The Yellow Wallpaper

Production design for a distributed reading of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The reader’s voice, and intention, interacts with the pattern of the titular paper. This project uses speech recognition via, audio input from the reader’s laptop and osc messaging from a touch screen mobile device.


The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story told from the perspective of a woman who is convalescing following an unspecified illness and the birth of her son. As she grows more isolated, she begins to notice increasingly sinister patterns appearing in the wallpaper of her room. This work by American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was first published in January 1892, and is now in the public domain. The video above is an excerpt of the longer text, which runs to about 20 minutes when read aloud. In order to exhibit the range of interaction with the wallpaper, I have truncated what would be quite a slow burning set of visual cues. All visuals and transitions were written in c++ using OpenFrameworks, with speech recognition via enabled with python scripting.

The readers voice interacts with the ‘wallpaper’ code in a number of ways. The most subtle interaction, and the most technically challenging, involved transitioning from one set of images and colour palette to another, based on the content of the readers speech. This involves taking a short recording of the reader’s voice and this as an http POST request to then return a transcript of the text, along with any ‘entities’ it’s trained to recognise. In this case it was trained to recognise sentiment, and returns value indicating whether the recorded speech was ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’. 

After struggling significantly with posting audio streams in C++, I ended up writing a script in Python. The script records and POSTs the http request detailed above. The response is then converted to JSON, parsed and saved as a text file. My openFrameworks programme then reads this file, extracts the response and uses it to trigger the change in colour palette. 

The image below illustrates the ‘Positive’ and ‘Negative’ color palettes. 

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This image shows the Python script running and writing the response to file. The openFrameworks console shows the the sentiment of the statement, in this case ‘neutral’, which is stored as a variable and printed. It then tries to delete the file – returning an error if the file has already been consumed.

Audio in
Other graphics are manipulated using the audio inputted through the reader’s laptop microphone. The volume of speech is extracted, and used to change the parameters of certain shapes in real time, as the image below illustrates.

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OSC messaging
Although my intention was to have all scene transitions be dictated by voice, speech recognition was too unpredictable to rely on fully. In order to have more nuanced control of transitions during performance, I also used OSC messaging to allow me to make finer changes to the scene.



This work was originally conceived as a live performance, to be seen in a physical space.  Following the restrictions imposed on movement earlier in 2020, I made the decision to try and adapt my production design for web. I think was ambitious and somewhat successful, however although I had intended to create an experience which was specifically designed for web, I do recognise that as a performance the reading may have been more engaging in person as originally envisioned. I also struggled with the Python scripting (I had never used Python prior to this project) so long that I wish I had spent more time on making the work more varied over time.


The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 7 May 2020).


Audio input example, openFrameworks example sketch

indianpythonista (2017) ‘Speech Recognition using’, Indian Pythonista, 10 April. Available at: (Accessed: 7 May 2020).

The Ultimate Guide To Speech Recognition With Python – Real Python (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 7 May 2020).

C++ addons

Concrete 2, and Soft Wallpaper by Atle Mo via

Redruth’s Basement Software, Fountain Pen Frenzy, (c) 2001 RBS, Freeware


Carpet Weavers is an installation which consists of a projection mapped on to a physical object – a pile of cardboard cubes. This work was exhibited in January 2020, as part of Push Pop Repeat, a showcase of MA Computational Art student works.

My art practice is generally very conceptual, and can be quite sombre in tone. For this project I wanted to push my comfort zone aesthetically as well as technically, and have a bit of fun with it. I set about trying to create a series of graphic patterns which complemented and augmented a boxy structure. I chose to use a pallet of vibrant, at times inharmonious colours. I hoped this would arrest attention and that the colours would translate well to projection. Predictably, when installed there was some colour bleaching and at certain points the area around the structure was more brightly lit than I would have wanted.

The structure of the boxes was intentionally haphazard, and the final structure was confirmed on the day of installation. Although we didn’t plan the precise arrangement of boxes ahead of time, we knew we wanted the structure to have a tangible depth and physical presence. The intention of this was to foreground the mapped images, rather than the structure.

