In developing and researching a thesis can be an overwhelming amount of information. It’s easy to lose oneself in the amount of facts, experiments, writing, and outside opinions one accumulates over a long period of time. I know that for me, it has been hard to pinpoint the *why* as to what I’m making. What about my site-specific performance really inspires me? And what am I trying to accomplish? What is it I’m trying to convey to my audience? What about this makes it different from any similar project or spectacle out there? To be succinct…what’s the point I’m making?

Something that should be pretty obvious from the start isn’t the case when you don’t really know what you’re making at the beginning. It’s been kind of a reverse process for me, to be honest. However, the important thing is I’ve discovered what my point is, and it’s a pretty simple one. To find the reasons why people should like the city I’m in, and to draw those factors into a few archetypes and symbols conveyed through a short-lived performance of my design.

In my life, I’ve lived in a lot of cities, countries, and continents. I have not loved all of them. Some countries and cities have a more distinct culture then others that are conveyed on a day-to-day basis. When I lived in England and in the Netherlands, and even in Korea, the differences between the countries is imminent. It’s more than just languages and architecture, it’s a particular spirit that lives within the people and in the culture one absorbs just being around the streets. It’s something I’ve found lacking in America, which in its own melting pot kind of away, absorbs whats new immediately and ditches the old. I think the history is something that sheds itself quite quickly in a lot of cities and communities. In doing my research and discovering the past, I’m finding remnants and reminders that materializes in a new form, in this case, in the designed costumes and performance. It’s far to easy for me to find those reasons I hate a place. Bad traffic, pollution, over-crowding, too much sunshine, and high rent are all negative issues I’ve come across living in Pasadena and Los Angeles. It’s easier to cling to the negative and not find the positive in my day to day life. However, there have to be reasons why people love and live here. In looking back in the past, I’ve finding the good things that brought people here and why they stayed. In my research, it was the oranges and the capacity to source irrigation that brought in those people. It’s ideas and rapid development of technologies that kept them in Pasadena, and continues to flourish in the region. While this may be over-simplified in just a few seconds, I’m hoping to embody the spirit of these notions in a way that is compelling and interesting. I admit that I may still need to find a way to address people to learn more about it, if they’re interested.

Crosswalk Study #2

October 2, 2009

Today I went back to the crosswalk to investigate the numbers of people that populated the hour at a different time of the day. I came at mid-afternoon, at around 230 pm and stayed to watch the traffic for a couple hours. Previously I had visited during the lunch hour, and I found that the demographics had already shifted. There were far less people, and the crowd was mostly women, some with strollers. There were a few business types that seemed to be taking late lunches and/or a quick snack. A few student types also peppered the streets. The numbers on the sidewalks were meager, and most people seemed to either spend the afternoon shopping or socializing later lunch dates.


NOTES:

I also came back to count the number of steps it took for me to cross the site. I figured it was important since I had taken the measurements late one night last week, and I wanted to back up this up with an alternative way to see how large it was.

DIAGONAL: 35 smaller steps going once across.
STRAIGHT (across Colorado Blvd.): 30 smaller steps.
I have a feeling I need to go back and measure this again, just to make sure this is fairly accurate.

MEASUREMENTS IN FEET:
38’3″ x 70’4″ (from sidewalk to sidewalk)
29’4″ x 54’1/2″ (the perimeter of the interior white markings)

Work Progress 9/23-9/30.

October 2, 2009

Since September 23, I’ve been doing a lot of research both on the science communities of JPL and the natural and agricultural histories behind the city of Pasadena. I’ve had to dig in a lot of websites for the science themes, and books and even the Pasadena Museum of History to find information on citrus, earth, and irrigation.

Pages and pages of handwritten notes have taken over my desk as I’ve written any fact I could glean that would possibly be interesting. Some interesting phrases and information that came up in the reading of the JPL:

the “Buck Rogers Job”- this was referred to the Caltech rocketry group that were recruited by the Army to work on strap-on rockets. A rival university snidely referred to their research as the Buck Rogers Job, Buck Rogers being a cheesy space hero in classic American television.

“Rabbit Killer”- early rocket experiments by JPL included some missiles that rose up, tilted, and zigzagged along the ground before they blew up.

Physics terms I like:

Dark energy– a substance unlike anything we’ve encountered before that permeates the entire universe.

Dark Matter

early Universe.

Supermassive black holes.

Galactic nuclei.

I don’t know very much about physics or astrology, but I do like some of the images that are conjured in my head upon hearing the terms.
I feel that everything discusses is very dark and sinister, two seconds away from something imploding or controlling my brain. I suppose this is more science fiction as an influence, which doesn’t make it that accurate.

From the agricultural, irrigation, and citrus perspective of Pasadena history, I’ve taken in quite a bit of information. I’ve studied mostly from Pasadena: A Natural History. Going through the entire book, I’ve found a lot of valuable information on the transformation of a dry, arid region into a lush paradise complete with citrus groves. There is the ability to grow flowers and plants of larger sizes and more extravagant blooms than in the Midwest and East coast. The warm climates and water resources of the land allow for constant and annual plant production. Even roses grew bigger. In fact, a writer referred to Pasadena as “perpetual harvest time” in a travel writing intended to promote the city.

