This project began as an idea to create a piece of abstracted, generative art from data. As an multimodal artist a driver for my work is to make the unheard heard and the unseen seen. This piece of abstract visual sound art uses text as both composition and brush. Within the Processing IDE (integrated development environment) I have parsed a piece of writing about unresolved rape cases in New Zealand using the Java programming language to create an image and an evolving composition with words. Unresolved |... can be classified as creative coding, generative abstract art. Picasso (qtd. In Herschel) once said “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” While my piece definitely starts with something I use the method of abstraction to not remove reality but to highlight it.
I began this piece as a way to research and highlight the abuse of women within society. The visual element if this work takes the words of a New Zealand Herald article from May 3rd, 2018 titled Unresolved: Why New Zealand rape victims are being left in limbo. The words are “read” in the Java program of an IntDict object that assigns each word a value. The dictionary first looks for “junk” words (the, an, and, be, it etc) and removes them. Each word is then mapped to a pixel position of the laptop webcam. Words fill the screen and form the image of the viewers face, font size decreases as more words are read into the image.
The sound element of the piece is also derived from the words. A MIDI class object was programmed to use the word value pairs counted with the IntDict. These values where mapped to MIDI note on messages and sent to three instruments in Ableton Live. The constant word count gives the composition a rhythm and generative evolution through time. The instruments chosen add specific elements, a mini Moog emulator with sweeping modulated triangle oscillators. A Moog modular emulator is the second instrument and is patched to produce an arpeggiated sequence. The third instrument is a FM8 synthesiser with the pitch transposed up 13 semitones.
As each word is counted a MIDI note on is sent, these where mapped to generate a random value and sent on MIDI channel 1 to the first instrument. A second set of values was sent to MIDI channel 2 and the second instrument according to each time the word sex was counted. The third instrument received all messages. The results are rising driving and rhythmic, as the complexity of the image increases with more words onscreen so the sound element intensifies.
Artist Laurie Anderson said, “My job is to make images and leave the decision- making and conclusion-drawing to other people”. This underscores my motivation to use data as a medium or parameter for my work. The importance of this work for me is the give voice to the unheard, to make the invisible visible. Through creative abstraction and methods of visualisation and sonification, the result is a work of generative art that seeks to uncover meaning not necessarily implicit in the raw data and words.
Tin Cans (part1.) is the first iteration of an audio sculpture. A circular network of silver tin can speakers hung by twine, each pair joined by speaker wire. Taking the image of an old toy, the tin can phone, I have used recycled cans as speakers. The piece is a comment on the lost sounds and art of communication, the lost sounds that of old telephones.
A sculptural audio installation piece, this (part1.) iteration, makes use of 8 custom built speakers hung for a single person experience. Influences and references for this work come from Andy Warhol’s soup cans (1962)pop art, also sound artist John Wynne’s 230 Unwanted Speakers (2006), Benoît Maubrey’s Audio Igloo(1997)and Zimoun’s, 658 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes 70x70x70cm (2017).
This piece is a comment on communication and our modern culture. As we listen to sounds of communication from the past that are no longer heard within our throw away society. The tin cans remind the audience of simpler times of communication, the tin can with string, where words and meanings were not lost from speaker to listener. Within the world of communication today conversations are truncated, sent as emojis, rearranged scrolled over, swiped and misunderstood. This is highlighted by the use of the tin cans that are discarded and the used of lost vintage phone sounds for the audio.
Regina Music Box
The Regina Music Box is a mechatronic sound sculpture. A reflection of bygone days, growth, renewal and the possibilities of now. A 50 year old speaker is the frame for this work, a music box played by the 150 year old rose garden, conducted by the technology of now and the galactic years of the sun. Inside box a small disk turns, this 3D printed disk has raised “beds” that “play” tines of a hand-made Mbira fixed inside the speaker. The revolutions of the rose garden disk that plays the Mbira are dictated by the movement of the sun. A light dependent resistor feeds data to a Teensy 3.6, the shadows of neighboring foliage and the changing light of the sun map the revolving garden bed disk.
To the casual observer the Regina Music Box is a simple sound sculpture, a music box. On deeper reflection this simple music box invokes form, structure and aesthetic directly from the Royal Botanic Rose Garden. Inside box a small disk turns, it’s shape references that of the unusual circular layout of the rose garden. The 3D printed disk has raised “beds” that “play” tines of a hand made Mbira fixed inside the speaker. The revolutions of the rose garden disk that plays the Mbira are dictated by the movement of the sun. A light dependent resistor will feed data to a small micro computer that will map the change in light to the revolving of the garden bed disk.
From a conceptual view this piece hangs it’s aesthetic framework around the 150th anniversary of the garden. It investigates growth and renewal, informed by the rose gardens geometric plan. The piece is an environmental influenced sculpture. The box will be hung and inside a spinning disk will actuate the tines of Mbira. The shape of the garden becomes the player with the conductor being the sun. To arrive at this idea I immersed myself within the greenhouse for a few hours, and took observations of people movement, acoustics and sound generation. I then began researching it’s history, looking at maps and photos. The image of the rose garden beds was the inspiration for the piece. This unusual circular configuration resembled a spinning record, a disk of sound that could be played. I was sparked with the thought of a juke box then a music box, this was a fitting response to the celebration of 150 years.