Widowsweave is an awareness raising series of performances highlighting the conditions of Iraqi Widows who often struggle to acquire even basic necessities such as clean water or adequate shelter. Through artistic durational activities the artist and public participants mark 3,000,000 lines representing the number of Iraqi widows from 30 years of war, tyranny and sanctions.


Kevin Valentine will have three new pieces in the Faculty Show at North Central College, Naperville. The reception is April 8th, from 6-8

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beginning Thesis Year

Thesis year is beginning much like my art career or my adult (post undergraduate) life began - in uncertainty about job, motivation, outcome, impact, future, self. This must be a good thing because when I am unsettled there is a fermentation, a chemicalization going on -change- that forces me to be in the moment, to really live and to create art that matters to me.

I can't let this opportunity pass by; I have to keep on task, finishing up Widows and Closed Circuit Open while creating the basis for new work which will unfold into thesis. Pushing ahead while letting it unfold. The male and female, yin and yang of creation. Balance. Focus.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Responses to the Widows Interactive

One of the first people to see the Widows interactive book asked how I got the lines from the chalkboard to the page. Another tried to press down on the cover, not realizing that it was a book.
One tried waving his hands over the book, curling back pages, etc... to see how it worked. Cliff exclaimed, Oh! A book, a was one of a very few to sit down and turn page by page.

Only a couple of people asked about the content. I wasn't even sure that everyone saw the words in front of them. To some extent I wanted that to happen in that I tried to make them "invisible" in the way that the problem of widows in war torn regions is pretty much a forgotten issue. Winning, stopping violence, getting the economy running again -those are the issues that get the press: what happens to those left behind is overlooked to a great extent.

I haven't yet said some of my observations about content. The book consists of a grid of black lines on sheets of vellum, which diminish in number as one turns the pages, until there is only one division, than none. Symbolically, this can represent the lives lost in the wars which have dominated Iraqi society since 1980. It may also be interpreted as the invisibility of the widows themselves becoming apparent. The whiteness of the last pages is sort of a purity, a distillation of pain, the way a funeral clears the air so that we may start dealing with life again. A cleansing.

Simultaneously the viewer hears chalk being applied as a tally is drawn on a chalkboard to create three million squares. This is the round number of widows as stated by the Iraqi Minister for Women's Affairs. It is a symbolic number as well -no one can accurately count three million widows. It's unfathomable.

As pages are turned, the viewer sees the artist drawing one line on the board, then a grid, filling in the grid with many lines of white chalk. As more pages are turned, videos overlay and blend, till six views of the artist applying chalk, up to ten colored lines at a time, can be viewed and heard in what is now a cacophony. Some of the lines get blurred, some of the chalk is dropped making the count inaccurate. New lines blur and obscure old lines. the board becomes one mass of blurry intersecting lines the way each widow and family have a story that becomes part of the horrifying statistic.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Interactive Show

Yesterday was Manifest and Susan Kwon, Stacy Stormes, Ramah Jihan, Nicolas Sagan and I showed our Interactive pieces. I've gotten a variety of responses over the last few days. Most people loved the work, including praise from faculty. However, few asked about the meaning of the work. I'm not sure if this is because most of the faculty had already seen it at critiques or if they were more interested in the actual functional interactivity. We discussed this in class as well: that many galleries would be more interested in the interactivity being evident than the aesthetic coherency of the work, while others will be interested in the work, with the interactive aspect just being a bonus.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dreaming Code

Ok, so the last few weeks, with the programming of my Widows book I've woken up at 4 in the morning, or just been thinking when I'm driving - and BAM it comes to me a solution to a problem. Yesterday, driving downtown, without realizing I was even thinking of it, I see the MAX flowchart in my head and there it is, the reason that hthe sound and video on the first jitfade weren't in sinc -the black jpeg at the end needed the same fade point and I hadn't changed it. So I fixed it in a few seconds when I got down to Columbia. That's how it goes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Interactive Book

The final book is up and running - it has six layers of video with stereo soundtrack, plus an audio wav file from an earlier performance of the same piece. The book could be more finished, and of course the installation could be more polished, but given time and the small room I have available in the studio space (Room D in the 1104 S. Wabash basement) it looks great.

I spent a good deal of the last week and a half working in MAX/jitter (didn't get to MSP much), learning the program and copying and adapting patches, learning about the "patcher" and other niceties etc... It took three days to get up to speed in order to do the first jit.fade, and a couple of days more and meetings with Paul to get the daisy chain working. The arduino patch worked out easily once I knew which examples to look at.

For simple LDR use, I only needed to upload:

For multiple LDR's I used:
File>sketchbook>examples>communication>virtual color mixer.

Each color is handily assigned to an LDR, divided to weight the sensors and added together for a final controller number.

For sound, I had to set up mutes to keep the tracks quiet while the video was running. All the videos run at the same time, so that they are loaded when the sensor reaches the trigger point for each video stream. But the sound doesn't fade in the same way - it stays on!

I tried muting, and mute patches with triggers but they wouldnt work right. finally I switched to a volume control, and that works almost perfectly. (see below for illustrations):

1st mute attempts

Using volume control instead of mute:

I have yet to resolve the issue with a seventh sound track (the wav file), which needs to be looped so that there is the quiet sound of chalk in the background at all times. It will play through once when the program is first launched, and then stop. I have tried a numer of ways to get it to loop, but it does not yes comply!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LDR Video Trigger

The video works on my Max patch!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Updates for final projects

It's been while since my last post - but I have been working. All my final projects seemed to coalesce around the Widows performance piece. I'm definitely going to make the box for my Widow's book, though further research on my part suggests that my symbolic numbers were actually overstated (i.e. the budget for the Minister of Women's Affairs was actually cut from $90000 to $18000 annually, or about one fourth the total stated in the Artist's proof of the book).

I also am trying to finish the piece that will activate more video overlays and sound tracks as pages are lifted to reveal more light. This is proving challenging as I can't seem to get MAX/jitter to show the layered videos, despite working sound and working tutorial examples! Grrr.

And for the prototype/interactive book, we'll see how much time the other two take.

I've got to get cracking on the vellum book and the box for the hardbound book - and also keep plugging away at MAX!