Tag Archives: Multimedia

Bamboodu Float at the Parade

People loved our Bamboodu Float at the 2017 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade!

I created this political art performance with the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), to express our frustration with the Trump regime.

Our puppet theater on wheels stars Lady Liberty and Tiny Trump: each time Trump tweets fake news, Liberty bonks him on his thick bobble head.

Here’s a video of our parade with dozens of artists and MVCAN members:

Thousands of spectators cheered and sang along with us: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses …” This lovely poem by Emma Lazarus was turned into song by Gareth Loy and performed by local singers, including members of the Shady Ladies.

Veteran journalist Paul Liberatore wrote this fine cover story for the Independent Journal, the largest newspaper in the North Bay. ABC 7 News featured our political art throughout their Memorial Day coverage (a clip from their news report is included in the above video). Our video also includes footage from a wonderful parade montage by Gary Yost, with a moving guitar solo by young musician Matt Jaffe.

This Memorial Day Parade was organized by Larry “the Hat” Lautzker, Mill Valley’s colorful clothier. The parade judges gave us the “Best Community Spirit Award.” One judge, Eric Christensen, explained why he voted for our entry: “I thought it was a very appropriate message to send on Memorial Day: if people don’t stand up to Trump and his policies, our future will be filled with many more war dead to memorialize.” 

Our friends at MVCAN invited me to give a talk about this project and the importance of art in politics at their monthly MVCAN meeting. Here are my takeaways:

  • Art engages us at a deeper level
  • It unites us around shared emotions
  • We identify with the characters of our stories
  • We spread our message to a wider audience
  • It invites people of all ages to participate
  • It sparks our imagination to invent the future
  • Making art together is fun and inspiring
  • It encourages playful collaborations
  • It builds community and strengthens our bonds

Here’s the video of my talk. See our slides for more info.

I’m very grateful to all the MVCAN friends and neighbors who helped build this float in our front yard: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, Phyllis Florin, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Edward Janne, Suz Lipman, Charlene Lundgren, Jean Marie Murphy, Mark Petrakis and Martha Roush, to name but a few. See the team in action in our photo album.

Special thanks to my amazing friend and associate Edward Janne, who designed and engineered the technology behind this float, using an Arduino, an MP3 shield and NeoPixel matrices. He coded the Bamboodu Player, the custom software which allowed me to choreograph our live performance, using this simple script. If you’d like to learn how to build systems like these, we’ll teach another Arduino class together this fall at Tam Makers.

Many thanks as well to our friends at Pataphysical Studios, our art collective, who marched ahead of us holding a large Traffic Jam sign, from an earlier caper memorialized in this video. We all wore our purple lab coats and funny hats, to set the tone for this new political art march.

I’m really happy that so many people enjoyed our Bamboodu Theater — and that our performance helped promote the Mill Valley Community Action Network — a grassroots political group that helps us coordinate our resistance to right-wing attacks on our liberties. 

Through this interactive art experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to get engaged in political action. If you live in the North Bay, sign up here on the MVCAN site — and join your neighbors to keep democracy alive!

Vive la liberté!

Fabrice

Learn more about the Bamboodu Float:

#art #bamboodu #indivisible #mvcan #politics #puppets #resist #theater

Bamboodu Theater

Behold the Bamboodu Theater, my new puppet stage for civic events and art shows.

This interactive theater experience features the Bamboodu spirit, a mythical creature rising from the earth to expose the troubles facing America and the world. Above his head are some of the characters that haunt his dreams, playing out the eternal fight between fear and hope.

Our first scene stars Lady Liberty and Mr. Trump. As surreal music plays, Mr. Trump’s recent tweets and alternative facts scroll by on a news ticker below the stage. Each time Trump says something wrong, Liberty hits him on his thick, bobbing head — until his oversize jacket falls off, revealing that the emperor truly has no clothes.

At the end of this short play, we invite our guests to sing along the inspiring words of Emma Lazarus’s poem about the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor …”). Through this interactive experience, we hope to engage people of all ages to think about the values we share — and help change the world through civic action.

Bamboodu Theater is a work-in-progress, combining mixed-media art with radical puppetry, along with electronic text, lights and sounds powered by Arduino. We customize the experience for each public appearance, whether it is shown as a stand-alone exhibit, a parade float or a street theater performance.

We premiered this interactive theater experience at Signs of Hope, an inspiring exhibit of political art that ran from April 14th to 29th at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael. See photos of our theater in that exhibit. Learn more on our project page.

We are now building a special float to feature the Bamboodu Theater at the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 29, 2017. To create this float, I am working with a wonderful team at the Mill Valley Community Action Network (MVCAN), a local political group which I recently joined to resist the conservative takeover of our country.

Our new Bamboodu Float is coming along very nicely, as shown in this photo album. Learn more on our project page. In coming months, we plan to show it at other civic events and political rallies.

