Interactive Video: Communication through Body Movements_ BlazeBarsamian

I combined/altered three codes in order to create art using the webcam and body movements. By pressing any key, a screen shot will be saved. If you want the image of yourself to be more clear, sit still and watch as the circles begin to form an image of you.



Blaze Barsamian

November 25, 2012


Susan Ryan

Term Paper

Term Paper:

Interactive Video: Communication through Body Movements:

My ideas for my term project stemmed from the concept of using the movements of the human body to create art. I have been a dancer my entire life and therefore creating a piece that called for interactive movement of the participant sparked my interest immediately. My main objective of this piece is to utilize a webcam in a way that would track the motions of the participant in order to tell a story. I also wanted to generate a way in which the participant could walk away from my project with a piece of the artwork they had created. To accomplish this, I wanted to incorporate a function that would allow the participant to take a screen shot of the moment they are creating[Bb1] . It is that moment that becomes the piece of art. Similar to the saying “you get out of life, what you put into it,” the more movement the participant makes with his or her body, the more color variation and intensity will appear. Hence my rendition of that particular saying to be, “the more you move, the more of the message you reveal.”   This allows the performer or the participant to have control over how much of the narrative they want to reveal. The more you move, the more lively your video projection will become. The adverse can also apply in that the less you move, the smaller about of information is revealed to the viewer.

One of the aspects of dance that has always intrigued me is the ability to create a message or story through movement. Dance made a huge impact on the visual arts world, opening peoples eyes to using movement as a source of communication. The development of dance broadened the spectrum of communication beyond a verbal language. In John Blacking’s Movement and Meaning, he quotes, “ Dance, as a topic of scientific study, is ultimately about action and conscious human intentions”[1].  It is from these actions and conscious intentions that a message or story is communicated through the dancer(s) movements. As the audience watches a dance performance, he or she observes the behaviors of that dancer. From these behaviors, the audience generates a better sense as to what role the performer is attempting to portray. Blacking claims, “ we are not describing action, unless we also enquire what people mean by their movements” [2].  With communicating through movement, I believe that it is important for the viewer to analyze every aspect of the piece of work.  This way, he or she is constantly piecing together parts of a puzzle in order to reach a resulting image or solution. By constantly questioning the artists reason or intent for each movement, the viewer begins to put all the pieces together and discover the underlying meaning.

What I understand from this quote is that Blacking believes the viewer must not describe the meaning behind the action/ movement based on their own opinions of piecing parts together that they choose. By picking and choosing the actions that stand out to that particular viewer, results in them creating their own meaning of the movement. What Blacking is trying to say is that the viewers must take into consideration what the artist claims are the meanings.

I began my brainstorming process knowing that if I were to create an interactive piece involving Processing, As previously stated, I knew I wanted to utilize the webcam. The experiences I had in dance inspired my concentration on communicating through movement. From there, I began researching movement and motion tracking and how I could go about creating coding a piece to do just that. Octavio Paz claims, “a work is a machine for producing meanings”[3]. In relation to my project, the body movements are considered the work. Therefore, they then generate meaning. This all ties back into how movements can communicate messages, feelings, and narratives.

Having never worked in Processing, I began by familiarizing myself with the Processing webpage[4] and the basic capabilities of the program. A fellow Digital Art student, Sotia Economides assisted me in giving me a run down of Processing and briefly explained the language of code to me. She made a lot of references to what I already know in coding that better helped me understand how Processing worked. To begin, she showed me how to match the codes if you were to combine multiple different examples. By combining two parts of coding, my first successful Processing sketch dealt with mouse movements and color variation. Clicking and holding down the button, called for the motion trail to have variations of color. By unclicking, whichever color was used last will remain as the trailing color until the participant clicks the mouse again. From here, I dove into piecing together the coding to meet my desired result.

As I began the development of my project, I originally had different results picked out that I wanted to combine and alter to portray my concept. The first part unwrapped each frame of the live video into one line of pixels. The live video was fed from the bottom of the screen and scrolled to the top. Images of the participant became stretched out and distorted. The second part I wanted to incorporate was frame differencing. When the participant was standing still, the background would be completely black. As the he or she began to move, colorful contour lines would outline them. The more you move, the more lines and colorful your results would be. After multiple attempts, my friend Sotia could not find what was wrong with my coding combinations for it to not work. After stepping back and returning later, I realized that one of the coding examples was not giving me the results I was hoping for.  From here, I found alternative routes that produced more desirable effects for me.

A piece that could be considered relatable to mine would be Myron Krueger’s Videoplace. This groundbreaking interactive instillation has similarities to my piece in terms of the use of cameras portraying an image generated as a result of the programs reading. The program studies the behaviors of the silhouette and then forms a response. The activity of the viewer is a key component on how each reading of the program is interpreted by the computer. Connection between the two projects lies in the fact that they both start with the cameras perception of the participant. Then that image is altered depending on the programs response to the video.    Krueger explains in his writing called Individual Melody, that “each is a restricted aesthetic medium that can be composed through body movements. In fact, your body becomes a means of creating art. The goal of these interactions is to communicate the pleasure of aesthetic creation”[5]

Rafael Lorenzo-Hemmer’s piece, Body Movies: Rational Architecture #6[6], also shares some similar concepts as my piece. In Body Movies, Lorenzo-Hemmer creates an interactive environment through a series of projections. Relatedly, both my project and Lorenzo-Hemmer’s have a revealing aspect that is activated through some sort of human movement. In Bodies Movies, the shadows of passers-by revealed images of people projected onto walls. Without the passer’s-by shadow, the images of the people would not have been seen. With my project, I wanted to show that body movements can reveal feelings, expressions and even a story without verbally communicated it.  As mentioned earlier in terms of my project, the more you move, the more that will be revealed.

[1] Blacking, John. Movement and Meaning: Dance in Social Anthropological Perspective. in Dance Research: The Journal of the Society of Dance Research, London:Edinburgh University Press. 1983.

[2] Blacking, John. Movement and Meaning: Dance in Social Anthropological Perspective. in Dance Research: The Journal of the Society of Dance Research

[3] David Rokeby, “Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media (1995)”


[5] David Rokeby, “Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media (1995)”

[6] Christiane Paul. Digital Art. Rev. ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008

 [Bb1]Remove if I don’t get to add this to coding

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