I'm a visual artist and writer in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

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Blog Archives dated June 2011

Halifax Walking Notebook (Part 1)

  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2 and 3
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 3
  • Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 4
Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 1

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2 and 3

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 2 and 3

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 3

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 3

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 4

Halifax Walking Notebook, Nov. 4

In November 2007, I undertook a series of walks around Halifax, Nova Scotia, as part of my research for my Interchange installation at NSCAD University. Each day for 33 days, I walked around the city and wrote about walking, art, psychogeography, and the pedestrian experience in Halifax. As I worked, I began to think of the writing and walking as not just an artifact of the project, but an artwork in itself. I’ll post a few excerpts from my notebook here over the summer.

Re: Rereading

Rereading a flurry of journal entries I wrote about a year ago, just before leaving Halifax. A patchwork collection of missives to myself, some typed, some handwritten, full of tiny details from a time when nothing was really happening. It was the start of summer, though, and everything seemed significant; I pulled details from poems or from coffeeshop observations, and applied every finding to myself, reading too much into everything. Each entry is a little prism of detail that has served its purpose, like a cancelled postage stamp.

What do you do with old journal entries? I wrote many of them as I was preparing to move, during which I dusted off and organized ten years of old journals. I stacked them in order, labelling each notebook with the start and end dates and where it was written. The oldest are thin exercise books in barely-visible pencil, which gradually evolve into hefty art-school scrapbooks thick with spilled ink and loose drawings. Since then my journalling has mostly migrated online, with a few pocket notebooks full of ponderings from Montreal and Halifax.

I sometimes imagine there is a book of poems buried in there somewhere, as if I have already done most of the writing and only have to excavate it, brushing off the excess. At other times this strategy feels shortsighted and sentimental, and I resolve to make new things instead of indulging in self-archaeology. But then what are the journals for?

From one year ago today, just before moving back to Newfoundland:

“I think in Corner Brook I will work on writing. Corner Brook is conducive to writing; it is full of memory for me, and people there are such storytellers. Something about the accent, too, brings writing out. The place in the voice. Recording overheard conversations on paper, a kind of photography of language. I still feel guilty about living in the house that John Steffler used to own, two years ago, and hardly writing a word while I lived there. I really felt for a while that writing was something I had to let go of to grow in other ways. Have been going through my walking notebook and research notes for Interchange, November 2007, and am starting to see it now as a work in itself. Scanned all eighty or so pages and sent them to B. to see what he thinks. Maybe presentable as-is, handwritten pages with scribbles, with footnotes and photos and maps from the same month, a sort of dossier.”

I have been back in Corner Brook for ten months now and this is the first writing I’ve done. So it’s been a slow start, but we’ll see where this blog goes. I suppose this is one good use for old journal entries, as seeds for blog posts. But what do you do with old blog posts?

I’ll post some of those walking notebook pages soon.

Green Street From Memory

Walking makes me want to write. While living in Halifax last year I walked a lot, often with a camera or a notebook. My favourite coffeeshop in Halifax is Paper Chase on Blowers, with its large tables and windows overlooking Argyle, but on days when I really wanted to focus I would often walk a little further to Coburg Coffee, where I was less likely to run into anyone I knew. I was trying to find time to work on various projects: poems, notebooks, sometimes code. I was trying to put a dent in a stack of books as well, in particular a couple of collections of Don McKay and John Steffler. I resolved to read Lisa Robertson’s Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture only while outdoors, pausing with it in the Public Gardens on my walk home. A little of this aimlessness found its way into my work, always starting sketchbooks and journals that didn’t stick. This drawing is from one of those.

(Iguana sighting)

Make No Wonder and Random Islands

  • Random polygon islands 1
  • Random polygon islands 2
  • Random polygon islands 3... one big one.
  • Random polygon islands 4
Random polygon islands 1

Random polygon islands 1

Random polygon islands 2

Random polygon islands 2

Random polygon islands 3... one big one.

Random polygon islands 3... one big one.

