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Kaleidoscopic NO-SIGNAL

This is a projection mapping work in which the software programme generates kaleidoscopic animation to be projected on the cubes in pyramidical formation by utilising the geometrically repetitive feature of the surfaces to map the projection on.​

produced by: Adam He


In this work, I tried to explore the relationship between randomness and order, simplicity and complexity, as well as the possible means for transformation between different visual media.

To fulfil such initial interest, I carefully selected kaleidoscopic vision as the fundamental reference to build the project upon. That is because it successfully demonstrates how such a simple device like this could surprisingly produce infinitely rich patterns. In fact in the first few years after the kaleidoscope was invented in 1816, “it distracted the public as much as an iPhone” (Jason Farman). Indeed, this is not another gizmo that plays with some old tricks wearing a new shell, it fascinates people with its highly structured mechanism that perfectly generates order out of randomness, complexity out of simplicity… Sounds familiar? right, I consider kaleidoscope as the generative art in the pre-computer age. The physical structure of the kaleidoscope acts just like the computing architecture of the code, setting up rules that use random shapes as seeds to produce structural forms.

Obviously, one of the most essential features of a kaleidoscope would be its triangular repetitiveness, and this happens to echo the modular formation of the shapes to project the images on. Each of the symmetrically arranged square surfaces of the cubes can be cut into two identical triangles, which as a whole coincide with the hexagonal arrangement that exists in kaleidoscopes. Making use of this geometric similarity, I tried to build the linkage between two visual media, in order to find out what can be done when transferring functions from one instrument / device / machine / programme to another. Here, I deliberately mix up the uses of the words instrument / device / machine / programme, because I believe in the context of generative arts, they are the same thing referring to the systemic environment for the seeds of nature to grow up into trees.

Besides that, the generation of randomness plays the principal role in the kaleidoscopic magic. In addition, the charm also comes from the simplicity in utilising trivial materials to create significant visual impact. In line with this methodological principle, I use the classic “No Signal” television image as the raw material due to its graphical feature. By cutting it into pieces and scaling, rotating, layering them, the algorithm generates ever-changing fragmental vision which can be strongly associated with the referential kaleidoscopic impression. Here again, I am trying to examine the interesting perceptual changes, as the experimental effect in inter-media transformation, from the private, small, enclosed and two-dimensional illusion of a kaleidoscope, to the public, enlarged, open and three-dimensional space of the projection mapping.

Also interestingly, the cultural meaning of the “No Signal” image in the post-digital age seems to be helpful for building some degree of connection between the analogue and digital paradigms, which more or less resonates part of the aesthetic motivation of this project.