Kelli Anderson: Hang Time NYC

please welcome our friend Kelly Anderson to the hangtime NYC stage hey everyone I'm Kelly what I'm showing behind me is my most recent project I finished up so this is a paper craft animation about planning a California road trip using web-based software called drop mark which was made by the nice guys at oak studios and as a designer there's historically been these two dual tracks in my work the first one is that I really like to explain how invisible things work the activity of data visualization is really all about bringing facts from me abstract or numerical realm into the sphere of perception so you can see and feel and experience those facts the other part of my works duality is I'm obsessed with building things that seem like magic but have no hidden parts things like this that are really super simple in that you can see their totality but are complex because they seem to work in ways that are more sophisticated than the sum of their parts and I like experimenting with this lo-fi magic stuff with objects but also to create animations I like working with materials that I can barely control and try to will them into submission so this for example I figured out that I could use my vinyl cutter to make stencils and put those stencils on glass and then cover it with this hydrophobic coating rain-x basically and it's like because I'm a graphic designer I'm like oh I can make letters this way awesome but then I also started putting them together to make this like experimental animation method so this is a typical Muybridge moving horse but it's made out of a puddle of water rather than animation frames another recent animation experiment is using the Rezo to print animation frames is anyone else like obsessed with the reaso in the same way I am yes all right cool the reason was fun for animation in particular because it hasn't it I had registration and animation requires perfect registration so it's like a really interesting sort of transaction to navigate there where the colors like go wildly out and in a registration so this is how I've been doing it I go ahead and print out the frames on the reaso and they come out all basically looking the same it seems like no animation is gonna happen but then when you put them together it comes to life in this really surprising way and I think the reason that I like these uncontrollable processes is because you know I learn a little bit about the world every time I engage with them it's not something that's just coming from my own head here's another one I kind of only tried to color drums like I haven't ever changed it so I'm like what else can I make with the reaso but like have not gone beyond the fluorescent orange and blue this is like a client project for a sneaker company but I'm probably not supposed to be showing you that I'm finishing up right now so um all of this lo-fi magic stuff a lot of it exists firmly in this realm of novelty and cheap tricks like you see it once you realize it's a trick and you're never fooled again kind of like my cat never believed this was a wolf after touching its face but in these moments I think when things behave in ways that surprise us there's an opportunity to get people asking why so you know magic only works when there's a blind spot and our understanding this here is a book that I made based on research by a Swiss scientist named Eman Gabriel in which uses more a interference patterns to give the illusion of magnification when a screen is put on dots of the same period and rotated and it seems to reveal like some kind of like fancy behavior or glitch in the material why it really just highlights this behavior and our perception that were otherwise not aware of basically our brain or these like great pattern finding machines and so when you cover something up for example like when you're driving down the road and a sign is partially obstructed by a tree you know your mind works to put the pieces together and try to figure out like what the sign says and so this is the same thing that's happening here it's like oh it must be a circle because I'm seeing different parts and it creates illusion of magnification yeah so a lot of my work does this I try to use Wonder as a tool to challenge complacency this is a really simple card that I made for my friends around the holidays which doesn't actually resemble a holiday card at all but paper never forgets how it was bent so I was able to use that material memory to essentially program it and died people through the experience without including any instructions at all so can you get this card when you first pick it up it's clear that it wants to bend in these very specific ways and people discover that bending the card brings them through this simple story and as you can see it's a story about itself the card is literally a four framed documentary about receiving this card so I like this project because it's just about as simple as a material can get this is the front and back of an eight-and-a-half by eleven piece of paper it's printed on both sides it has about ten cuts and to glue dots and yet it works in this way where it's like I need it but I still don't completely understand how it works mechanically and structurally and this is actually the same feeling I get when I do all graphic design work even very very traditional graphic design work like branding and menu design aesthetically it may work but there's still a lot of questions I have about that so this is a mini system in branding that I worked on for Russian daughters in the lower Eastside there are a hundred and five year old Bay and lox institution if you're in Fermat of town I would highly recommend going there but you know it was one of those things where it felt less like I was controlling it and making decisions and more like I was interrogating it I kept on playing with it you know like wondering why when font works better than another why one column layer it worked better than another why white paper rather than Kraft I think this menu actually went through like 85 different revisions until it felt like it was done so with this project like with all graphic design I feel like it's more like I'm surfing on a system of knowledge but I can't hold in my head and its totality at once rather than being like a professional yielding certain expertise so you know it totally gives me impostor syndrome but the more work that I do and the more that I read about how work and other experimental fields moves forward the more that I realized that this is like right where I want to be and right where I want to stay there's really two entry points in understanding the world there's this already formalized knowledge there we go there's knowledge that's already been formalized essentially being transmitted from one person to another this for example is one way of understanding a mobius strip but for anyone who has ever made a mobius strip you can basically take a strip of paper twist it once tape the ends together and start drawing a line down the middle and you'll find that that line ends in the same place where it began so I show this example because it's one of those things that makes a whole lot more sense in paper than on paper and really I think a surprising a lot of the world is this way you know as with the Mobius strip as with graphic design as with love and comedy the fact that it works is all the proof that's required to continue moving forward and testing it and as soon as it becomes formalized knowledge as soon as you turn it into an equation or a formula it dies like just a little bit so you know outside of the field of graphic design there are many people who are opening unsolvable problems up to touch and to tinkering for example there's this group at MIT that's led by Erik Demaine that's translating unsolvable folding and unfolding problems into in science and engineering into you origami of all things if you're interested in this Nova's origami revolution on PBS it's online it's very interesting an example of this is you know by what pattern should airbags best be folded up within your steering column to most rapidly unfurl upon impact which is like an ongoing pursuit or protein sequence come fold it so like what is the fewest places that you need to cut a folded protein sequence so that the majority of the sequence like stays intact once it's unfolded in a linear form so by making these problems tangible the researchers are accessing this you know superpower really of human tangible intuition and in my own work I realized that I can get much farther in thinking about complexity and engaging with complex problems if I can find a way to get my brain in my hand to work in tandem so I end up translating a lot of complex things into toys for example you know as a freelance designer with an abundance of firstworldproblems I feel very overwhelmed by the problem of like should I say yes to this job or should I say job and so instead of like making that decision and having like a existential breakdown every time I decided instead to make a paper calculator that would decide for me and this format it's called of eval before there were computers or even calculators there was still this need for calculation and so people would do things like you know take out the Fronde calculator when faced with a problem of like alright I want 15 bushels of asparagus to harvest in the fall how do I do that so like I turned the Volkl 215 it tells me how many seeds to get when to plant it these things are fun because they're kind of like the apps of the 1800s like they did one calculation really well so you needed like an entire drawer of them to like get through life but they're super fun because they make these proportions and the math physical so everything on App Avella is done through the series of nested and cut wheels the back has to have like all the answers like I can't generate something that it doesn't already know so it's kind of the design of it is a process of winnowing down the entire field of answers to the one answer that you're looking for so on mine which I call the existential calculator somewhat jokingly but really seriously uh-huh it's programmed with social science research about what makes people happy in work and feel secure and what ends up leading them to you a midlife crisis which basically boils down to four main considerations working conditions you know whether you're getting snacks or working in a dungeon whether we works good for the world or you feel like it's bad if it's a good fit for you and then how much money you're making so you answer those four questions by turning the wheel it's the most appropriate answer and then your common combination of answers yields a colored dot in this little window if anything and then you flip it over to the back and find your color and you trace it Alex the outer edge and all of the conditions you cross are ones that apply to you so um you know if you end up in the red zone this is like unrealistically good work you know it's great for the world it's a perfect fit for you you're making tons of money and