Category Archives: Theater

The Dreamer

•   K N O W    T H Y S E L F   •

Meet the Dreamer, my new interactive art project, which I have just started to prototype.

This illuminated sculpture aims to make us more aware of the characters who live inside our heads, and how our emotions influence the way we perceive the world around us.

The Dreamer’s head lights up with rear-projected videos of some of the characters who influence us, along with memories and feelings that fill in our minds, day and night.

To show what the Dreamer is thinking, our first prototypes will display images of people and nature, sparking different moods, each represented by a different color, as shown below.

The Dreamer’s emotions can be shown with different colored lights, such as: red for anger, orange for fear, yellow for happiness, green for surprise, blue for sadness, purple for love, for example.

You can change the Dreamer’s worldview by pressing buttons to make him/her more happy or sad, angry or kind, fearful or curious (like social media emoticons). In response, the Dreamer’s head lights up with different colors and facial expressions, as these emotions are activated in his/her mind.

This kinetic sculpture can give us a glimpse at what goes on inside our heads, as images of our lives pass by, fleeting like clouds in the sky, colored by our moods. The Dreamer’s quiet face keeps transforming, responding to new images and emotions with images and sounds of its own.

As times goes by, we see the interplay of the forces that drive us: anger can turn into love, sadness into joy, fear into curiosity. And we can learn how changing our emotions can transform how we view the world.

See more photos in our Dreamer album.

Development

The Dreamer is being developed at Tam Makers and Pataphysical Studios, our maker spaces in Mill Valley, where we are creating our first prototypes.

We are just getting started on this project, so we don’t have precise specs yet. We will add them here soon, after we’re done experimenting with our first prototypes. The small AAXA P2B projector we’re using seems to work best about 24″ away from a standard 6″ wide mask. And the mask’s illumination varies based on your viewing angle, so we may want to make it rotate a bit from left to right, using a motorized turntable, as shown below.  

The current plan is to first sculpt a clay mask for the head (the prototype shown below was made from a life mask of my own head), flattened it a bit at the mouth, eyes and forehead, then vacuum-form that mask with translucent white plastic, so that we can rear-project a variety of faces onto that slightly opaque form.

Products

This interactive art piece will be presented in different ways:

• as part of the Time Machine we’re building at Pataphysical Studios (see photo below)

• as a stand-alone exhibit in art shows and galleries

• in large street performance during public events

• in short videos on the web.

The Dreamer is inspired by radical puppetry, maker technology and modern art. It is also informed by our recent art projects: Art Float, Bamboodu Theater, Maker Art workshops and Ubu’s Dreams.

Research

In previous experiments conducted in summer 2016 by Fabrice Florin and Jean Bolte, we attempted to bring characters to life by projecting videos of human faces onto ‘life casts’. For these first tests, we projected some of Fabrice’s interviews with Jean’s daughter Natalina and our friend Mark Petrakis onto the David Bowie and Sean Connery life casts, as well as on a plain mannequin head and mask.

The results of these first tests were very encouraging, as you can see in this video and in these photos of our first session and second session.

We think we can apply this projection mapping technique to the Dreamer project by combining full face projections with images of what the characters are thinking. For the Time Machine, we can project re-enactions of historical figures, against masks or heads set in a dark box behind of the Time Machine’s porthole. Opening the porthole would reveal an animated face from the past or future, which would speak to you for a moment, across time and space.

Here are some of our observations from those first tests:

• this technique works well to bring characters to life

• it creates the illusion that you are seeing a real person

• aligning the faces from the videos with the life casts can be tricky

• we may need to hold the actor’s heads to keep them aligned while we shoot

• getting the eyes, nose and mouth to match may require adjusting the video as well

• some interesting expressions come out when the faces are not perfectly aligned

• people can be made to look older or younger, depending which cast you use

• when the face looks straight at the camera, you really feel that it is talking to you

• some facial expressions work really well, like shifting eyes left and right

• some interesting effects can be created by speeding up the footage, as in Max Headroom

In our next experiments, we will play with different ways to align the projected image and the life cast, and make it all work in a small space.

