Sunday, January 31, 2010

Learning Sound

This experience has been awesome because I get to experiment with sound- what works & what doesn't.

For the doorknobs piece I want to experiment with using background sounds.  Because the tent community is located right on Ann Arbor/Saline Road and the highway entrance ramp, I recorded highway sounds today.  However, the strong wind factor caused pretty poor results.  I have these small windscreens that came with the recorder but they don't seem to help much.  I will have to wait for better weather conditions.  Or maybe there is a free website where I can download sounds of the highway- just to test it out.  

I also recorded zippers and doorknobs.  I'm afraid these sounds will distract the listener.  So if I use them, they will have to be very well done.

More Audio

This is another moment in a previous interview where he refers to what motivates him to get up in the morning, and he mentions doorknobs. I wonder if I should incorporate this into the piece as well.

Doorknob Sound Piece

This is the 3-minute sound piece I put together about what Jay misses the most:  doorknobs.  This is the piece I am planning on submitting to the Marathon of Homelessness.  I have 14 days to perfect it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekly Post January 28, 2010

I have been working hard on the audio component of my project, and I have put the other mediums on the side as of now (photography, collaborative project, writing).  I met with Hannah and she helped me figure out long-term and short-term goals for myself, which helped me see clearly where I need to be and when.  I like how the Marathon of Homelessness audio piece is due to in mid February, because it gives me a set deadline.   So for the next two weeks, I am going to try and make a good audio piece. 

This week I spent a considerable amount of time working on my sound piece (7 hours).  I listened to my last interview with Jay 3-4 times, and put together a 3-minute sound piece, centered on what he misses the most:  doorknobs.  I spent another hour putting together a transcript of the entire interview.   

I absolutely loved meeting the directors of the Third Coast Audio Festival. They were extremely positive and enthusiastic towards everyone’s senior projects.  Julie and Johanna gave great ideas and insight to all of our diverse integrative projects.  They had great advice about how I could improve the narrative of the sound story.  I found both of them to be very easy to talk to, and great discussions took place with everyone.  I left the two-hour session with great ideas about how to take my project even further.  Amanda listened to my sound piece today and agreed that I need to play with spacing Jay’s words out, to give the listener more time to absorb the information.  I am planning on meeting with Stephanie on Tuesday to go over the sound piece in more detail.

I enjoyed meeting with Megan, the writing tutor.  She had great insight about points to add in my paper.  She recommended I add my point of view on homelessness to the thesis.  She also advised I go into more specific detail about artists who have worked in this field. 

Since my overall goal is awareness, I have reached out to James Dickson of  We spoke in early October about Camp Take Notice and he said to keep him updated about my project.  I am planning on meeting with him next week to show him the collaborative series and sound piece.

This week, Liz and I gave a presentation about IP to our “Home” studio class, since most of the students in the class are Juniors in A&D.  We gave them advice for entering IP, and one thing I recommended that everyone have, regardless if it is required or not, is a blog.  I love being able to blog about my process; when trying to connect with people for my project, many times I will say “check out my blog to read more”.  Having a blog helped to strengthen my writing skills.  It’s great practice for writing a quick reflection of my weekly progress.  

Tomorrow I am meeting with Ted... remember Ted?  He is the artist who carves beautiful, realistic images onto wood.  He is homeless and living in the tent community as well.  I am going to meet with him tomorrow at 2:30 in the AA District Library for an interview.  He couldn’t meet last week because he was volunteering at his church; he made chili for the homeless at the Delonis Center, even though he himself is homeless. 

This week I am going to work more on the “doorknobs” piece.  I am going to record highway sounds, since the tent community is less than 300 feet away from the I95 entrance ramp to the highway.  I am going to upload pieces to the blog as I go along.

I also want to create a sound piece about Jay's boots.  There is some really good sound material there, when he talks about how his boots have been the one constant material possession he has kept for the past 20 years:  "My boots have been there for me when I was young, and when I was old.  They were with me when I was rich........  and when I am poor."

