rowing thru diatoms

(based on and related to the current work-in-progress, Rowing through the Subconscious)

by Bill Gorcica

Rowing through Diatoms in Banff, June 30, 2010

three views
Three Views of Diatoms in the Project

Although diatoms and microbes have been referenced in my drawings over quite some time, I have never worked collaboratively with a scientist to use images of the real specimens. In this case, however, Dr. Matt Julius of the St. Cloud State University Biology Department has offered access to a new perspective: that of the electron microscope. This project will offer viewers the opportunity to row through not the unconscious, but the unseen - electron micrographs of microbial aquatic life-forms.

To see a few of Matt's collection of images, visit the 21st International Diatom Symposium homepage.

Diatoms are beautifully designed silica-coated single-celled organisms that are not only picturesque but also serve as environmental indicators of the ecological health of the planet. In the installation/video projection, rowers and viewers will witness an assortment of these creatures from the Mississippi River region and survey how their populations differ at specific places along the journey.

This work was recently further developed as part of Almost Perfect 2010, a co-production residency in locative media at the Banff Art Centre's New Media Institute, during June 2010. Currently it is being translated from a 2D to 3D modeled space using Unity 3D game engine and Blender.
It is also being supported by a 2010 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative fellowship in Media Arts, and a Faculty Research Grant from St. Cloud State University.

Banff Machine
Banff Rowing Machine, June 2010

zooming in
Sequence showing participant rowing "into" a sample zip-loc bag to view its contents

Below is the original concept that evolved into Rowing through Diatoms

Concept Drawing for Rowing through the Subconscious Physical Computing/Interactive Video Installation Project, 2009, digital drawing, Bill Gorcica

(Click to View Animated Version)

Working model showing the rowboat electronics and animation in progress

(Click Image above to Watch Video)

rowboat sculpture

Rowboat Sculpture in Progress

rowboat diagram

Built from this Diagram from the early part of the 20th century found on the internet


Related Video, Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area Paddler

The work above from another installation done in 2000 shares some of the atmospherics I am planning for the current installation.

(Click Image above to View Movie)

detail of drawing

Microbes and Diatoms

Here are an assortment of digital drawings that might find there way into the video projections.

(Click Image above to View the Set)

Rowing through the Subconscious

An interactive installation with user-controlled animations to explore the subconscious by physically rowing "through" it

Bill Gorcica

I plan to build a sculptural rowboat which has oars embedded with sensors to register oar stroke movement. If oars make contact with the ground plane (representing water) and are moving, the action will trigger changes in a set of two animations projected on the walls behind and in front of the rower. The act of rowing towards an obscure and distant symbol on screen will bring it closer and yield clarity. As a person rows "through" the animation, the symbol will pass to the opposite screen, transformed in some way and eventually disappear.

The sculptural rowboat will have jingling metal plates loosely attached to it with drawings mounted on them. These would be of symbols that will pass through the "water" projections. The oars will be embedded with potentiometers (analog sensors) that register the angle of rotation and rate of movement. This data will pass through an Arduino microcomputer to Flash via USB port using a Serial proxy. The transmitted readings will control the scale and timing of the visual symbols that appear in the "water".

The two video projections will be of Flash animations that show abstracted water imagery. The loops will contain mysterious, hand-drawn symbols which materialize on screen. The nature of the symbols will be broad in scope, with a focus on building associative pairs.

I have been creating kinetic sculptural works for five years, the first of which was a mini-golf ice-fishing house with moving fish. Oftentimes, my work uses themes of recreational activities to communicate ideas about mediated nature. Last year I began exploring connections between kinetic sculpture and physical computing. My most recent work entitled "Floating Drawings" is an interactive sculpture/video projection which uses embedded sensors to control animations.

With background in drawing, sculpture, video and digital arts, together with a bachelor’s degree in science, I believe that I am in a fine position to make this project a reality. Fortunately, I have colleagues in computer science and electrical engineering who are willing to provide consultation if necessary. With grant support, I will be able to extend my creative work into a fully-realized large-scale multimedia installation using physical computing methods which will enable greater user interaction than anything I have done before through the most current technology.

Associated Project Link: Locative Cinema (Hybrid Recreational Machine Video DisPLACEment Projection)

Rowing Home

Concept Animation (1.7 MB download)

Rowing Mini Golf Art Croquet Floating Sculpture Floating Symbols

Rowing through the Subconscious

Mini-Golf -
Winter in Summer
Ice-Fishing House

Art Croquet
and Winter

Floating Drawings Sculpture/Video Interactive Work

© Bill Gorcica, 2009