Monday, February 23, 2009

Invisible Cities Presentations

I just found out there's a blog for this class, where you can see all of the final projects: Spring '09 Scenic Design.

For example, you can see the results of the "Invisible Cities" project, which were presented on Thursday. Ours was kind of awesome. =)

Each group was given the description of a city from the book Invisible Cities and told to create a physical representation of it. My group's city was pretty interesting- it was an abandoned city created by this culture that was constantly trying to create the perfect set of relationships. They would build their city and then run strings between the houses to symbolize the relationships of power among the citizens. When everything got too messy, they'd tear down everything except the frames and strings, and try again somewhere else, always hoping to get it perfect. Of course, none of them really seemed to have any idea what "perfect" was, so it's all just a tiny bit depressing.

For our project we drove a bunch of nails into a piece of plywood and ran yarn between them. A few interesting things came out of the design process.

As previously mentioned, I missed class the first time we talked about it because I was having a miserable experience at the dentist. So my group had already come up with the basic idea, and was explaining it to me. They explained that we'd get many different colors of yarn, and weave each color around in a different pattern. "Oh, so everyone can choose their own pattern?" I asked. Silence. That was not at all what they meant, but they all immediately liked the idea. The simple introduction of a fresh mind to the project made a big impact. The fact that each person designed their own rule became a pretty important part of the final product.

We found a piece of plywood, marked a fine grid onto it, and began hammering nails. Ho'o and Dan were great at it, and soon had a whole array of neatly aligned nails on their side of the board. Lei and I were...less skilled, and soon had a much smaller scattering of nails on our side of the board. We left at the end of class with plans to come back at some other time to finish the nailing- one nail for every single dot on the board.

This never happened. When Dan came in to finish working on it Thursday morning, he made a brilliant observation- it worked a lot better without all the nails. It was much less uniform, like a real city.

We got some paper and carefully crafted instructions in the most open-ended way possible. Then we made a list of "rules." Each member of our team wrote their rule down on the paper and then followed it. The only restriction is that each new rule had to be different from all of the previous ones. The rules ranged from "move only in diagonals" to "move in approximately curvy lines." During our presentation we had the other members of the class create their own rules and add them to the board.

And here's the final product:

(Photos courtesy of Sara Brown, our instructor.)

I think my favorite comment during the discussion about our project was, "I like how the nails aren't distributed uniformly. I can tell that it's intentional, but I can't tell what the pattern is."

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