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Alice Nell
April 14, 2014

Members of the week: Irina Spicaka & Krisjanis Rijnieks

Irina Spicaka and Krisjanis Rijnieks are a creative power duo with a vast expertise in all sorts of media, technology and arts. They have a never-ending thirst for knowledge and absolutely rock the things they do whilst keeping an admirable coolness. These two inspiring personalities are also the course holders of our course on Projection Mapping for Generative Visuals on Custom Made 3D Surfaces and we are proud to present them to you!

Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What do you do and how did you get to where you are now?

For the past 3 years we have been working together, creating art installations and VJ-ing, as well as working with commercial projects that usually involve graphic design, programming, projection mapping, creative coding and electronics. We run a small digital media studio CodeBark  and are also developing the CC4AV (Creative Coding for Live Audio and Visuals) platform that works as a placeholder for workshops and other activities that we have done in Helsinki and Riga so far. We are not going to stop just there, of course - one can say that Berlin is our next target.

Irina has graduated the MA programme in Visual Communication at the faculty of Audiovisual Arts of the Art Academy of Latvia. In her thesis, she focused on projection mapping, generative art and audiovisual composition as well as how these can be used in conceptual art. She also studied experimental video and mixed media at the Brera Academy (Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera) in Milan, Italy. During the last two years, she has participated in several workshops and lectures provided by media festivals and fab-labs in Europe.

For the past few years, Krisjanis has been exploring different media, programming languages and uses of technology and finally has arrived to a point where he can see how to finally complete his MA studies. He is a student at the New Media MA programme of the Aalto University of Art, Design and Architecture in Helsinki and also has a background in painting.

How did you get into this field of media art?

Irina: I started VJ-ing when I was approximately 20 years old. During that time, I kicked gender stereotypes in the butt and learned about video shooting, editing and looping, video and DVJ mixers, DVD players, beamers, cables and MIDI controllers. I was taught by different inspiring people, practicing in Riga's underground scene for electronic music, playing VJ sets with them for techno music artists and DJ's. It was a great step stone for me because I had just graduated from high school where I had studied visual arts and softwares that are mostly used to produce output for advertising.

I think it started in my childhood when my father, being an engineer, taught me how to build things with CONSTRUCTOR (a type of soviet-time Lego, made from metal and with real bits and bolts). Since then, I somehow got passionate about things that typically boys like to explore. Step by step, I got used to different hardwares and softwares, and while I was at the academy, I fortunately could not avoid working with different kinds of audiovisual media.

Krisjanis: It all started when my classmate, still a good friend of mine, gave me a CD with a pirated version of Macromedia Flash 4. ActionScript was at version 1.0 then and the Flash philosophy that visuals and animations can be connected with code has not left my mind since. I was doing a lot of graphic and web design parallel to my painting studies. I felt that it is sometimes ridiculous to repeat myself so much if there are programming languages. While loops and electronics can do infinite amounts of variations, I can work on something else. Painting and digital expression both heavily influenced my work, but eventually the digital and programmable side did become more dominant.

You will be teaching the course of Projection Mapping on 3D Surfaces. Can you describe it more specifically? What are the methods of projection mapping and generative art all about?

Both, projection mapping and generative art are up and coming due to advancements in computer and projector technology. In our opinion, the things that are possible by combining these two fields today are close to wonders. The software has become easier to use and programming languages are slowly but surely becoming easier to learn. In short - the people nowadays can create little wonders by investing minimal effort and time to learn the appropriate tools.

Projection mapping is about transforming reality by using light. Technology is not yet advanced enough to be able to transform all properties of the environment, but we can at least change its texture.

Generative art allows us to create semi-predictable visual processes that in turn create textures that we are not able to visualize otherwise. Generative art is mostly about creating processes and, in fact it, does not even matter if it is visualized or not, although in the case of our workshop - it should.

What kind of projects did you do using these methods?

Projection mapping as such was not the sole inspiration for our work - it was mainly the possibility of creating our own surface for it. We decided to make an experiment by just taking it for granted that it is possible to relatively easily create a precise real-life polygonal 3D object from a 3D model made in Blender. The Catface was born. We got our MadMapper licence key 1 hour before the first performance with it. And it worked!

Later, we got an opportunity to work with people from the Cube digital agency on airBaltic (Latvian airline) for a Christmas advertising campaign where a real plane had to be projection mapped. We did not have an opportunity to create a custom surface for this project but moving the plane with the help of a radio was fun.

The most interesting projection mapping project for us so far has been the Metasphere. It involved the exploration of using the equipment available at a FabLab (Aalto FabLab in Helsinki in this case).

What can participants expect from this course?

Fun things will be happening. They will understand that creating a 3D object from scratch is not so unbelievable these days and an open-source software is not something to be afraid of as well since closed-source proprietary softwares can be combined with open-source when needed.

They will learn the basics of 3D modeling in Blender and the visual programming tool Quartz Composer. Participants will also use one of the most popular projection mapping tools: the MadMapper. Every participant will build his or her own 3D screen from scratch and project visuals onto its surface. Later on, participants will be be able to re-use and continue to work on their projects - which is the best part!

How did you get involved with betahaus? How come you are holding the course here?

Irina: Currently, I am a graphic design intern at betahaus.  I am mainly working for the Hardware Accelerator and betahaus | Education  - designing identities, webs and thinking about communication campaign. At the first meeting with my supervisor, we decided that it would be super cool if I were to hold some course as well. As I am in Berlin with Krisjanis, we came up with idea to merge our experience and make a course which involves form and programming - projection mapping and creative coding.

If you were stranded on a lonely island, which 3 items would each of you want to have with you?

Irina: Double size, water resistant sleeping bag, an axe and Krisjanis

Krisjanis: Some food, some matches and Irina

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