2.4 Color-aid Cut-up

James Grady
2 min readJun 18, 2012

Color-aid Cut-up, is a stop-motion video that uses Color-aid paper, an excerpt of Gertrude Stein’s avant-garde poem, Tender Buttons and the pianist, Alexander Scriabin’s musical composition, Sonata №8, Op. 66. The form is developed by printing each word of the poem on a separate sheet of paper, and then thinly slicing the sheets into small strips to represent piano keys. Using an algorithm to recombine the poem-slice-by-slice and colored sheet on top of colored sheet, I shoot each placement of the paper separately to create an animation of the poem in motion. Once I finish constructing the poem and stack all the colored paper, I deconstruct the slices, and shoot each move of that process. The deconstruction allows for a random chance of the colors to shift and the slices to move. There is an indeterminate outcome to this process; it is not until I extract the still images and recombine them into a film sequence that I can see the new rhythm and pattern. There were over 3,000 frames shot for this minute and a half video.

Light blue and the same red with purple makes a change. It shows that there is no mistake. Any pink shows that and very likely it is reasonable. — Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, 1914

In The Open Work, philosopher Umberto Eco outlines indeterminacy, rhythm, expectation, prediction, open structures and play, mostly in terms of musical composition. Eco describes, “…the listener expects that the process will reach its conclusion according to certain symmetry, and that it will organize itself in the best possible way, in harmony with the psychological models that Gestalt theory has discerned in both our psychological structures and external objects.” In other words, Eco equates rhythm and repetition to determine outcomes. When people hear rhythm, they develop expectations of how a song will proceed and even end. Eco asserts, “…an open structure is less a prediction of the expected than an expectation of the unpredictable.” Eco goes on to discuss information theory and entropy, which is a measure of the uncertainty associated with a random variable. These examples and theoretical models are key components in much of my work. Pattern and repetition along with random variables play an important role in any form I am creating.

Home Studio, Boston, MA

Originally published at http://jamesjgrady.com on June 18, 2012.



James Grady

Principal, Design Axl & Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Boston University