personal statement for ITP

an accepted application written in the beginning of 12016 for the itp-nyu masters degree, with some minor edits for formatting purposes.

shared for reference purposes: the four stages in the text are the precedents for the compudanzas project.

for the record: i don't agree now with all that is stated :)

Personal Statement 12016

1) Everything is possible with hard work and dedication.
2) There is always more.
3) If something is not difficult, then it is not of value.

It is difficult to write this text.

I like to think of myself as a creator. I create choreographies, I create software, I create classes, and in general I create ideas that I have to make come true. In my experience, creativity and curiosity are two aspects of humanity that can enlighten, empower and free whoever is willing to see beyond the conventions. In order to foster them, changes and challenges are needed. My application into the ITP is based in the search for a different and stimulating environment, where things will not be easy, where my assumptions will be challenged, and where I will be surrounded by more people looking for more. I want to break free from my own mental barriers so that I can grow as a creator. This will allow me to have a broader impact inviting others to try living in the non conventional and authentic paths.

Computing has been present in most of my life. I have enjoyed algorithmic thinking since the moment I was introduced to a programming language in my middle school days. An exciting journey of self-directed learning about computers, programming languages and operating systems started, and I got motivated writing my own scripts for automating diverse tasks, ranging from file management to simulations web applications. During my Electrical Engineering studies I was introduced to Digital Systems, and then computing began to make sense as a whole. However, although I liked those topics a lot, I felt that something was missing. My curiosity started to show me some funny ways of creating using that knowledge.

For example, we had a course about Microcontrollers, where the main difficulty was that we also had to learn and code in the corresponding assembly language. I decided to have a humorous challenge as a final project, so I developed an “8051 Assembler: Assembler for the 8051 assembly language, written in the 8051 assembly language”. On one hand the project could be seen as completely useless because it had no social impact other than impressing people with the feat and its name, but on the other hand it helped me think about the expressive possibilities of technology beyond an utilitarian point of view.

During the same college years, I started to practice and learn about an art that would completely change the plans that I had: Dance. What started as a diversion from school, gradually became the activity which got me more interested. The first great goal that I achieved was being accepted into the school’s dance company, where I could learn a lot about teamwork and collaboration.

A fortunate event was having a change in the director of the company: the new leader [redacted] showed us the advantages of hard work and encouraged us to find our own paths. I started to think about other ways of doing dance and I began exploring choreographic possibilities. I got braver and authentic, and as a choreographer I guided two different teams into contests where we had great national results. I founded escenaconsejo, performing arts and interactive digital media company, and I decided to study Choreography. In those different contexts I enjoyed working with people that I admire and that find value in my ideas.

Since then, I have had an interesting evolution of my way of thinking and creating dance in relation to computing and digital technology. This process can be divided in four main stages.

The first one consisted in thinking that digital technology had only a decorative role in dance. I experimented with a variety of motion tracking techniques to enable the real-time generation of multimedia content.

The second stage consisted in understanding that research and educative challenges could be tackled with the creation of specific and personalized tools that I could made and that I actually constructed. Some some examples include visualizations of the meanings of dance notation symbols, or a computer vision aid for measuring joints angles in dancers.

The third stage in this evolution process consisted in realizing that I could apply the computational, mathematical and structured vision that I developed as an engineer, as a source for composition methods that greatly differed from the commonly used ones. For example, I created a choreographic palindrome, a fractalic micro-macro cosmic choreographic structure, and finally I created Desfases (Phase shifts).

Desfases was the work with which I decided to get into the entrepreneurial path of Escenaconsejo along with my partner [redacted]. It is a collection of strict structural games based on shifting time, space and/or points of view. We decided to work full-time in it, and we launched a crowdfunding campaign that was a success after several months of hard work. We set an example in our dance community, as many people have tried since then to achieve a crowdfunding goal with the magnitude of ours. We work in Escenaconsejo because we are convinced about the value of our creations, and that is why we are pursuing the dream of living from them.

Finally, the fourth and current stage in this thinking evolution has consisted in getting to know about the concept of generative art. It starts to be clear how to create organic-like works using artificial means, either in choreography or in software. After more than ten years learning about programming and computers, I think that now it is the perfect time to unlearn those topics in order to cultivate a new perspective.

For example, this year I wrote a project to create a choreography based in the Little Man Computer model. The idea is to devise the architecture and machine instruction cycle that a person should execute so that she/he could become a computer. Choreographic repetition could acquire a new meaning if each iteration were part of a program. An important question that I had kept unanswered was about which programs should I write in order to run them in a live performance. Now, after reading and coding generative art, I think that this choreographic work would be complete if the strict rules of the computer architecture and its corresponding machine instruction cycle controlling the human performer were complemented by the execution of an algorithm with a chaotic outcome.
In some way, the description of that choreography would summarize the creative processes that I want to live and the works that I want to create: Worlds that mix the human spirit with a computational context that involves great challenges, and that reveal different ways of thinking, learning and doing. I am convinced that in this graduate program I will have the needed stimuli for being under constant difficulties. These will probably transform my way of working so that I will have a broader range of action and influence. My goal is that then I will be able to help more people find their own personal ways through creativity, curiosity, and hard work. Changes and challenges will come, and new choreography and interactive digital media will arise.


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