The overall look I was trying emulate was a combination of 1960’s textile design, science fiction and kitsch. I referred to the work of op artists including Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley, and fashion houses/designers including Mary Quant and Marimekko. The inspiration for the individual patterns themselves initially came from textures I observed in everyday objects – the texture of a fibreglass suitcase, a carpet in a pub, a gif of a candle lid under a ceiling fan. I would then set about reverse engineering the patterns with OpenFrameworks. I maintained a cohesive aesthetic by using a specific colour pallet, and reusing the grid structure. This in turn reflected the textile designs to which I was referring. The piece ends with a scene of a cluster of points moving in space, with stars slowly blinking in the background. This is intended as an explicit nod to science fiction, and a design aesthetic that’s both futuristic and retro.

I am happy with my work but I think if I were to do this project again, I would draw less granular patterns as some of the detail was lost when translating from a screen to a projector. Although I hoped to keep the audience’s attention with transitions and scene changes, some of the patterns were quite static, so I would incorporate more exaggerated movement. I did try to push myself technically by creating lots of patterns and scene changes. However, my confidence has increased significantly in the short time since writing the code for this assignment. Therefore somewhat conversely, if I were to start this project again, I would focus more on creating an elegant and succinct work – rather than stress out about my visuals being too simplistic.

Music Credit, sro – Self Driving CC BY-SA 4.0 Creative Commons License

ofxPiMapper – openFrameworks Addon, Krisjanis Rijnieks 2019

Worlds smallest violin

Next Friday (as of 23/02/2020) I will be having a class where I am part of a group discussion where we all thrash out what our research projects might be for the next term. This is the second research project I’ve undertaken in this particular field, the first being a group project investigating sound pollution. This will be my first project based on my specific research interests. And if you can’t tell by my rambling introduction, I’m bricking it a little bit. The thing that undermines my work during projects like this is my lack of specific focus. I want to try and make sure my work is embedded and contextual. I want to approach any project with the understanding that we are inexorably enmeshed in a multitude of balls of wool, tangled in another beings hair and that we are complicit and explicitly involved all the time, everywhen. But this makes it baggy and superficial (and badly researched).

It’s pretty overwhelming I have to say. I had an idea recently for an imagined speculative app which somehow calculates what your key cause would be for that day, for the maximum amount of self masturbatory aggrandising smugshittyness. It would be a systems based solution for the ultimate first world problem – what to care about more. Say it’s a sunny spring Tuesday – that’s a day for caring about the rights of sex workers – a rainy spring Tuesday might be a day to reflect on the problem of overfishing, a moody Thursday in Autumn is an FGM day for sure. This feels macabre and funny – at least to me – not in that I feel that any of these specific causes are funny or trivial, the complete opposite. It’s more of my own stress and guilt for not being a more active participant in alleviating the suffering that I am complicit in by being alive, now. For instance, I just looked up how much Dona Harraway: Story Telling For Earthly Survival (DVD) is on Amazon – I mean what the fuck me. It’s available on there for 20 euros but at what cost?

Would this be the ultimate ‘woe is me’ act – to remove the burden of choice from someone who has no existential threat to their existence (bar the big ones we are all ignoring (nukes etc)). Or – would it be really subversive and funny? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’ll talk to some people and see what that say. I should probably talk to some critters too.

Like bunnies; the multiplicity of the digitally witnessed moment

Image credit unsplash-logo
Jennifer Chen

What is it that a screen does as intermediary between the witness and the moment? What happens as the act is captured, and given a new beginning and end, new dramatic beats and punctuation?

When the act has been captured, what happens to the veracity of the compressed act, its components split and sent as separate packages?

Knowing that these few transfiguration happen, not even what they do, what implications does this have for the documentarian? Even with the understanding that they have the privilege (or burden) of choosing when a moment is born how do they reckon with the ability to watch the moment on mute, or as a gif? The is moment reformed in the screen, more or less, with captions maybe, and an ident at the beginning or a watermark. The witness receives it a couple of inches across or stretched across the side of a building and then a second documentarian might capture that moment and then whats become of the first one?

