On April 16, 2013, WoodEar had a successful first opening at the Pace Digital Gallery in downtown Manhattan. The piece is spread over three floors, using three flat-screen displays, one projection, and six channels of audio. The video footage used in the piece was created by Jennifer Lauren Smith. After it closes on May 3rd, I intend to revise it and install it at other venues. The installation at Pace was made possible with the help of Turbulence.org and funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Continuing our collaborations, I created a soundtrack for Jennifer’s installation film, Present Day, earlier this year. The film is intended for a large vertical projection. Per Jennifer’s description: “Present Day depicts the silhouette of a present-day shaman performing a sequence of movements beneath a crescent moon. His routine is expressive and random and it becomes apparent that his dance is not grounded in a specific cultural tradition but is more a mash-up of idiosyncratic references. As the routine ensues, the image scrolls upwards: we might imagine the Shaman comes closer to ethereal ecstasy. He begins to effect surprising edits to his video that gradually reveal more truths about his being. The piece is paced similarly to a song, underscoring the rock music we imagine he hears with an introduction, chorus, bridge, and faded ending.”
A tree is a biological network: roots gathering water and nutrients, leaves using sunlight to produce food, and phloem and xylem running throughout to move water and nutrients across the structure. WoodEar attempts to extend the dynamic qualities of this biological network into the digital network.
A series of sensors attached to the tree stream data on the state of its environment – light, temperature, air pressure, and wind. This live data is merged with photos and recordings of the tree’s immediate surroundings into a generative application/installation.
By downloading and running the application, anyone can access the live environmental experiences of the tree – one that may be very distant from them, but that still shares the same air, sky, earth, and water.
I’m excited to announce that my proposal for a new piece called ‘WoodEar’, has received a generous grant from Turbulence.org with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Turbulence.org previously funded my 2007 web-based piece, ItSpace.
WoodEar will use data from sensors and microphones embedded in a living tree to drive a physical and online sound installation, and will explore the musical and network mappings that can be created when a tree is considered as a resonant object.
In WoodEar I am not just interested in resonances within the trunk, but in a number of constantly-changing environmental factors that impact the tree’s life and are filtered through its body: light, external sound, wind, and temperature. In addition to a local site-specific installation, sound elements from the tree will be streamed to a website, allowing visitors to manipulate and mix the different musical streams via a browser-based interface. WoodEar will be completed in mid to late 2012.
Following a successful showing at SIGGRAPH 2011 in August, the newly rebuilt ItSpace went for a 10-day showing at the Pixilerations [v.8] New Media Fringe Festival from Sept. 22nd to Oct. 2nd in Providence, RI. It is a annual joint festival between the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University. ItSpace was displayed in the lobby of the recently built Granoff Center for the Creative Arts on Brown’s campus.
The second version of my installation, ItSpace, premiered at the SIGGRAPH 2011 Conference held at the Vancouver Convention Center in early August. I had spent the previous several months rebuilding the physical components of the piece from scratch. The original version was completed on a short deadline and used photos glued to paper-covered pieces of foam board. The new version was designed to handle more crowd traffic, as several thousand attendees were expected to file through the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery. The new photo boards were constructed from painted wood with the photos protected from fingerprints and other damage beneath thin panes of laser-cut plexiglass. The convention, as well as its location, was phenomenal, and I saw/heard/played with a number of fantastic art pieces and experimental technologies.
In addition to ItSpace’s gallery presence, it received a two-page spread in a special issue of Leonardo Magazine. You can also hear the recorded descriptions of ItSpace read in five different languages through the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery Podcast.
Earlier this year I had the great fortune to work with Jennifer Lauren Smith, a grad student in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Sculpture + Extended Media MFA program. February is a 10-minute film centered around the inflation and flight of a hot air balloon over the Central Virginia countryside. I was responsible for recording, creating, and synchronizing the sound world of the film (and I rode a hot air balloon in the process).
The finished piece premiered on May 6, 2011 projected on a large screen in the Anderson Gallery Carriage House on the VCU campus. It was installed again in June in the Our Cult’s Classic exhibition at The Boiler in Brooklyn.
The physical version of ItSpace, my sound installation from 2007 – 2008 that was featured on NPR, has been accepted to the art gallery at SIGGRAPH 2011 in Vancouver, BC. SIGGRAPH is the major annual international conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. This year’s theme, “Tracing Home”, is a great fit with the concepts behind ItSpace. I will be going to SIGGRAPH in early August to help install the piece at the Vancouver Convention Centre where it will be exhibited from August 9 – 11.
On October 27th I gave a remote lecture to students in the Digital Arts program at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. My parents both graduated from Wits and so I had a certain coming-full-circle feeling in giving the lecture there. We used a combination of Skype and native Mac screen sharing to do the talk. I remotely controlled the desktop of the Mac there to run Powerpoint and a Max/MSP example. The Youtube video here is the first of five in a playlist. Many thanks to artist and Wits faculty, Tegan Bristow, for arranging the lecture. From the ‘official’ description of the talk: “In this remote lecture Peter will talk about several of his recent pieces that focus on using physical, virtual, and hybrid spaces as compositional tools. The pieces span several mediums, from online installation to dance performance to site-specific physical installation. He will also discuss and demonstrate the tools, both software and hardware, that he used to create the works.”