Intimate Architectures/Social Gestures/Cinema Ontologies: Objects, Actions, Transitions, People and Environments

FALL 2011: V.07 N.02: CAA Conference Edition 2011

 
N_DREW (aka Andrew Bucksbarg)
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Telecommunications
Indiana University, Bloomington

TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

I invoke my practice between the intimacy with an object and the simultaneous architectural scope that serves many. I find challenge in the vector created between the self and the social, the expert and the participant, and between theory and praxis. The term “vector” is used in reference to relational points of direction, as well as magnitude, in that I also consider the definition of a vector as an agent of transfer, one within a greater network. I am one in many as I am being many in one, continually redrawn, placed and withdrawn.

I pose my work in this fluid space as both complement and pathogen/antigen in the prosthesis of consciousness. [1] I am in and of the process of rationality embodied. Technology is the artifact of the rationalization of consciousness.

Misc. Works, 2007-2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy the artist, Gallerie 3,14 and Science Gallery.

Misc. Works, 2007-2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy the artist, Gallerie 3,14 and Science Gallery.

Practice (Art/Research/Thought/Play) Overview:
1) INTIMATE OBJECTS: Technologies and Methods for Performance and Installation

2) ENVIRONMENTS: Socially Engaging Installation/Performance Environments and Social Cinema

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Various Electronic Instruments, 2007-2011, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Various Electronic Instruments, 2007-2011, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

1) INTIMATE OBJECTS: Technologies and Methods for Performance and Installation
I am interested in questions of embodiment at the interface of being. Specifically, I see the hand as an embodied site of expression at the interface with the performance object.

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Altered Telephone and Finger Switches, 1999, N_DREW, custom electronics and telephone, courtesy the artist.

Altered Telephone and Finger Switches, 1999, N_DREW, custom electronics and telephone, courtesy the artist.

Improvisation with Two Altered Telephones (1999)
In Improvisation with Two Altered Telephones, two telephones were altered by adding an AM/FM radio circuit to each phone’s interface. The radio circuit produces sound when its speaker output is fed back into the circuit at various points and in varying degrees. The resulting sound is controlled through the phone keypad and a few added knobs (variable resisters.) The mouthpiece is also soldered into the circuit and the vocalizations (or air pressure) become amplified and filtered by the radio circuit.

Improvisation With Two Altered Phones, 1999, N_DREW, custom electronics and telephones, courtesy Brett Levine.

Improvisation With Two Altered Phones, 1999, N_DREW, custom electronics and telephones, courtesy Brett Levine.

The artist Julie Adler and I met to learn the parameters of the phones and to work through strategies for improvisation. My desire was to juxtapose common body technique/instrumental actions and vocalization using the ordinary action of the telephone. As we improvised, we moved through actions such as picking up the receiver, dialing, talking and hanging up. We also explored new possibilities the altered phone instruments offered, such as spinning them over one’s head.

Gray Box Hacked/Circuit Bent Children’s Toy with Custom Light Pen, 1990s, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Gray Box Hacked/Circuit Bent Children’s Toy with Custom Light Pen, 1990s, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Expertise and Accessibility/Distal, Proximal and Scalar
What is the ratio of expertise to accessibility in using conventional, quickly understood elements in participatory work, for example: knobs, buttons, sliders, etc., versus new technical means of interaction? Buttons and knobs are iconic and relate directly to the intimacy of the functionality of the hand. They have the invisibility of convention. Other means, such as proximity sensors, map gesture through space in a much more abstract way. They make movement through space physical. They bring attention to one’s distal and scalar relationship to the object, as well as the kinds of movement one can perform with them. Improvisation can be about exploring an interface, as much as about exploring what the interface produces. Improvisation can also be about alien practices.

Mobile/Performance Interface, Hand Sampler and Body Mounted Amplifier, 1990s, N_DREW, custom electronics and sample chips, courtesy the artist.

Mobile/Performance Interface, Hand Sampler and Body Mounted Amplifier, 1990s, N_DREW, custom electronics and sample chips, courtesy the artist.

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Scanners (Remote), 2008, N_DREW, hacked toy sample chips, LEDs and project boxes, courtesy the artist.

Audiovisualizing the Entity

Nuclear Family from TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

Nuclear Family from TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine. 

Nuclear Family (2011)
Nuclear Family is a performance appropriating a circuit-bent children’s toy, based around the problem structure of the common conception of the nuclear family (father, mother, child) and issues of gender and familialism. N_DREW wants to know why such toys socialize children and adults away from the notion of the extended family and ideas of community. Alone on the floor, genderless, family-less, N_DREW plays with the toy and takes notice of sound, light and video.

