Victoria Cote is a recent graduate from the Undergraduate program in Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. She was honored by Artengine for her work in the media arts, and her contribution to the graduating class show.
My abstract sculptural installation Untitled (pillars) explores and emphasizes the quality and texture of acrylic plexiglass tubing. By challenging the material and depicting its visual characteristics in different ways, I am able to encourage the viewer to more closely analyze the work. The repetitive process in which I work culminates in organic shapes and abstract sculptural forms.
I want to explore various forms of interactions with my installation. This includes both subtle confrontations such as the viewer walking by, and the more intimate as when the viewer physically engages the work. Untitled (pillars) is viewer interactive; depending on how close the viewer is to the sculpture, the lights within the pillars begins to intensify in brightness. As the viewer walks away from the sculpture, the lights begin to dim. Through these intimate interactions the boundary between the viewer and the untouchable artwork dissolves and the relationship becomes open to expanded explorations.
The electronics within the installation act as a key component to the work; they mediate interactivity and give the piece a sense of wonder. A three-channel RGB LED controller (K191) creates the light sequences within the sculptures. The device is designed to be a versatile LED controller module. The module includes preprogrammed light sequences such as strobe, running light, smooth fades etc. Simple commands can be programmed into the device from a PC. I ordered the three-channel RGB LED controller kit off the Internet and assembled it myself. The construction of the K191 was fairly simple; the kit came with good instructions making it easy to build, although I ran into problems connecting the K191 to an arduino.
The biggest help I received while programming the electronic elements within my installation was from my University Professor and the arduino forum. Arduino is a great open source website and can answer pretty much any questions you may have regarding its functions. Arduino coding is tricky; if you don’t enter the correct code the program does not comply. When I was having difficulty determining the proper code, I asked a question in the arduino programming forum and within minutes I had an answer that I could test out.
The K191 is a great device for creating various light effects but I wanted it to do a specific effect that was beyond its own sequences. This is where the arduino came into play. By using an arduino, I was able to add a distance sensor that could establish the distance between a viewer and the sculpture. Depending on the proximity of the viewer, the distance sensor determined the intensity of the light within the sculptures.
The entire process was very stressful and I’ve learned that electronics are very fidgety, one minute they’re working and the next minute they’re not. There was a lot of trial and error but in the end everything work out better than I had planned. Although working with electronics takes a lot of patience, the end result is very satisfying.