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

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Artist in Residence, Day 3

I arrived at The Rooms to find a team of employees evicting my roommates, the tall sculptures left behind by the previous artist in residence. So I have the place to myself now. I feel like capturing the space in some way. I’ve brought my camera, but I set up the Kinect sensor instead. It captures video and also depth information, which I can visualize using Processing. I start with Daniel Shiffman’s Point Cloud demo and spend some time modifying the code. I take it for a spin.

Point Cloud in purple

Thirty times a second, the Kinect takes two pictures, compares them, and spits back a bunch of numbers representing the distance of each pixel from the sensor. The Point Cloud script reinterprets these numbers and projects each pixel in a simulated three-dimensional space. Watching the demo in real-time, it feels strange to see yourself whirl around while the camera stays still. The script rotates the scene around an imaginary point in the virtual space.

I want to try something else. I place the sensor on top of a ladder and aim it at the ceiling, which is full of lights, pipes, ventilation and a dangling extension cord. I increase the density of the depth image, and adjust the colours used for the projection. When I end up with something I like, I export screenshots of each frame and stitch them together into a gif animation.

Point Cloud ceiling

I like this curious architectural snapshot. The virtual rotation creates a strange illusion where it feels as if the camera arcs through the ceiling and looks down through it, into the room. The depth projection is interrupted by the shadows of objects closer to the camera (the dark holes in the orange surface). This is due a limitation of the stereo vision system, but I enjoy the theatrical quality it adds to the scene, like a stage set only meant to be seen from one angle. Or as if the world has unfolded from flatness, like a pop-up book.

One of the books I brought to the studio is In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. Written in 1933, it’s a wonderfully ruminative essay on Japanese aesthetics, the beauty of impermanence, and shadows in architecture:

An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into it forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway.

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