I'll leave you with this last quote I found interesting from our interview.  I asked him what sounds he hears at night.  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weekly Post January 21, 2010

This week, a significant amount of time was spent in all aspects of my project:  designing, editing, recording, writing, reaching out.

I finished the entire collaborative series with Jay (4 hours), which consists of about 35 pictures from the disposable camera.  The other 10 images didn’t come out as well due to poor lighting and the overall quality of a disposable camera.  But in general, I think the series is nice, as it tells a unique story of Jay’s day-to-day life, filled with his ironic captions.  The snow pictures are my favorite, as they truly capture the very sad living circumstances in such cold weather. 

Stephanie suggested I clear out my studio wall and post all of the images to see how they look as a series, which was interesting and it allowed me to take a step back.  Hannah also suggested I play with scale, so I printed one image much larger than the rest.  I still think I need to print it even larger.

Two hours was dedicated to piecing together an audio/visual slideshow of Jay’s images and his voice narrating his situation.  Although I am glad I tried this, Stephanie and I agreed that the slideshow was too long, and that there was too much information for the viewer to absorb at one time.  However, I am glad I tried this, and maybe I can piece together images/sound after I have completed a more compact audio piece. 

I spent about three hours designing various ways to present the series of Jay.  I played with text color, spacing, and hierarchy of the handwritten text. 

I spent two hours listening again to my past interviews, so that I could get back into the audio component of my project.  Two things really stood out the most:  doorknobs and boots.  Jay mentioned at one time that the one thing he misses the most is doorknobs, for many reasons: security, safety, privacy, represents home.  In addition, during one session he talked about his 25-year old boots.  I thought the boots had potential because they have been the one constant possession in his life, the one thing he has kept since becoming homeless.   I wrote down phrases/objects like this that stood out in our interviews.

I met with Jay yesterday for another hour-long interview and brought that list of phrases/objects.  This time I was more comfortable than ever, and made sure he stayed on topic.  I am planning on submitting a 4-minute sound piece in a few weeks to the National Marathon of Homelessness, so I need to capture an interesting story.  We talked for 25 minutes about doorknobs about 30 minutes about his 25-year old snow boots.  There were times when he said “I can’t believe we are talking about my boots for 20 minutes” but I really feel that these two aspects had potential.  I believe some powerful phrases came out of the interview. 

I started listening to our interview this morning and started to create a soundscript, but I am in the beginning stages.  I need to do that this weekend.  Also, my previous soundscripts for my interviews consisted of key words/phrases for every couple of minutes.  I want this soundscript to include every word he says and see how this approach works, as I piece together words and think about creating an audio story. 

I also spent about 20 minutes touching base with SOS and reaching out to Alpha House.  Chelsea, from SOS, has recently sent me a written story by a woman who overcame homelessness (who I mentioned in my last weekly post).  This particular individual wrote 3 pages about her situation and has given me permission to use this for an art piece.  The story is very compelling.

The class critique went well, as many people were discussing possible avenues I can take for the collaborative black/white series.  Many people mentioned blowing up 10-12 of the images in an installation-like setting.  Some suggested that I create a book with all of the images in a story format.  Amanda also suggested I think about putting his captions not on the front of the images, but rather on the back, to further engage the audience. 

It was nice to meet with Chris Pullman.  He understood my goal of awareness and provided suggestions on how I can inform the public.  He suggested TV, radio, print, local news, etc.  He felt that I should be thinking about these avenues very soon.  He was optimistic about the different approaches I am taking:  sound, media, writing, collaboration.  He suggested I make a list of all of these mediums and make short-term and long-term goals for each one, which is a very good idea.  Also, the layout he was drawn to the most in the b/w series was the one that shows the actual lined paper Jay wrote on because he felt it was most authentic.

What’s Next:

I want to set up a meeting with Adrianne Finelli, my studio professor for my “Home” class.  Her thesis is very inspiring and I think she will provide insight.  I also would like to set up times to talk to Amanda & Erica to get their opinions on next steps.

