[ OSX ] [ LINUX debian / raspbian ] install wordnet for processing + RiTa

“Wordnet is definitely not written for use by humans.” – a helpful friend

I work with language as a poet. I write “poems for paper” as well as “poems for spoken-word performance”. In both, often, fragments of narrative appear as images.

In video, I’m exploring what I call the ‘variable narrative’, iterating tiny moments of story.



untitled video still [ the gravedigger’s meditation, 2014 : hybrid literary project ] spiral text composite layer created in Processing

Playing with ‘text as mark’ in Processing is pretty fun & relatively simple. Text added as strings can be expressed glyphs of this or that font. Strings of text can take particular shapes or be used as brushstrokes. In the image above, the entire text of Gogol’s short story The Overcoat becomes a shifting textured layer composited into an animated short film. The spiral text composite layer was made using math and one loooooong string of text.

~ RiTa : extends Processing’s use of language by referencing text’s meaning ~

RiTa, a Java-based coding toolkit that can be added to Processing, allows artists to work with meaning / words by role in language / rather than just text as mark.

example one : Automatype by Daniel C. Howe

example two : Spin State by Michael Coppola

~ installing RiTA inside Processing ~

With Processing open, go to the menubar: Sketch > Import Library > Add library

The library installer will open. Scroll down to RiTa.

  • If it is pickable, pick it & install!
  • If it is greyed out [ as it was for me ] one must instead go to rednoise.org and download the dependancy, unzip it, and stick the folder in the library directory your installation of Processing uses. If you have not customized your setup,the directory order [ on Mac ] : ~/Documents/Processing/libraries. Stick the folder that happens when you unzip the download into the /libraries folder. Relaunch Processing and you’ll find it. RiTa’s examples will also show up in the examples, under contributed libraries.

The RiTa reference guides the coder through toolset’s functionality & what it can do to explore art-related ideas on the meaning/language tip.

~ Word Net : high level text analysis with ‘parts of speech’ tagging and dictionary definitions ~

To further dig into meaning, to access markov language part-of-speech tagging, the necessary dependancy? wordnet“its primary use is in automatic text analysis and artificial intelligence applications.” ~ wikipedia

RiTa’s toolkit allows me to plug in wordnet analysis & execution functionality into Processing sketches. To do that, I needed a local installation. I tried to use the documentation provided by Princeton to create a local wordnet installation, and fell down several successive rabbitholes, each of which ended on ‘nope’.

Wordnet can be used with many coding languages – PERL, Python, SQL, and PHP etc etc.

Processing and Python use different operational approaches to installing dependancies. It was a head-turner to shift to the Python-like approach – using [ on Mac ] terminal, with sudo pip commands.

There’s this other thing one can add to Mac which provides “one terminal command installation power for many many dependancies”. It’s a  kit called Homebrew, built with the Ruby programming language.

~ an aside on art and technology, transparency of process, and meaning ~

Have your eyes glazed over yet? The mind-numbing list of tasks above this moment in the blog post is not, in itself, an interesting thing. I know that ‘the rest of the art world’ doesn’t know how the ‘studio inside of the computer’ works. I’ve been directly treated with contempt over the digital creative process by painters, in the past*.

I’d love it if my attempts at process transparency help encourage the conversation about meaning, to discover the metaphorical power of what artists can and are doing with computers, and relate to them . . . More directly, I think it would be awesome if more ppl were using these tools in their own work. So lets get back to that to-do list.

~ to install Wordnet locally, install Homebrew. To install Homebrew, install Xcode. ~

Homebrew can install a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff for me, besides wordnet, when attempting to sudo pip3 install various dependancies for Python and something doesn’t internally link. Fantastic! OK, time to install Homebrew.

Aaand I need to install a 4.5 gb thingy from Apple called Xcode wha-  ?

OK so most of the coding things discussed in this post are script-related single-tasking things. XCode is the Mac-based development environment for building OSX software & iOS apps. Its filled with tools, testing environments, and more.

One must install xcode in order to ‘unlock’ the bash commands [ for terminal ] that one needs to install Homebrew. Randomly, you will also now have a C compiler on your Mac. You can delete it once you’re done getting the bash commands you need.

Go over to the coolest guide on the planet, and follow their step-by-step instructions to install first xcode and then homebrew. Then come back here to finish up and see how cool wordnet really can be.

~ use a terminal command to tell homebrew to install wordnet ~

Open terminal. Next to the dollarsign prompt type

brew install wordnet 

Terminal may prompt you to add several other things.

When it finishes, don’t close terminal just yet. Jot down the directory location of your wordnet installation. You’ll use it in the next step.

Go back to Processing.

File > Examples. In the pop-up : RiTa > ReplaceableWriting.

