Gian Pablo Villamil

Gian Pablo Villamil

Solving new problems in video, electronics and strategy

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An Alchemists Wand for the 21st Century

I have been working on a project with Lynn Hershman, called Alchemists Wand for the 21st Century. This art piece incorporates a number of brooms that have been modified to detect toxic substances, registering this on LEDs embedded in the broom handle, and transmitting their readings to a screen that presents information on what to do. Each broom detects a different substance, currently: alcohol, ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, natural gas and various solvents. The piece showed at Bitforms gallery in New York, as part of a show called “Touch: A Space of Relations”.

Alchemists Wand for the 21st Century at Bitforms gallery

Alchemists Wand for the 21st Century at Bitforms gallery

The brief is simple: build a set of brooms that can detect toxic substances in the environment, and display their findings via lights on the broom itself, and on a connected screen. The initial concept design used a square janitor’s broom:

First concept diagram

First concept diagram

Read on to see how this concept became reality…

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RAW/WAR at Sundance Film Festival

Since October of last year, I’ve been working on an exciting project with filmaker and artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, an interactive installation integrated with a web-based media database called RAW/WAR. The interactive installation is constantly updated with multimedia from a companion website at rawwar.org.

I’m going to describe some of the aspects that I worked on, especially in the area of physical interface design. We worked with Paradiso Projects extensively for the design and coding of the installation and website software.

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The genesis of the project comes from the film “!Women Art Revolution“, a documentary by Heshman about women in contemporary art, and how they created an entirely new, and parallel, body of work from the 1960’s onward. The film is based on over 40 years of interviews with contemporary women artists. However, Hershman realized that it was not possible to present all the stories she had gathered in a single documentary, let alone those of artists she had not been able to document. Therefore, she made available all her original material via an online archive at Stanford University, and created a website, RAW/WAR, that allowed anyone to upload documentation of their story.

For the Sundance Film Festival, Hershman was extremely interested in creating an interactive installation that would allow casual exploration of the RAW/WAR archive in an engaging manner. Starting from an observation about the film, that it was like exploring a dusty attic with a flashlight, we set about bringing this to life.

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Timelapse toolkit for the Exploratorium

I’ve been doing some development work at the Exploratorium, and my latest project is now ready to go live. It is a general purpose, highly configurable timelapse recording program, that will soon be incorporated into an interesting experiment in social dynamics (I’ll tell you what it is when it goes live).

Exploratorium timelapse toolkit

The program is developed in Max/MSP, and contains a lot of useful features:

  • Live preview of camera input
  • Timestamping of recorded frames can be turned on or off
  • Can be controlled with a rotary encoder (big free spinning knob) allowing users to “travel backwards in time”
  • Timed recording, you can have it start and stop recording a timelapse movie at specific times
  • User configurable recording interval and/or difference threshold (ie. record a frame when something changes)
  • Disk based buffering of the current recording, so you can scroll back and forth while it is recording
  • Program saves all settings automatically, making it possible to run unattended and on a schedule

The system is designed to be sufficiently flexible and configurable that it can be deployed in multiple situations where timelapse recording is interesting.

Bay Bridge (1) – Coming and Going

Exploring a different view of panoramic footage, showing where you’ve been and where you’re going in a single simultaneous stream.

Bay Bridge (1) – Coming and going

Exploring a different view of panoramic footage, showing where you’ve been and where you’re going in a single simultaneous stream.

Cast: Gian Pablo Villamil

Tags: video art and san francisco