My favourite part! Everything comes together! Problems arise and creative solutions are found! The work comes together!
We learn new skills, like how to tie fishing line so it doesn’t slip:
We use a crap tonne of cable ties to make everything neat. We learn that not all spray paint works well on plastic cabling (oops!).
We got most of the set up done on the Friday, leaving the Arduino components for Monday. It was so lovely being able to set up over multiple days and not have to take it down in between. It made us realise how important it was to have time to sit with the work in the space and make small tweaks and adjustments.
Maya collected the footage we all took over the session to make this awesome process video:
We made some notes over coffee for the presentation:
An exploration/meditation on the tonal qualities of water dripping into pots and incandescent bulbs in lampshades.
Inspired by Storm Room by Janet Cardiff and George Miller, this work focused on the drip of a leaky roof (or the illusion of one).
The lampshades came about through exploration of lighting options for the pots. The work slowly evolved to become more of a conversation between the lights and the sounds.
The lights and sounds activate and interact one another through two Arduino boards. An audience member can add sound or light to the system, but the work continues to interact with itself once the people have left. This raises questions about what role a person needs play in an interactive artwork.
The ecology of the system brings back environmental themes that were discussed early in the process. The water (or absence of it) and electricity take on new symbolic meanings.
Reflecting on the work and process: we liked the polyrhythmic nature of the original versions and would like to have spent more time getting the sound to return to this state.
The presentation went well. It was really nice to have the chance for some of our classmates to come in to sit and enjoy our artwork for a while in the morning. We made a couple of adjustments to the LightTriggersSound Arduino patch before the presentation, and noted that we could “tune” the artwork by subtly adjusting the position of the sensors as well as the programming.
We will be putting together a proposal and budget to give to Your and Owls to hopefully do a bigger version for their fringe festival. This would be an amazing opportunity and I’m going to try and jump on it straight away with the documentation we have collected over the last few days.
The last MEDA301 class! I won’t miss the 8:30am Monday start, but I’m sad the class is coming to an end.
Our artwork feels like it is coming together, but there is still so much to do and to reflect on. Each iteration we do throughs up more questions and possibilities to go in new directions.
We got 2 of the lights working with the Arduino, but didn’t get to playing around with the frequencies they were listening for. We found that having at least one light permanently on looked more effective, otherwise the space was totally dark most of the time. We also want to add more lampshades that don’t have lights in them. This will also mirror the way that some of the pots don’t make sounds.
We experimented with the layout of a cluster and found that it looked quite effective in the middle of the room. This of course took away some of the effectiveness of being able to move through the pots, or tell that they were coming from different places. So this becomes a question of what we want from the sound.
Jo also asked if we needed to hide the wires (the lampshades in particular had wires hanging EVERYWHERE). This was a really interesting question. The hanging wires did look quite interesting. The wires on the ground were quite directional (they all crawled over to the laptop in the corner, but more could be added to sprawl off to different corners. Adding more or not, it would stop people from moving around the whole work. It also adds another conceptual element to the work. Instead of very isolated, suspended pots and lampshades, suddenly they are very visibly connected.
We tried different coloured materials on the floor to cover, but they were not super effective. Matt suggested creating a small low stage and that we could borrow his. The group decided we would like to try a circular stage though, so Maddie is making a circular stage for next week.
We have also only got the lights being interactive (different lights turning on for different frequencies of sound). We haven’t got the sound interacting with the light yet. A couple of issues with making the sound interactive;
It’s easy to make the lights react to different frequencies in order to make them not all the same. What do we make the different sounds reactive to? Different colours (wavelengths)? I’m not sure the work would have the same feel with different colours. It feels important to have some sort of difference between the trigger conditions to avoid all the sounds just playing at once, loosing the nice polyrhythm thing we have going on.
Does having the sound react to light take something away from the original idea with the sound?
We are meeting up next Monday to continue work on it, so I will use that chance to ask Glenn about the second Arduino.
