Noodling with the Taijitu

Averages, Data Representation

On a lark I did some animation silliness today. The typical explanation for the taijitu, or the yin-yang symbol ( ☯ ), mentions how dark and light are intertwined, one leads to the other in a symbiotic wax-and-wane cycle, and one contains the seed of the other inside. Well, said I, I wonder what this wax-and-wane cycle would look like if the taijitu was rotating and you took the average grayscale value of the portion of the symbol passing at the zenith part. Who wouldn’t wonder that?

To make that more obvious, I’ve prepared this anigif, which contains three parts: a rotating taijitu, a cropping of the topmost sliver of the symbol from the centerpoint up (indicated by the red box in the first part), and the average grayscale value of that sliver:

Taijitu Joint000

So, basically, as the Wheel of Earth and Heaven rolls ponderously around, there are alternating times of lightness, darkness and shades in-between. I will leave you with a stand-alone gif of this interplay for your own amusement (caution: may not be synced with the above animation):

Taijitu Fill000

Printing Seminar for Open Letters at the B&A

Bow & Arrow Press, Letterpress

Another fun thing that happened in January, we had a Friday seminar at the Bow & Arrow Press for Open Letters, a publication of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. Ten students and the instructors came out and we put together some lovely prints using lead, linoleum and photopolymer.

Nave Residency Day 10

Graphic Geography, Random Processes, Residency, Scientific Exploration

I finally got back to the gallery yesterday, but I was at the Bow & Arrow Press for Open Press Night afterward, so I didn’t get to process things until now. A big portion of yesterday’s work was 100 Random Pixel time-lapse videos, which I present here:

Time-Lapse 09 uses the same rules as the earlier ones, but 10 and after uses a different rule for dealing with obstructing pixels: instead of skipping over the obstructing pixels until a free space is reached, I now simply stack the new pixel on the obstructing pixel so that a three-dimensional form is created.

I also shot frames for a panorama of the two-tributary rope river from last time, and then constructed a three-tributary rope river with the last length of rope I had available:

Upper-Tributaries 3-Rope-River

I also shot a lot of portfolio images of the needlepoint rivers, as I had them on the wall for my artist’s talk last Sunday. Finally, I got out the ball chain I’d ordered just before I started the residency, and began experimenting with catenary curves.


This is the simple construction I made using the steel chain suspended on the hooks attached between the two lally columns in the gallery. I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen with those, but we shall see.

After that experiment, I upended a desk and used the legs and cross supports to string the copper chain in various intersecting catenaries. I then started my camera shooting once every three seconds, and began agitating the chain. Below are some of the more interesting images, some with a touch of Photoshopping, some without. Further experimentation is definitely in the cards.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a lovely little curve from the steel suspensions that I shot on a whim:


Nave Residency, Day 8

Data Representation, Graphic Geography, Random Processes, Residency, Scientific Exploration

Today started off, oddly enough, as something of a clean-up day. I moved the trash bags I’m using as floor protectors for the wet projects, I shifted a bunch of the loose cubes over to where the river production area was, I cleaned up the pixel dice construction site, and collected boxes in one area and trash in another. I have some of the flow-pattern ink drawings in process, but I didn’t get around to photographing them. Next time!

For a consolation prize, here are the rivers, mostly complete. The clamp on the Mississippi is joining the Ohio/Upper Mississippi/Missouri complex to the Lower Mississippi/Red/Canadian/Arkansas complex. The clamp on the Yangtze is to hold together a faulty glue joint, which broke at around the Wuhan area.


I also put the Random Pixel Objects on display on a plinth, just to get them out of the way:


Nave Residency, Day 7

Random Processes, Residency, Scientific Exploration

Interesting stuff today. I was hoping to have images of all three pixel rivers done, but the Mississippi is being difficult and I needed to re-glue several tributaries, this time using clamps. I should have been using clamps the entire time!

But anyway, other stuff still got done. I finished all nine of the Random Pixel Objects, which are all available for sale to interested parties! Here they are in a group shot:


Nave Residency, Day 6

Graphic Geography, Random Processes, Residency

I spent most of the day fixing up the 3D pixel Nile, 3D pixel Yangtze, and piecing together the last bits of the 3D pixel Mississippi. Here’s a quick shot of the Nile, resting on a table:


I also constructed five ephemeral Random Pixel Objects and three physical Random Pixel Objects. I forgot to snap a photo of the physical ones, but I shot video of the making of the five ephemeral ones. Here are the five Objects:


And here’s the video showing exactly how I’m making them:

I also started a very silly project, making river patterns out of nylon rope. I shot various frames of the running length, and I tried to use an automated stitcher to fit them all together, but it looks like I’ll need to do that manually. Tomorrow!

Nave Residency, Day 4

Graphic Geography, Random Processes, Residency

There were some technical snafus, like the batteries for the camera I use for the random pixel grids conking out, so today I don’t have many images. However, I did finish painting the new sets of pixel dice, and sanded the edges of one set of 12:

First Actual Day at the Nave

Drawing, Random Processes, Residency

At long last, I got over to the Nave on Powderhouse Blvd for some art time. Everything’s preliminary, everything’s laying groundwork, and everything’s feeling out directions. One of the things that happened was process-oriented data collection.

I created random 6×6 grids with six-level grayscale dice: