Part 3 Project 2 Exercise 2
The course texts says:
Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way you wish.
My mum came home from a Saturday morning shopping trip to find 9 year old me sitting in front of a small tv monitor that was flashing different colours.
I had used the ZX Spectrum my stepfather had bought and instead of loading up Space Invaders, I had found the manual and using bits of code from various chapters had programmed the computer so that the screen would display an inner and outer box and those boxes would flash different colours. It had taken me all morning, and I’d enjoyed experimenting with the code and running it to see what worked and what didn’t.
I looked up to see her face and the anger and fear there. She was disappointed and angry because I was a nine year old girl and I might make her husband look bad or feel stupid by programming something he couldn’t. She was uncomfortable because Jesus wants us to be submissive to men and we shouldn’t do anything to make them feel uncomfortable. Because by doing it I was showing off. Because no-one likes a girl who wants to play with computers. Because I was being a flashy little cow.
The Approach I Took
I’ve taken the approach of any way you wish and have recreated not only a visual that represents the memory, but also I have actually recreated the memory internally by physically and mentally going over the steps I took on the day this memory happened. There are differences; I did the original programming on a ZX Spectrum (probably a ZX81) computer. The code, I seem to recall, was in lines that began with numbers:
10 DO THIS;
20 PRINT THIS;
I looked at the original manual online. To be honest I am quite proud of that 9 year old me and surprised I could programme what I did from the information that’s in there as I don’t think I could do that now.
I spent an afternoon programming using html and css to recreate the memory and the visual, reminding myself of the original Saturday morning. Running the code and seeing the images was amazing – the feeling of finally getting the computer to do what I expected it to has been part of it and has recreated the memory for me. Finding problems and solving them. Splicing bits of code together. Scrapping the whole thing and starting over several times.
At the moment this has turned into a series of photographs, taken as screen shots, and I’ve tried a short video and some quick iPhone shots. These have a quality to them that I like – I’ve tried taking photographs of screens before and I like the textural aspects of them and that unlike the way we perceive most photographs, the camera clearly sees things in the screen that we can’t see. Between the monitor display and the camera’s sensor there is an interference pattern that happens and I’d like to explore that idea.
I wonder if recreating the memory like this, rather than as a ‘standard’ photograph, shows up differences in personality as I can imagine other people approaching it in other ways. For me, as soon as I thought about this memory (which I did as part of the diary I was keeping for part 3), I knew I’d have to recreate not just an image but the actual process too.
You can see the final exercise by saving the text of the pdf in a text editor – Final Flashy Cow.
Make sure it’s plain text and save it with “.html” at the end. Then open it with your browser.
What you see if you put this code into an html file is what I sat and looked at while I was told off by my mum for programming a ZX Spectrum because I was a girl.
As part of making these images I relearnt a bit of css and html coding, scoured Stack Exchange for snippets of code that I edited, made a video and took photographs with a camera and a computer. It’s part of an ongoing idea that I’m working on that might be a bit too loose for the photography course, I’m not sure.
I like the idea of recreating more than a visual of the memory, of actually recreating something of the way I felt, and here I’m trying to focus that onto the positive emotions I had; my mum’s reaction was part of the memory and had a lasting impact as it was part of an ongoing set of beliefs and behaviours she exhibited whenever I began to explore who I was outside of very strict and religious boundaries she had laid down, but I also have the initial fun and joy of discovery, along with a certain amount of frustration and problem solving to remember too.
Bibliography and Further Exploration
For linking code and art try Processing. There are lots of support tutorials that teach basic coding and lots of videos that show what you can achieve.