On Thursday I took part in a late night exhibition at the Horniman Museum in south London. I worked with classmates from the course Christina Karpodini, Hazel Ryan and Romain Biros. Our proposal, Overcurrents was from our looking at the rich ecology of the aquarium at the museum and thinking about the threats those environments are currently facing. We chose to focus on plastic pollution of the world's water systems.
Our work was in three parts. Two projection displays built using OpenFrameworks. I worked on the interactive jellyfish display with Romain. We wanted to have a rough simulation of the jellyfish, but to add interactivity driven behaviour. I remembered a blog post from Marcin Ignac on creating generative jellyfish, which was really helpful and we used as a starting point. For interaction we decided to use the Kinect, so we could sense people in the dark conditions of the aquarium. We added interactions so that plastic bottles would appear in the water and float upwards when sudden movement was detected, and also the jellyfish would move away from the nearest point to the display. Christina using Max/MSP added sounds which played in accordance with the interactions and which really enhanced the atmosphere of the work.
Our second display was mostly coded by Hazel and was projected on to an existing world map. We wanted to show the location and patterns of the vast patches of plastic pollution that have formed in the oceans. We again used OpenFrameworks, this time with the ofxPiMapper addon which we had become familiar with during term 1, as this made it much easier to align the projection to the complex shape of the curved wall we were projecting on to. Again Christina added sounds to enhance the piece
In addition to the projection displays, we had collections of plastic that we had gathered from the banks of the Thames (including a old shopping trolley) and the Essex shore , along with recycling collected from home. These were both scattered around the aquarium and also displayed within glass cases to contrast the beauty of the natural environments that aquarium reproduces and the ugliness of our waste plastics.
The work for the show was really tiring, but we learnt a lot and had fun. We were only given one hour to install the show, which was a very short time frame. We did once rehearsal but it was still a challenge. Our code wasn't the tidiest, and even though we used a bunch of adjustable variables with ofxDatGui, there were still lots of things I would have liked to tweak and the code was becoming rather spaghetti. It was quite shocking how much plastic I collected from my regular recycling as part of this project and also how also anything we had to buy for the project was also wrapped in one-time use plastic. Obviously individual actions are part of the solution to reducing plastic usage, but we also desperately need legislation and much firmer action from large companies that manufacture plastic if we're to preserve the amazing ecology of the worlds oceans.