For this final project, we approached the idea of a nature walk and attempting to narrate and document it. We bounced off Alina’s idea and added some of our ideas into it to expand it even more.
My role in this film was as the director.
Bouncing off the concept of a nature walk, I wanted to at first create a sound piece that would then be transformed into an expanded cinema concept. The idea at first was to recreate the walk in a controlled environment as a means to re-visualize and contextualize the meaning of the walk itself.
However, I stumbled upon the idea that bringing back something from the forest for me to use a bit discomforting. As an individual with Indonesian Heritage, our folklore revolves around nature and spirits and bringing back a piece of an object from the forest was as if I stole something from a house I am as a guest.
From here onwards, I explored more into the idea of the Orang Bunian. These are celestial beings that live in the forests who resemble a lot like Humans. They have similar societies and familial structures. We cannot see them and yet they live beside us. For us to be able to see them, we must first talk to them — converse and plead to be given access to their world.
I chose this title as my film because I wanted to have no meaning in the film itself. It is just about documenting things the way it is meant to be — a woman who attempts to meditate in the jungle but ends up becoming part of the Orang Bunian. She is accepted by them and through the batik motif, she accepts it and thus becomes like them.
The initial conceptualization of the project revolved around a paranormal or supernatural narrative. I wanted to exhibit the potentials of spaces that co-exists with ‘other’ beings. However, I decided to restart the project from scratch as I was not satisfied with the initial test shots.
The title ‘My Mother And My Cat Are Best Friends’ was my realization that my mother spends a lot of time as a housewife (25+ years!). I wondered if she felt lonely or bored at times and after the introduction of Tinkle, our house cat more than a year ago, I could feel she has something to find and take care of, as all of her children are already adults. She treats our cat like a baby.
Let me brief on the many things that are going on.
Firstly, I wanted to film in a ‘stream of consciousness’ attitude; where the images continuously flows from either point of direction. You can see certain scenes are reversed and to me; I took much of my inspiration of reading Murakami’s surrealistic novels. In 1Q84, there are two moons, being created by The Little People as ‘the shadow of heart and mind’ and two disparately separate lives slowly combine. Murakami’s novels often have two plots and they often converge and then diverge. To me, the reverse sequencing is the act of implying that there is a possible, alternative world that exists where my mother commits into the same routine, everyday. I choose her routine as regardless of the time of day, it is still the same routine albeit done differently.
Secondly, the audio of the project revolves around the surrealistic aspect of a multi-layered world that co-exists. These were done by splittin up the shot scenes into three segments.
While photographing, I had used a zoom recorder to record the sounds of the space. This could have inclued the shutter sound, my cat meowing and/or my mom speaking. These are thus regarded as my field recordings. I wanted to incorporate the field recordings as a way to enunciate the overall mood and effect of the scenes.
Lastly, I used fades and color grading as transitions between two worlds as it begins to overlap. In my situation, the fade between two scenes are of two parallel ‘worlds’. One that is played correctly and the other is reversed. These two would explain the parallel worlds. The color grading also aids to help audience to distinguish between the real world and the ‘parallel’ that is, one is color and the other is black and white.
Personally I like the concept but the execution could’ve done better. I do not like the way I had graded the scenes and the audio could’ve been better. Nonetheless, I prefer the audio aspect more over the film as its severe degree of layeredness provides contextual depth simply through using field recordings.
This cinemagraph was inspired by my fear of horror films, or at least the idea that something exists within an external dimension. Bouncing off from last semesters paranomal theme, I stuck through with the idea that I could play with mirrors and reflections to create an element of surreal and mystique.
My main inspiration came after stumbling a supercut of Martin Scorsese’s obsessive and delicate use of mirrors in his films.
As seen in this supercut, Scorsese uses reflections and mirrors to portray how we potray reality. In most of the cuts, the camera begins with a shot of the mirror itself, and later zooming or panning out to reveal the scene. It sets context, the tone and the drama for the overall scene.
In my following cinemagraph, the reflection of the woman moves but not the real life character itself. I feel that this duality of two realities (real life and the realm in the mirror) is broken up. Here I play through the idea of the other realm playing; the mirrored individual. As it is simply a reflection, it has a ghostly look to it, adding a sense of mystique to the overall image.
a liminal space observes the way we unconsciously pursue spaces that reconfirms our own biases — echo chambers. I identified interstices also as liminal; spaces between the threshold. I took more liberty to interpret this and defined the spaces as echo chambers; metaphorical places where truths are rehashed and confirmation biases are asserted.
