There has been a long tradition in live visuals and motion graphics, inherited from many other media, of maintaining a “secret sauce,” or the guarded formula of eleven herbs and spices. Ironically, for all you hear today “DIY” and “open source” in the same sentence, a lot of the motivation for doing something yourself has historically been doing something no one else can. Keep your secrets, and raise your value.
As our friend Bryant Place / CyberPatrolUnit sends over this latest set of live clips from a recent gig, and I browse through the comments, and reflect on the conversations I had last week at OFFF and during and following my own talk there, though, I’m struck.
The world has changed. First off, the Internet isn’t really about secrets. Your value is almost in direct proportion to how much you can share. Connections are forged through links of mutual exchange and good will. It’s not just about sharing your output or getting fans (the MySpace model), but sharing with a network of enthusiasts, and fellow artists. Those are the people from whom you often get real support (artistic, technical, and personal), gigs – and inspiration. (Even if you hate 8-bit music, that community is a really amazing model: their work to support each other and advocate for the whole subgenre has been I think the single biggest ingredient in their viral success.)
The visualist community increasingly itches not only to improve the quality of their own individual work, but everyone around them. A lot of us are in a battle for the future of this whole medium. Some parts of the world are devoid of live visuals, while others have mass-produced club visuals filling the nightlife.
Before I get carried away, the video itself is just the latest from the ongoing Interface 27 series. It employs a touch interface to control abstract visual pictures formed from streams of particles.
The reason I’m pulling back into the larger question is that these visuals are enabled by a library for Processing, a library we’ve seen here previously, developed by Memo Atken:
MSAFluid for processing (and Java)
If you’d rather use openFrameworks, there’s that version, too, as pictured below running blazingly fast:
There’s even an ActionScript 3 port, in case you want to code Flash on the beach.
So, why do I bring this up? Well, the work done on Processing (Ben Fry, Casey Reas, contributors like Karsten Schmidt, and others), on openFrameworks (Zachary Lieberman, Theo Watson, and their own team), and Memo’s own library, based in turn on many other libraries and implementations, was all a big risk.
It’s not an easy thing to put blood, sweat, and tears into open source. None of those people has exactly gotten rich in the process – not even via the ways you’re supposed to profit from open source, doing the lecture circuit and such. But on the other hand, we’re seeing things that would have been otherwise impossible.
And there’s artistic merit, too. Bryant’s work looks different than Memo’s. The library actually takes on a new life as it gets in someone else’s hands. Bryant actually just wrote me:
As for the Interface video – mention how cool it is that people like Memo post code for other VJ’s to tweak and use. Mention "FaderTouch" – a 100buk touchscreen off ebay that "vjFader" programmed – using a rear projection onto a translucent screen/ touch sensor we were able to use processing in a very intuitive way.
I got the “mention” part down, I guess. 😉
The responsibility is partly ours to make all of this work: file bug reports, fix bugs if you can, document your work, properly credit the people making it, write documentation for projects, and so on. But it’s not hard to see an ideal start to happen:
1. Person x makes a library / framework.
2. Person y build on that library to make their own tool – and contributes it.
3. Artist uses the tool, gives back to the project, goes in a new direction.
4. More and better work spreads, the project grows, the medium grows, and the audience grows.
None of this happens automatically. We all have a lot more work to do. But having stood onstage in front of a few thousand people calling for just this, it’s nice to keep opening my inbox and seeing it happening. We’re seeing the first seeds planted for what could ultimately be a larger ecosystem. Now, I know there’s also a big gap left – Processing doesn’t have nearly enough contributors, bug squashers, or documenters, and it’s one of the biggest projects, so you can imagine what happens when you get upstream to libraries and the like.
Over the coming months, I think we’ll continue to look for opportunities to help structure some of that involvement and to explaining how you can contribute, too. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, go play with some particles.
For more on Bryant, here he is on his current activities:
– I just did Coachella with [Friend of CDM and contributor] Momo, and in the near future, will be heading to Detroit for http://www.myspace.com/detroitmusicfest
I’m not on the website, however, Kero.fm and Derek Michael – two people who essentially helped build the festival from the ground up 10 years ago – are booking me to play with various acts including CLP, Richard Devine, Drumcell, Busy P (which I did a solo VJ set with at Coachella) so I am super excited to be a part for the first time this year.
Here is a cool video from previous Interface 26:
After Detroit – Mutek.
There are also some killer podcasts from past Mutek – http://www.mutek.org/podcast
I am going to meet artists, see the latest AV performances, attend workshops.
I’ll be at Mutek, too, so see you there.