"Ethnocomputing Experiments" is a work about the mix of two representational systems, both highly mathematical in their approach to lines, both based in a grid system, yet they could hardly be more strangers one to another.
A set of Angolan traditional patterns, known as Sona, from the Choke people, are recreated with the coding language Processing. This recreation follows the heritage algorithm embedded in the original patterns, which used to be made as finger drawings on sand - a person would tell a story and draw simultaneously.
We chose one specific pattern to project over a painting inspired by an early 17th century treatise on Linear Perspective by the Dutch artist Vredeman de Vries. It's a pattern that tells a story of a wild chicken running away from a hunter. The lines represent the path done by the chicken while she tries to fool the hunter and exhaust him, finally being able to return to her hidden home, located precisely where the run started. The story says the chicken is very wise and is successful, not only she's not caught but the hunter has no idea where she lives.
As for linear perspective, it was developed in XV century Italy and it's a key concept in western architecture and painting. Even the XIX century analogic camera was still based in the same principles of vision and representation that shaped linear perspective. The interesting point about Vredeman de Vries is how surrealistic his works feels, as a praise to spacial freedom. It's illusion of space for it's own sake.
The projection is mapped into the painting, the pattern's grid matches the perspective grid, therefore it's distorted giving the impression of depth. Only white light is projected over the canvas, it creates the moving pattern lines but also the light that comes from the windows with a live haze. The installation changes according to environmental light as well, being different from day to night.
The main inspiration for this project is the academic work develop by Dutch/Mozambique author Paulus Gerdes, who was a prominent figure in the field of Ethnomathematics.
Ethno (culture/group of people) + Mathema (explaining reality) + Tics (techno)
In mathematics education, ethnomathematics is the study of the relationship between mathematics and culture. The term “ethnomathematics” was introduced by the Brazilian educator and mathematician Ubiratan D’Ambrosio during the 70’s.
Ethnocomputing is the study of the interactions between computing and culture. It is carried out through theoretical analysis, empirical investigation, and design implementation. It includes research on the impact of computing on society, as well as the reverse: how cultural, historical, personal, and societal origins and surroundings cause and affect the innovation, development, diffusion, maintenance, and appropriation of computational artifacts or ideas. From the ethnocomputing perspective, no computational technology is culturally “neutral,” and no cultural practice is a computational void. Instead of considering culture to be a hindrance for software engineering, culture should be seen as a resource for innovation and design.