So we got the Arduino sound sensing working this week, we just need to grab some lights and cables from bunnings to set it up. It seems the solution for the sound will be to output keyboard strokes and map them to samples in Ableton Live, which means we will definitely be going for a wired solution. To that end, we need to think more carefully about how we are going to cover the wires. There is a place that makes carpets nearby and they always have offcuts in the bin outside that we could raid.
Things we need for next week:
4 light cables that can attach to lampshades and plug into extension cable (Jasmine has one already)
4 incandescent bulbs (make sure they plug into the right light sockets)
Samples of different sheets/carpets to use on the ground
Pots with holes drilled into them
Non-bulking audio cables (instead of the cobbled together cables with 3 adaptors on them that I’ve been using)
Key triggered, shorter drip samples
I need to create shorter drip samples (with only 1 drip in each), make them key triggered, work out randomisation in each Ableton channel.
I also need to get non-bulky cables and work out what size hole I need to make for them to fit through. I was also going to make a little sock for the speakers out of some old stockings so that they are more invisible. I don’t really want to destroy the nice tins, but the green pots are unusable anyway. I have a metal bucket at home that already has a hole drilled in it, so I can use that. I only have 5 speakers, so I need 1 more water receptacle. Preferably something metal, rather than plastic, so the sound it is making “makes sense”.
Having to create a floor covering means we need to think about what kind of flooring would work for this. We quite liked the shadows cast by the pots, so something that still picks that up would be great. Carpet tiles could also work as something that we could stagger the edge of for an interesting visual effect.
So it felt like we had a break through this week. We set it all up pretty quickly thanks to the hooks I brought in, which meant we could move and adjust the lampshades easily. We sat in the art work and moved things around, tried some new things, and chatted about what we thought about it. It did feel a bit like we were butting up against a wall though. I was trying to strike a balance between disagreeing with elements I didn’t like, and making sure that people felt comfortable to contribute ideas. I’m happy to push for things I think are interesting and against things I think are uninteresting because I want to work on something I’m invested in exploring. But I also realised that some of the most interesting things to explore can come out of the dialogue between us.
As usual, discussions with Jo & Matt were incredibly helpful. Here are my notes:
Jo disrupted the setup by putting out lampshades on the floor, putting a pot upside down, hanging a pot.
Matt suggested hanging more lampshades, experimenting with a lampshade cluster.
The narrative doesn’t need to be a linear narrative.
The sound was forming a sort of tone poem. All the pots are slightly different as are the lampshades. The sounds are all slightly different, so perhaps we want slight variations in the light.
Light coming through the lampshade creates the different light tones, perhaps hanging the lampshades upside down so the light shines through the pattern.
We liked the really stripped back element; we only had pots and lampshades.
We tried using lights on the floor to simulated a slightly ajar door, or cracks in the wall. It didn’t really work so we scrapped it and moved on.
Jo really liked that we had taken up the whole space. It gave the artwork a lot more space and meant you could move through it.
Matt suggested that instead of trying to think of ways that the lamps and pots speak to each other conceptually, we could make them materially speak to each other and interact. Light sensors in the pots and sound sensors in the lights (probably using Arduino).
Super keen to try this last point. I’ve never done Arduino before, but there is no time like the present to learn!
Last week we tried having an interacted ripple projection on the floor as well at the pots, but we decided there was too much going on and it complicated the work too much. This week we experimented with set design more. We added Maya’s pouffe to the scene and played around with different heights and lights in them. We quite liked the effect of having the lights & lampshade & pouffe, but the feedback from Jo and Matt was that they weren’t sure how the lampshades and pots fit together. They seem to be hinting at a narrative, but we don’t have a solid idea of what that narrative is yet.
So aside from bringing in extra materials we want to experiment with, we all need to be thinking about narrative/conceptual ideas that are being or could be explored.
