How to Make: Shadow Puppet Machine for FOOLmoon Reimagined

For FossilFOOLs, I created a work of arts-based research about how city-dwellers access nature combining digital animation and found sounds to highlight the ways that nature is affected by and yet still permeates urban areas. Inspired by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, I combined a recording of the sounds in my backyard– both human and natural– with instrumental and vocal tracks to create a re-mix of narrative sounds.   Rautavaara is known for his symphony to biodiversity, Cantus Arctics, in which he composed a rich multi-layered work that is built around recordings he made of birds in arctic region of Finland.

Still from Song to Urban Ecology, 2020

Originally, the work was to be presented with an active call for participation, people would have created shadow puppets to interact with the installation of the video on a multi-layered tent full of transparencies.

The original inspiration, collecting the ways that nature permeates the lives of my fellow city-dwellers still holds, and I have translated it to a virtual call for participation:

You can MAKE YOUR OWN shadow-puppet machine and share your story!

First, do some research

  1. When you go out today for an appropriately spaced walk, bring a piece of paper or a notebook with you.
  2. Look at the plants and animals that are around you, and spend some time looking at a few that you feel drawn to.
  3. STOP, LISTEN for 3 whole minutes: Write what you hear using onomatopoeia: some letters that you think will make the best impression of what you hear where you are.
    • It doesn’t have to be sounds from the thing that you are interested in. Just any sounds you hear, practice saying them outlaid.
    • For example the plane going over my building right now says “GURURURURURURUOOOOOOOSHSHSHSh!” and the birds say “CRRRRpppptCCrrpt-shwooooot.”
  4. THEN: Draw all the shapes you think the plant or animal you are interested in has in it. Don’t try to draw the thing, just draw the shapes.
  5. FINALLY: try to draw the thing, using the shapes you just drew. Since we are making shadow puppets later, don’t worry about the details, just get the outside shape of the thing.
  6. When you get home, think of a story about the things you drew.
    • What are the relationships between those things?
    • How does the sound relate?

Then go home and make your spinner:

Materials:

  • Re-used plastic bottl- cap
  • Drill or something sharp to poke with
  • Paper Plate, or re-used cardboard
  • Re-used plastic Forks, or popsicle sticks
  • Paperclips for attachments and hooks
  • Yarn if you want your puppets to dangle more
  • Re-used cardboard for puppet
  • Tape, Glue, other sticky stuff
  • Clothespin
  • Drawing stuff like markers

Directions:

Make the spinner

1. Poke a hole in the bottle cap, using a drill. If you don’t have a drill, you can probably use a nail and a hammer, or some other sharp thing combined with a heavy thing. For this part, you need to have a friend or a grown-up around just to be safe.

2. Stick the chopstick into the hole in the bottle cap. Put a dot of glue or tape under the bottle cap inside the lid so that it stays where it is.

  • If you use a hot glue gun, remember that the silver part and the glue are hot, so you should not touch those.

4. Take out the plate and mark the center by folding in half and pinching the middle to make an X.

5. Poke a hole through the X using a pencil or scissors, spin them around to make the hole nice and big so it spins easily. This might also need a grown up or friend to be safe.

6. Glue or tape your spokes, which are the popsicle sticks or forks to the edge of your plate so they stick out like a sun. You can use cardboard scraps if you don’t have popsicle sticks or forks to recycle.

7. If you are using cardboard or popsicle sticks, you can tape or glue a paper clip to the end of your spokes so that you have something to hook your puppets onto.

Make the puppets

  1. Take out your research drawings.
  2. Look at the shapes and the way you put them together to draw your image. You will use this to decide how to cut the cardboard for your puppet
  3. Draw the shapes you want to use for your animal or plant onto the cardboard. I like to use old TV dinner packages for this. It’s relatively soft, and not so hard to cut with scissors.
  4. Cut them out.
    • If you want multiples, you can fold the cardboard, like making gingerbread people, or snowflakes to get multiples of the same shape.
    • You can cut them with scissors or a knife. If you use a knife, please make sure you have a friend or a grown-up to help with this, just to be safe.
  5. Tape or glue them together.
  6. Tape or glue them to a paperclip. You may have to bend the paperclip to make a hook for your spokes.
  • Hang your puppets onto the spinner.
    • To assemble your story, think about the order you put them in
    • If you have birds, for example, different wing positions could indicate progress.
    • If you have flowers and Bees, you could put two flowers and one bee, or lots of flowers, some empty spokes, and then a bee.