Through the use of interactive sound and visual elements; the immersive element was important as I wanted to create a literal echo chamber. This would allow the participant to realize and reaffirm how one’s voice, as a relay of truths and communication, can be manipulated ever so easily by re-pitching and layering. Thus, an illusion of polyphony exists where individuals believe it is a complex voice but simply derived from only one voice.
By having modules laid across the room, participants are encouraged to generate or experiment with these modules which detects amplitude from a sound the participant generates. This level of amplitude then corresponds with a change in pitch. The pitch-shifting concept thus becomes relevant as a participant traverses across this space and hears a voiced speech loop that is constantly pitch shifting.
Using the notion of reverberations and delays that exist in a literal echo chamber, a liminal space surveys the metaphorical concept of an echo chamber vis-a-vis the recreation of the sonic experience of an echo chamber.
A liminal space is a gap in which we as human beings behave, interstices of an unconscious interaction.
Participants are encouraged to explore the space and interrogate how their interactions inflect their looped speech. Movement in this aspect references directly to the act of finding information, the pursuit of reconfirming your biases.
Relations to Interstices as its thematic concept
Interstices, therefore in this manner explores the interstices of the psychological gap to which we as human beings, behave and consequently form social structures within it.. The concept of an echo chamber arrows down towards the notion of the subconscious interaction, the confirmation bias. Is it, therefore, normal to find justifications to our own means, and to our own ends?
By understanding the way in which our own unconscious has ultimately led to the creation of such chambers, we realize that these spaces are, somehow interstices too. Not only are these symbolic to the gaps of our imperfect human being but also spaces that are not literal. And thus by this definition, echo chambers are interstitial spaces made subconsciously. Even if, the truth is a reconstructed image of their own truth. Interstices in this respect, draws back to the meta-understanding that an echo chamber, is in a way, a voluntary act of participating in the cohabitation of your own gaps, subconsciously. An interstitial space thus symbolizes the gap between truth and false.
In a very unorthodox aspect, I am very much inspired by sound and music. For this project, I discovered the electronic musician Caterina Barbieri’s music to be very inspiring for my work.
Her music focuses on minimalism and the repetition of patterns which one can hear across the 1-hour music performance. I found it fascinating as these loops are simply musical bars repeated and created patterns within it. She reinforces the idea of a systematic and pattern-based approach and explores within the limitations she has set upon herself.
“the harmonic oscillator is a monophonic oscillator… but it generates the first eight partials….tries to create the illusion of polyphony”
In this video, she discusses the use of a monophonic oscillator, a single-tone, one pitched sound oscillator. But the illusion of polyphony that we can hear from her work exists as through the experimentation with the concept called fundamental frequencies.
Fundamental frequencies refer to the lowest frequency in a waveform. It is a series of sinusoids and each successive pitch which can be derived from the n*positive integer (n being the lowest frequency) are known as partials. A series of frequencies such as 100hz, 200hz, 300hz, 400hz,… are known as a series of harmonic partials, with 100hz being fundamental.
Through this concept of varying pitch, I wanted to explore how I can create a polyphonic experience from a human voice. If our voice (which is comprised of many sinusoids and frequencies) but is predominantly single monophonic and single pitched, it became a point of departure to explore how voices can be distorted and then truths also be distorted. In this way, I wanted to impart this concept into an echo chamber. Where space exists literally like an echo chamber but has their truths be constantly distorted but fundamentally, the distortion is simply an illusion. And this sound is a single note — a single voice.
From my initial research, the project was clear to me that it needed to require the following things.
An audio reactive interaction
An audio reactive projection
Elements of interactivity through movement
An additional layer of interactivity through inputting speech
To bounce off from Caterina Barbieri’s musical output, I wanted to also interrogate a musical aspect to things, to create a musical element in your own voice. I felt that it could create a piece of interest and great immersive-ness.
I first began this project by creating the MAX MSP Patch.
Audio flows top to bottom and left to right. It goes from the pink section, to the gizmo object and down into the brown section.
The patch involves a buffer that records the audio. It is then fed into the ~gizmoz object where the magic happens. The gizmo object modifies the vocal speech by replicating multiple voices as outputs.
To control the level of speech, I used Arduino modules to create instruments or mics that pick up the audio and then drives the modulation in the ~gizmo subpatcher.