I’m wary of the broad brush stroke kind of message that can be attached to things (the idea that was thrown out about focussing on frivolous aesthetic things like lampshades while the roof leaks being a metaphor for our inaction on climate change). It feels a bit empty and slapped on to me. There are a lot of artworks that come with very similar global messages. While it’s important to recognise that this is a product of the era we are in, it means that super general messages don’t have a big emotional impact. I quite like artworks that focus on a small detail that is part of a wider narrative. For example, there is an installation in Angel Place (in Martin Place, Sydney CBD) of hanging birdcages, accompanied by birdsong of all the species that lived in the area before the city. Broader ideas of displacement and the environment can stem from this focus. It feels far more effective to use a detail to engage someone in a broader political narrative (and all narratives are political).
This is a really specific kind of narrative that can be a part of this artwork, however, it could be more aesthetic. The relationship between sound and light. Absence vs presence. Parallel between sound vs silence and light vs dark. Is this narrative still political? These dualities/binaries are quite western, and often stem from particularly philosophies that link to other binary understandings of things like mind/body or gender.
The rhythm that can be found in everyday details. The importance of having both absence & presence in order to have rhythm. How is this narrative political? Ideas about rhythm are very culturally driven, via music and art and dance.
The stage design that has emerged so far has been one that only uses a few items to hint at the broader room. Drawing our focus and attention to very specific details of the room. How is this narrative political? Theatre is also going to vary through the culture we are embedded in. The objects we pick are going to be embedded into a broader cultural narrative. The pots are for a specific set of cultural eating practices. The tins are in English and from a particular era. The Flour/Sugar/Tea/Rice labels also bring up colonialization, exploitation, trade, resources, world hunger, and position us in a particular location in those spaces.
Absence of water. We experimented a little with different light sources so that the light isn’t coming from the lampshades, like the water isn’t really dripping. Absence of water can be highly political. The poisoning of Flint’s water in Michigan. Access to clean water in all sorts of places in the world. Our reliance of water to survive. Our bodies are mostly made of water.
This could be contrasted with ubiquity. Water is everywhere (just has questions of access), and light is also something we have everywhere.
Illusions. The illusion of something being there that isn’t. The illusion of something being wrong that isn’t. The illusion of something floating.
Decay. The roof is leaking. The light bulbs might flicker. The lampshades and pots are old. Questions of socio-economic class and disposable income needed for repairs. Things returning to a “state of nature”. Perhaps having “holes in the roof” that the rain is coming through. Light streaming through the holes could mess with our perception of being in a storm. This relates back to illusion and absence.
Lampshades became popular with the first electric lighting, to shield people from the “harsh glare” of electric lights. There were various iterations that came before them in street lamps. So they are a way that people adjusted to new technology. Various forms of rooves have always had leaks (even today, though that is less important). Shielding our eyes from something. The pots aren’t really shielding us from anything. They are protecting something though. Could the pots be on cherished objects? The pouffe, a book, etc.
Using pots and tins to catch water is an everyday way that we repurpose objects to adjust to a new situation. What else do we repurpose?
If electricity goes out we have specifically designed objects (torches, candles).
On the technical side of things, this class I almost got the Bluetooth speakers working, but I think they are going to be a bit too inconsistent to use. Jo suggested small MP3 players. I haven’t be able to find small cheap ones. She suggests browsing AdaFruit, Alibaba, or DX for stuff if I can’t find it locally.
List of things to bring to the next class
S hooks – bought from Bunnings. Actually ended up getting chain with hook links.
Wool? Wire? String? For hanging lampshades. Something strong, but easy to adjust.
So after the very successful prototype of the drips in the pots using our phones as speakers in the pots, I now need to work out a way to do this in an exhibition setting.