Bamboodu Theater was created by Fabrice Florin, in collaboration with Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis, Geo Monley, Jean Bolte, Howard Rheingold and our friends at Pataphysical Studios and Tam Makers. Special thanks to Gareth Loy for permission to use his Mother of Exiles song, and to all the MVCAN members who are helping build our parade float: Danny Altman, Laura Boles, David Glad, Peter Graumann, Suz Lipman and Jean Marie Murphy, to name but a few. I’m deeply grateful to you all.

It’s been a true pleasure to work with so many friends and neighbors to keep democracy alive through art and theater.
Vive la liberté!

Théatre Mécanique

Theatre Mécanique is a proposed interactive storytelling system for recreating a wide range of stories with animated puppets.

Theatre Mécanique is a proposed interactive storytelling system featuring animated puppets and computer-controlled multimedia.

I propose to create a Théatre Mécanique — a project which I would like to work on in coming years, in collaboration with others. (For a visual overview, check out these slides.)

The idea is to build an interactive storytelling system that would let you experience and remix some of the great myths and legends shared by all cultures around the world. It would enable small groups of people to collaboratively reenact some of these universal stories, connect them with their daily lives — and better understand each other as a result.

This theater cart would enable small groups of people to experience some of the universal myths we all share.

This theater cart would enable small groups of people to experience universal myths, and select plot elements.

This mini theater would be mobile, like a hot dog stand, so it could be located anywhere, from birthday parties to street fairs or even on the Playa. It would feature animated puppets, which could either be controlled manually by live performers, or automatically by small computers like Arduino: the puppets could slide in and out of the stage, face one another and/or move their heads and limbs, as shown in the prototype we’re now developing for a balinese cuckoo clock.

Animated puppets would act out short stories selected by participants, set against colorful images on a rear-projected screen.

Animated puppets would act out short stories against colorful images, rear-projected on a background screen.

This mixed media system would include a good sound system for amplifying background music, sound effects and character voices, either live or pre-recorded. A rear-projection screen would set the mood by displaying a wide range of images for each scene, from landscapes from around the world to historical or futuristic scenes. An interactive controller at the front of the stage would let visitors and performers select different types of stories, characters, images and sounds.

Participants would be invited to approach the theater and pick a topic, place or time on the controller. The puppets would then act out a short 1-3 minute scene based on your selection. At the end of each scene, they would ask you for more plot ideas, to guide what happens next. The performance would be recorded on video, which could be emailed to you afterwards, as shown in this first example.

This is an ambitious project, but it appeals to me deeply, because it has the potential to support a wide range of applications: from simple party entertainment to more creative uses, like a time machine simulation — or even scenario planning for group discussions.

In coming months, I would like to explore this idea with friends and collaborators, starting with simple low-tech theatrical experiments and eventually building small prototypes for key parts of the system. I am quite aware this is a large, multi-year project, so I am proposing to start small, and spread research and development over time, with actual fabrication starting a year later. This process is inspired by our collaborative work on the Pataphysical Slot Machine, which we aim to exhibit in public this year.

For this Theatre Mécanique, I hope we can find the right balance between existing storytelling traditions and new interactive technologies — so that the human qualities that make great performances possible are supported by these tools, rather than supplanted by them. Interestingly, this also ties in with the larger challenge we all face as a species, as we look for the right interplay between human and machine intelligence. To that end, I hope that we can tap diverse communities of artists and engineers to participate in this creative experiment.

Fortunately for us, there is a large community of puppeteers already practicing around the world, from Guignol to ‘toy theaters’ to Wayang — and these creative artists have already paved the way for this art form to evolve in a computer-assisted setting! I look forward to discussing these ideas with interested collaborators later this year. For now, I have included below a variety of links that might inspire us in planning this project.

Onward!

Communications at Wikimedia

Wikimedia logo family complete 2

I am happy to announce that I have joined the Wikimedia Foundation’s Communications team as Movement Communications Manager.

I have really enjoyed my work as product manager at Wikimedia in the last three years, leading the development of new tools like Notifications, Thanks, Beta Features, Media Viewer and other multimedia products. I am grateful for this opportunity to improve so many different parts of the Wikipedia user experience.

One of the lessons I learned during that time is that ‘better communications’ are really important to make the Wikimedia movement more effective. I also think that growing a ‘culture of kindness‘ is key if we want to engage a broader community of contributors. I hope to support both of these goals in my new role. 

I am now working with the WMF communications team on the Wikimedia blog and movement communications. My focus for the blog includes improving contributor workflow for community members and foundation staff, and providing editorial guidance for contributors. I also act as the main contact point for authors submitting new blog posts, and shepherd the publication process. Within movement communications, I work to improve the availability, distribution, and timeliness of communications from the foundation to the broader community.

I’d like to thank all my colleagues on the multimedia and product teams — as well as our many community champions — for being such wonderful collaborators over the past few years. I am proud of what we accomplished together, and I hope that the features we created can help many more people share knowledge productively in years to come. 

I’m delighted to take on this new assignment, and I look forward to many more productive collaborations in the coming year.

Onward!