I say capturing, but more accurately I mean subdue – as it will take off bounding down the street and start reproducing as soon as look at you. I tell you, no one will be agile enough to catch up to it, let alone compare it to how it looks now compared to before it was squished and stretched and reformed and everything. Not the the documentarian, the witness, the other documentarian or the moments offspring, nor even the bystanders of the thing that happened in the first place.

And don’t even get me started on the archivist. First you have to round up all the baby moments and split them into packages again to save them in some form– which is really just breeding them. Then you have to give them names, or try and get them in some semblance of order which just creates more babies. Someone will come and want to come and see the moments which really just enables the moments to mingle and network and shag and make more versions of themselves. Someone will want to restore one that doesn’t look as expected and there pops out another six. You can’t stop them – they’re like rabbits.

I was watching a film with a friend recently who speaks English as a second language. We watched a film in English with English subtitles. We noticed after a little while that the words spoken by the actors were not the same as the subtitles. Someone said something like, ‘Come in, take a seat why don’t you’, and the subtitles read ‘Sit down’. The two versions of speech had very distinct tonal differences and it sent us reeling. We couldn’t finish the thing. If it were dubbed too, I don’t think we would have recovered. But I mean if we can’t keep a scripted moment consistent, what hope in hell do we have of accurately subduing, packaging and sharing a moment found in the wild. I think we may have to resign ourselves to letting them roam free, and to reach the next witness with whatever battle scars they’ve picked up. Probably the most we can do is tag them.

Sad Emoji: VR as empathy machine

I find it interesting that, although it seems like a given that there will be multiple individual experiences of one particular event, that the aim of artists/practitioners can be understood to be to elicit a specific emotional reaction with a work. Although I understand the compulsion to try and share and experience wholesale via a work of art – I’ve tried to do it many times to varying degrees of success – my experience/gut tells me it can’t be done. This is not to say that a genuine reaction can’t be evoked by an artwork, but rather that it may be impossible to ensure that the lasting experiences was as you intended. You may be able to convey ‘sad’ for instance, but not necessarily ‘regret’.

I’ve had one or two conversations about the experience of VR recently.  When I refer to VR, I mean stereoscopic virtual reality, which uses goggles and handheld control i.e. Oculus or playstation VR. During these conversations, my colleagues suggested that VR gave the potential to create a more visceral experience, and in turn this would enable architect of that experience could elicit a more potent and lasting empathetic connection with their argument. I argued that this wouldn’t be the case for a number of reasons (more elegantly summarised by Deborah Levitt here), including the weighting of visual perception over all other forms of sensory perception, the assumption that being in a space, albeit virtual, creates a more potent experience than is possible through other less representational mediums like poetry or music and the side-lining of VRs potential for invention and speculation. My main objection, however, was the assumption that everyone would take their googles off having had the same experience.

This is in no way to suggest there is not value in VR as an artform – rather that than in the same way that we are inured to discussing more familiar forms of propaganda critically, we should be critical when discussing VR as an ‘empathy machine’. For instance a film may have a specific, if not explicit, intention – but we as a rule to not assume that every individual will interpret it as having the same message. Similarly, the song conjures up painful memories for you may be on my getting ready playlist. There is a sweeping-ness, or reduction of the significance of lived experience in the assumption that because you are looking at the same picture, that you see the same thing. For instance, in November 2018 I lead several workshops in the Tate Modern, with the aim to help young people access their existing visual lexicon and critical voices when discussing art. The turbine hall was hosting a series of works by artist/activist Tania Bruguera. In a small room of the main hall, a room was filled with an organic compound which caused temporary eye irritation similar to cutting onions and induced tears. The artist has described the work as provoking ‘forced empathy’, and reflection on the global migration crisis. The young people I was with, in contrast to this intent, approached the space as a site of play and humour. This is not a failing of the work, rather an indication that an audience is not homogenous and won’t behave as such.

It would be revolutionary if VR could allow us, in this era of non-facts, to create real empathy and knowing. Personally, I would find it alarming – who would have the right hands to hold that kind of influence?

‘Reply hazy, try again’; how Oracle Practice is better than a Magic 8-Ball.

Last week I asked the Oracle “what is the price of good health”.