I am going to also finish the soundscript for the recent interview and put together some clips for the 3rd Coast visitors on Tuesday.

I plan to make a list of long-term and short-term goals as well.

There are not enough hours in the day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mini Tents

Today while I was in Meijer, I stopped by the camping aisle to take a look at some tents for inspiration.  While I was there I found these small sample tents on the top shelf to show customers how the tents look when set up.  I am drawn to these mini tents, and I'm not quite sure why!

I think I need to get my hands on a few of these samples.  I feel like I could see rows of these mini tents in an installation or something.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Homeless in Haiti

Picture from

The terrible tragedy in Haiti has caused thousands to be homeless.  Many Haitians now must live in tent cities, as they fear rape, robbery, and crime.

The National Police Chief has stated that tent cities pose the biggest challenge.

It might be interesting to compare tent cities in the US to ones in Haiti, as tents are seen as "temporary solutions" for people in both countries.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Weekly Post January 14, 2010

This week was necessary because it kicked me into gear- after talking to Hannah and Stephanie, I realized what is practical to accomplish in 81 days.  Yes, 81 days.  Hahaha.

This week I went to SOS to meet with the woman who overcame homelessness.  She never showed up to the meeting, but I was able to speak with Chelsea, the PR director.  She showed me a story that this particular woman wrote; it was about three pages discussing how she overcame such obstacles.  Chelsea is going to ask the woman if I can read her story.  Maybe I can weave her story into my project somehow.  I followed up with Chelsea today and I am waiting to hear back.

As far as this time spent this week, 5 hours was dedicated to finishing up the first camera’s black/white images.  This week I tried to put together realistic goals for Tuesday’s critique.  My goal is to complete the black/white series of Jay.  So far I have completed half of the series (one camera), and this weekend I am going to work on the second camera so I can complete the series.  I want to show the class the series as a whole (about 35 images) so I can get feedback.  Cutting down a series of about 10-12 will also allow me to focus more intently on those images and work on editing/playing with light/contrast in Photoshop.  I also want to print one image on nice, Epson Luster Paper in the printing studio so I can see what the images look like when printed in high quality conditions.  I also want to print one out very large and see what happens to the quality of the image.  I want to play with how text/image is displayed in a variety of ways.

I spent about an hour at SOS talking with Chelsea.  Another two hours was spent writing down realistic goals and thinking about what is possible to accomplish.  This was good because it allowed me to refresh my mind and I feel better knowing what I need to accomplish day by day.  I also spent another hour reaching out and sending follow up e-mails to various organizations.

I will share some interesting images that emerged when putting together the series:

Stephanie also suggested I take down everything on one wall of my studio and hang up the entire series to see what it looks like as a whole.  This is a good idea; I will definitely do that in the upcoming days. 

Although the series with Jay is strong, after talking with Hannah I realized I need to move on and create something else.  I need to create at least two more additional projects.  And although putting on an art exhibit of homeless individual’s work is a possibility, it is probably not realistic to achieve in two and a half months.  I might be able to create a show over the summer, but I need to focus on what I want to achieve for IP.  This weekend I am going to create a sound piece that includes my voice and Jay’s.  Since I have over two hours of recording, I feel it would be interesting to piece this together.  Stephanie told me about this great opportunity, the Homeless Marathon, which is a 14-hour national radio broadcast showcasing homeless people’s stories.  In order to submit, I need to put together a 4-minute sound piece by February 14th.  I think this is a great opportunity and will add another element (sound) to my IP project.  I am thinking of recording my reflection of the interviews (like in the writing pieces) and weaving that with Jay's words.  I am very interested in how images are created in one's mind when listening to sound.

I also want to combine my photographs/Jay’s images with this sound piece to see what comes of it, even if I just test it out in iMovie.

I also wanted to mention another area of interest I am thinking about for the senior IP show.  The idea of an installation is one that I keep thinking about.  What if an actual space was created to look like a homeless person’s space (tent)?  I could place the voices of Jay inside the tent.  Having a tent or suggestion of a tent in a gallery space needs to be well done.  I don’t want it to look like a boy scout camper’s tent.  I would have to have the tent represent that these are the new homes we are creating.  I could play on the issue of irony.  A tent with a white picket fence around it.  Or have the tent be entirely constructed out of foreclosure signs and newspaper headlines. 

