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Vanity Fair

Produced by: Noa Geras

1.      Introduction

“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young person take their choice.”

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

“Vanity” is an installation that contemplates virtues and traits of incivility. It serves the user as a looking-glass, visualizing these patterns of behaviour.


2. Concept and Background Research

“Narcissism is a pattern characterized by entitlement, grandiosity, lack of empathy, validation seeking, superficiality, interpersonal antagonism, insecurity, hypersensitivity, contempt, arrogance, and poor emotional regulation (especially rage). Narcissism is an interpersonally toxic pattern; if it is a person’s predominant way of relating with the world, then it is not healthy for the people around the narcissistic person (it is also not healthy for the narcissist, but narcissists typically lack enough insight to recognise it).”

Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D.: “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” How to stay sane in an era of narcissism, entitlement, and incivility

I am fascinated by opposites – ying and yang, black and white. In my project I played with them by using traits of incivility and their opposites, the traits of kindness. I wanted to create a mirror that would interact with the user’s love of their own reflection and make them contemplate their actions and how they can quickly shift from positive into negative patterns of behaviour.


3.      Setup

The project is setup as a vanity table. To interact with it, the user of the experience has to sit at the table and look at themselves in the screen on the table that mimics a mirror. A phone is placed in front of the user; when the user lifts it up, the animation on the screen changes. When the phone is placed back on the table, the animation returns to a neutral scene. The lifting of the phone in the projects mimics the action of moving one’s phone to take a selfie.

The visual experience happening on the screen in front of the user consists of 5 scenes:

1.      The first scene is the neutral one. It is depicted whenever the phone is placed horizontally down on the table. The user can see their face on the screen with white words floating around it. The words spell out different positive virtues: kindness, empathy, security, conscientiousness, calm, agape, compassion and modesty.

The background depicted on the screen behind the user is a neutral grey. The words wander around freely.

2.  When the user lifts the phone vertically, the scene changes from the neutral grey to red. The words start tracking the user’s movement and moving towards it. When the user moves, the words interact with the user by changing colour and meaning. The words turn from the positive ones to negative: entitlement, envy, aggression, insecurity, lack of empathy, superficiality, grandiosity, exploitation, arrogance.

3.  When the user puts the phone down on the table again, the scene shifts back to the neutral grey. If the phone is lifted up again, the scene will switch to another red scene. In total there are 4 red scenes and one neutral scene.


4. Technical

The inputs of my project’s interaction is the movement of the phone using the app GyroOSC and the computer vision from the webcam that detects movement. The output of the project is the movement of the text and changing of the different scenes.

5.      Future Development

For future development I would like to implement machine learning and face tracking in the project. I am also interested in learning how to connect OpenFrameworks to a physical computing project using Arduino and creating an input and output system that would work with sound and movement.


6.      Self-Evaluation

In this project my focus was on learning more about coding in C++. I put an effort in to trying to understand every line of code I wrote and I commented it thoroughly so it would be more easily understood. This makes it easier for me to change it quickly and orient myself around it. I feel I have learned a lot through this process and I am grateful to my teachers and the process.

I am excited about the minimalist colours and of the project, and I am glad I used text in my project again. The words make me feel as if I am reading a visual book and in that regard as well I think I have made a parallel to the book by Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D., whose words I have found crucial in my understanding of human patterns of behaviour. 


7. References


- Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D., “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, entitlement, and incivility

- Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D., Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist

- William Makepeace Thackeray, “Vanity Fair”

To create this project, I used the knowledge I learned from Workshops in Creative Coding by Dr. Theo Papatheodorou. I paid specific attention to the lectures from Week 13 - Computer Vision (part 2), and Week 15 - OSC messaging.

I was motivated by my project “Lock Me Up with Code” from Term 1, and decided to follow the same path by working with words and minimalist visuals.

The sound of people talking that is used in the project is created by Breviceps.


Thank you to Armando Gonzalez Sosto, Kevin Kuhn Agnes, Dimitri Balojani and Nadia Geras for their support in realising this project.