Next Steps

We will start by experimenting with medium-size heads (8-inch high), to develop the characters and their interactions. These prototypes would be shown in a toy theatre (about 2 feet square).

Future versions could let us open the Dreamer’s head to see the characters that lurk inside and drive her emotions. These characters could be moved or replaced at will, to change the influence they have on the Dreamer. For those versions, we can adapt the customizable robot kits we developed in our Maker Art classes.

In the next phase, we could create larger versions of the Dreamer for street theater performances, in public settings such as marches or fairs. For those larger version, we could re-use the same trailer we built for the Art Float, which could support a large puppet as high as 8-feet tall.

We can create fun interactive experiences with the Dreamer as a focal point. In “Share Your Dream”, we would invite you to become the Dreamer for a moment, and project your own face inside its head. You would then tell us about your dream and we could record you on video.  

The Dreamer invites us to better understand how our emotions make us perceive the world in different ways. It can show us how to replace our destructive emotions with a more positive outlook.

Learn more on our planning page: http://bit.ly/dreamer-plan

See more photos in our Dreamer album.

 

The ‘Pataphysical Time Machine

We are creating a Time Machine at ‘Pataphysical Studios, our art collective in Mill Valley, where surrealism meets the maker culture.

The ‘Pataphysical Time Machine invites you to travel through time and meet characters from the past, present and future. We hope to engage our guests in a fun interactive experience that combines art, multimedia, theater and technology.

This 3D fly through video illustrates the experience we are creating. We invite our guests to go through a short interactive ritual during their visit: walk around the exhibit, step into our magic portal, pick a time to visit, travel to that time, meet its characters and return back to the present.

Through this experience, we hope to enchant guests of all ages and cultures. We typically host time travel expeditions with small groups of up to six people at a time, lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. To insure we don’t disrupt the delicate fabric of time, we ask that our guests do not exit the machine during our time travel journeys. We usually return our guests safely back to the time they came in from. Time travel is not for the faint of heart! 🙂

Press the buttons on this time travel dashboard to jump to different periods, which are shown on the illuminated screen above. 

Exhibit

Our Time Machine exhibit is inspired by steampunk and art movements from the early 20th century: Pataphysics, dada and surrealism.

Here are some of the artifacts we’re now building for our exhibit:

  • a mysterious, glimmering time capsule and cockpit
  • a violin-shaped dashboard with time travel buttons
  • an illuminated main screen to view scenes from distant times
  • animated figures of Anubis and the Creature from the Future Lagoon
  • frescoes of hieroglyphic characters from across the ages
  • crazy clocks spinning at random and singing about time
  • collages of time travel images and stories against the walls
  • mechanical iris portholes revealing mysterious apparitions

… and many more time travel artifacts!

To see our work in progress, view photos below, and our photo album for the Time Machine. To learn about other artifacts, visit our exhibit design spec for the physical structures. To learn more about the interactive experience, read our time travel design spec.

If you liked our ‘Pataphysical Slot Machine, we think this new art exhibit will transport you even further. Fire in the hole!

Animated figures of the ancient god Anubis and the Creature from the Future Lagoon are here to guide your journey through time.

To make our art come to life, we are now developing new media and technologies that will animate the exhibit with animated characters, lights, sounds, motion and videos of the different times you will travel to.

Media

Our growing video library already includes dozens of short clips for different time periods, to create the illusion of time travel.

This Belle Époque video takes you back in time to Paris at the start of the 20th century, when the arts and sciences flourished, along with a “joie de vivre” (joy of living) that is music to our ears.

This short video is just one of the scenes you can visit with the Time Machine, and its authenticity is confirmed by copious historical footage from a variety of sources. Other scenes in our prototype  include videos of the Big Bang, Dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, the French Revolution, A Trip to the Moon, Dada Cafe Voltaire, Trumpocalypse — and many more. Here are some of the other time scenes we‘re considering for the next version.

