My good friend Todd Anderson and I have been getting nerdy with ink and video and software and stuff, and have created a collaborative project called Ink Space/Ink Time. I have to admit that I don’t really have the brainpower for this amount of nerding, and have mostly relied on Todd’s colossal brain to do the hard work. You can read more about the project here, and you can also see some awesome videos of the process. But, a brief synopsis of what we’ve been doing is this: Taking a chaotic event (releasing sumi ink onto a puddle of water), and videoing the transformation of this event over time. Todd then takes the video and stacks the frames of the video on top of each other using fancy software. This creates a 3D model of the event. Finally, he uses a CNC router (or we’ll be using a 3D printer if we can afford one) to cut the shape from high-density foam. Then I paint it and make it look like an iceberg 🙂
Here’s a photo of what one of the sculptures looks like:
On the surface, the project was about letting our curiosity guide us. I have always loved watching the way the ink interacts with the water as I paint. Todd was fascinated by it too. I could see the neurons firing on all cylinders while he watched the blackness creep outward in fractal-like shapes. Over the next few years, as Todd finished his PhD, he began to play around with ideas of using custom software to capture the event and make it physical. Then he began dabbling with machines and routers. He’s one of those guys. A genius tinkerer. His brain seems inexplicably drawn to complex things. Like a colony of ants it starts to explore and map out the new territory, biting off chunks and returning it to home base for processing. And once all the interesting pieces have been collected, investigated, tagged and stored in the big messy Cave of Stashed Info that’s been collected over the years, connections start to happen. Sometimes unlikely ones. Sometimes more obvious ones. And so, like dot-to-dots, a line was drawn between the software he used at work, the machines he was playing with at the Tech Shop where he liked to tinker, and the ink blossoms I showed him.
Why am I telling you about Todd’s brain? Well, because I think it illustrates an important issue in the making of art and in the living of life. It seems that it is important to play, with no goal in mind. Just spontaneous action guided by curiosity. The ant colony inside your head wants to find new things, learn new things, without judgement or purpose. It also wants to assemble new ideas and make new connections using the stuff its already stashed. From what I understand from brain research, your brain really needs to be doing this. You don’t want the neurons to keep firing down the same old paths. Apparently, learning new things (such as a new language, dance, quantum physics, knitting – anything) can help stop or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain issues. It’s also just fun.
And when the ant colony is doing it’s job, creativity happens. Ideas start looming in the fog, getting clearer and clearer as more connections are made. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they just burst into existence, fully-formed. But they’ve still come to you via the Cave of Stashed Info.
So the moral of my rambling is this:
Feed your brain.
And find yourself a Todd. Sometimes your ants need to meet new ants.
Oh, and stay away from anteaters.