Hannah and I also talked about the possibility of a book.  It could include my reflections as well as all of the images I have collected thus far.  This book doesn’t not have to take up much time- it would consist of very simple design - maybe 20 images or so – and my reflections or expressive typography. 

What to do next:

I am going to finish the black/white series, talk about them at critique, and then put them aside.  I want to spend a lot of time working on my sound piece!

Also- Erica just told me about this awesome program "Arduino" that is basically a mini computer that can sense movements.  This would be awesome for my installation- the sound can go off when someone walks by.  There are a few workshops for the grad students on how to use it, and I am very excited to see if I can sit in the workshop!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Three Months To Go!

I am very excited to start the new semester.  Winter break was exactly what I needed and I was able to catch up on a lot of sleep!

 I can't believe we have essentially have 12 weeks left to finish our projects.  There are so many things I want to accomplish this semester, so I need to be realistic with my goals. 

There are so many ideas I have: 

I would like to create a small series of my own work, which reflects on this experience.  I would like to explore expressive typography and combine my words with the words of various homeless individuals.  I would like to use design- but I am really open to many mediums.  I am not sure if this will be displayed in the show, but I think it would be interesting if I spent a little time creating a reflective art piece.

My second idea is something I am excited about but will take great amount of work.  Throughout first semester and after all of my research and meeting various homeless individuals, I noticed how much people enjoy creating.  When I asked Jay to participate in my project, he was ecstatic.  He was extremely eager to see my completed work and is looking forward to the final project.  Other individuals in the tent community use art as an outlet.  Ted, for instance, creates woodcarvings to express himself.  Although none of the individuals have formally studied art, they find art a compelling outlet. Jay was not a photographer until I handed him a disposable camera a month ago.  I believe it would be interesting to conduct an exhibit with much of this work.  I could reach out various exhibits and galleries in Ann Arbor to showcase such work from homeless individuals.  Awareness is my ultimate goal, and this would be a unique way for people to see works from the homeless themselves.  I could be the designer of the show and showcase all of their work in an effective manner.  I could even show some of my pieces that reflect on the experience.

Another option for the Senior IP show is to create an installation.  I envision using a large tent to create an interesting space, which includes the voices of homeless individuals as well as imagery.  Or I could completely recreate someone's tent (Jay's for example).  I could get clothes, hygiene products, food, 10 blankets he uses every night, pillows, etc. to show that people really live in these tents.  

By the January 19 critique, I would love to complete all of Jay’s black and white series.  I have completed about 7 or 8 so far, and there are about 25 more left to put together/edit/enhance.  This is my ultimate goal because I would love to get feedback on which images are the most powerful.  I could ask for feedback on the best format for these images (book form, prints on the wall,  should I add sound to them, etc.).

Today I sent an e-mail out to Ted from the Tent Community, asking him if he would like to be interviewed and participate in a potential art show.  He is the one that creates the woodcarvings.  

Tomorrow I am meeting with a contact I received at SOS.  She has overcome homelessness and I hope will be a valuable resource.  I am going to ask her about her experience and ask her opinions on my ideas. 

I have also reached out to some individuals from the homeless shelter in New Jersey.  They are very willing to tell their story and I would like to schedule times on the phone to talk to them.  It was very difficult to find time during the short break; However, I am going home twice next month, so I could schedule time to meet with them at that time.  

Over the break, I came across interesting articles on my topic.  One in particular talks about how Prince William created awareness for a homeless organization by sleeping on the streets of London.  Of course this received great publicity for the organization, thus creating awareness for homelessness, as this article was in the NY Daily News.  

Photo of Prince William about to 
sleep on the cold London street.

More articles are being published about this topic everyday.  I am looking forward to creating an artistic approach to demonstrate the issue.