Inspired by the naturally occuring metamorphic patterns of mineral deposits, Patterns of Minimal Occurence is an exploration through collaborative interaction using analog tools, with a digital output.

The Interaction:

Participants approached a desk set up to mimick a geologist’s workstation. In the center of the desk, they were presented with an empty notebook and instructions to enter a “sample” by creating an image using only the simple tools provided. These consisted of simple, geometric-shaped rubber stamps and a stamp pad. Users would then create their sample and then press a single button to capture a photo from the webcam that was mounted above the notebook.

The Process:

The image was then passed into a Python program using OpenCV, which would process the image before performing shape and contour detection. Each individual shape was sent to Processing via OSC where it was transformed into a rigid body shape and dropped into the screen from above. These bodies were a combination of all the shapes detected in the image and the color was based on how many sides each component shape had. As the shapes fall, they collide with each other and their environment, eventually coming to rest at the bottom of the screen. After, several collisions with other shapes, the rigid bodies broke apart into their component shapes and became permanent and immovable. With each sample entered into the system, the environment grows creating complex patterns of the component shapes and colors that even look like mineral deposits. Eventually, the pattern will fill the entire screen, which took several hours, at which time the piece is over.

Participants were encouraged to sign the back of their drawing for archival purposes. In addition, the images captured by the webcam were uploaded and recorded to a tumblr site, as were the images of the digital output shortly after the new shapes were introduced.

Below are some timelapse videos of the input and output of the system.

The Input

As seen in the video, the participants found ways to stretch their resources by going beyond the instructions of just using the stamps and used everything on the table to create their sample. From creating unique textures and very complex shapes to sometimes very minimal, simple shapes, and drawing things with the pencil. Some even used the mineral samples and rocks that were intended for display purposes only.

The complexity of the shapes contributed to the dominant color purple, used for shapes with 10 sides or more.

The Output

This project was not only an experiment based on our own fascination with the metamorphic process in minerals, but also an observation of how people interact with a very tactile and mostly analog interface. We were curious at the outcome of providing these very limited resources—a piece of paper, and a few drawing tools, with a single digital action of pressing “capture”—to create an original image without little need for technology.

Patterns of Minimal Occurence was a collaboration between myself and my partner Jessica De Jesus, created for the 2016 CalArts Digital Arts Expo. Jess art directed and designed the look and and feel of this project, both the analog set up and the digital environment, while I developed the programming. Thank you Jess for your insight, thoughtfulness, and eye for detail that transformed this project into a beautiful experience.