SO far I have come up with 2 option:
Option 1: Wired speakers into an audio interface with more than 2 outputs
Option 2: Bluetooth speakers combined into an aggregate device
For option 1 to work, I’ve need to get my hands on some small speakers. I can probably borrow a bunch of computer speakers from various friends for this, but I would need to have an audio interface that allows me to output more than 2 channels. I need to double check this isn’t something Glenn has. If he doesn’t there is a small (very small) chance that the tech office on main campus does, but I think Glenn might be able to check that for me from his system.
My audio interface theoretically has 6 outputs. 2 main, headphones, and S/PDIF. No idea how to use S/PDIF. It uses an RGA connector
I went into Officeworks during the week and thanks to a very friendly and helpful person named Matt, I tried connecting to multiple Bluetooth speakers at a time to see if option 2 would even work. It did! I managed to connected to multiple speakers and combine them into an aggregate device (basically a virtual device that combines the inputs and outputs of multiple connected devices). I wasn’t able to double check sending them discreet channel. Logic wasn’t really dealing with it and isn’t really built to.
I installed Ableton Live so that I could go and do a second trial.
A big difference between option 1 and 2 is the wires that would be running everywhere, which would not be a great look. Jarrah suggested drilling a small hole in the pots, then sit them on a ‘rug’ that has small holes in it, so that the wires could be hidden. This is definitely an option, but would ruin the pots. No going back from that.
An issue with the Bluetooth speakers is battery life. The cheaper ones only advertise 1 hour of battery life. The more expensive you get, the better the battery life (5 hours, then 9).
UPDATE: I got some speakers from office works because they were on sale and they have a good returns policy, so if I can’t connect to all of them then I can give them back.
The item that most intrigued and resonated with me in the Out of Hand Exhibition was the Jaquard Loom punch card string. This tied in with some extra exploration I did in the Powerhouse Museum, where I discovered the Lace Studies room. The women in there enthusiastically showed me through the amazing collection of lace (both antique and contemporary), and taught me a simple pattern for making bobbin lace.
When I went into the exhibition again, this related so closely back to my chosen object by being an analog version of a craft. Similarly in weaving, moving the correct strands was done manually. The loom punch card was invented to automate the process, so that complicated patterns could be made with more speed and less workers.
The Jacquard punch cards are a series of long rectangular paper cards that are punched with holes. They are sewn together with jute string so that they can form a loop when attached to a loom. There are holes on each end that are for positioning the card, and the holes in the middle of the card are what creates the Jacquard patterned fabric (note: Jacquard is not a specific pattern, but patterned fabric made using these cards). Modern Jacquard punch cards are made of stronger materials like metal that do not have the same wear and tear of card, but originally card stock would have been a much cheaper option that was easy to punch holes in. The material choice here is a balance between ease of creating the holes, versus being able to stand up to a repeated mechanical process for as long as possible. The cards can be different sizes, depending on how wide the fabric and the pattern is. To create the cards, first an artist would paint the design on grid paper (pixel art from the 1800s!), then someone would translate the rows into holes on each card. The holes do not show off the pattern as the information is “compressed” from one long row into many (8 in the case of the one from the exhibition). This is compression in the physical sense (taking up less space), not the digital sense of using less bits to relay the same (or approximately the same) information.
A loom works by having parallel threads (the warp) stretched across a frame. Every second warp thread is raised, then the weft thread passed through at a right angle. Then the warp is lowered, and every other warp thread is raised. The weft is passed through again, and so on and on to create a woven fabric. If the warp threads are raised in different patterns, then a pattern will be created in the fabric. Creating patterned fabric was a skilled, intensive job and required a second operator (usually a child) who would raise the correct warp threads by hand at the instructions of the weaver. Using punch cards means that a repeating pattern can be punched in once, then the loom can pull up the correct threads. This makes the whole process quicker, more accurate, and no longer required a skilled weaver to operate. Long hooks would raise the threads depending on whether its spot on the punch card was punched out or solid. The hook could have multiple threads through it, creating a pattern that repeats horizontally as well as vertically. Multiple threads through each hook would allow for a certain kind of compression of the information.