Updating the sketch to include the local directory url for wordnet. Press play.

BLAM. Now you can see what it does.

Here’s to less maddening ‘getting going’ on ideas you’re interested in . . .

~ footnotes ~

*“Oh you just push a button – ” and a some other disparaging remarks

On a Windows machine? Try Scoop instead of Homebrew; here’s a list of terminal-like command line editors for Windows systems. Processing installs for PC, and the RiTa installation workflow should hold there as well. I have no idea if Wordnet can be installed on Windows in this way, but its a starting point.

If you’re on Linux you’ve got the work ethic to figure it out yourself 💗 and that Linux installation is on a raspberry pi, all you have to do is open terminal and type this:

$ sudo apt-get install wordnet

answer a few questions and you’re set.

??? !!!

The Raspbian install of Linux is a child iteration of Debian; it includes a compiler and you don’t need to “unlock” other OS features in order to get it to work. . .

[ taking things apart ] at NIU

Hello, Wednesday . . . Its sunny and quiet here in Milwaukee. I’ve had a few days to mull over my first-ever turn as a Visiting Artist, at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

I was invited there by Josephine Burke, the Art Museum director. She had programmed UNLOADED into the museum exhibition schedule. Susanne Slavic, UNLOADED’s curator, had included ungun in the show. This work – excerpted here – pulls at our media-presented gun, as used as an actor in films and other stories. The glitched image invites the audience to construct their own inward image, built of memories of either physical experience with the object or the media presentation of guns.

In making the work, I kept cutting through fear, frustration, and rage. People who saw the work in progress asked me to continue working in that way. This has happened with other past, difficult content – the audience pulling me along through something public, something from history, something painful, to make sense of it. The repeated “please make this” response to SPOILED HEAT and VIGIL, as I was making them.

I know the tension of not wanting to work with something broken ‘out there’ that I can’t fix in my creative life. I’ve chosen to do the work because of my need to reconcile with ’the pain out there’. I come from a family of doctors. To me its natural, to see and contend with ‘the disease out there’.

I have watched other artists and poets struggle with public pain in a variety of ways. And over the years, people have asked me, “how do you do this?” Mind you, I don’t deal with deeply painful content all the time. I do it enough of the time that I have a protocol of creative practice and self-care that facilitates deep consideration of traumatic material.

Coll IMJ,  photo (c) IMJ

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus [ the new angel ]

Historian Walter Benjamin invokes this image as the angel considering
the mountain of traumatic information inherited from history

Why teach this now? Well, our history is full of horrifying material; we can access disturbing simulacra of this material on the internet. Additionally, the internet reports new traumatic stuff to us at an overloading speed. At times, it feels like the horrors silence the joy. Or, rather, the overload asks us to silence our hearts in order to have the mental capacity to look at the litanies of awful.


Some artists I’m connected to talk about getting flak for making ‘aesthetic only’ art during a time of great social upheaval, of great public pain. I think its revolutionary to remain creatively alive right now. It is also so important to do whatever brings us deep joy, that is not self-destructive, almost to inoculate us against the ‘news of the world’ by providing us with lifeboats of joy and satisfaction in our work, in art we can share with each other.


The taking things apart workshop arose as the answer to the repeated question, ‘how can I move in that direction and stay sane?’ I also come from a family of teachers; I’ve been teaching or tutoring in many places to make my living since finishing grad school in 2002. Why not teach what I’ve learned?


Artists know that good work often arises after long contemplation of subject material. What if the subject material is particularly emotionally charged? What if the people around us can’t talk about that content, and we feel alone with it? This methodology honors the mind’s quickness at apprehending information and the heart’s slowness at making meaning. It provides artist with an externalized routine and perspective that can serve as the protective gear for considering painful evidence from the world for long periods of time. Techniques for “putting it down” and respecting one’s own capacity for contemplation are built into the practice.

I taught an early version of this methodology last Friday morning at NIU. Each participant took to it to help work through immediate blocks or difficulties with their own content. Teaching the methodology was a privilege. Every student expressed gratitude for the new tool-set, which would help them each in quite different ways.

I’m going to build it out, of course. I look forward to teaching this workshop in other places. If you have ideas for where those places might be, put them in the comments!

reznor on his preferred instrument [ moog ]

trent reznor talks about the moog synthesize, how it is the instrument for creating his music. later he mentions fighting the temptation for quantized perfection while making ‘hesitation marks’ & his sense of overwhelm when first making soundtracks – –

bonus: soundtrack by the haxan cloak.

new work [ oldschool : newmedia ]

selfie [ oldschool / newmedia ]

The negatives I’m using for this process were shot & processed long before computers became part of my process – –

When I met animation processes, it was, at first, printmaking and scanning and hand-manipulation. Then hand-altered 16mm film. I’ve particularly missed that, the bleach and salt and razorblades and rubber gloves and stamps, glue, glitter and tape.

