krinkl-o-tron - concept

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I am compelled to experience art more profoundly. It is not enough for me to be immersed, I want to be submerged, held under until I am gasping for breath. This compulsion would explain my adolescence spent in recording studios and warehouse after-hours parties, engaged in and transfixed by the manipulation of sound, light and graphics all made possible through the emergent technology of the day. Today it is clearer to me than ever how critical will be the role of technology in pushing past the dimensional limits of current media formats, and I am continually attempting to create new production technologies and display systems that facilitate the enjoyment of, and interaction with, various art forms. However, I am also compelled ethically toward energy sustainability, particularly as it is used to power the technology required to generate these new media. The power requirements of technology-based art must be taken into consideration and all efforts should be made in reducing, supplementing and/or generating the required electricity through alternative means. These two driving forces in my life are inevitably uniting in the form of a personal artistic philosophy that will direct the course of my future work, and, hopefully, influence that of other new media artists, ultimately serving to define more precisely the field of new media.

My goal is to create a device that demonstrates my philosophy in a cohesive and interesting way. My proposed solution is the Krinkl-O-Tron, an interactive immersive environment composed of three interrelated components: a cylindrical rear-projection screen or cyclorama, a slit-scan camera and a human-powered carousel, designed to create, display and interact with the imagery generated by large-format slit-scan photography. 

I am fascinated by the creative misuse of technology to generate media that lives outside the dimensions of traditional formats. The slit-scan process creates images that re-contextualize time and space in a way that other current media production capabilities cannot. Slit-scan imaging is a process of capturing time-based phenomena. Using a digital video camera, the center pixel column is grabbed from each frame and appended to the end of a large panoramic image that unfolds in real-time. The single narrow vertical slice of the camera’s spatial perspective elongated over time, action in front of that narrow slice is seemingly smeared across the slit-scan panorama. The longer the slit-scan camera is allowed to run, the longer the resulting panorama. Slit-scan imaging can create panoramas hundreds of feet long and require new display systems to present them in their entirety. Usually slit-scanning requires hacked hardware or custom software to create the unique time-based images. I plan to write such custom software in order to achieve the highest resolution and frame rate possible, to create relationships with interactive input, and to spread the image over the multiple displays (possibly sharing the image across many synchronized computers) providing the cyclorama's imagery.

The cyclorama is a display system historically used to immerse viewers in large 360-degree panoramic paintings. The Krinkl-O-Tron’s cyclorama will be a cylindrical rear-projection screen with an opening for viewers to enter. The slit-scan camera will face the center of the cyclorama and display slit-scan imagery scrolling around the circumference of the cyclorama.  Large immersive display systems are not only a means of displaying super-resolute images, but also venues for exploring the possibilities of new media formats. The physicality of an immersive display system promotes the physical interaction with the media it displays and requires new forms of human computer interfaces. The cyclorama’s circular shape also moves beyond the rectangular screen paradigm and immerses its viewers in imagery that expands beyond their periphery. Its complete enclosure of the carousel will provide not only a sense of privacy for the participants, but also sense of mystery for the uninitiated. Presenting slit-scan imagery in a cyclorama transforms the traditionally rectilinear slit-scan images into a circular experience of re-contextualized time and space. The cyclorama will be built with modularity in mind. The size should allow its installation in small to medium sized galleries and performance spaces. I hope to address questions about multi-projector integration, screen and frame material, projecting on round surfaces, synchronizing multiple media systems together and technical issues of rear-projection in limited space. 

At the center of the Krinkl-O-Tron’s cyclorama is a human-powered carousel designed to accommodate four riders. The carousel is the human interface for interacting with the slit-scan camera and the means of locomotion for navigating the slit-scan images. The circular motion of carousel corresponds neatly to the circular form of the cyclorama and creates a congruous locomotion for viewing the display. The motion also creates a situation for the riders to be evenly scanned at regular intervals by the slit-scan camera. The riders interact with the slit-scan imagery and the cyclorama by changing the speed and direction of the carousel, the slit-scan’s speed and direction change in relationship to that  of the carousel. Its kinetic energy will be transformed into electricity and used to supplement, if not completely generate, the power requirements of the Krinkl-O-Tron. In building the carousel I will be exposed to many aspects of metal work and mechanical engineering via materials choice, the development of a minimum-constraint design, and welding.  I will also be addressing questions such as coupling, gearing, and choosing the best hardware for converting the kinetic energy of the carousel to electricity.

I have found the use of a human-powered carousel as a computer interface and electrical generator to be unique to the Krinkl-O-Tron, but also worth mention is the element of creative play it introduces. The Krinkl-O-Tron is fun, and the spinning motion, as one of man's earliest attempts at altering his consciousness, adds yet another layer of immersion with its dimensional vectors of force and, although immersive environments are nothing new in the amusements industry, rarely if ever do they serve any purpose but to entertain, and nothing results from the participants’ involvement.

The Krinkl-O-Tron's carousel will be designed in such a way as to be intuitively comprehended, effectively motivating participants to hop on and begin turning. When these participants initially approach the Krinkl-O-Tron there may be no image projected on the cyclorama. As soon as they begin turning the carousel the projectors will brighten and a slit-scan image will begin to develop, scrolling from one side of the cyclorama to the other. The brightness of the projectors as well as the speed and direction of the slit-scan image will correspond directly to the speed and direction of the carousel. As the riders pass as regular intervals in front of the slit-scan camera their images will be scanned on to the screen of the cyclorama. The repetition of individual riders appearing again and again creates a pattern that will be characteristic of the Krinkl-O-Tron’s slit-scan motif, and the participants should easily recognize that they are influencing the imagery through their physical positioning. The experience should last at least as long as it takes for one slit-scan panorama to complete an entire revolution around the circumference of the cyclorama. Depending on the speed of the carousel and the resolution of the slit-scan this should take about ninety seconds.

The success of the Krinkl-O-Tron relies in its component parts working seamlessly together so that the experience is immersive, fun, profound, and not inhibited by obtrusive technology. The interaction should be obvious and easily grasped by the participants, who, as in all things, will get out of the experience what they put into it. Their resulting slit-scan imagery should also be beautiful and provocative, and individualized to each of the participations. Hopefully the participant will come away from the experience with a desire to do it again, wondering what he or she could do next time to make the imagery even more interesting, and then come back to find out. For this reason, it is also crucial to the overall success and enjoyability of the Krinkl-O-Tron that the participatory sessions be relatively brief, discrete and clearly delineated so that no lines form outside the installation. For safety, the carousel must have smooth joins and edges, and padding or non-skid surfaces where necessary. It should be shiny and inviting, and equipped with blinking LEDs. Further aesthetic considerations for the Krinkl-O-Tron include the overall design to be as mysterious and innocuous as possible from the outside, and seamless on the inside.

The Krinkl-O-Tron has the potential to be installed in various galleries, performance centers and public spaces. The design will be modular, portable, and robust. The footprint should be no greater than twenty feet in diameter, small enough to fit a modestly sized space. The diversity of these components and their interrelated functions should provide levels of interest and engagement for people of all ages and backgrounds, whether through technological appreciation of the various components and their interrelation, artistic appreciation of the immersive, participatory images, or simply the amusement of riding on a carousel. I will attempt to procure the required video projectors, computers, and construction materials through grants, loans, and/or donations. I hope to create strong allies and collaborators to assist me in the procurement of materials and technology as well as aid in the design and fabrication of the various components. The total budget could be as low $1,000-$2,000 if many of the technical components are loaned or donated. If items such as projectors and computers must be purchased then the budget could approach $10,000.