This is the Gizmo Subpatcher. Each gizmo~ object refers to one voice. Here there are 4, so therefore 4 voices. The “in” object feeds in numbers, ranging from 0.1 to infinity from the PITCH subpatcher (below). 1 means no pitch modulation so therefore I use a 4 track system. In 2 refers to the unmodulated voice. In 3 to 5 will have a range of pitch modulation, ranging from the lower and higher pitches. With each arduino transmission module controlling one IN. Pitch shifting is done via the Fast-Fourier Transform process (FFT).
This subpatcher called PITCH is the control center for the Arduino data values. Data flow through here and then into the gizmo subpatcher (image above). The Scale object are what I use to control the pitch.
This subpatcher is called arduino2max. It receives data from the Arduino app via the serial monitor. On the left, you can see the values from each Arduino transmission node. Each has its own unique identifier or known as a String.
Here is the Arduino sample code. I used 3 Arduinos (see in schematics, for more details & layouts). 1 is deployed as the receiving node and 2 are deployed as the transmission nodes.
Receiving Node Sketch
Transmission Node Sketch
Each transmission node encodes its unique ID. For instance, Node1 will send a value of X15 while Node2 will transmit Z50. X and Z are the unique identifiers which I would later filter via MAX and divert the data to each specific voice. One transmission node controls modulation of one voice in the gizmo subpatcher.
The portion of the subpatcher, arduino2max, where it is colored, filters down the stream of data from serial monitor and breaks it from either X or Z. X being transmission Node 1 and Z, being transmission Node 2. This outlet 1 and outlet 2 feeds it into the subpatcher with the scale object (image abovementioned)
Audio Visual Section
To create the audio-visual projection, I first attempted to create something simply by deriving through the concept of sound waves.
the p pitch-shift/arduino2max object as seen above drives the values from the Arduino transmission nodes into the dim object. This then creates audio-reactive visuals.
In the patch above, the Arduino transmission nodes are driving the modulation of the projection, One controls the North-South direction while the other drives the East-West direction. This became clear as I had managed to create a sonic landscape from simple Cartesian coordinates.
I thought this illustration, done by artist Peter Saville would be interesting if I manage to create one that is 3D. I used this as a main source of inspiration in my audio-visual mapping, to create a sonic landscape; that is beyond the simple sound waves. It is like seeing sound waves but in 3D.
In the words of artist Tarek Atoui,
Sound is a physical phenomena
The Receiving Node will be connected to the macbook. Because the entire space will be pitch black, there is no reason for it to be kept in a box.
For transmission Node1 and Node2, I placed them in these boxes from Daiso, and spray painted black. Holes are cut for the microphone and a slit is made for the USB connection to power, via the PowerBank.
I had also removed the LED banks. I found it too distracting and does not make much of a difference. Furthermore, using a projection will be far more interesting and immersive. The LED matrix also takes up a lot of USB power and often results in the Arduino to not work at times.
Below are the schematics for the Arduino’s and floor plan layout.
Transmission Node Schematic
This is the layout schematic for the presentation. Equipment is listed.
Characteristics of Interaction
a liminal space necessitates that a participant actively interacts with the Arduino modules. The viewer has nearly 100% control over modualating the pitch through generating their own sound (and thus loudness, which determines pitch modulation). The viewer or participant can also input whatever they want into the MAX patch and then experiment with it. The interaction is therefore almost to the left of the interactivity scale, where nothing is nearly passive. Each interaction is unique because of the microscopic differences as to how a person can clap. Each clap may sound similar but its amplitude (loudness) will differ.
I think a lot more can be improved from this project. Although the overall feedback was overwhelmingly positive, I foresaw this project as one that would occupy the entire studio space. A chamber is not just a rectangular, partitioned space but one that is huge and overwhelming.
Furthermore, I feel that using Arduino is highly finicky but the programming to be quite easy. Perhaps I am a fast learner but I spent more time fixing the connections and troubleshooting my Arduino circuits when it was working well the previous day.
Furthermore, the sound from the speakers was feeding back into the Arduino detection speakers, which was not what I had intended.
At some point, I had to lead the interaction and encourage experimentation. It was important that individuals tried different ways of generate sound, from blowing into the mic to tapping onto the pedestals… somehow or rather it was difficult to encourage people to try new things.
I think the concept is very relevant to me and speaks volumes as to how society operates. Overall I am 80% happy for this project. Nonetheless, to me this is a W.I.P. and I can foresee more variable interpretations of this piece over time. To me the heart of this project is in the MAX MSP patcher as it is extremely powerful.
