animals, final draft postmortem

Link to Kitty & Mimi.

The feedback in class was encouraging.  The class clearly found the project to be genuinely funny and our guest critics were definitely laughing/smiling if also being more critical.  Abigail commented on the my sort of portrayal of masculinity, which was good because I wanted that to come across.  Marina gave helpful comments about the writing, I’m definitely interested in extending the duration of the posts, though I’m not sure what the perspective should be, if I should dive further into being a cat, or make Mimi’s hand in the perspective more clear.  I talked to Wyna about the other night for a while and we talked through the various ways I could push the perspective further.  I didn’t reach a resolution but there seem to be a few options:

1. Reveal my hand as the artist and the cat, by somehow making it clear that it is me who contrived the situation, me who used Mimi as an actor, and me who is using this as a vehicle to express something about myself.

2. Dig deeper into Mimi’s understanding of the cat.  Have Mimi spend a lot of words/time trying to understand the cat and how  it lives.

3. Mimi presenting herself more subjectively through the cat.

4. Some ambiguous combination of these ideas.

I think personally I’m most interested in the first scenario because it is in a way the most true.  I am in fact the artist, expressing myself through this cat and using Mimi as a sort of actor or character.  I think that making this reveal in some way in the writing might be interesting, or at least worth exploring.

Nina made the most critical comment about the project, which was that she didn’t see the point of adding more to the cat meme world, and that the project didn’t necessarily seem to be doing anything different.  I think that the point is valid, though I disagree that its not doing anything different, obviously, I’m not a real cat.  Is this enough different though?  I think that might reflect more on the writing so far, which I’m still shaping.  But it definitely gives me a challenge that I’m looking for, which is to make my intentions very clear, and make the project say something more than just being a joke about cat memes.

I also showed the blog to Mimi and got her reaction.  She may still do some writing and it would be really interesting to see how that contrasts or compares with the writing I’ve already done.  Mimi said that reading the blog she sometimes felt like I was writing from the point of view of the cat, as opposed to writing as Mimi writing from the point of view of the cat, which is an interesting distinction.  Maybe when I was trying to embody the cat I forgot to filter my perceptions through Mimi.

I’m a little lost as to where to go.  I feel like the visuals have been effective so I want to spend more time getting the writing down.  I have some doubts as to whether anyone would ever really read this as anything other than comedic, but my task is to make it read as something more challenging to the ideas that are presented/parodied.


animals, midterm

I wasn’t very happy with the outcome of my midterm for Animals, which was an augmented reality print that used Unity to superimpose 3d emoticons over little cat drawings that I made.  I had been thinking and reading about different cat experiments and the human obsession with animal intelligence.  Many of the experiments try to determine how cat vision works, if cats have high level brain functions like object permanence and longterm memory and language skills.  So I was interested in juxtaposing the language of those articles with a silly cat emoticon narrative and a less silly narrative for the real cats, represented by the drawings, being experimented on.

Unfortunately, it took me over a week to find a suitable AR environment to develop in.  I had to settle on using ARToolKit with Unity, which required having these rather ugly large black squares.  I actually that they fit the narrative in a certain way.  I tried to make them resemble some of the vision charts used in cat experiments, but that tripped up the AR code.  I also wanted to use images of cats, photographs of the experiments, but there wasn’t enough contrast in the photos, so I had to use simple black and white drawings.

Despite the shortcomings, I still got great feedback from the class.  With the set up I had, the 3d text also didn’t totally come across at first, which was good to learn.  I think the extrudes were to large, so they looked more like sculptural elements at first.  Some people in class realized they were emoticons, and I think the connection between the subjective interpretation of cat emotions and the emoticons was made.  The comment was made that both representations were abstractions, though the drawings were understood to be the objective representation.  I hope to work more on this at some point, if I could get the AR working well in a hand held device or cell phone that would give the user a little more intimacy with the print and the 3d graphics.  I would hope to eventually use the photographs, or maybe make drawings based on the photographs (I tried this but my rendering skills are more suited to little cartoon characters than realistic depictions of scenes with complex imagery…)


animals, animal analysis

2 21 2013

Last summer, I flew to San Francisco to help my friend Danny move to New York.  We drove across the country, through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.  We saw a lot of animals, and possibly the majority of them were cows.  Maybe even something like 90%.  In Nevada, where roads stretched straight out in front of us until they disappeared into the horizon, I saw a straight line of cows walking slowly across a gigantic, sprawling field with no visible destination or origin.  I thought it was really strange and couldn’t figure out why they would be moving like that.

In Denver, we saw an exhibition of Theodore Waddell’s “Abstract Angus” paintings and drawings, all of which were of cows and landscapes containing cows, which ranged from small drawings on paper to very large paintings.  I was pretty inspired by the dedication to capturing this one particular form.  It was clear that the artist had spent lots and lots of time just sitting outside in Montana looking at the same scenes.  I thought the abstract style represented his own relationship to the cows he was observing—he didn’t really understand them, but they became an aesthetic experience for him.  In a way, this is very different from most of the cultural depictions one comes across of cows or any other animals.  The abstract cows have very little personality, but they feel very true to form.

My friend Danny really likes Chick-Fil-A restaurants.  I hate them.  This has been a contentious part of our relationship since we used to hang out at the mall in high school.  We saw a lot of these billboards between San Francisco and New York.  I actually don’t like the food at Chick-Fil-A, but mostly their advertising annoys me, probably disproportionately to how much I should care about advertising at all.  The idea of cows campaigning for people to eat chickens just seems really stupid to me.  My reaction is a little ridiculous, because I do like cartoons a lot, and wouldn’t probably be as offended if this wasn’t part of an ad campaign.  The Chick-Fil-A protests caused by the company’s large donations to groups opposing same-sex marraige and an Mike Huckabee inspired appreciation day happened during our road trip and we watched coverage on the news one night in a hotel.

We never ate a Chick-Fil-A on the trip.  We did eat a lot of terrible food and I can say with some certainty that I ate some kind of cow product every day of our three week trip.  Between San Francisco and Chicago, with the exception of Denver, there is basically nothing that I would consider a reasonable place to eat.  So we erred on the side of kitschy Americana and ate most our meals at diners, casino restaurants and local bars.  I had a lot of hamburgers.  I had a patty melt in Utah that made me fart more than anything in recent memory.  Our meals were usually followed by several hours of driving during which the car was alternately filled with horrible smells by driver and passenger.

In Ohio, we drove past a farm that looked a bit like the one in this photo I found on the Internet, where a whole bunch of cows were being milked by machines in a sort of barn that was mostly open.  I wondered aloud how long it would take to milk them before they would be let out to walk around the large fields nearby in weird lines.  Danny suggested that they would never be let out.  It was kind of a funny and somewhat accurate contrast between our personalities.

In the little research I’ve done recently, and having read some of Eating Animals when it came out in 2009, I know that there is a basically unfathomable amount of cows being born, killed and eaten in America, I really have no way of knowing how to deal with that.

This is a picture I found on Flickr of a cow painted for a ritual in India.  I have been reading about the treatment of cows in Hindu and Islamic traditions, but I don’t really know much about India.  Most of my exposure to Indian culture is through V. S. Naipaul, who I wrote a lot about in college.  He wrote extensively and controversially about India, and for whatever lack of compassion he displays toward humans, he does have empathy for animals.  In a critical work by Rob Nixon, he gives Naipaul credit for having “the ability to distinguish the death of an ordinary ox, which, being of concern to no one, may be put quickly out of its agony, from that of a sacred cow, which must be solicitously guarded so that it can die its agonizing death without any interference.”  His work often uses examples of animal abuse in criticism of religious practices.

I really like the look of the cows painted pink, but so far I haven’t found the background behind that particular ritual or whatever it is.  There are a few pictures on google search that seem to suggest this is somewhat common.

This image comes from a Wall Street Journal article on the pink slime controversy.  This image is very recognizable, not the specific image, but the what it depicts.

animals, spirit animal

I did actually think about other possible spirit animals.  I like cows a lot.  But in the end it didn’t make sense to do anything but a cat.  I drew a lot of cats.  The comments in class were very revealing, people said they looked like hieroglyphics and that “the cat was the medium of experimentation.”  I see these all as one cat, with different stories and ideas explored in each one, different representations.  I usually draw cats when I’m sketching out projects—cat sculptures or animations.  It was fun to draw a lot of cats just for the sake of drawing cats.

After drawing all of them, I wished I had drawn them all the same instead of using different styles but it was fun to explore the way I draw cats, which I do a lot when I’m sketching out project ideas, but just for the sake of drawing cats.  While I do like cats and I think I probably have some similarities to a cat in terms of personality and disposition, I don’t feel spiritually connected to cats as much as I just feel connected to the act of drawing them, if that makes sense.  I feel that drawing lots of little cats represents my personality more than one cat could.

In terms of the cat’s character, I was thinking a lot about how cats interact with people while I was drawing, and also stereotypes of cats.  I think cats are very self conscious at times but not always—maybe they’re not literally self-conscious they way people are but it seems that way.  Cats are often depicted as being mean and aloof, which I think comes from their self-consciousness.  I think they are aware of people and people’s attention and sometimes they it appeals to them and sometimes it doesn’t.