Local Multimedia Artist Kasumi Launches 'ShuffleHead' App


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  • Shufflehead

Kasumi — the prolific Cleveland-based, internationally acclaimed multimedia artist, writer, film maker, and musician — is now adding app creator to her already overwhelming resume.

Shufflehead is Kasumi’s latest brainchild. It's described as “a mix and match coloring book, story creator, and beat-maker all in one.” Now available in the App store for Apple users and soon to be released for Android the application, “…lets you make your own endless combinations of funny faces with color, music and text.”

These aren’t just any faces — we are talking thousands of caricatures of people and animals including famous personalities from Albert Einstein to Franz Kafka to Bruno Mars. Sounds wild, right? How exactly does it all work?

Kasumi explains: “ShuffleHead consists of pictures of characters, each of which is divided into three picture segments: a top, middle, and bottom. Each picture segment from any third can be spun to combine with any combination of picture segments from the other two thirds. In addition, each of the three picture segments is accompanied by a related text segment along with a related music segment. Any three picture segments can be combined with any three text segments and any three music segments to create a new, coherent ShuffleHead scene.”

The app also offers extensions packages called, ShufflePacks, in the end leaving the user with over 35,000 different “story-telling combinations,” all of which were created and drawn by Kasumi.

Although in the ShuffleHead world she is the wizard, she could not have ‘birthed’ this application without her dedicated team of creatives: app programmer Tony Calabro, website designer Matt Beckwith, and promoter, Ian Zeigler of Photonic Studio. These cohorts met through their various affiliations with the renowned Cleveland Institute of Art where Kasumi was part of the esteemed faculty from 2002-2015. The five year project has had its trials and tribulations as with any new technology.

"Not everything worked at first, and we had to experiment and re-do lots of things many times...and then re-do them again and again," she says. "Behind the scenes, we were also dealing with intellectual property, trademark, and copyright issues; creating social media accounts, websites; figuring out purchasing; reaching out to beta testers.”

ShuffleHead sprung from a spiral-bound notebook she had used to make a mix-and-match project for her sister when she was in the hospital, soomething that only required a turn of a page to continue the artistic adventure and that reminded Kasumi of the "things to do" books her sister made for her when they were younger.

“After she died, I wanted to honor her by developing this project into something bigger. ShuffleHead is a metaphor for the wildly divergent forms nature takes – and yet we’re all part of one single organism, a puzzle with an infinite number of solutions. The pandemic is making it manifestly clear that we’re all linked together and affect each other in ways we hadn’t imagined. I wanted to express this unification in a fun and creative way.”

ShuffleHead is where design, music, art and technology intermingle, offering a user experience which is both dynamic and personal. Kasumi’s impressive career is one which spans a wide gambit of accomplishments and accolades.

“The downside of using so many kinds of tools, technologies, and methods is the immense amount of time required to learn them, but the plus side is that I can move fairly seamlessly from one to another, or even combine them as a project requires.”

Growing up all over the world has influenced her work, and her ability to combine different techniques.

“I grew up in a household with a wildly creative assemblage artist mother and a horribly insecure rocket scientist father, both of whom encouraged me to pursue art and science with equal emphasis. This provided a potent background for a lifetime of experimentation. In addition, living in different countries gave me a spectacular vantage point from which to observe the world as well as immerse myself in the rhythms and metaphors of different cultures and languages that greatly influenced my work.”

Kasumi’s accolades include being a Knight Foundation Grantee in 2016, the Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career Award in 2014, and a MacDowell Fellowship in 2014. She's had her films presented in the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2000, 2001, 2002, with an Honorable Mention in 2005. Most recently her work can be found in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

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