Participate in FOOL Moon Re-imagined

To participate, post photos, videos, stories and more to the FOOL Moon Re-imagined Facebook page.

You can go with your grown-up or friends to find things that make noise in your kitchen, pots, pans, jars of rice, and create a sound response to what you heard. A wok makes a nice resounding noise, some sticks from outside might make nice snaps or scrunches.

Combine those with the onomatopoeia you created in your notes, to create a few seconds of sound to make while you take a short movie of your shadow puppet story.

Film your puppets, with the flashlight and your spinner on the wall, like in the photo. Use the hashtag #foolishsongs20 when you upload, or just put it onto the FOOLMoon Reimagined Facebook group.

  • PLAY Play!
  • Make noises like the ones you wrote down! Tell your story in a short video or write it down with some pictures of the shadows you make!
  • Here’s some ideas for how to start:
    • I picked ________ because…
    • ________ are important because…
    • _______ and _______ do ________ together because…

I plan to make a compilation video of all the submissions that everyone creates, so if you want to be included, drop me a line in the comments here, or send me an email to the letter “A” at Allida dot com. If you do not give me express permission, your documentary words, photos, and videos will not be included in our final collective story.

About this project:

Climate change is an issue that directly impacts equity, and environmental justice world wide.  Wealthy nations and communities have the resources to anticipate and act on behalf not only of themselves, but of the rest of the planet, but too often they ignore the urgency of the issue because it is inconvenient to the bottom line. In this moment, with a pandemic influencing the globe, it is clearer than ever that our mutual fates are intertwined, and that collective action is necessary, not just to prevent harm to the vulnerable, but to create beauty and connection for all.

The core inspiration for this project came from a recent encounter I had with a group of Finnish educators at the Next Wave Summit last October in Boston, hosted by the Center for Artistry and Scholarship. Their presentation at Next Wave was titled : “Everything Has to Change and it Has to Change Right Now: Sustainability in the Finnish Education System,” and they also shared this book you can download for free edited by Justin Cook of the Center for Complexity at RISD.  The presentation started with an introduction by the former director of the Finnish National Curriculum who said:

“When I started out in the office here, I remembered the love I felt when my grandparents would read to me, and I thought, I want every Finnish child to feel that love and support while they learn.”

Irmeli Halinen, retired Head of Curriculum and Development, Finland

Yes an artist, my Finnish cultural heritage influences my understanding of getting by by making do.  My mother and grandmother taught me how to re-use everything from cutting down clothes and creating rag-rugs, to darning socks and coming up with inventive ways to use old plastic bags.  I have always worked with re-purposed and re-cycled materials both because of these habits, and because the impact of seeing everyday objects in new forms raises awareness of our cultural associations. I’ve re-purposed construction materials to create wearables and decorative home objects.

It almost made me cry, because my grandparents– both the Finnish ones and the others– used to read to me and were all strong advocates for empathetic supportive education as central to civic agency.  Their model has inspired me as an educator and an artist to cut through my own identity and privilege to find common ground with people across cultural, class, race, and disability. It makes me passionate about elevating the voices and ideas of the communities I have served as an artist and and educator.  

In my work, I endeavor to love every student, and hear what they have to say because we are all one, and the multiple points of crisis our world is facing right now makes that clearer than ever.

UNTIED-UNITED: Stronger Together

FLY’s weekend was inspiring and magical.  We made a web of interconnectedness at DIYpsi, which we titled “Untied-United.”  It’s now hanging on our wall but the process was interactive and thoughtful. About 100 visitors contributed to the yarn-bomb over the two day event, and many many others peered in the door.

Given the divisive climate in our country this year, we wanted to do something special to help kids feel connected to our community, and when presented with the opportunity to take over a classroom during DIYpsi, I thought a lot about how to do that.  Could we use blocks, cardboard, and insulation to build a village and play in it?  Could we do a large scale painting or drawing with all the guests?

One of the things that has always drawn me to Fiber Art is the way that from lines of just thread, there forms a structure.  The interlacing of threads in knitting, weaving, and crochet tie together into a variety of bonds creating different properties and making different kinds of fabrics, which in turn have their own properties of texture and flow.

In addition to choosing colors that resonated, each of the 100 or so people (mostly kids) who interlaced yarn had a different way of experiencing the yarn. Some were playfully tossing; others consciously created patterns of wrapping and weaving; still others decided to poke balls of yarn or thread through and make windows. These different approaches contribute to the structure, but because they happened over and around each other, the resulting fabric is still fully interwoven.