Meanwhile, our sounds library now includes many time travel soundtracks, as well as musical quotes about time (e.g. “Time!” by the Chambers Brothers, “Crying Time” by Ray Charles, etc.).

To learn about our multimedia plans, visit this media overview.

Technology

We will combine many different digital technologies to support the Time Machine experience: Arduino and Raspberry Pi for artifact devices, NodeRed for the central host, MQTT for the messaging protocol, EasyESP firmware and other tech.

Learn more in this infrastructure document, programming guide and technology overview.

Meet the team

About a dozen creators are building the Time Machine together. We’re artists, engineers, makers, performers, poets, organizers and multimedia innovators. Over the years, we have grown into a world-class troupe of interactive artists, who like to make things together and learn from each other. Most of us are members of Pataphysical Studios and listed in this community page

We work in small creative teams to design and build the different parts of the Time Machine, combining interactive art with lights, sounds, motion, and videos of different times. Besides Pataphysical Studios, some of our fabrication work takes place at at Tam Makers, our community makerspace in Mill Valley, where we use a wide range of tools, from laser cutters to CNC routers and milling equipment.

Learn more on our planning page and project lists.

Join us

This is the most complex art project that our team has taken on, and we could use more help. We are now recruiting a few more creators to contribute to our community project, so we can complete it together in coming years.

If you would like to help build this interactive art experience with us, email us at info@pataphysics.us. We’re particularly interested in collaborators who you live in the Bay Area and can join our weekly work sessions in Mill Valley on Saturday afternoons. But if you live outside the Bay Area, we can also collaborate on a variety of tech and media projects. Let’s talk!

It’s a true pleasure to help new teams come together to design and build the various parts of our Time Machine. That’s what collective art is about. We can’t wait to see what it will look like in a year!

For more project updates, we invite you to subscribe to our mailing list — and/or follow us on Facebook. Learn more at pataphysics.us. We hope to see you soon, online or in person.

Vive la ‘pataphysique!

Fabrice Florin (a.k.a. Dr. Fabio)

On behalf of Pataphysical Studios

_____________________________________________

PHOTOS OF THE TIME MACHINE CREATION

To see more photos of our work in progress, visit our photo album for the Time Machine.

This page was republished from our Pataphysical Studios site.

MVCAN-Do Revue

Singer Matt Jaffe performs ‘Dark Ages’ at the MVCAN-Do Revue. Photo: Martha Ture.

We celebrated one year of resistance with friends and neighbors at the MVCAN-Do Revue, our first anniversary celebration for MVCAN, our progressive political action group in Marin. To energize our community and lift our spirits, we presented an evening of music, dance and storytelling at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, on Saturday, November 11th, 2017.

I produced and hosted this community celebration with a world class team of MVCAN volunteers, to honor community members who took political action this year. We featured talented local performers, including rock singer Matt Jaffe, poet Natalie Frederick, hip hop dancers from RoCo Dance, music director Reed Fromer with the Shady Ladies and the Can-Do Singers — along with special presentations by MVCAN team leaders.

Watch their performances in the full event video below, shot by by David DonnenfieldEd Ellsworth and George Eade — and edited by yours truly.

In collaboration with filmmaker Gary Yost, I also created special video montages to tell the story of how MVCAN came together the day after the election, to resist the attacks against democracy by the Trump regime and right-wing extremists.

Their Year in Review video below showed many of the actions we took together: we marched for democracy, we defended civil and women’s rights, we phone banked to flip elections, we protected the environment, we helped reverse Trumpcare, we created political art, and much more. Watch other videos of this event in our MVCAN Vimeo album.

Special thanks to the photographers who took pictures of our event (Martha Ture, George Osner, Suz Lipman, Tim Pozar and Jean Bolte). You can view more pictures of our anniversary in our photo album on Flickr and on Facebook.