Ecotone II and Green Sound

Interspatial Improvisations using S.M.I.L.E. (2008-2011)

S.M.I.L.E. interface, 2008-2011, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

S.M.I.L.E. interface, 2008-2011, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

A good metaphor for thinking through the complex sonic ecology in a performance is an ecotone. An ecotone is a transition between two adjoining ecological communities, such as the transitional area between a forest and a prairie. This is the “ecological” transitional space or environment of sound, improviser and listener.

Improvisations with the S.M.I.L.E. interface explore the boundaries of such “communities” of synthesized audio in a sonic “environment.” The interface, called S.M.I.L.E., or spherical media instrument for live environments, uses various sensors, tracks movement, and produces an interplay of light and sound in real-time, to traverse the interspatial ecotone of improvised performance.

Ecotone and Green Sound with S.M.I.L.E. Interface, 2008-2011, N_DREW, custom electronics and sound synthesis/design, courtesy the artist.

Ecotone and Green Sound with S.M.I.L.E. Interface, 2008-2011, N_DREW, custom electronics and sound synthesis/design, courtesy the artist.

Meaning is construed with the perception of sound as information (communication.) It is modulated with sound, via cues to location, proximity and environment, or with the multiple narratives or experiences of each individual listener. How can this feed back into our appreciation of more abstract, experimental performance practices? One means is via open listening. Open listening comes with the experience of our attachments: our expectations, reactions, emotions, visualizations, etc., as we are listening. With open listening we focus on the experience of sound itself. As R. Murray Schafer states in his discussion of listening related to acoustics and acousmatics, there is a “deliberate placing-in-condition of the subject.” He goes on to write, “what am I hearing? What exactly are you hearing?” in the sense that one asks the subject to describe not the external references of the sound it perceives, but the perception itself.[2] This process is both ecological and mindful. Becoming aware of sound as simple fluctuations of air pressure moving the eardrum that bear frequency, intensity and timbre in space and time, can free our experience to the vastness of sonic production or the planetary of sound.

To Err is Human, But to Glitch is Divine!
The procedural essence of glitch art is opposed to conservation; the shocking experience, perception and understanding of what a glitch is at one point in time, cannot be preserved to a future time. The beautiful creation of a glitch is uncanny and sublime; the artist tries to catch something that is the result of an uncertain balance, a shifting, un-catchable, unrealized utopia connected to randomness and idyllic disintegrations. The essence of glitch art is therefore best understood as a history of movement and as an attitude of destructive generativity; it is the procedural art of nonconformative, ambiguous reformations. [3]

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Lord Galaga Remix Performance, 2006, 2010-2011, N_DREW, hacked/bent video game and custom electronics, courtesy of the artist.

Lord Galaga Remix Performance, 2006, 2010-2011, N_DREW, hacked/bent video game and custom electronics, courtesy of the artist.

Introduced in 1981, the Galaga arcade game became a classic alien invasion game for the company Namco. Thirty or so years into the future, in Lord Galaga Remix, Lord Galaga appropriates a recent game pack circuit to create an audio-visual instrument that allows the performer to travel in time and material (electrons), by playing a hacked version of the classic Galaga video game.

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Lord Galaga Remix Performance Video Stills, 2006, 2010-2011, N_DREW, hacked/bent video game and custom electronics, courtesy of the artist.

Lord Galaga Remix Performance Video Stills, 2006, 2010-2011, N_DREW, hacked/bent video game and custom electronics, courtesy of the artist.

Lord Galaga explores the glitchy errors that happen when you invert or short-circuit a retro video game in order to create a noisy audio-visual performance extravaganza. By circuit bending, hacking and glitching, Lord Galaga creates “alien sound effects,” video game antics, experimental sound performance, visualist culture and early gaming vibes. Lord Galaga’s performance colonizes the corporate product and contaminates an arcade game classic.

2) ENVIRONMENTS: Socially Engaging Installation/Performance Environments and Social Cinema

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TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

Cinema Ontology/Movement Being
“All of a sudden it hit me if there was such a thing as composing music, there could be such a thing as composing motion. After all, there are melodic figures, why can’t there be figures of motion?” [4]

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TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

Cinema-ontology places accent on the potential of expressive movement (the cinematic/human kinetic; kinetic has its roots in the Greek word “kinesis,” meaning “motion”) with light, image, sound, utterance, action and perhaps other perceptual means, such as olfaction. The emphasis is on being in the moment and one’s embodied relationship to ideo-forms, to other bodies and to environments/spaces, via improvisational work. Simply put, cinema-ontology is expressive, body-based practice whereby tensions of the moment are transcribed via techniques of description, re-presentation or action.

