Information Experience Design – Experimental Design (MA)

Jessica Scalzo

Jessica Scalzo is an experience designer, researcher and maker. She had worked in innovation consulting, communications and social advocacy in New York and Asia prior to studying at RCA. Her practice integrates design research with digital technology.

Contact

jessica.scalzo@network.rca.ac.uk

RCA Final Project: dis(ORDER) Site

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Portfolio Site

Events

Jessica's work explores human experience and behavior in a rapidly changing technological society. While her practice is concerned with finding solutions to real-world problems, she is inspired by speculative futures and technology as a medium to gain insight into the mind. 

Her RCA degree show installation uses digitally rendered 3D visuals, physical computing and performance to build the audience's understanding of and emotional resonance with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Mandelbulbs

dis(ORDER) is an immersive installation reflecting 8 experiences of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Through metronomic sound, digitally projected visuals and dance loops, it reveals the underlying internal processes of OCD and how they may be affected by common anxiety treatments. Although termed a ‘disorder’, ironically, there is great order in what is seemingly chaotic.

As a physical installation, the multi-sensory piece is interactive, allowing the audience to determine the course of the live performance through introducing external variables (i.e. OCD treatments). For the virtual show, the installation is adapted to the screen - just a taste of the full experience!

The imagery displayed below is of the Mandelbrot equation, chosen as the project’s visuals due to its repetitive or self-similar character. The Mandelbrot is a mathematical equation in the field of fractals, uniquely known for its infinite feedback loop and complex orderly pattern. Some believe it is the underlying order of the universe! Applied to OCD, it describes how the feedback loop of the mind continues to amplify fear and obsession. To see more details and to interact with the visuals, please see my project website: jscalz.github.io/dis-order.

Medium:

Digital, Live Performance

Dimitris Menexopoulos:

https://www.menexmusic.com/
Soundtrack Composer
Programmer for interactive game
Dance
Digital Art
Immersive
Interactive
Mental Health
Moving image
Multisensory Experiences
Performance
Soundscape

Play me as you view the project! — [Perpetuum Mobile, Part II : dis(ORDER) edit] A collaboration with Dimitris Menexopoulos. Music from his track, Perpetuum Mobile, Part II. Edit includes research participant testimonials and metronome tapping.

Launch Project

Mandelbulb — Infinitely self-repeating

Short GIF of the animation — Launch to play the game!

The virtual platform for my final piece can be viewed at jscalz.github.io/dis-order/. You can interact with the animated version and see more details about the project.

Viewing Stage — Audience is seated in the half dome stage area. Mandelbulb visuals are projected onto the dome.

Stage Views — Proposed half dome stage to be made of transparent mesh material

Dancers

Dancers — Before lockdown, I was working with two dancers to capture the spirit of the project. Dancers would have performed under the half dome surrounded by the projected visuals. Dancers: Gabriela Garcia and Lionel Avignon

Dancers on Stage — Stage layout with positioning of dancers and audience, surrounded by metronomes

An Immersive Chaos of Order

In the physical show, the audience could alter the course of the performance by pressing buttons (representing OCD treatments) built into the base of the stage. The performance (dancers, visuals and sound) shifts according to which and how often the buttons are pressed, coinciding with how research participants reported the effectiveness of their treatment. As the performance reacts to the audience, the audience can then react to the performance creating a live feedback loop akin to the OCD mind reacting to external variables and triggers.

Size:

30min live performance; ongoing interactive element

Mandelbrot — This is the actual image of the Mandelbrot equation in 2D. We can zoom in on the image infinitely as the equation is a never-ending feedback loop.

Feedback Loop Chart — To better understand feedback loops, I sketched this chart to pin to my wall. A feedback loop receiving only positive feedback, amplifies order into chaos. A loop needs negative feedback to reach equilibrium, however, an inordinate amount will lead to stagnation. In relation to OCD, the more one must obsess or fear, the greater the obsession becomes. The "negative feedback" in this project is external treatment, whether professional (therapy) or alternative (meditation).

Mandelbulb Editing

Mandelbulb Editing — Program: Mandelbulber

Animating in 2D

Animating in 2D — Editing of an animation: zoomed-in spirals of the Mandelbrot figure. Program: Unity

Zoomed-in Mandelbrot — A different perspective of the zoomed-in Mandelbrot

Work in Progress — In January, RCA had the Work in Progress event where Gabriela and Lionel performed an initial version of the dance along with the sound of metronomes in the background. The audience could "plug in" the metronomes to have the contrast of a silent versus busy mind.

Metronome Prototype — A prison of the mind - speed of "ticking" determined through Arduino code. Made from bamboo, wire and a stepper motor.

A Physical Computing Mishmash — Early in the process, I had to figure out how to synchronize all the metronomes in Arduino.

The making process moved from analogue to digital in a short space of time. The project began as a live performance piece with hand-made "ticking" metronomes surrounding the stage. Metronomes were made using Arduino and motors. As research progressed, fractal art, specifically Mandelbrots, became integral to the performance.
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