November 2008

[conversations with spaces]

Light snaps, precise and sharp, shutter sound, revealing these hidden geometries, a movement from surface to surface as sudden as the click of your right hand, rhythmic light jumps, discontinuous.

Now think on a larger scale: the same occurring on skyscrapers across a cityscape, an urban environment unfolding and explored, a story of a city told through bars of light dancing across its surface, its harbour, its derelict abandoned ex-industrial areas and gentrified alike, a geography of light.

Robert Wilson:

Without light there is no space.


Now this would put Hong Kong’s 8pm so-called Symphony of Lights to shame.

[conversations with spaces]


There is a reason Glen Marshall aka has developed somewhat of a cult following, which see here:

Part of the beauty of this creation is its simplicity. The other aspect is the fact that visuals are, in some sense, generated by the music. Glen Marshalls’s processing code takes in audio signals, in this case a Boards of Canada track, and specifies what type of visuals each signal should generate. The details are difficult to pinpoint. However, Glen has kindly broken down for us what is going on in the video below, generative visuals in a similar vein, soundtrack provided by Radiohead’s Bodysnatchers:

1. Bass guitar – makes the red shading on the red zeno pulsate.
2. Lead guitar – affects intensity of inner glows of both zenos.
3. Treble – affects size of sprites.
4. Vocal – additional affector to red sprite size, affects speed and directions of all sprites, affects size of stars in background.
5. X Factor – this is the name I gave to the overall amplitude – an ‘excitement’ factor. This controls the camera Z depth (near/far) – loudness brings us closer in, quieter breaks bring us out again. This was important to get that sense of a non-static journey and spatial interest that married with the music. The X Factor also increases the speed of the zenos growing, and the intensity of the blue cloud.

I don’t find this video quite as interesting as the former, potentially because it seems as though the b.o.c. music lends itself more to this project. The more atmospheric of musics tend to work with abstract visuals.

Regardless, the point should be clear: that using signals of a particular nature for unintended purposes can yield interesting art. In this case, audio signals generating motion.

We should of course know by now that interactions of this kind appear in many fields these days, examples of which follow here now:

  • dancers strapped with all forms of sensors, accelerometers and otherwise, their movements being mapped to audio signals (song) and video (usually presented in the form of various projections);
  • collaborations between scientists and artists in which the artists will use data relevant to the scientists’ research to generate painting/sound, instances of which have actually provided scientists with some sort of clarity concerning their research (example, anyone?);

I was speaking to a VJ (among other things) friend of mine recently and when i asked whether he was interested in such aspects of creating visuals to accompany music, he said he preferred to create the visuals live himself. But if you can have both aspects playing into one another, why wouldn’t you? Even something as simple as the pitch of a particular vocal part altering the hue of a particular filter ever so slightly. This is for instance. When you start to introduce slight variables such as this, this is when it all can become really interesting. This potential air of contained randomness opens up a world of possibilities, these small permutations can even inform us of characteristics and connections we would have never dreamed of before. What if, indeed, visuals corresponding to voice could differentiate yours from mine? What for the future of voice recognition?


All our laptops and monitors, external hard drives and usb sticks, midi controllers and broadband dongles: where do they go when die? After issuing their final breaths, it is more than likely they will end up one of the many electronic graveyards in the developing world.


In Guiyu, China, for example, where men, women and children alike are to be found pulling apart old aspects of the first world’s computers, tearing out wires and burning them at night; or during the day working for next to nothing w/ little or no protection handling e-waste which contains among other varied substances, dangerous metals like lead, cadmium and mercury according to Time. In Environmental Helath Perspectives, we read findings that seem to demonstrate that children in Guiyu have elevates blood lead levels.

China has long been a place for the West to export a great deal of its potentially recyclable (and not so) waste to. In Shanghai Journal: Dump Trash, Add Scavengers, Mix and Get a Big Mess, we read

Each morning, on average, 6,300 tons of garbage arrives by barge from the central city. Mr. Kearsley-pratt’s company, Onyx, won an international bidding competition in 2003 to replace an old municipal landfill next door, which had observed almost no environmental precautions, with a state-of-the-art dump — a fenced-in area slightly larger than New York’s Central Park.

There are towns in China which are literally covered in trash of all forms, the streets are lined w/ garbage and the locals “make a living chopping up and melting down toxic plastics and metals out of the mountains of trash.”

[courtesy of our old friends, the nytimes]

Look here where we have a multimedia look at e-waste (including a variety of its exports), a site with various texts, a doco and interactive maps chronicling various aspects of what now seems to be termed eDumping. I would be very interested in seeing some sort of data visualisation showing countries exporting waste and those importing, perhaps in terms of weight of refuse, type of refuse and time of transport. Perhaps senseable city lab’s New York Talk Exchange, which visualises ways in which the inhabitatants of New York communicate with the world, could be used as a model.

[screenshot of the new york talk exchange]

O course, the procuring of such data could be a touchy subject, especially if intended for the purposes of making more clear exactly how much waste the world outsources.