To produce this event, we assembled a special events team, which I spearheaded along with Danny Altman, June Cooperman, Mary Cosgrove, Suz Lipman, Carol Korenbrot, Marilyn Price and others. If you have any questions or comments for the team, please email us at events-lead@mvcan.org .

Thanks as well to the 60 cast and crew members who generously volunteered their time to host this event, and to all the donors who contributed generously to support our cause. And kudos to all community members  who took political action this year! In dark times like these, community action is more important than ever: it’s that choice to act together that defines us — and gives us hope that we can build a better world.

If you would like to participate in MVCAN , sign up here — and/or donate to support our cause.

Join your neighbors to keep democracy alive!

Event producer and host Fabrice Florin kicks off the MVCAN-Do-Revue. Photo: Martha Ture.

Young poet Natalie Frederick performs her poem about her political awakening. Photo: Martha Ture.

Activist and MVCAN leader Suz Lipman thanks our action teams. Photo: George Osner.

Dancers from RoCo’s Hip Hop group bring funk and groove to our event. Photo: Martha Ture.

Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears speaks about community action. Photo: Martha Ture.

Activists raise their fists for democracy at our MVCAN community celebration. Photo: Martha Ture.

MVCAN leaders Danny Altman and Bill Jansen list Top 10 things we did this year. Photo: Martha Ture.

The Shady Ladies sing their hearts out for democracy, led by Reed Fromer. Photo: Martha Ture.

Reed Fromer leads a sing-along with the Shady Ladies and Can-Do Singers. Photo: George Osner.

Activists, cast and crew gather for a final curtain call. Photo: George Osner.

MVCAN leaders June Cooperman and Bernard Catalinotto as Liberty and Trump. Photo: Suz Lipman.

Carol Korenbrot and MVCAN volunteers greet our generous donors. Photo: Suz Lipman.

Meet our event team: Suz Lipman, Marilyn Price, Fabrice Florin, Mary Cosgrove and June Cooperman (from left to right). Missing in action: Danny Altman and Carol Korenbrot. Photo: Ed Ellsworth.

View more pictures of our anniversary in our photo album on Flickr and on Facebook. Watch videos of this event in our Vimeo album.

Robot World

Create your own artistic robot! Learn how to make your robot move in a variety of ways, using a programmable Arduino board. Decorate your animated character, give it a story, and create a magical world for it to live in. All materials are included in this course: you can take your robot home when the class ends.

This Maker Art class for grades 4-5 took place at the Lycée Français in Sausalito. We met every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from 3:30 to 5pm, between September and December 2017.

Students developed new skills in playful ways: science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM), as well as creativity, problem-solving and communication skills.

Teachers were multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne.To learn more, view our photo albumcourse slides and student guide — and check our course page for updates.

For a quick overview, watch the short video below.

This short video of our Robot World class was created by Fabian at the Lycée Français. Merci!

Who is it for?

This program was for lower school children in grades 4 and 5 (ages 8-10). Four students participated in our afternoon class in Sausalito in fall 2017.

Where and when is it?

This class took place at Lycée Français in Sausalito, in the Innovation Lab (Room #340). The school entrance is 660 Coloma Street, Sausalito, CA 94945.

We met every Tuesday for 12 weeks, from September 12 to December 5, 2017, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm, at the Lycée Français in Sausalito.

Here was our course schedule:

  • Sep-12: Plan the robot world
  • Sep-19: Learn about robots
  • Sep-26: Build your robot 1
  • Oct-3: Build your robot 2
  • Oct-10: Program your robot 1
  • Oct-17: Program your robot 2
  • Oct-24: Break: No Class
  • Oct-31:Program your robot 2
  • Nov-7: Break: No Class
  • Nov-14: Finish your robot
  • Nov-21: Create the robot world
  • Nov-28: Rehearse your show
  • Dec-5: Shoot videos
  • Dec-12: Show & Tell

 

Can we see pictures from the classes?

