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Levels of abstraction

The KPN screen demonstrates a case of displaying context with limited detail capacities; if we consider that the NASDAQ sign has 18 million pixels the KPN has only 902. However, this fact detracts nothing from its impact on the landscape of Rotterdam [Schieck, 2005]. Exploring this case and focusing on the emotional impact from limited levels of information I would like to present the work of the artist Jim Campbell. Jim Campbell’s “Ambiguous Icons” were one of the standouts in the Whitney Museum’s “Bitstreams” exhibition. These pieces rendered videos of walking human figures on a grid of LED lights. Campbell records his subjects in digital video, converting live action to millions of pixels. Then he reduces the number of pixels and uses them to drive the LED grid so that each LED fades and flashes in various luminosities. By this method the artist succeeds in transferring the reduced figures to a dynamic shadow in a field of glowing red dots. “Ambiguous Icons draw their strength from the tension between an abstract surface and the recognizable image this surface implies, literally bringing questions of representation to light.” [Kurtz, 2002] The force of these human silhouettes emerges once the viewers decipher the image. The rendered shadows are rendered barely within the limits of our perception, based on our innate ability to perceive human movement.


Hotpants/LittleVision device

The next example, partially inspired by the work of Jim Campbell, is a device made by Simon Greenwold [2003]. Hotpants/LittleVision is a standalone pocket device for the recording and showing of short video

Physical Computing:

Using Everyday Objects as Communication tools

Fig. 23 Ambiguous Icon #5 (Running, Falling), 2000 Custom electronics, 768 LEDs, 28" x 22" [source: http://www.jimcampbell.tv/]

Fig. 24 Ambiguous Icons Church On Fifth Avenue, 2001 Custom electronics [source:ibid]

Fig. 25 Hotpants/LittleVision [source: Greenwold,2003]


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