Our community is like that, we are all different and we all make different choices, but because each one of us is part of the community, the choices that we make affect all of us. Pulling one thread in the web moves the whole cloth.

In part Untied United was inspired by my Fiber background, but also by a fun project by Polyglot Theatre that happened at A2SF in 2014. We modified the project because we were using different materials, but it was important to us to have an artifact to share with kids who come to FLY so they can see a tangible result of their collaboration as it warms our office space.  It is currently stretched on a PVC frame hanging near our office.

I’m paraphrasing, but, at the end of Sunday, one family was talking about the project together and the dad said, “What do you notice about the yarn?”
Kid said, “it’s like a trampoline.
“What else do you see?”
“There’s a lot of it, about a million colors!”
“The interesting thing… how strong do you think one piece of this yarn is?”
“Not very strong”
“But wow, the first people to come through wouldn’t really get this, but we are lucky to be here towards the end. All those different pieces of yarn are stronger together.”

Thank you to all of you who helped us create tangible evidence that our community is stronger together: To the participants; To DIYpsi and the Riverside Arts Center who allowed us to share the space with them; To everyone who has given us financial and volunteer support this year; and especially for the generous donations of yarn in the last two years from Ruth Boeder, Monique Bourdage, Mel Drumm, The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, and a few other smaller individual yarn donations.

Contrapposto Cantilevers

Much like we like to take pictures and make sculptures of each other, the Egyptians tried to portray the human figure in sculpture and paint.  See this example below, which is in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, AKA the Met.  She is tall and slim, with great posture and huge eyes.

Estate Figure, Wood and Gesso. 1981- 1975 BCE At the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

QUESTION: What words would you use to tell me about this picture?
FOLLOW-UPS TO GET THE IDEA OUT: How does the picture feel?  What do you notice about the figure?
WORDS WE EXPECT: Stiff, uptight, bored, regal, upset, tense, a little weird

The Ancient Egyptians were trying to figure out a bunch of stuff all at once: how to carve stone, and other technical ideas; how to observe the world around them; and how to make the images they created fit into a symbolic belief system. The textures on the dress are very stylized as is her pose.

The Ancient Egyptians made art because they had a very complex religious system and these images served a variety of purposes in that system.  That is why the figure is stylized.  But there is more going on here.  This figure is made of wood and is around 4,000 years old.  It survived because it was buried with it’s master and preserved in a hot dry environment underground.  A pyramid or other burial location.  She represents a member of the estate of the person who was buried.

This next figure was Greek and it is (only) 2200 years old.  Let’s look at some similarities and differences between the two.  We will look at the stylistic as well as the

Victoire de Samothrace - vue de trois-quart gauche, gros plan de la statue (2)
Nike of Samothrace, Greek 200-190 BCE, Louvre Museum, Paris France
Ok, let’s talk about this one.  It is  The Nike of Samothrace.  She is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

QUESTION: What words would you use to describe it, just like we did for the first image?
(SAME Follow-up if needed)
WORDS WE EXPECT: cool, relaxed, natural… etc.
PUT PRINT OUTS OF BOTH IMAGES.

OK, so let’s look at how these images are the same and different.
(SAME: subject is a woman, shifting her weight from one foot to the other)
(DIFFERENT: Aesthetic stuff, Time period if they know, color painted, incidentally the Greek statues were probably painted but being kept above ground instead of in hermetically sealed pyramids, the paint has long since peeled. Some have traces though.  The Egyptian Statue is wood, the Greek is stone)

DRAW IN THE HIP and SHOULDER lines… THEN THE S CURVE for the body.

The Egyptian figure has almost perfectly horizontal hips and shoulders even though her foot is forward, so the lines on the hip and shoulder end up making a sideways “H.”  The Greek Figure the shoulders and hips are very slanted.  When you connect the dots and trace the legs, you end up with what we call an S curve.

It’s more a more natural pose because when we put a foot forward, we actually shift our weight from one foot to the other.  But it is harder to balance an asymmetrical figure when you are carving a stationary object because once you take away or reduce stone or wood from a block, you cannot put it back, so if you take away too much from someplace the whole thing falls over and you could lose hours and hours of work.

