Anthony McLin

Dynamic Mondrian

In December '08, my employer KAA Design Group held an art show to showcase the work of its staff, family, and friends. My contribution was an interactive digital installation titled Dynamic Mondrian

In 1915, famed abstract artist Piet Mondrian composed Ocean and Pier, a simple oil on canvas painting consisting of dark hatch lines on a neutral field. Although one of his lesser known works, the placement and proportions of the lines created a powerful sense of texture and depth, implying a dynamic sphere. Inspired by Mondrian's work, this interactive installation atempts to convey a similar sense of balance and texture by allowing viewers to dynamically paint their own series of hatch lines on a spherical projected surface. 

Setup in the atrium of my office, the interactive piece was designed for two users. Using a Nintendo Wii controller, one person would digitally paint hatchmarks on a canvas, using the Wii controller as a pointer. The second person, with another controller, could adjust the size and proportion of the hatchmarks, as well as rotate the spherical canvas that the first person was painting on.

The piece generated a lot of interest and was in use entire evening. I received a lot of questions regarding how it worked, so I'll fill you in here.

Since Wii controllers use simple Bluetooth technology to communicate, they can be paired with any Bluetooth capable device. In this case, I paired them with my laptop, and using wiiflash, was able to capture the information generated by the controllers and use it to manipulate a custom-built flash application. To manipulate the spherical object, I utilized PaperVision3D, a library of functions for generating and rendering 3D objects in Flash. By combining these tools, I was able to make an interactive installation that expresses a similar composition to Mondrian's work.

Mondrian was using a purely 2D static medium to express 3D ideas, whereas I projected an interactive 3D object onto a 2D surface. Of course I could have taken it further and allowed users to modify the colors of the hatches, swap out for different shapes besides crosshairs, or incorporated music, but I intentionally kept it monochromatic and simple because that is what always inspired me about Mondrian's original work. There is something incredibly compelling about how simple rules and constructs can produce complex results.

If you'd like to play around with what I've done, the Flash authoring file is available for download. Please note that you will need PaperVision3D and WiiFlash setup, and the file is not something suitable for end users. It does require some understanding of Actionscript in order to use.

 

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