Colours is an interactive painting & performance that uses the human paint brush.
produced by: Ngoc Vo
Term 2 ended with re-imagining an artwork project brief. The artwork of my choice is called "Colours" ("Sắc Màu" in Vietnamese), a timeless song by Tran Tien. I picked this artwork because I grew up listening to this song with my sister. Coming back to the UK for the second time, in such a chaotic event of the world, makes me realise a lot of things, but the most significant to me is my vulnerability, compassion and my acceptance of this side of myself. As I'm getting older and away from my comfort zone, I miss my hometown more, I miss my family more, and I’ve never appreciated the Viet culture as I do right now. I use a Vietnamese song because I am proud of my Viet root and want to show it in my artistic practice. Another reason is I worked only with black and white in term 1's final project and I want to incorporate colours this time.
Concept and background research
The song was written when Tran Tien was seriously ill and was hospitalised thinking he was about to die. He described the state of a soul, it seems ideas have emerged during his clinical death or by surgical anaesthesia. Often the newly dead soul will linger on the earth and remember the past, lingering memories in the subconscious. This soul no longer clearly remembers the outdated details, but only sees the patches of colour that the memory tries to recall.
The song itself is a canvas. Each line of the lyrics mentioned a combination of colours and what image the colours combination reminiscent. The contrast between how peaceful and eerie first half of the song vs. the sudden blizzard of the second half, as well as the decreasement of saturation towards the end of the lyrics are what strike me the most. I wanted to dance/draw/deliver the song in real time to to show timeline of one's soul, from childhood to deathbed, from colourful to colourless. Grief and torment.
Below is my sketch from the proposal.
Một màu xanh xanh, chấm thêm vàng vàng
A greenish-green colour, dotted with a yellow (translated from the lyrics)
Since this is a performance, the input of my system is the movement of the body. The contrast from many aspects from the song will then affect the intensity of the choreograph. There are very small movements (fingers flicking), or there are very big movements (feet kicking), hence, I based my work on Optical Flow using Farneback algorithm from class. The movement from left to right, top to bottom will affect various output such as colour, opaticy and size. I utilised this to assign particular colours at different position, which fits very well with the lyrics and my intention of chogreography.
One thing I considered make or break of this project is the graphic. I created a set of different brushes, inspired by Gustav Metzger’s Liquid Crystal Environment and KYND's watercolour addon. FBO + blending are heavily utilised to blur and combine multiple scenes just as one do using Photoshop.
WIP brush that didn't make it
Initially, I wanted to create an algorithm that can detect the edge of my body so I can navigate between visuals on the space behind my back or on my body. I struggled a bit at first with ofxOpenCV and ofxCV, especially with background subtraction and blob detection, and when I'm about to finish this project, things are clear as crystal.
In close future: now that I have a Kinect, there is definitely room to explore and improve. Box2D animation that interacts with body edge is also on my list, as well assparks on curiousity in shaders and textures, to make the watercolour brush even more realistic. With that in mind + a bigger space will definitely enhance the experience of this performance.
For further future: right now, it is only a one woman show, I dance and code for this project so everything is perfectly timed. In the future, I'm hoping to be able to collabs with dancers and performers, so I can generate a program with GUI so that I can control the paramets and make everything more flexible and unexpected.
Am I happy with what I have produced? Yes! I've read the proposal again and realised that the result did come out as almost what envisioned, just different technique. There is no one definite answer in programming, and I have learned a lot along the way. One very important lession is that if you don't find the answer on Google, it means that you haven't looked well enough, because everything is there (especially when results are documentation links). This project has been a very good opportunity to look back at 6 months of learning to program at Goldsmiths. I've found myself getting into performing and installating even more, and I could see its share in my ideas for the final project in summer term. Who knows!
Reference & Resources
Song "Sắc Màu" by Trần Thu Hà, composed by Trần Tiến
Computer Vision from OF book https://openframeworks.cc/ofBook/chapters/image_processing_computer_vision.html
Kinect from Coding Train https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmVNgdapJJM&t=87s
Optical Flow Lab Assignment Week 14
Gustav Metzger - Liquid Crystal Environment https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/metzger-liquid-crystal-environment-t12160
KYND's watercolorbrush https://github.com/kynd/apps_of0080_osx/tree/master/drawing/watercolor