job of adding things to its dictionary, although I’d rather not trust it with any passwords. It’s funny, but it’s easier to Swype with my left hand because it doesn’t seem to cover up as much of the keyboard while I’m drawing. It then occurred to me: since I’m drawing on the keyboard, I could take a page from my alphabets fixation and see how Swype would interpret my letter shapes.
I did the capital alphabet several times, to get something of a statistical collection of words, and here is a selected list: A: Cyndi B: Truth C: Itch D: Tactic E: Rancho F: Through G: Using H: Rerun I: Truck J: Until K: Reign L: Ten M: Exton N: Darby O: Hecht P: Trig Q: Grub R: Flubbed S: Utrecht T: Thai U: Ruby V: Rio W: Echo X: Eric Y: Rub Z: Rick Flynn
I tried to keep with a single word for each letter, with the exception of “Rick Flynn” for “Z”, because it was pretty awesome. Also, honorable mention to the runner up for “Z”, “Gagnon B-)”. I didn’t include it because an emoticon isn’t really a word, but it’s also pretty awesome.
Back in 2006/2007 I did a series of prints based on cell towers that looked pleasing to me–usually with a triskelion arrangement, not a triangle of girders, which for some had a lyrical quality, kind of like a tree. One of the best ones was this particular tower, photographed in 2006, called “Cell Tower 05″ because it was the fifth tower I cut from copper and printed. I later converted the digital photograph into an Illustrator drawing, in case I wanted to have it cut from plastic or metal in a size larger than I could do by hand:
Well, recently I got a current photo of the same tower, and re-created the artwork to reflect changes to the tower. Here is the new silhouette:
If you’re in Austin, and are curious to see the original, it’s right here (click to embiggen):
So, the reason I posted the digital Dao De Ching is because I had a small epiphany of how to work the Chinese encoding in a different way, which lead me back to the original, older encoding concept, and I figured I’d go ahead and post it just to be complete. The new concept is basically something akin to my Average Typefaces, except this is the average of all the characters in a given chapter of the Dao De Ching. Running every single meaningful character together (I removed the period and comma characters as they were kinda boring), yields this particular image:
An alternative method that involves using transparency in Illustrator to organize the characters yields this similar but different average:
I used two different Chinese fonts for each of these averages, so the shapes are different. It is obvious that the Dao that can be averaged is not the eternal Dao!
Today I did my first GPS drawing in a couple of years. This time I traced—as near as I could—the boundaries of the City of Somerville on my bike. Here is a quick thumbnail of the results:
The magenta is the path I took on my bike. The white is the official boundaries of the city. Some of the discrepancies are due to fences, houses, construction, freeways, cliffs, MBTA tracks, GPS errors and water. The base perimeter is 11.9 miles long; my route was 20.2 miles. I learned an important lesson on that 20 mile ride: 24-inch BMX cruisers are great for short commutes, but for long-distance riding they put a bit of strain on your knees.
This image, and more, will be seen at the show “Invested Landscape”, opening at the Nave Gallery on September 7th.
This was something that had been in the back of my mind for a while, just a lark, just something to play with. I thought I’d cruise through Google Earth and take screenshots of various cloverleaves along the interstates in the area. Funny thing: there aren’t as many traditional 4-lobed cloverleaf interchanges as you’d expect, a lot of them are more in an H-pattern of on/off ramps with controlled intersections. I suppose that’s a little cheaper than graded, circular ramps allowing nonstop interchange. At any rate, I started on I-95 around Boston and got twenty cloverleaves as a start, including this lovely one from right at the Delaware border in Maryland:
Look at that! Almost as perfect a circle as you’re gonna get with aggregate and asphalt on actual terrain. Trés magnifique!
At any rate, I got twenty screenshots and then tweaked them to 1000 px by 1000 px, with the center of the cloverleaf as close to the center of the square as possible. I figured it would be pretty cool, but I was surprised by how cool:
That’s pretty sexy. Then I normalized the levels:
Oh, yeah. That’s nice. So—I hope you appreciate these as much as I do. I’ll probably be doing more in the near future.
Today I am continuing on my interest in the tones used by wired telephony and the patterns made by same. I’ve managed to turn the tones used in the DTMF numberpad into visual representations and have started playing with the interactions between them.
Some background: when you hear a “TouchTone™” sound, you’re hearing two set frequencies played together that lets the switching equipment know what number you have selected. There is a 4×4 grid of these frequencies that creates a unique identifier for all the numbers on the telephone dialing buttons, as well as the star and pound keys. These frequencies were selected so that there are no easy multiples or common denominators between them, and so there is a definite gap between the highest of the low frequencies and the lowest of the high frequencies. Also, there are four extra “numbers” that are not used by consumers, which in some applications would allow the caller to select a call priority level (mostly used by the military) or activate special actions in the phone switch (used by telephone linemen). All of these numbers are arranged like this, with the lowest frequencies in the upper left and the highest frequencies in the lower right:
1 2 3 A
4 5 6 B
7 8 9 C
* 0 # D
(Of course, all this is quite wonky and is basically just part of my process for creating the following patterns. Please enjoy these as visual creations, and ignore the preceding telephonic geekery if you wish!)
First one is a simple interaction of grayscale lines with 50% transparency:
The second is the simple interaction between blue and yellow lines, also with 50% transparency:
Another bit of noodling I did over the past few days, I’m playing with the frequency mapping of the DTMF (or TouchTone™) sounds used in telephony. These tones are becoming less and less prevalent as mobile phones replace land lines, so this is something of a latter-day portrait of a mature technology. The colors are okay, but I’ll probably play with them some more. Pictured here are the ringback tone, dial tone, and busy signal. I’ll do the numberpad presently.
The 25th anniversary of Mixit Print Studio is coming up, and we’re having a show at the Boston Public Library in April. As part of the show, we’re putting together a print portfolio from a group of printmakers that spans the whole of Mixit’s history. I printed my edition for this portfolio today:
I remembered these last night, and decided I would post them as a gallery. These are pictures of people staring down at my camera from above, which splays their hair out in interesting and flowing shapes. I used Illustrator to vectorize the silhouettes so they would become crisp and I could isolate and interpret the interplay of individual strands of hair. I rotated them so they emerge from the top of the frame rather than the bottom so that it is harder to read them as human heads, which helps focus your attention on the shapes and forms. The white sun-circle on the gray background provides a very simple spatial cue and locates the “zenith” of the title.
The name of the series is an homage to Robert Longo’s Men in the Cities images. My process is markedly different, but both series are stylizing the human form into a graphic shape using photography and unusual poses.
I went on the T yesterday, and for some reason discovered a bonanza of QR codes. Marketing people are loving QR codes to death, which I find highly amusing. They’re not terribly easy to deal with in the wild, as I’ve discovered, and sometimes it takes two or three takes to get them captured. However, I got 29 more, although one of them was rendered unusable by overzealous design interference, and two others encoded the same web address, in different form. This was an interesting discovery–there’s alternate paths to the same place in the QR data space. An even more interesting discovery came when I decoded the QRs I found and then re-generated them to get clean images. The barcodes I generated were not the same as the barcodes I photographed. Ooooh! Aaaaah!
So, the generated composite is not exactly a direct representation of the photographed composite. There are differences in the codes, which make for subtle changes in the composite. Here are the results from the last batch. First, the photographed codes:
Then the generated codes:
Finally, the black and white version of the generated codes:
And since I now have over 60 codes captured, I need to generate composites of all 60:
Just for funsies, here’s the QR that some boutique on Newberry Street though would be totally chic if the pixels were sexed up a bit and a bunch of random artwork was included in the barcode: