A personal exploration of connections between creative computing, maker-centred learning, self-expression and social engagement; with a special twist on hacking fine arts.

March 20, 2019

Playing with Joan Miró, micro:bit and Scratch


Today I share a very simple activity. It consists of using micro:bit and Scratch to play computationally with a work of art (it can be from a museum or also public art). In this particular case we will play with the work "Painting on White Ground" by Joan Miró from the collection of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid).

Painting on White Ground, Joan Miró (1927).

As you can see in the video above, the idea is that by moving the micro:bit board we move the painting, and if we shake the board we cause a chaos in the elements of the painting, which in a few seconds is recomposed.

It is an activity that can be performed with children from 8 years old. The programming of the effects is simple. The materials we need are: the micro:bit board and its USB cable, a computer or tablet with an Internet connection, a device that can take pictures, and some graphic editing software (although with the Scratch editor can be enough). To use micro:bit from Scratch we must install ScratchLink and add the micro:bit extension inside our program (more info here).

To work with Miró's painting we need a photo of the artwork and the we have to cut out all its elements and add them as sprites within a Scratch project. To cut out characters we can use free and open source software like Gimp. There are also online editors like Pixlr. And if you prefer a straightforward solution, the Scratch paint editor is very simple but still powerful enough to play with pictures.

Then you have to program two behaviors: (1) make all the elements rotate together when we rotate the board, and (2) cause chaos in the elements when we shake the board.

 (1) Rotating the sprites when we rotate micro:bit

 (2) Shaking the sprites with random turns and moves when micro:bit is shaken

You can see my Scratch project and how it is programmed here.

 Moving the elements of the painting in a chaotic way.

Reimagine

You can try a similar project but with your own creations instead of using a painting by Miró (Kandinsky works would also be great for this kind of projects). You can also make the elements of Miró's painting dance to the rhythm of some music. Or you can build a small museum room with cardboard and colors, and create interactions between the virtual room and the cardboard room. If you want to be inspired by other projects that can be done with micro:bit you can take a look at these ideas.

March 8, 2019

Imitating Sophie Taeuber's abstract art with Scratch


Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) was a Swiss artist, painter, sculptor, textile designer, furniture and interior designer, architect and dancer. She is considered one of the most important artists of concrete art and geometric abstraction of the 20th century.


Today, on Women's Day, I want to write a post dedicated to this amazing woman, who was a pioneer of the early twentieth century avant-garde.

More than two years ago I published in Scratch a project on how to imitate Sophie Taeuber's abstract art. These projects that mimic ways of painting are useful for getting into the artist's mind, understanding what he or she was doing, and designing prototypes and starting points that might lead you to create your own works of art. This particular project can be implemented in many ways, and can be programmed by children, youth or adults. It was inspired by this painting below.

Six espaces distincts, Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1939).

My Scratch project divides the stage into six parts, just like the painting. The shapes are also the same (each is a sprite) but their position, direction and color are random. Although of course the result is far from perfect, I find it a fun and easy way to play with an artwork, and at the same time learn from it. You can try the project in Scratch to see the randomness:

Scratch project.

Each of the shapes has its sprite within the Scratch project.

And each of the sprites has different costumes, with different colors.

The algorithm is as simple as distributing the shapes in the six available spaces, giving them a random direction, and also a random costume.

Reimagine

Can you do something similar with another abstract artist? What if the shapes don't move randomly but following a music, or responding to some physical interaction through a sensor?

March 6, 2019

Hacking Museu d'Art de Girona with Creative Computing. Art Hackathons in museums


This article continues to explore ways to "hack" the art of museums using creative computing. With these activities I intend to give original examples of how to bring art closer to children and families, allowing them to use digital technologies to play, express themselves and reflect collaboratively on what they are seeing/experimenting in the museum.

Specifically, this post explores the idea of "art hackathon", focusing on the Girona Art Museum, and using Scratch as the main tool for the playfulcoding.

In the video above you can see four examples of possible games and interactions with sculptures and paintings inside the museum.

How can we use creative computing and playfulcoding to play/interact/reflect on works of art?

We can create our own artworks inspired by what we see, or we can make elements that are not from the artworks suddenly appear in them, or make elements of the artworks move and change color or shape, or make the artist who created the artwork appear and interact with it, or create a story based on several artworks... The list would be endless. Humor is often a great starting point.

How do we organize an art hackathon in a museum?

There are many possible ways. I think it's interesting that the hackathon happens as part of a visit to the collection or a temporary exhibition. Children, families (or people in general) should be grouped into teams, and a good amount of time should be spent walking, getting to know the art, taking photos, taking notes, sketching, etc. The help of a guide is always valuable in this first part. Afterwards, ideally inside the museum, we should find a space where we can sit down with our team, do brainstorming, and then we can start working with our ideas and start programming by using our laptops (which are often not allowed in museums!). If we use Scratch, it will be useful to have an Internet connection. If we create our projects based on photos taken in the museum (as in the examples in the video) we will also need a mobile phone that can take photos. Take into account that you may not be allowed to take photos in some collections, or if allowed you may need to do it without flash.

The same that I have just proposed above could be done with the public art of a city, a neighborhood, etc. This option usually allows more flexibility than the museum. In next articles I will show some examples in this direction.

The art hackathon at the museum is an ideal activity for families. It can be organized with large or small groups, and can be implemented with the help of the museum or on your own (always respecting all museum rules for visitors, and referencing all the artworks and artists!).

Examples from Girona Art Museum

1. Bringing to life a sculpture.


One fun thing we can do with Scratch is to bring a sculpture (or painting) to life. In this case we added a body to the head. And we turned the eyelids into "sprites", so that we can move them and show the eyes (drawn by us).

2. Adding elements from another context.


In this case we cut out the background of the wooden sculpture and replaced it with a night sky. Then we added some elements from other contexts: the flying Scratch cat, and some Lemmings. Notice that we could turn this artwork into the stage of a game created by us.

3. Create a self-reference by making the artist appear. Modify part of the painting in a different style.


Here we made Santiago Rusiñol (the author of the painting) appear using an image of him painted by Picasso. We used a touch of humor by adding a rabbit and making Rusiñol shoot laser beams through the eyes. We also transformed a part of the painting (the Church of Sant Feliu) by mixing styles and giving it a popart twist.

4. Bringing to life characters from paintings and make them interact.


This last example consisted of giving life to two characters from two separate collages, making one of them enter the other collage, and then make them dance and change color.

The four examples have in common that they are based on photographs taken in the museum, and that in all of them we cut out parts of the photograph in order to eliminate them, move them, or bring them to life. As I said in previous articles, in order to cut out sprites you can use the Scratch paint editor, which is very simple but still powerful enough to play with your photos, or you could use a free and open source software like Gimp, or online editors like Pixlr.

Reimagine

The projects created during the art hackathon will be simply starting points, prototypes, ideas from which to continue creating and learning. We can continue iterating, improving projects and reimagining new ones. What if you make artworks belonging to different museums interact with each other? What if you add interactions with the physical world to your artistic Scratch projects? What if you add music to your creations?

Wanna check my Scratch project to see the scripts? Follow this link. Feel free to remix.