This question was on my mind for a number of reasons, but mostly because more than one of my close female family members are experiencing health difficulties at the moment. I read my question aloud and then put it in the Basket of Yes, which in this moment happened to take the form of a laptop case, as did a number of others who were also present. When I read my question to the Oracle, I also gave a page number. The Oracle, otherwise known as M Archive, the second book in an experimental triptych containing series of black feminist vignettes written by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, answered my question via the writing on the page I suggested. The Oracle gave me an answer which I was invited to interpret alone, or in collaboration with others present.

The collective Basket of Yes exercise was devised by Gumbs, inspired by a vignette of a basket-wearer in M-Archive. Both the book, when it is read as a book, and the exercise, when the book is an Oracle, suggest that the archive is not just a dusty collection of records; static and useful for reference. Rather, they suggest that the archive is a collective and active body of knowledge which speaks to us in the present and to the possible versions of us in the future. Indeed, the book as Oracle answered me with a surprisingly apt and relevant passage (see pg. 63 of M-Archive).

The answer was not predetermined ala magic 8 ball. The book was not explicitly written to act as Oracle*, indeed during Gumb’s own staging of the exercise, the Oracle answers through a variety of black feminist writings. It may seem fantastical to imagine that the book could literally answer my question in this way. However, my experience in that moment was that it did answer me, although in true Oracle fashion, the answer required interpretation.

I found the experience quite affecting. This may be because of the sensitivity of the questions asked on the day. It may be because the Barnum effect gave me the impression the text was speaking directly to me. Moreover I think it was affecting because, as a mirror to the multiple possible futures the archive can address, shared Oracle practice allows the practitioner to appreciate a multiplicity of (mis)interpretations. This is a practice of thought which acknowledges the complexity and entanglement of individual perception. It undermines linearity and inevitability. It pays homage to our ancestors in the archive, and our possible future selves.

In the summer, Alexis Pauline Gumbs will be coming to Goldsmiths to speak at a seminar and will facilitate a basket of yes exercise. All the multitude of versions of me really want to go.

 *You could argue all books are destined to act as Oracle.

Evil twin; using technical critical practice to create a disobedient object.

A ‘disobedient object’ subverts the material or functional qualities of a familiar object in order to communicate a particular, often political, message. Typically, these objects are dopplegangers of everyday/ubiquitous items (the clock, the bra). A ‘disobedient object’, a trickster twin, uses its appearance of ubiquity to belie its radical intentions, while acknowledging the original object’s existing web of relations.

‘Disobedient objects’ may be badly behaved in that they do not perform their function as expected. Or else they may behave in exactly the way they were intended; but are used in a subversive context – i.e. as a tool of disobedience. Often made in resistance to an established process or system, the disobedient object’s objecthood sets useful boundaries for it’s maker/artist. By imposing a limitations – insisting the object is physical – its creator is forced to distill the message to a pithy, memorable phrase.

As the disobedient object is often to a reaction to a systemic condition, the ideal space for the object to be found is in the space where the symptoms of the condition are also observed. For example, an object commenting on conditions of working life, would be found in the workplace rather than in an art institution or gallery context.

Using technical critical practice, the conceptualisation of disobedient object can evolve through the scrutiny of an authoritative or political process. I attempted this recently with colleagues. We began by choosing to interrogate the online status icon – a digital artifact which lets an individual’s contact know they are online and indicates whether or not they are available to talk. Once we had scrutinised the technical, discursive and social aspects of this artifact, we then dreamt up our own version of its naughty twin.

Mapping of the social, technical and discursive aspects of an online status icon.
Example of Facebook chat online icon – the green dot, with contact details obscured.

The most significant aspects, as we identified them, were as follows:

  1. The colour scheme of the icon mimics the traffic light system– red == unavailable, green == available. These signifiers have their roots in industry – specifically the rail/automotive industries in the West.
  2. Social expectation of availability and the subsequent development of new digital social etiquette have changed as consequence of the immediacy and inexpensive nature of internet communication.
  3. There has become a blurring of personal, industrial, local and global temporalities.
  4. We experience multiple presences (for instance I am here typing, I am having a conversation which has lasted a whole day on Whatsapp, and one that’s been going on for years on facebook and I am present for them all), which contributes to an…
  5. Altered sense of immediacy, change in temporality (a life lived in multiple timelines [1]).