Water and irrigation plays an integral part of the city’s agricultural history. All kind of technology and engineering were utilized to channel the flow from the canyons to the fields. And of course, Devil’s Gate seems to be the beginning point of all this water from it’s ample springs. Currently, it’s a very big dam and contains little to no water.


Devil’s Gate with it’s plentiful flow of water, before destroyed and altered into a large concrete dam.
box_Flume001
A box flume, or a long water trough, conveys water from canyons or wells to the fields. Ranches or properties were responsible in handling the water flow.

I wanted to investigate the citrus groves that used to exist in Pasadena. I looked all over online to seek existing orchards and numbers for fruit production but found nothing. There wasn’t even a lead for me to follow, which was kind of a dead end to me. I decided that I had to seek historians who had more knowledge than me and the internet combined so I made a visit to the Pasadena Museum of History archives. I’m glad I went, since I encountered so many helpful and experienced employees that put me in the right direction. I learned that the orange groves have long gone, and very little information is even around to research. This is pretty incredible, since Pasadena was basically settled due to people wanting to grow oranges from the East Coast. However, I did find a few facts from an old September 1916 issue of a magazine called The California Citrograph.

In 1916, the Valencia orange (a particular type of orange) shipments equaled 13,000-14,000 carloads.

The Pasadena Orange Growers Association handled the oranges from 65 acres yielding 10,300 packed boxes of fruit in 1915.

Oranges were first grown in California because of the Mission Fathers who brought the orange seeds from Spain. Pasadena growers simply copied those Southern California groves to cultivate their own fruit.

The trick I have now is to somehow condense all of my information into bite-sized pieces slotted into a 24 second performance. I feel that my content is well culminated, and that my themes revolve around the idea of transformation of a land fueled from water to cultivated paradise. From orange groves to an affluent land, science and advanced scientific ideas still flourish even though those oranges are long gone.

Site Study- 9.21.09

September 24, 2009

I’ve decided to start conducting some site surveys to determine what the foot and car traffic is like. I thought it would be helpful to discover what types of movement occurs within the place.

I’ve already looked at the site on a weekday afternoon. I came by at noon to observe what the people were like during that hour. Here are my results.

SKETCH:

crosswalkSCAN
The sketch is just a quick study of the layout of the surrounding areas, and how people moved on the crosswalk and through the intersection when the lights are red for car traffic. The interesting things I learned from doing this is noticing that there are three restaurants, all side by side, with tables that were either outside on a patio area, or had views of the street from above. It made me consider whether this performance could be viewed from a dinner theater aspect. I think my next object is to observe when there is the largest number of diners sitting outside.

PICS OF PEDESTRIANS

street_9
Studying how people moved through the intersection.
peopleWait_sitestreetPersp
And studying how people waiting at the intersection.

NOTES

I kept count of how many seconds each light cycle took multiple times. Mostly, I did this to see if the times I could capture on my stopwatch was consistent. The milliseconds were kind of off, but it was pretty accurate most times.

CROSSWALK GONE GREEN= 24.24 sec. / 25.68 sec. / 25.25 sec. / 24.72 sec.

TRAFFIC LIGHTS GONE GREEN = 43.62. sec. / 52.85 sec. / 50.32 sec. / 53.14 sec.

Themes, threads, thoughts.

September 22, 2009

As my themes have developed, I’ve noticed a prominent thread running within the way I’m presenting them. A strong visual transformation is something that I seem to present whenever I do a review with my advisors, so I’m going to go with that.

I’ve also been doing a lot with history, which is something that is unavoidable as I’ve starting with researching Pasadena’s history. However, this is an interesting way I could possibly convey my work in exhibition form. I’m excited to make some sketches that could emulate a natural history museum exhibit, in a sophisticated, tongue-in-cheek parody.

Designer Collaboration.

September 22, 2009

Mindy_sewing

In creating this project from a performance scope, I wanted to collaborate with other specialists that knew such things as dance, costumes, and acting. The costumes and props worried me the most, as its not a cheap endeavor and to find someone talented and willing to work on my shoestring budget.

But…as luck would have it, I found myself an excellent and talented fashion/costume designer. I did put a post up on Craig’s List, and it was hard trying to explain what I needed since I’m not exactly sure myself at this point. I needed someone who could fabricate to help me work out my complicated ideas in a tangible form. Mindy LeBrock is very familiar with the Media Design program and part of our school’s network. It’s great to have her on board with me, as she’s a skilled crafts(wo)man and has years of industry experience.

I’ve also found a great dance choreographer who’s performances are extremely site specific and conceptual. Heidi Duckler’s Collage Dance Theatre has been an inspiration to my research for the past year, and I’ve been fortunate to talk to her about my work. She was interested in what I described, and is willing to advise me on progress as I move forward.