The fluidity of the style and the reason the Classical statue looks more “cool” is because of the way the artists figured out how to balance that shifting of weight that we do naturally with our moving bodies.  The S curve creates movement because some of the body is relaxed and some of it is tensed to support the weight.

ACTIVITY:
Stand up
Shift your weight from right foot to left.
Try to pose like the Ancient Egyptian figure
Try to pose like the Nike of Samothrace
Then move your left foot and feel which parts of your body shift.
How far can you lean over and what parts of your body move to keep your balance when you do that?
Which muscles are relaxed while you balance and which ones are tense (the ones you are using)?
Finally, stand against the wall and lean forward as far as you can. How far can you go without moving your arms away from your sides?
Can you imagine doing this out of stone?

One thing to remember, if any of you are dancers, this will make sense: For your center of gravity to hold you up, your weight bearing ankle is almost always directly under your neck. Also generally speaking, the part of your body that is bearing the load of your motion is the part that is stiff.

So the Ancient Egyptians and Classical Greeks came up with a couple different solutions. In part because of the different purposes for these statues. First, aesthetically, both design solutions were related to the religious and spiritual needs of their society.  Second as you have seen by paying attention to your body, balance is

The Egyptians had a very compartmentalized religion in which the Pharaoh was the only go-between and protector of the people on their journey through life and death. So the Egyptians wanted a very stylized image, which is apparent in the way it’s painted and carved, and its very graphic nature. The Greeks, well, you only have to read a few ancient tales to know that the Ancient Greeks had a much more human relationship to their gods. So the Nike of Samothrace is very dynamic. The folds of cloth give extra movement to her body, she is very real and very lifelike. The Egyptian dress was also pleated, but the pleats are contained and very straight, looking almost like scales in this image.

The second reason that the two ancient cultures had different solutions was technical. The Ancient Egyptians had not quite figured out how to balance a statue the way people balance, and a few centuries later, working off the knowledge from Egypt and other neighboring cultures, the Greeks had progressed in their technical ability.

Much like you guys know how to do stuff to computers that didn’t even exist when I was your age. Without the people who built the computers who are my age and older, you would not be able to do those things, but we may not be able to figure out the way to do it as quickly as you!

Lastly, most of the sculptures we have shared with you are far far away, but we have some statues of dancers that are at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and at the DIA that you can go and look at. (I have not verified that they are on display, but the Degas (or a very similar one) is almost always out at the DIA, and the Rodin sculptures were there last time I was at UMMA).

Edgar Degas, Spanish Dancer, French, 1900 Bronze. DIA Collection (Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit MI)

These works are cast bronze, which is very different than stone, and has different material properties. To make casts in bronze, one usually first makes an image out of wax and other softer easier to mold materials, then follows a bunch of different steps to cast it into bronze.

Using what we have experienced with our senses is the artist’s way of figuring out how to make things balance. Knowing weights and textures and feeling the structural strength with our hands, but in the engineering design process there are other ways to measure that using Mathematics and Physics.

For more images pertaining to contrapposto, I’ve compiled a pinboard on Pinterest with additional images.  The images above are women, because this was written to support the Art of Engineering for Girls at FLY Children’s Art Center.  But the images on the pinboard are of both genders.

Creative Universe Summer Series

Today was the first day of our Saturday morning series. Christine did Triangles with Art Play (a class designed for pre-school) from 9:00am to 10:00, and then I came in to do M. C. Escher, patterns and tesselations.

We re-named Mad Science to Creative Universe since we look at the universality of Art to help us understand a variety of things. This time the theme for the series is Pattern, and in the fall we plan on doing Animals.

Anyway, today we did some sketches on paper with letters to talk about how things are reflected (like a mirror), rotated (or turned around), or translated (moved down a line) to create patterns. Then I explained how we could use what we talked about to create a pattern on graph paper. After it was clear everyone understood the general idea, we moved on to cutting out stamps from Scrap Box rubber pads.


We took our stamps and made patterns with them by translation, and rotation. To do reflection you need to cut a separate stamp that faces the opposite way. A p will rotate to become a d, but no matter how you turn it, it doesn’t become a b or a q which would be the reflection.

After some focused stamping and repeating, I opened it up and had them do some really fast stamping with geometric right before clean-up. One student took her line and rotated the stamp while applying pressure, creating a pattern of scumbled monotypes that look like LP records. Scumbling is dragging paint across a surface, usually with a large palette knife or ruler, and a monotype is a kind of print made from a block that is re-inked in an irregular way.