November 13, 2008

The Technical Side of Art

Computer science major Haruki Yamaguchi ’11 writes about his part in the Knee Deep and Risin’ exhibit

Miguel Haruki Yamaguchi ’11 (Akashi, Japan) spent the summer using his expertise as a computer science major to help put together the multimedia exhibit Knee Deep and Risin’ running through Dec. 20 in the Grossman Gallery. He worked as an EXCEL Scholar under the guidance of Chun Wai Liew, associate professor and head of computer science, and Jim Toia, director of the art department’s Community-Based Teaching program.

  • Knee Deep & Risin’ Exhibit Combines Art, Environment, and Technology

This summer, I have had the pleasure of working with Professor Chun Wai Liew, artist Jim Toia, and MIT Ph.D. candidate Noah Vawter to collaborate on a multimedia art piece for display in the Grossman Gallery.

The display consists of a combination of audio-visual components and physical entities, the former being a combination of projectors and speakers and the latter being the various ‘screens’ dispersed throughout the gallery. As they are moved by gallery-goers or stay still, the screens transmit signals which are read by a computer program and these signals get converted into positional data. The positional data is then converted to a ‘concentration’ value, which varies according to the proximity of the screens’ sensors. Noah, who built the sensors, uses special software to transmit the data across the network.

My part in this project was basically developing the driver software for four workstations which output pre-rendered video according to sensor data, and also a fifth which is able to transmit sound data to the audio hardware. The software receives data from the network, converts it to a figure, and displays the appropriate output. I manipulate the four stations from a single controlling machine via SSH (Secure SHell, which is basically a protocol for exchanging encrypted data over the network). On a separate machine, the software also routes audio to Noah’s hardware, which he mixes with other audio and outputs it via the speaker system.

I think this project was a very interesting cross between the world of computer science and the multimedia art world. Professor Liew is extremely knowledgeable about Linux and he has been helpful in gearing me in the right direction concerning the implementation of software, as well as the initial setup of the network down at the Visual Arts Building. Jim is a humorous person and a talented artist who has worked internationally and has received numerous recognitions. I feel honored to have been able to work with him. Noah is very well-versed in Linux protocols and software and, in addition to providing a bulk of the digital hardware used in the project, has taught me a great deal, especially in terms of network transmission and mathematical concepts involved in computer science.

I am originally from Japan and I decided to major in computer science during the spring semester of my freshman year. I am currently on track to graduate one year early in 2010, although I may decide to stay longer whether to do more in school or in preparation for graduate school, which I want to attend at some point. At this point, I am still exploring options, and a project like this helps me define my interests further. I am interested in a lot of other different areas, including software engineering, financial software development, web applications, digital music, and consulting. I hope in the future to start my career in the New York area.

  • Computer Science
  • Art
  • EXCEL/Undergraduate Research

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