We each felt that these observations gave legitimacy to the latent dislike we all felt towards the online icon – although we had not been cognisant of them before the exercise. We merely felt a directionless unease with the idea of tracked through our app usage.

We considered a number of different ways to subvert the icon – for example creating an add-on which makes it appear as if you are logging on and off continuously, obscuring your real presence. However, the solution we felt most expressed our distaste for being categorised as ‘online’ or ‘offline’, was the substitution of the status icon with a multicoloured ‘disco’ ball (we image via an add-on). The ball would appear as many colours simultaneously, obscuring the users activities while acknowledging the fact we are all simultaneously online, offline, away, at the gym, seen 32 mins ago…


Gilt Cages

Image: Zach Blas’ Fag Face Mask, 2014

On Friday 22nd, I attended a talk by Lea Laura Michelsen, Aarhus University during which they outlined their current research, focussed on the aesthetic practice of Zach Blas. In this context, aesthetic practice can be understood as an artistic practice informed by research, and in turn, research methods informed by creative practice. Michelsen posits that by discussing Blas’ work as a strictly artistic practice, rather than acknowledge its epistemological and pedagogical elements, the political potential of Blas’ research and artistry is diminished. Michelsen argues that these practices are inextricably entangled.

Blas’ methods include epistemological research, fine art practice, collaborative workshops and discursive events. Arguably, his most well-known projects are embodied through a series of masks, which are exhibited in traditional gallery context as an art object, or through documentation of the masks being worn during performances and encounters. The masks serve dual purposes. The first being the obscuration the face, specifically to avoid the face being ‘seen’ and recorded as biometric data. The second is to encourage reflection of the politics of biometrics/metricisation, which are implicitly identified as problematic.

The series Face Cages uses the points created by biometric facial recognition software to create a grid-like mask. This is intended to make tangible the implicit racist, sexist and transphobic biases of these technologies. The masks are reminiscent of gilt cages, muzzles or scold’s bridle, a 16th century punitive device which binds the head and depresses the tongue to restrict speech. The series Facial Weaponization Suite creates homogenous masks for marginalized groups – for instance the ‘Fag Face Mask’ was made from the facial data of many queer faces in response to studies which link identifying sexual orientation with facial recognition techniques. Another mask explores the racisms of biometric technologies which cannot recognise dark skin tones. The masks subvert a reductionist classification of individuals to create a unity of resistance when worn during protest.

Critics of Blas criticise these series’ as aestheticizing resistance and protest and argue they reduce nuanced social issues without the alternative position being fully explored. Michelsen argues that this dismisses or ignores elements of his work which create an opening-up of conversations around ubiquitous technologies which otherwise may not take place, with humour and play. This combination of artistic, playful, collaborative practice and epistemological research in turn creates an opportunity for alternative futures and/or acts of resistance to be formulated.

This position raises a number of questions:

  • How much should an artist be expected to present a political, but also unbiased perspective.
  • To what extent can a researcher use creative methods, with the understanding that they cannot make curatorial or artistic licence.
  • Can artist-researchers be more accurately be described as aesthetic practice.
  • Are the political potentials increased/expanded when approached in such a way?
  • Is it possible to have such a practice without it being reduced to its constituent elements?

Minutes of the Meeting & Winnie Soon

Image: Winnie Soon in collaboration with  Helen Pritchard

Title: Recurrent Queer Imagainaries
Year of production: 2019 (forthcoming)
Medium: Installation

Following last week’s research and theory lecture, the group converged to discuss potential next steps for the Computational Arts Research project.

In terms of the subject of our research topic, we concluded that investigating sound in an environmental context was a useful point from which to start our research journey. We had been intending to focus on the idea of the cellular as metaphor for describing the macro in terms of health (bodily health as a description of environmental health). However, we found this focus was potentially too expansive and we feared without more specialist medical/biological knowledge we might make unfounded assumptions or sweeping statements.