you know the wheel is kind of making fun of you because it's like oh you might touch the void so the whole thing is like wherever you end up in the spectrum it's going to make fun of you a little bit just because you know we all feel self-conscious about work but it's really not that different than taking an online quiz but in this analog form you can't help but look out over the entire spectrum of work and if you're unhappy where you are wonder about how you could get to the other places and so it really facilitates this philosophical conversation with oneself where you're constantly like flipping it over and saying like alright well what if I change the money thing a little bit what if I change this so yeah it's it's kind of like an aid to thought in a way so currently in my work this is the generative question that keeps on leading me to more and more projects why are lo-fi things appealing in a world of advanced tech and I started thinking about this question seriously a while ago back in 2011 some friends of mine approached me to make a wedding invitation for them and since we were all obsessed with music we wanted to make a card musical and I ended up making this card that ended up going viral and I was really surprised about it and I'm gonna tell you a little bit about that story so rather than taking design inspiration from a design blog or some normal source I got my design inspiration solely from this guy mr. wizard me and Karen and Mike the bride and groom had all been obsessed with this show when we were little kids and we remembered one experiment in particular that we wanted to model the wedding invitation after and it's this one what he did was he rolled up a cone of paper he taped it shut he taped a needle to the end of it and voila it was a record player I remember seeing this in it totally blew my mind and the idea of sending all of Karen and Mike's friends you know little record players they could play with rather than like grown-up respectable invitations just seemed really super appealing so we all got super excited that this was gonna happen and then the onus was on me to figure out how to actually make it work so I started like wandering around Manhattan collecting needles like going to the sewing district getting all the sewing needles going to Chinatown and buying off all the acupuncture needles calling papers of fire so I'm trying to find the paper with the best audio properties meanwhile the bride and groom were writing this really adorable song inviting guests to you the wedding and we put it on to a flexi disc which is a flexible acetate record and the reason we did this is so that we could get a completely clear one I printed the couple in black here everything you see behind it in color is like the backing page in that way when you rotate it every 90 degrees it like completes the couple in a different scenario so here they are playing music together and eating and drinking and being merry and then growing old together in old person clothes and this was a design decision that was like solely born out of fear because even though I had tested all of the components of course everything all the materials the final materials were getting in at the last second and I was like so worried that like you know perhaps my sewing needle wasn't representative of the rest that I had ordered or perhaps the grooves on the flexi disk were going to be cut a little bit differently than what I was testing so by making it I complete the picture game there was actually some design justification built in beyond it being a functional record player but it did work and this is how it works there are instructions to fold this piece of paper in half and sort of tent it up and there's a needle in the little red dot you place it on the record and then turn it at 45 rpm yeah so yeah so it was the funniest thing like we were so happy that it worked and we hadn't just like wasted hundreds of dollars on materials but we lose the internet and it people were crazy about it like it was like on Oprah at daytime TV and all of this stuff and I was like we were all sitting around complaining about like Spotify not having some obscure album and how like you know why isn't there flack for me to download I don't want a crummy mp3 and that thing like it sounds terrible it's like definitely not in stereo you know it's like the the kind of like the worst thing so like what is going on here why are you people so excited about this and so this was the interesting generative question I stumbled into and started to pursue and I realized that there's this weird dimension in our relationship with our things that modern tech largely doesn't provide modern tech gives us what we want you know whatever we ask for it you know eases the burden on humanity this is a paper stack cutter at a printer down the street for me which i think is hilarious it's like they're really turning back time because you don't have to cut each piece of paper yourself anymore and I think the thing after thinking about this for like years that modern tech doesn't do is it's black box it doesn't make information bioavailable to us in the same way so Brett and Victor writes about how the scatterplot graph was this great invention of humankind because if you have a bunch of oops sorry you need to go forward if you have a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet you can't just like feed this into the human brain and have it make sense but as soon as you take those same numbers and put them on a map it opens them up to our spatial reasoning which we've developed you know over thousands and thousands of years of evolution and all of a sudden we can see patterns and relationships and the numbers that were invisible before so you know the superpower helps us intellectually feel our way through the world and I think intellectually we think about the world much more through our bodies and through touch than it's acknowledged the nervous system doesn't just end with a brain alone it extends all the way to the skin so like all information not just the touchy-feely stuff even technical information flows in through our senses we're simply hardwired to have this very deep and rich intellectual and philosophical life through our tangible exchanges with our things so an old mechanical tech was much fussy and glitchy and sometimes didn't work and you had to move the antenna around or like unstick the little panels on the clock it's frustrating but it gave us this and reinforced this connection point to the larger physical world all around us so as an artist like I really internalized this in my work whenever I work on any kind of project even an animation project that's always going to be behind a screen I always think about touch you know I try to get the viewers sense of touch involved by having noise by showing the scenes you know so they can interact with all these little palimpsests of how they were made and you know kind of be there in a way that you can't when it's a completely clean digital experience yeah like when I made this bird animation for my friends at tiny Bob it was like aren't you gonna remove the strings and I was like no the strings are awesome because you know it's like everyone's flown a kite before and it's like my hand is sort of a stand-in for for yours the viewers when I move us across it just gives you this like sympathetic connection point to you what's happening which is why people were super into this it's like in science class we learned about how sound is vibrations that move molecules in the air travels into your eardrums and our brain registers it as sound but until you put your hand on this thing and start moving it around and can sync of paint those sounds with what's happening it really drives at home so as a designer my most recent projects you know they try to withhold judgment about what signal and what's noise and just give people these open-ended experiences where they can play with these abstract things so over the past couple of years I've been teaching myself paper engineering and so for our two projects have come out of this I need this book as a camera which is actually a super literal title it's a paper camera in a pop-up book that you can load photo paper into the back by lifting up this dark slide which allows light to come in through a pinhole and the paper in the back and then you can go back in the dark and develop it and instant coffee and baking soda so it's kind of like this oh I'm sure ended on a desert island kind of photography without any technology at all but it actually makes pretty cool photos because they're so large format so this one is on top of the Whitney Museum and then this one is on the Brooklyn Bridge and I published it myself a couple years ago and was like super worried that I'd have like 4,000 of these like hanging out in my closet forever but the Museum of Modern Art like where you published it recently and so yeah hopefully you'll see more people looking super cool in public places while everyone else is using their smartphone Thanks I'm overtime this is the last project I'm going to show you and I think other people could talk to you but this one is called this book is a planetarium and it's another super literal title so if anyone has like a murder mystery they're writing and needs to like ruin it like come talk to me I'm the queen of literal titles and there's a planetarium in it but there's also some other stuff the whole point of this book is to reduce the various tech gadgets down to just paper so when people are interacting with it they're not interacting with something black box they're not interacting with an interface or someone's idea about how technologies work they're interacting more direct with these forces that undergird all physical experience in the universe um so it kind of explains that yeah so the whole the whole goal with oh hey the whole point of the whole point of making that book is to like get people to ask questions themselves and so you know by seeing this book as a planetarium I want people to be like no it's not you know and I walk over me like yeah there is actually a planetarium site and then when it works to ask why and so there's an explanation on every page explaining the basics of like how light time and sound were very basics but enough to start googling it yeah so I wanted to you just tell you that there's a URL called cut fold templates calm or I have like the templates have a lot of paper stuff that you can build along with demos and then this is a little my little chart about where my inspiration comes from so these are my favorite lo-fi magic things and I would also be remiss to tell you that I'm gonna be hanging out at the after party from 5:30 to 8 with a little booth and I'll have books because I've been standing here talking about how like touch is awesome and then I showed you this visual show so you can come by and play with books and if you want to buy one you can and I'll be doing a signing and yeah I think that's it thank you all so much [Applause]

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