Here are photos from our last “show and tell” class, when students performed a little play with their robots, based on their own original story: Devil Bot stole a secret recipe from Chef Bot, who runs the bakery where all the food is prepared in Food Ville. Police Bot and Swat Bot then chased the devil and locked him up, restoring peace in their little world, with “pizza for all.” 

Here are some photos from our first classes.

You can see more pictures in our photo album.

What are students learning?

Students are creating their own robot and interactive art, in a playful way that makes learning more fun. Working collaboratively, they make their bots move, bringing characters to life and interacting with others in their new ‘robot world.’

This unique combination of art and technology helps them develop a range of new skills:

  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • Arduino, robotics and programming
  • science, technology, engineering, art and math skills (STEAM)
  • creative expression, communication & collaboration skills

Learn more in our course slides and student guide.

 

Do you also teach this class for adults?

Yes! We taught a Create a Robot class for adults and teens at Tam Makers in Mill Valley.

In just two evenings in September 2017, we showed students how to build their own artistic robot with Arduino, make it move around, shake its head and wave. And they got to take their animated creature home with you, to impress friends and family. 🙂  We may teach more adult classes in the future. Check out our classes page at Tam Makers.

 

What materials are included?

Each student received a robot kit, which they learned to assemble, control and program.

For this class, we created our own robot kit, using an Arduino Feather M0 for the robot, an Pro Micro for the remote, a custom chassis, plus three additional servos and more parts. Our robot kit was similar to commercial kits, but with a lot more features at a lower cost. This robot kit was decorated by the students to create an interesting animated character. Learn more about our robot kit in our student guide.

This robot kit supports these features:
Roaming – the bot can move around under user control
Moving – the bot can move some body parts (turn its head, wave its arms, using servos)
Inputs – the bot has a variety of buttons (on/off button, buttons for different gestures, etc.)
Remote – the bot can be controlled remotely (using a remote control or desktop app)
Lights – the bot can have lights in its body (LEDs that blink, glow, or fade on and off)
Sounds – the bot can play audio (using piezo buzzer to play simple beeps and tunes)
Programming – the bot is easy to code (with visual programming tool like Snap4Arduino)
Flexibility – the bot can be expanded (with extra parts to be ordered separately)
Pricing – the bot is affordable (we’re aiming for a maximum of $75 per robot)

They programmed their robots with Snap4Arduino and made them move in different ways with servo motors. We used the school’s Macs to program the robots, using the Arduino software and Snap4Arduino, a visual programming tool. Arduino code was shared with parents when class ended, so they can help students to continue to program their robot at home.

What do the robots look like?

Students created some cool characters for their Robot World: Chef Bot, Devil Bot, Police Bot and Swat Bot

Each student received their own robot kit, which they learned to assemble, control and program. They built a chassis, wired up the Arduino electronics, made their own remote control, added a head and arms (laser cut based on their designs). Last but not least, they painted and decorated them to give them unique personalities. You can track their progress in our photo album.

The video above shows what our robots looked like in early stages of development. Our fun robots can roam around, shake their heads and flap their wings, at the touch of a button. 

Below are a few photos of our first prototypes, made with laser-cut wood figures and servo motors (to see them in action, watch our video). We call them ‘Bambots’. This name is short for ‘Bamboodu Robot’: it is inspired by the fictional Bamboodu tribe we created for art projects like the Bamboodu Float and the Pataphysical Slot Machine.

Bambots like to shake their heads and flap their wings back and forth. The photos below show other prototypes of a Bambot Angel and an Bambot Dude, in different stages of construction.

For more pictures of this course, see our photo album.

 

What does the robot world look like?

We invited students to design a magical world for their robots, then build it and decorate it.

They imagined a future wonderland called FoodVille: a peaceful world filled with food, to insure a life of ‘everlasting fun.’ They created a colorful landscape centered around a volcano spilling out candy lava, with robot homes and a bright red soda fountain.

We asked students to decorate their robots so they looked like characters in that fantasy world. For a closer look, see our photo album for this course.

Who are the teachers?

Multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin and software designer Edward Janne taught this course.

Fabrice Florin

Fabrice is an art maker and social entrepreneur who creates unique experiences to inform and engage communities through digital and physical media. He has led the development of many pioneering products in education, news and entertainment, working with innovators such as Apple, Macromedia and Wikipedia. He is now a teacher and artist at Tam Makers in Mill Valley, where he teaches maker art to adults and kids. Learn more at fabriceflorin.com .

 

Edward Janne

Edward is a software developer and teacher at Tam Makers. He has an extensive background in interactive design and engineering. Prior to joining us, he was a technical animator at Bonfire Labs, a creative content agency. He also studied at the Academy of Art University and the University of San Francisco. Edward has taught several Maker Art classes with us, and will lead more classes for adults and teens at Tam Makers this fall.

 

How can I learn more?

To learn more, view our photo albumcourse slides and student guide — and check our course page for updates.

Also read this overview of our Maker Art classes, and visit our site for Tam Makers, our community makerspace in Mill Valley.

For more info, email Fabrice at fabriceflorin-at-gmail-dot-com.

Ubu’s Dreams

Ubu’s Dreams is a shadow puppet show featuring Père Ubu and surreal characters from his unconscious. This play was created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin, with Edward Janne, Dan Cantrell, Phyllis Florin, Jean Bolte and our friends at Pataphysical Studios.

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, San Francisco on November 3, 5 and 12, 2016. Watch the video here. The show was part of the ‘Pataphysics of Dada exhibit for the Dada World Faire hosted by City Lights Books.

What’s it about?

Ubu’s Dreams stars Père Ubu, the protagonist of Alfred Jarry’s plays at the turn of the 19th century. This shadow puppet show features many surreal characters from his unconscious: big faces, talking ravens, exploding cows and other creatures from the wild ubu-beyond.

Ubu’s Dreams explores new ways of telling stories with shadows, combining laser-cut wood figures, mechanical automata, a rich musical soundtrack as well as video and multimedia scenery. This 12-minute show consists of three separate plays with music interludes.

Watch the video below. For more details about this first show, check out this scripts page.

Where was it shown?

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams on November 3rd, 5th and 12th, 2016, 6-8pm, during our ’Pataphysics of Dada exhibit at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, for the Dada World Faire.

We may perform Ubu’s Dreams again in 2017. Please contact us at info@pataphysics.us with any questions or suggestions of possible venues for our next show.

In the meantime, you can watch the video of our first performance here on Vimeo.

And here is our photo album from recent shows, including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

How are the characters made?

The shadow puppets in Ubu’s Dreams are made of wooden figures and shapes created in Adobe Illustrator and laser cut onto ⅛” birch plywood. We animate these puppets by hand from behind the screen, holding them on thin vertical sticks planted on animation stands. A few of the characters have moving parts, such as arms or mouths — and some of the parts light up.

We plan to bring some of these figures to life by making them move with small motors. We’re also experimenting with spotlights and other forms of automation. Some long-term aspirations for this experiment are outlined in this Theatre Mécanique blog post.   

 

What does the show look like?

Here are photos for each scene in the show.

See more pictures in this photo album — including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

What is going on behind the screen?

Here are photos of the performers and their puppets.

How does it work?

This shadow puppet show takes place inside the Magic Theater, a mobile stage for interactive storytelling we created for this project.

The Magic Theater is based on a wooden cart with a PVC framework. It includes a powerful projector over the performers’ heads, which illuminate the top of the screen, so the show can be seen even in a crowded room.

 

Who created this?

Here are the fine folks who created this project:

Created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin

Written, Performed and Directed by Mark Petrakis

Designed and Produced by Fabrice Florin

Animated and Engineered by Edward Janne

Music by Dan Cantrell

Stage Design and Construction by Fabrice Florin, Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis and Jean Bolte

Special Thanks to our friends at Pataphysical Studios

 

How can I learn more?

Watch the video here. See also: photo album, scripts page and timeline.