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Ecotone III (Pass Camera RGB) Call Cards, 2009, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy the artist.

Ecotone III (Pass Camera RGB) Call Cards, 2009, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy the artist.

A common element that binds creativity and improvisation is what is unknown, uncertain and within the precarious moment. This is the ecological space where we choose to act, to make sound or images, as well as where we tune ourselves to the flow of our experience. To improvise is not only to produce, but also to look, listen and communicate. We can think of improvisation in the context of interactivity, and mediated by technology, as a model of conversation. This conversation enables a democratic approach to improvising with sounds, light and movement in the social context of performance. If we expand our definition of interaction to include groups of people, we can explore the politics of group dynamics and collaborative, cooperative or participatory improvisation. In this vein, we can think of a potential for live, social cinematic works as transformative ontologies of expressive movement in our lives.

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Shufflesition with Charlie Hoyt, 2007, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy the artist.

A New Systems Art, Social Practice and Emergence
Systems comprise an interchange, interaction or interrelation of components that together form (the perception of) structure and/or function in process or behavior. A system is spatialized time. Systems have perceived boundaries and may overlap to form more complex systems. In an emergent system, the system is not defined or understood by a holistic or reductionist perspective. The interest is in what emerges from the sum total in the interaction of entities in a history. Peter Corning writes, “Rules, or laws, have no causal efficacy; they do not in fact “generate” anything. They serve merely to describe regularities and consistent relationships in nature.†He goes on to discuss how rules cannot predict history, using chess as an example:

Why? Because the “system” involves more than the rules of the game. It also includes the players and their unfolding,moment-by-moment decisions among a very large number of available options at each choice point. The game of chess is inescapably historical, even though it is also constrained and shaped by a set of rules, not to mention the laws of physics. Moreover,and this is a key point, the game of chess is also shaped by teleonomic, cybernetic, feedback-driven influences. It is not simply a self-ordered process; it involves an organized, “purposeful” activity. [5]

We see an emergence/systems approach in terms of understanding and experiencing an artwork:

Meaning is not created by the artist, distributed through the network, and received by the observer. Meaning is a product of the interaction between the observer and the system, the content of which is in a state of flux, of endless change and transformation. [6]

We see an emergence/systems approach to appreciating and critiquing an artwork: “Judging art works on the basis of the inter-human relations they represent, produce or prompt…the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” [7]

Finally, I think of my own art practice in terms of emergence/systems ideas: I am a metadesigner of systems for the creation of objects, actions, transitions and environments, emotions and ideas.

Social systems art embodies a practice that empowers people through the affordances of meta-design systems. People become creators, participants and collaborators in the white cube, black box and beyond. Social interaction and emergent art relies not only on the audio-visual production, speaking, action or moving of subjects, but also on listening, looking at others and collaborating with them in the act of a meaningful experience. Mindfulness for what others are doing and how they respond to you is part of the function of a conversational model of interaction.

In his vision of a people’s theater Augusto Boal claims: “All these experiments of a people’s theater have the same objective– the liberation of the spectator, on whom the theater has imposed finished visions of the world.” [8] He continues to discuss the notion of Aristotelian drama and catharsis as draining away the potential for persons to have an active role in society, which he describes as the poetics of oppression:

The world is known perfect or about to be perfected, and all its values are imposed on the spectators who passively delegate power to the characters to act and think in their place. In so doing the spectators purge themselves of their tragic flaw– that is, of something capable of changing society. [9]

Consider a simple formula for installations, such as creating socially improvisational/performance installations where participants exchange something of value.

Tourist/Scientist/Immigrant/Colonialist

You find yourself as visitor, you:

1) do/think something (image, sound, utterance, action)

2) take something

3) leave something

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GalagaRemix2 Installation, 2010, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy the artist.

GalagaRemiX2 Installation (2010)
The GalagaRemiX2 Installation comprises the hacked Galaga game hardware and interface, a stack of visual scores and two Glitch Graffiti Panels for physically exploring the abstract shapes and colors formed by playing the hacked/glitched game video.

What do social systems support/provoke?
“Think of being in a room with a close friend or lover. There may be no explicit communication, but instead a myriad of more basic visual, auditory and tactile links are shared. No information is exchanged, but emotions, even simple contentment, may be expressed. And no goals may be pursued or met, but instead mere togetherness may lead to a feeling of warm companionship.” [10]

Mobispheres with Charlie Hoyt, 2007, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Mobispheres with Charlie Hoyt, 2007, N_DREW, custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Mobispheres (2007)
We often think of communities as stable and lasting, but community can be momentary and ephemeral, blooming as need requires. Hand-held architectures create structures for such intimacies, opening up dialog in the exchanges of the human simian. These objects reveal our technophilic obsession with mobile, personal devices and the continually shrinking, miniaturized electronics that pervade our lives. The Mobispheres build on the artist’s concerns with social ecology, particularly supporting systems that promote positive, momentary engagement in ephemeral group exchanges.

Mobispheres is an installation that comprises a group of six custom designed mobile, hand-held audio-visual micro-instruments, as well as eight sound reactive light spheres. The Mobispheres are used for improvisation via the production of light and sound. They can be played solo and/or incorporate group participation. Aside from the simple electronic circuit, the Mobispheres have a small speaker that is filtered by the palm of the handand creates vocal-like sounds. Viewer/participants can improvise together and explore the sounds and lights of the spheres in a social context around a “table” on the floor.

Mobispheres Installation, 2007, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Gallerie 3,14.

Mobispheres Installation, 2007, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Gallerie 3,14.

AVIO (Audio, Visual, Interact, Object) (2009)

AVIO! (Audio, Visual, Interact, Object), 2009, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy Science Gallery, Dublin.

AVIO! (Audio, Visual, Interact, Object), 2009, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy Science Gallery, Dublin.

AVIO! (Audio-Visual, Interact, Object) is an installation around hand-held improvisatory audio-visual objects, including the Mobispheres that begins to incorporate space in the tracing of interaction of objects, people and environments. This was accomplished with the inclusion of suspended globes that were activated by sound. My intent was to engage the visitor with technology in a creative, playful manner, exploring momentary intersections of sound, light and image with the other visitors in the space.

Unidentified Sonic Objects/ 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy Science Gallery, Dublin.

Unidentified Sonic Objects/ 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy Science Gallery, Dublin.

Upon the return of the Mobispheres from a show, I learned that the greatest compliment is the destruction of the art by its use.

AVIO! (Audio-Visual, Interact, Object), 2009, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy of the artist.

AVIO! (Audio-Visual, Interact, Object), 2009, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy of the artist.

Unidentified Sonic Objects/AudioVisual Polarities (2011)
Unidentified Sonic Objects/AudioVisual Polarities is a social performance installation continuing the work of AVIO! (Audio, Visual, Interact, Object). The project explores the interchange of people, sound, objects, light and space, tracing emergent forms within an installation system and encouraging ephemeral community.

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Unidentified Sonic Objects/A/V Polarities, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Unidentified Sonic Objects/A/V Polarities, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia and custom electronics, courtesy the artist.

Contact www.organicode.net

Social Media
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AUDIOVISUALITY
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/audiovisuality
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/audiovisuality
Twitter: http://twitter.com/N_DREW

TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

TRANSGENIX EMERGENT: Improvisations with Noizical Instruments, A/V Interfaces and Live Glitch Sound, Light and Video, 2011, N_DREW, A/V/Multimedia, courtesy Brett Levine.

Endnotes
1. J. Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other or The Prosthesis of Origin, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
2. R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape, (New York: Destiny Books, 1993).
3. R. Menkman, “Glitch Vs. Glitch Art”, http://rosamenkman.blogspot.com/2010/04/glitches-vs-glitch-art.html, (accessed July 2011).
4. L. Lye, Iota Center Website, http://www.iotacenter.org/visualmusic/techniques, (accessed July 2011).
5. P. Corning, “The Re-Emergence of Emergence: A Venerable Concept in Search of a Theory” in Complexity, Volume 7, Issue 6, pages 18-30, July/August 2002.
6. M. Kreuger, Responsive Environments, The New Media Reader, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1977).
7. N. Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, (Dijon: Les Presses du Reel, 2002).
8. A. Boal, The Theatre of the Oppressed, (New York: Urizen Books, 1979).
9. A. Boal, The Theatre of the Oppressed.
10. R. Strong and W. Gaver, “Feather, Scent, and Shaker: Supporting Simple Intimacy” Proceedings for CSCW’96 (Nov.16 – 20, Boston, 1996).