Like many inventions, there were multiple versions invented by others before Jacquard invented his version in 1804 that use similar ideas of a perforated loop to automate the weaving process. Basile Bouchon used a paper loop in 1725, and Jean-Baptiste Falcon improved on this using cards that were attached to each other in 1726. These versions of the loom were still only semi-automatic and required someone to control the feed of the punch cards. Jacquard’s loom fully automated the process, which lead to it being very popular and unpopular. Many weavers were concerned that their livelihood were being taken away, so many looms were smashed in protest. More on that later!
Jacquard’s loom took some time to perfect, early versions were unreliable. It was the adoption of some elements from the Vaucanson loom and Jean Antoine Breton’s solutions to the unreliability of the punch card mechanism that made the Jacquard loom a success.
Jacquard’s father was a master weaver of Lyon (France) and he inherited the looms and workshop when he passed away. There is some historical confusion about a lot of the details of his life, but he did work in weaving and also invented other looms (the treadle loom and a loom to weave fishing nets). Having an close understanding and knowledge of the practice of weaving was important to his ability to create these new technologies. His intentions to create more accurate, intricately patterned fabric cheaply was finally realised, and the loom was declared public property in 1806. Jacquard received a pension and royalties for his invention.
The protests of the master weavers I mentioned earlier brings in the social/political element of the craft that this technology impacted. The Jacquard loom became one of the symbols of industrialisation in France that was the object of protests by workers in very similar protests to that of the Luddite movement (which was based in England). It was very difficult and often illegal for workers to organise strikes, protests, and other collective action. Nevertheless, there were similar uprisings happening in the time in different European countries, so it is useful to use one movement to understand another. At the time, there was widespread poverty and unemployment, and the jobs of skilled textile workers were either being replaced by increasingly automated looms or requiring less skill to operate (and therefore being paid less). The name ‘Luddite’ came from a textile worker (who may or may not have actually existed) who smashed a knitting machine about 2 decades before the major Luddite protests, and this inspired the breaking of machines as the primary form of Luddite protest. There is a general misunderstanding of the ideas of the Luddites, who were painted as violent and anti-technology. It seems they were often the victims of violence (although not solely the victims), with mill owners and the authorities reacting violently to the destruction of private property. Some Luddites were gunned down in 1812, and many more were hanged or transported to Australia. Many Luddites were actually mostly concerned with mill owners using the machines to drive down wages (by needing less skilled workers) and produce inferior quality goods (therefore damaging the reputation of their trade). The machines were a symbol of these grievances and an effective object of direct action protest.
The loom card is often understood as a precursor to early computers, that also used punch cards to work. The punch card is essentially a binary system; there is a hole or there isn’t a hole. Charles Babbage (who is mentioned in the gallery placard) was inspired by the Jacquard loom to use punch cards to control computations in his Analytical Engine (a theoretical machine that was never built). Babbage even called the 2 main parts of the engine the Store and the Mill, terms used in the weaving industry. Although it was never built, several programs were designed for it by Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and the woman often regarded as the first computer programmer. Lovelace saw the potential of representing many more thing with numbers than simply quantity, much like the Jacquard punchcards encoding an image into binary code.
Lovelace is also laid the groundwork for the subroutine, expanding on a method of putting the operation cards back in the correct order to then be called again and looped. There is a strong importance of loops through my research into the punch cards; the intricate patterns of the Jacquard fabric emerge through the looping of the cards, loops as a central part of the process of automation, loops forming the basis of computing. The connected so well back into other research I have done this semester.
Herman Hollerith took the computing punch cards further in his Hollerith Desk, that was used to do the 1890 US census. One of the biggest innovations was the introduction of read/write technology. Jacquard punch cards are read only; the punch cards are simply put though and the pattern is read. Hollerith’s technique allowed new cards to be punched based on the reading of the original cards. This process could be done multiple times to do complicated analyses. This was something that Babbage had speculated long before (but clearly he wasn’t particularly good at making the material versions of his theoretical ideas). Hollerith started a company that after a few iterations eventually became IBM.