We decided that the essential questions at this stage are:

a.    What is sound ‘pollution’ and how is it classified as such?

b.    How does sound effect us in ways that are invisible/we are not aware?

These questions allow us to approach a range of sub-questions in a way which does not prescribe our findings (i.e. how is sound quantified? What is good sound v bad sound, and for whom? What is our own understanding of these concepts given we are in London, all are hearing able etc).

At the next meeting the members will discuss their findings and understanding of these questions in the context of the environment, but also in terms of technology/computation. It may be worth identifying key findings which are particularly surprising before the meeting.

At this point, suggestions for final projects should be considered speculative and meant to spark discussion – unless explicitly stated otherwise. We agree at this stage we should not commit to make a specific work but rather see what emerges through collaboration.

The lecture led by Winnie Soon was particularly emboldening from this perspective. Her emphasis on process rather than prescribed outcomes allows the unexpected to potentially enrich rather than derail.

The discussion with Winnie was dense – not in the sense that it was impenetrable, but more that we discussed a lot in a relatively short space of time. This in conjunction with the set reading I’m struggling to fully synthesis all we considered without skimming over quite weighty topics or clumsily paraphrasing. She spoke about her body of work, and how her background as a computer scientist informed her practice and interest in the intersect of the technological and social. We discussed how we might make visible aspects of technology which are mistified or blackboxed. It is this aspect which I feel is key to all of her work and many of the discussions we have in class. We are becoming more consistently aware of technology in relation to transparency, privacy, bias and mythology.

I’m particularly interested in how existing technological structures can be repurposed or subverted. Winnie spoke about her interest in Chinese characters and how their pictorial nature allows writers to layer meaning both in the content of their words but also the form. Soon described how users of the Chinese microblogging site Weibo were circumventing censorship by using characters which visually resembled objects, like 占占人 which resembles tanks approaching a person, a reference to the Tiananmen square protests in 1989, and the famous image of a man standing in the way of tanks.

Even in paradise, I am here.

Ahead of the last research and theory lesson we were asked to choose to bring in an article which reflected our research interests. Upon reflection, the article I chose is about technoscience, but was not necessarily computational as such. I chose, ‘ET IN ARCADIA EGO: ADDRESSING CANCER, DEATH AND IMMORTALITY USING SCIENCE’. The article describes the making of an installation by artist Charlotte Jarvis in collaboration with Hans Clevers and colleagues, molecular geneticists from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The work involves Jarvis collecting and growing her own malignant cancer cells, which are then are set and displayed as part of a larger work.  

In my own practice I have struggled with being able to adequately describe the experience of having had cancer through my artwork, or represent cancer itself. It would be legitimate to ask why I dwell on this experience, and the truth is I very rarely do think about it. However, a feeling of having been betrayed by your own cells is profoundly strange and I think, interesting. The poet Anne Boyer has compared her experience of breast cancer to that of pregnancyi, and this rings true to me – you are, in both cases, growing something.  

Apart from the technical process of making the installation, Et in Arcadia Ego, I found the repulsion Jarvis expressed in relation to the cells interesting. Despite knowing that the cells are preserved in ethanol and cannot inflict any harm or infect Jarvis in any way, she found they held a ‘talismanic’ power over her:  

‘these parts of me remain incomprehensibly terrible’ 

I don’t think I would find this the case if I were confronted by my own cancer cells. I have, through my practice, attempted to conjure them into being. It wasn’t the cancer I felt betrayed by, it was the body (my body) which created it who I was angry with. And of course, it’s natural I should want to meet my offspring. 

Fig 1. Too many ideas.

Using our research interests as a loose framework we have formed a group. We will, as a group, attempt a piece of practice-based research. After having kicked far too many key words about [fig 1.], we have settled on the idea of researching ‘Cells’. Frankly, we’re not sure what form this is going to take as yet but we are discussing cultures of cells as metaphors for the world/environment. I’m slightly trepidatious about the project – not because of the topic or the group in whom I have great confidence, but rather I’m worried I won’t have and good ideas/anything new to say.  

i Boyer, A. (n.d.). The undying