The means are all here, now its just up to me to make the narrative strong and a smart conveyance of Pasadena’s lesser know history stories.

Starting M6: Building a Wall

September 20, 2009

I have needed a kind of structure to figure out where to put my thoughts. My thesis advisor agreed that I needed a more concrete narrative, and I think my lack of focus has been because I had no strong organization shaping my thoughts into a story. So he drew me a diagram, which was very helpful. I love that its built from top to bottom, visually showing me that my end-product is at the bottom, and thats also when I know I’m done. Currently, I’m at the very top.

diagram-sketch001

The format is to built up in collage form, with images pasted up on the wall to show all my previous work and imagery that I’ve culled from my research. The wall has the idea of the story being the meat, and in the middle, with the two themes- irrigation/paradise and science- feeding into that narrative. This works into the site, or the crosswalk, of the performance. Then this site and story will inform a lot on costume and choreography.

Thus…the performance.

Wall1

wall2

wall3

The past few weeks have been about really working on the story of my performance. I’ve done the research from books and pictures of Pasadena’s history, now its time to translate a lot of that hard work into visual imagery to get an idea on what this could look like.

paradise_shadowbox

Its been a lot harder than I thought it’d be. My first attempts were a bit too literal, depending on attractions that Pasadena is already known for. The citrus and oranges are what makes the city famous, and by making that larger scale, it overshadowed the the mountains and water streaming through in the background. I was trying to make this theme of Pasadena as Paradise through Irrigation…but my first attempt kind of failed.

lasercut_irrigation

irrigation_lasercuteCLOSE

I attempted to make an iteration of the theme. Instead of using color and collage looking materials, I kept it clean and simple with white laser cut paper designs. I used text in this round, to clarify the idea of paradise being culled from the dry earth with water. This was a little more interesting, as I could manipulate the shapes being pushed in and out from the sides, and play with where the shadows fell on the circle behind it.

solarSystem
The other theme that I’ve been developing from Pasadena history is its mature scientific community. I played around with the basic science shapes, like solar systems and iconography from physics formulas. I think this was the least successful of the three, since it just ended up looking like a little kids school project. I drew no story or complexity out of making it, which was a little disappointing. However, I have further steps I plan to talk to find those layers of information using the theme of science and exploration.

I’ve been thinking more about how the site I picked fits into the fabric of the everyday, and why pick a crosswalk to do an impromptu performance?

I found a couple sources that’s informed me of the decisions I’m making. The first source comes from the company Projects for Public Spaces (PPS) who is instituting a new project where they’ve been looking at ways to reshape the planning and design of transportation networks to improve quality of human life rather than just shunt cars and buses from one place to the next.
http://www.pps.org/info/streets_as_places/

There is something to be said about viewing streets from a different perspective. Why can’t we take over a public intersection and create an informative spectacle before the lights are green again? It might increase foot traffic, and it certainly would alleviate the boredom drivers feel while waiting at a stoplight. It might even rip the cell phones away from their ear so they can concentrate on driving once the lights are green again.

The practice of utilizing transportation spaces is already put to good use in Thailand, where they literally set up food markets on train tracks and take down the stalls twice a day when the train comes roaring in.

I think there is something quite magical about watching the market stalls draping back into place sequentially, like some choreographed ritual. While their use of train tracks for commercial endeavors is probably out of practical necessity, I suppose my intention is to reutilize the existing spaces we have the have heavy foot traffic. I’m interested in revealing layers about the city these people live in. I want to weave little stories in the performances they’re watching, and not only create this spectacle for entertainment, but influence new perspectives the pedestrian (or driver) is viewing the city that they’re living (or visiting) in.

The challenges I’ve gone through for this particular project have been trying to figure what I wanted the installation to do. I knew it was about looking at previous in-store performances, and that the topic was all about the culture of Amoeba Music. I wanted to look at historical music recorders and players to inform the final form and look. I followed through on a suggestion and started tracing parts of old music technology like buttons, cranks, amplifier horns, and dials. I also wanted to combine a visual component to introduce the idea of viewing video, so I added small screens as part of the sketches.

VISUAL LIBRARY OF MACHINE ILLUSTRATIONS
Picture 2
Here, I looked at the pictures used in my music technology timeline and traced the parts into two-dimensional illustrations. This composed of my “palette” of music parts. I started playing with different compositions of these parts, to create fantastical machines.

INSTALLATION SKETCHES
4x4_template

4x4_template_2

My takeaway from this exercise was more confusion. I felt that in trying to focus on the form, I didn’t really have much except for some interesting illustrations that in reality would do little more than be an extended version of small embedded screens in some multimedia sculpture. I feel that I have to go back to the beginning and focus on the concept of what this installation does. In creating this, I did have a desire to incorporate the tangibility that antique music recorders had. I feel that in modern music technology very little is left for the user to interact with. I am still interested in heightening the experience of a person’s interaction with their music player, but since this would be installed behind a window, I’m a little concerned that the interaction would be limited from its intention.