Some personal notes: I would love to try and make a small version of a Jacquard loom one day. The similarities between different versions of punch cards could be something to play with. Using strings instead of threads to “play” a jacquard pattern punch card loop. Or weaving using organ grinder punch cards. Using some of the programs and notes of Lovelace to weave or make music would also be really interesting.
In prep for week 8 and doing another iteration the storm room, I recorded some new water drips. I gathered up a bunch of different pots and tins, and bought an eyedropper.
One thing that I found interesting, although perhaps not surprising, is that I needed to drip the water from quite high to get a good sound. The higher I got, the louder and more resonate the drip. I also recorded both the pots/tins sitting on the table and holding them off. The sound when it is sitting on the table is a lot less resonant, but more true to how it would sound in a rainstorm. The drips when I hold up the pots/tins have a more resonant sound (also different pitches, which could be interesting!).
So perhaps there is a question about if its important to use a more “authentic” sound? And whether the idea of distance from the pot/tin is also an interesting idea to explore somehow.
During week 7 I worked with Jasmine, Maya, and Kayla to recreate a version of Storm Room (2009) by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller.
We were all in a group because we all choose (Re)configuring Spacetime (story-telling through sound, image and interaction) as the core conceptual element we wanted to explore.
We found drip noises online (after some unsuccessful attempts to record our own) and had them playing on an iPhone that sat at the bottom of our bin. We also made an abstract version of a window with lightning crashing outside it that was projected on the wall.
[ Waiting on the documentation video 🙂 ]
The bucket was the most interesting element of the experiment, and something that would be good to expand on further (more buckets, interesting intersections between different drip loops, lighting on the buckets).
The experiment is very much falling into territory that I have already been thinking about and experimenting with, so I’m pretty happy about that. I do want to make sure that it is also useful for the other group members. I’ve had a bit of a read through their blogs to see what they are researching and proposing.
Kayla is interested in guerrilla marketing. In terms of this project, it seems like we can investigate this through unexpected interruptions in a familiar environment. Perhaps having the buckets in a non-gallery space? Or even somewhere without a roof?
Jasmine is interested in using augmented reality to explore the ways humans interact with computers. She is interested in inviting the audience to interact in some way to reveal or create the artwork. So how could we make this project more of an interactive installation? Not sure yet, but I want to keep it in mind. I also thing=k this could pair well with Kayla’s interests.
So all of the research I have done so far has helped me to narrow down my interest to looping & dynamic scores (and the paradoxical tension between them). In trying to put down on butchers paper my conceptual core, Matt kindly contributed “architectural”, “emergent” and “sonic” as words to further specify what I am working on. When putting down my MVP (Minimal Viable Project), I used my material experiment from last week; audio loops from sound sources embedded in a built space (ie. not just a one room blank gallery space) that you can move through and here emergent sonic ideas.
There were extra ideas written on the sheet when I came back! These added things like triggers (which would work nicely with the canon variation I tried out), and playing with sound sources that the audience is separated from.
Some thoughts I had about expanding or further exploring this idea:
Playing on the use of electronic devices. Using video to have a fake lock screen and message/email/facebook alert pop up. A series of these would tell a story that the audience could get in what ever order they move through the space in. The sound could play on well known mobile alert sounds.
I know whenever alert sounds get used in remixes and films, people instinctively check their phone to see if it was theirs. I wonder if this is something I could play with.
I’m not sure if I want to get really concrete with the story telling angle or more abstract. I like the idea of drawing in research I have done in other classes, particularly CACS201 Social Intersections. We spent a lot of time talking about psychogeography and the dérive, and I think creating a space that someone can wander through and change direction and attention in response to the environment really starts to link in with these ideas.
This opens up a new line of research for me that I will not be able to do on this post, but will get into before next weeks workshop.