I figured out how to do that again, recently.

creator logic [ on process viz content ]

consider an idea.

reframe the idea.

shift your perspective in relationship to the idea: take on a different paradigm, reconsider the idea. what would [ dead artist 1 ] [ dead artist 2 ] [ dead artist 3 ] do with this?

play fill-in-the-blank replacing some of the words used to articulate the idea.

pick the idea up, flip it over, invert the logic, reverse the logic –

what are the consequences on other ideas residing on distal edges of the idea, when it is manipulated in this way – what are the ripples – [ if-then ] [ if-then ] [ if-then ]

is there truth in the idea? intrinsic truth or relative truth? a truth dependent on viewer perspective? on cognitive skill of viewer? on location of idea’s execution – is the truth context-dependant, or local –

if the viewer has blind spots to the metacontent, what can that particular viewer gain from looking at, consuming, or reading the local content?


transition : from analog to digital // Tony Balko

Last night I got to surprise an artist-colleague, someone I haven’t seen since he left Pittsburgh in the oughts. In the 412, Tony did projected video work. Sometimes he edited together film-like things, sometimes he improvised with multiple 8 or 16mm projectors. Much of it, for me, was threshold-recognition work, immersive stuff playing with the viewers perceptual equipment (i.e. our eyesight & optical processing system). Yes, fear of seizure could be part of the experience, and fear of flashbacks, if acid or mushrooms were ever one’s particular trip. Always I found an engaging sense of wonder in Tony’s work, wonder at playing with the illusions underneath all projected film.



Balko packed the equipment for this installation into the pedestal supporting the piece. He created the software that manages the dilating, color-shifting projection using Processing.

I really enjoy watching Tony’s work make the shift to digital instrument creation. In Pittsburgh, I got to audience some of his collaborative video projection work. That content was created with existing video editing software, and was projected with live music performances with bands like Centipede Est. I also got to experience some of the pieces he made with analog projectors. Good stuff.

The leap to Processing deepens the instrumental improvisation. By building software, Tony creates the instrument projecting the work. His prior 8mm/16mm stuff worked, for me, as instrument/improvisation. The software made with Processing allows the art to respond to input during the show, a major departure from edited-together ‘finished films’ built on existing editing platforms.

Concerns with image flicker rate and abstraction unfolding over time certainly remain . . .



Check the flickr set, including video.




sketchbook : stills from the altered data set of a video file (2012)







i keep thinking of gerhardt richter, and electrocardiograms, or lie detecter tests.

data set altered using quartz composer. resulting video file further massaged for color information using apple’s color. exported at pro res 4444 before pulling stills as PNG files.

source video content : a kodachrome film of dutch flower gardens found at archive.org

in process : stills from i.thou : chapter ~ 19

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (flight)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (flight)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (nikita in kitchen)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (nikita in kitchen)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (baby crocodile)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (baby crocodile)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

these stills are taken from a 4 minute sketch i worked up the last few days. this is for the next chapter of the film in progress, i.thou.

the chapter or excerpt is titled “19”. the moshing technique assists the viewer take a meditative journey on identity, memory, witnessing, transpersonal consciousness, the tellable story, and the problem of unbelievable experience.

the still image of the girl named “19” is taken from the television show CSI. the source video shots used (pre-processing and ‘mosh’) look like the two stills that follow:

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

the process of making : clint eastwood, 1988

Instead of running for cover in a sudden nasty rain a week earlier, he used the downpour to set a somber mood for a scene in Central Park in 1955, using Bird drenched to the skin as a metaphor. ”Ninety-nine percent of the directors I’ve worked with would have been screaming and shouting that they couldn’t work,” says Mr. Valdes.

”Things happen that you can’t control,” Mr. Eastwood says with a shrug. ”If someone throws a scene at me and says you must shoot this scene today because the set won’t be available tomorrow, I won’t say, ‘I haven’t thought about it, slept on it, meditated over it, so I can’t shoot it.’ ” Nothing that has gone wrong tonight will follow him home. He will, he says, ”jump into the shower, brush my chops real good, jump into bed” and be asleep in five minutes.

In Idaho, on ”Pale Rider,” Mr. Eastwood left 50 members of the crew and cast cooling their heels for several hours while he climbed up a mountain with his camera crew to get shots of trees with dying autumn leaves that he wanted for his title sequence. Something in the pit of his stomach warned him that the leaves would be gone by the next day, when he was scheduled to shoot them. ”The next morning, every leaf was off the trees,” says Mr. Valdes.