This interview of Cabbibo invites you to discover or rediscover one of his
experiments : Enough, a fantastic WebGL Odyssey.
Please, introduce yourself.
Hello! I’m Isaac, and I’ve been using the ‘Cabbibo’ name to release stuff for a while! I live in Oakland with a bunch of cool people, and very recently started into building some radical VR projects with @lukexi at our new lab / company: http://tree.is . I really like the hyperlink, view-source, and open-source, and really dislike banality, apathy and capitalism. I’m on twitter currently as @cabbibo , but I also love hearing from people around the world at my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you come to the digital area? What is your background?
I started using LOGO at a very young age, even before I could read, but that stopped only a few years after that, mostly because no one told me you could literally build your own universe using code! I didn’t really touch it again after that until the end of university ( where I did Physics / Religious Studies ) when I wanted to make a tattoo of a snowflake. I thought that the way that you did graphics coding was with LOGO, so I made it using that, but a few years after someone was like ‘Have you ever seen three.js?’ and it was all over after that. I remember the first thing I made ( you can see here: http://cabbibo.com/threeLearn/threeLearn.html ) and just being able to see that spinning box with a texture I had made litterally destroyed my mind, and I haven’t been able to go back to anything 2D after that.
Do you consider yourself as an artist or a coder?
Haha! probably neither… I don’t know what I consider myself, aside from maybe a human who is lucky enough to have found a way to express themselves in a way where they can begin to communicate at least part of what is going on inside their head. I wouldn’t call that artist, or coder. Just human.
"The art of coding to me, is just feeling the little being inside of yourself trying to communicate with the outside world."
How would you define the art of coding?
This is probably related to the above answer a bit. We all feel so alone in this world, even though we are surrounded by the love of other people, and SO much of that, for me, comes from the inability to communicate *deeply* what I mean. If I say ‘I love you’ to one of my friends, it is so unspecific and nebulous. They might be able to piece together what I mean because of all the other conversations about love they have had, but the love that I have for them inside my head is so specific, and so real. Yet somehow, extracting that thought out of my own head, and passing it into theirs takes a ton of work, and fails in so many different ways. The art of coding to me, is just feeling the little being inside of yourself trying to communicate with the outside world, building this language, structure and machines to try to say what it *really* means, what it *really* feels.
What do you think of WebGL? What does it bring to the end-user?
What it brings the end user is the end of the emotionally devoid world of CSS / HTML. A lot of people are making super emotional things using html/css, but it is pretty sad to me how limited they are, both in the way that they render, and in the way they make you think. They seem to hinder, rather than help, in the creation and exploration of new interfaces, new stories and new emotions. WebGL , to me, opened up the capability to do SO much more. Even if its still just 2D objects, it lets you render so much more, create much more custom objects, and just create in a much more limitless way!
"In the case of enough, the original storyboard is actually very unlike the finished product."
How came the idea of Enough? How did you proceed ? What were the different stages of creation and development?
The story line of enough just came to me, and storyboarded it immediately that same day. Obviously my entire life had been leading up to teaching me about the emotions that I discussed, but it seems like with most ideas I have its this process of mulling / failing / trying / experimenting, and it makes this weird slosh of ideas and emotions, than some sort of minuscule realization come, and all of that slosh begins to congeal into some crystallized idea. Than once the crystal has been made from this flow, you begin breaking it down at different places and rebuilding them using the same supersaturated solution / crystallization process. In the case of enough, the original storyboard is actually very unlike the finished product. The overall storyline is relatively similar, but for example, at the end when Mani gets to the center of the universe and sees Sol, Mani was going to actually tell Sol to go onwards and experience the next dimension, sacrificing her own opportunity to be with the divine. It would have been really sad but beautiful I think, to have the gorgeous flash of light as Sol was consumed, and than have the scene reappear, desaturated and dead, leaving Mani to wander alone again for the rest of the story. I ended up changing it to the slightly more hopeful storyline, in many ways because its the story that I needed to tell myself.
I remember watching ‘Kingdoms of Dreams and Madness’ and seeing how Miyazaki changed the last line from ‘come’ to ‘stay’ and just being so absolutely floored by the change that this single word made, how much more love for the world it contained, even through the deep pain that comes from creating the story itself.
Did you run into any obstacles while working on the project ? What are the feedbacks on this projet?
I ran into literally every obstacle in the book. ;)
Honestly most of the difficulties were for me artistic ones. One of the cool parts about code is that when there is a problem, you have no choice but to solve it, otherwise the program won’t run. With something like audio or color choice, you can choose and choose and choose until you have no idea what anything means any more. The writing was extreme difficult, mostly because words are so hard for me. They always seem to be so trite and overwrought , especially when the subject is something tender.
There was also of course getting it to run on multiple machines, making sure loading worked, trying to do every single model procedurally, and trying to do as many physics sims as I could, but those obstacles feel more like a mental ninja warrior course than anything else.