Random polygon islands 4

Random polygon islands 4

I found out recently that I have been awarded a Professional Project Grant from the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council to work on an interactive digital art project. My proposed project is to create an ecology-themed game artwork, tentatively titled Make No Wonder. I’ve posted a little about it on my Projects page.

This project is a progression from a couple of previous art-game projects, Probable System and Favimon. Probable System is an exploration game that takes place in a typographical world inspired by Canadian experimental poet bpNichol (it can be played online at probable.ca). Favimon lets you collect and battle your websites based on their favicons in a never-ending quest to capture every website, and can be found at favimon.com. In February 2011, Favimon won the Most Original award in the Mozilla Labs Game On 2010 open web gaming contest. I wrote a long blog post about developing Favimon for the Mozilla Labs blog.

Make No Wonder will take place in a virtual archipelago, allowing the player to explore the environment, gather resources, and gradually build bridges, rafts, and other forms of technology. As players explore, their actions and traces permanently affect the ecosystems of the islands, encouraging them to think critically about their choices. The artwork will investigate ecological concepts such as biodiversity, resource management, and invasive species. The game will be coded in HTML, JavaScript and PHP, and will run in a web browser. I have a ton of ideas for things that I want to work into the game, some more challenging than others. I’ll be writing about the project here as I work on it, including posting some code and links to interactive demos.

The images above are from some early sketches for Make No Wonder; I wrote a little script that generates random polygon-based islands on a square grid. I’ve been experimenting with the Raphaël JavaScript library for this project. It’s a great way of working with SVG (vector graphics) in JavaScript, but it’s been a bit finicky trying to get it to play nicely with jQuery, and it slows down considerably when dealing with hundreds of SVG paths, so I may not end up using it for the final project. Still, it’s been handy for quickly prototyping things. I’ve actually done a lot of work since generating the polygon islands above, and have been experimenting with hex grids instead of square tiles. Hexes can be very unintuitive from a coding perspective, but they allow for a less boxy-looking landscape, and movement across hex tiles feels more natural. It probably also helps that I have been playing a lot of hex-based games such as Settlers of Catan and Slay. One inconvenience about hex maps is that movement in six directions doesn’t map nicely to arrow keys, but I want to work with mouse-based interaction for this project anyway, as it will be easier to translate into a touch interface.

I’m really thrilled and honoured to have received the Arts Council grant. I put a lot of work into my application, but wasn’t sure the committee would go for it; the idea of games as artwork is still something that has not gained wide acceptance. I am incredibly grateful to the NLAC for granting me the opportunity to really focus on this project over the summer, and am looking forward to documenting the project here as I go.

Summer So Far

Mid-June and I am in the middle of many things. Working regularly on a content management system for The Humber River Basin project, as well as several freelance web design projects, so I’m spending quite a bit of time tinkering with WordPress code. A day spent designing and coding never feels wasted, and is considerably easier with an open window, good music, and a cup of tea or two.

Part of what I really enjoy about web design and writing code is the way that each previous project builds on the last; each time I start a new site or WordPress theme I am building on previous work, so each ends up better than before, and I’m always learning how to do new things. For the projects I’m working on now, I’ve been looking into creating customized options pages for WordPress themes, and using custom post types to make it easier to create separate types of content for clients. I’ve also been updating how I code and style some common elements like search boxes and tag links.

Setting up this blog is something I’ve meant to do for a while; I’ve had various blogs on this site, but haven’t had a space to post about art exhibitions, web design or other professional practice stuff for a while, so this is for that. More importantly, it will also be a space for sketches and notes as I work on Make No Wonder, a game art project for which I have received a Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council grant. My photoblog has been mostly gathering dust since I got back to Corner Brook… I have some photos to add, just haven’t had a chance to put them up yet.

I also plan to post code snippets, links, and other stuff I’d like to have around as a reference for myself and others. I’m going to retroactively post some stuff that happened over the past year, too, so that there is a record of it somewhere.

Content ©  2017 Matthew Hollett. RSS