It was also really helpful because during development, I would really break down the book down into individual pages, and would get to think of them specifically. The monome forest sequencer page, for example, I did while I was out at my cousin's house swimming in the seaweed. I don’t know if it would look the way it does if not for that. Same thing with the heart of the universe. I was thinking of doing some weird tendril things that would reach out to embrace Mani, but there was this one day in a coffee shop in turkey that I just spent all day coding a cloth, and it felt like exactly the right thing to
Do you think people want to see more 3D content on the web?
I think people want to see less shit on the web.
3D content seems to be a place where more people are creating out of pure joy and love rather than being driven by monetary work, and I think it really shows. Its crazy how much I feel like we crave this deep / complex / nuanced emotions, but every feeling that is pandered too are usually these slapstick surface level things that don’t really give us perspective on our lives, or help us grow as people.
There are def 2D sites that do this, text only sites that do this, and even ad sites that do this, but as WebGL really starts mature as medium, I think we are going to start seeing a whole bunch more!
"I can’t thank them enough for not just believing in me, but believing in the entire open-source community."
Seems that you spend a lot of time on Experiments projects. How do you handle this with your work? Is it a part of you work?
The best part is is that it was all open-source, which mean that I could really give myself fully to all these different projects, without the fear that they wouldn’t exist if the company decided not to release the projects. It also means that the code I’m writing is code that I believe should be reused, not just by myself, but by others as well. Its pretty cool how awesome this type of employment is for everyone, and I can’t thank them enough for not just believing in me, but believing in the entire open-source movement / community.
"If there was any sort of money involved for Enough, I think it would cause a lot more stress and in effect the way that the story turned out."
Do you think one day, you could live from your Digital Experiments?
I don’t know if I’d ever actually want to… I’ve watched a few of my friends try to make money of selling games or making art websites, or various other freelance gigs, and it seems to deeply change the way that you interact with the piece you are creating. I’m not sure if it would actually be different, but if there was any sort of money involved for ‘ENOUGH’ I think it would cause a lot more stress, and in effect the way that the story turned out.
Is there a new technology that is particularly exciting for you?
Obviously VR is extremely exciting to me. Not so much in the sense of games ( although those will be super cool too ), but rather as a reality manifestor. I think alot about the communication of thoughts, and I really hope that in that space, we are going to see so many crazy tools that allow people to create meaningful experiences, and new ways of sharing these creations. Imagine, for a moment, a view-source that could show up all around you, and manifest itself at rainbow floating blocks instead of text. You could reach out and grab certain modules, duplicating them to put in your own project, and than sharing it so others could mitosis your code as well.
Also, it isn’t hardware, but I’ve been super into Signed Distance Fields recently. Not exactly a new technology, but see the way that people are using them now is absolute insanity. Just to illustrate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt3DWMXkI7g
"It's going to be so important for us to get better at sharing and learning from each others mistakes if we want as a species to make it to the stars."
What do you think of WEB-VR?
I really really can’t wait to see what comes of it! Especially once we get smooth transitions between pages, a cool view-source, and the proper framerates, I think its going to be pretty magical. I also hope that the tenets of the web, such as view-source and the hyperlink get deeply built into other VR platforms that are getting made. Its going to be so important for us to get better at sharing and learning from each others mistakes if we want as a species to make it to the stars, and I think that the web has some really good ways of building this into its structure.
Any person in the digital creation, artist or developper who inspires you?
Oh man. So freaking many. The top two would probably have to be Holy Other and Burial. Something about the worlds they create through audio make me believe in other dimensions. It sounds a bit crazy, but after listening to ‘Come Down to Us’ enough times, it seems like the only reasonable answer. Its been hard because I want so desperately to find some musicians whose music resonates with me as much as those to, but to live up to their standards is near impossible. If any of you have suggestions, let me know!!!!
I’ve also been super digging the stuff that JJ Verne has been releasing ( and was so extremely honored to have him work on ‘Pulse’ ) : https://soundcloud.com/jj-verne
Eddie Lee (@eddietree) is doing some of the most rad things out there right now, and I realllly can’t wait to see what comes next from his studio next.
In the WebGL area of things, Obviously I will forever love @mrdoob . @thespite is one of my biggest inspirations as well, and I can easily say that I would not be creating anything half as cool if it weren’t for his help / code / enthusiam. The things that @hughsk and @MikolaLysenko are doing with http://stack.gl are super rad, and than there are about 1 billion other people who are creating ridiculously powerful work.
Any new project coming out? What kind of experiments are you working on?
I recently released http://l-u-n-e.com . I’ve been trying to describe this specific emotion that my friend and I have been talking about a lot. Its like seeing this beautiful crystal in the abyss, and you are slowly, ever so slowly, drifting away from it. As you move farther back you can see more of it and recognize how staggeringly beautiful it is, but it makes you want to go towards it more, but as much as you want and desire and hope and pray, you are still drifting away. Its a super melancholy emotion, but I think comes from a place of overwhelming love.
Also, I definitely think there will be alot of rad projects that come out from http://tree.is in the near future.