Overal, as a photography major delving into Interactive classes, I’ve found it extremely fun. It’s very much hands on and it encourages me to think differently from how I would approach concepts in photography.
In Lev Manovich’s book the Principles Of New Media, he identified five guiding principles that dictate the identity of a New Media project or artwork.
Firstly, my interactive project aptly falls under the principle of NumericalRepresentation. My work challenges the conventions of sociological conventions of an echo chamber through sound. By using pitch as one of the many elements derived from the element of sound itself, I transpose voices via algorithms in MAX to convey the idea of multiple voices in an echo chamber.
This is particularly true given that MAX reads through a sample and in coding terms, it will be in binary. This binary representation, therefore, constitutes the actual form itself. Furthermore, this also becomes a discrete unit upon itself to form a language that MAX can understand.
a rough basis of what MAX does for this project
the Arduino side for the modules
Secondly, I also believe that my project falls under the principle of Modularity. In Lee Manovich’s work, he asserts that this principle can be called the ‘fractal structure of new media’. The basis as this, as he asserts begins when elements in a Media are formed of many discrete elements. In my case, my project delves into the concept of the pop-up experience. Consisting of many different modules that would affect the pitch of voice; these modules are designed and expected to fit into spaces. Furthermore using WiFi and a compact battery for power ensures that the modularity of the project coexists to work with space.
Furthermore, the modularity extends into the way in which the project can evolve. Currently, I am planning to only make three due to financial constraints but there exists a possibility to extend it to an even greater number. Using software-based processing, the concept of modularity and numerical representation come hand in hand to explore the ways how I derive from using one sample track, represented into a numerical representation and expounded by a modular concept of retranslating it back into a physical form.
I also believe that my work falls under the Automation and in two ways. Firstly, Lee Manovich asserts that there are two ways in which automation can be considered either ‘low-level’ and/or ‘high level’. Basing these two ideas and channeling it into my work, I feel that mine falls more under the ‘low level’ aspect. Namely, the ‘low level’ experience works by simple audio input into an algorithmic software that then modulates it. Although it is not inherently low level or even automation as I will pre-define the set thresholds for pitch modulation that would occur. But naturally, I want my work to not be 100% automated or even generative and incite participatory from the audience.
Lee Manovich also asserted the principle of Variability as one guiding way in which a New Media artwork or project could be defined. In this aspect, the project I am working on falls under this principle as I can exponentially create systems connected via ethernet, internet or simply by adding more modules that can change the overall composition from one situation to another. This is apt considering I had envisioned this project to evolve into many different ways and it is not limited to the Arduino modules themselves. Possible (re)-interpretations of the way is possible to convey an experience that is highly unique but yet focusing on one single topic that is the echo chamber.
Furthermore, variability in this aspect can be referred to as the ways in which the experience varies per person. As it is driven by a sample, there can be an infinite amount of variance. Furthermore, this is also driven by the possible ways in which the audience feeds feedback such as clapping, shouting or blowing into the modules. Therefore, there exists an infinite possibilities of variations to how this project can be experienced.
Lastly, I believe my project also falls under the principle of Transcoding. In his paper, he argues that the reconceptualization of data from one point into another. In this case, it is the reconceptualization of physical, sound waves — propagations of particles in space into a series of numbers punched into Arduino and later MAX. This translation itself is between two mediums — the analog and the digital and therefore I feel it falls under this principle.
a liminal space first began as survey into sociological structures within an anthropological concept. I was mostly interested in the psychological fallacy of the confirmation bias. This fallacy exists due to errors in which the way our logic flows. It is neither bad nor wrong by definition but one must always be aware of such a problem.
To extrapolate this idea further, the echo chamber is simply an extension of the confirmation bias fallacy. An echo chamber exists mostly within online and/or social media forums/groups/chats where ideas are ‘shared’ but only seek to reconfirm a person’s biases/hypotheses. With the rise of ‘fake news’ and more recently ‘anti vax’ groups that believe they are qualified to give their own medical diagnosis for vaccinations; which were mostly ideas being circlejerk in an enclosed social media group network. This is especially apparent in Facebook.
I had also chosen the use of our own voice as a means to further explore the concept of an echo chamber. Instead of text, now we use voice; the ultimate and in fact most quintessential form of communication. By using the basic idea of an echo + chamber, notably known as a cave, I want to echo back a participant’s ideas within a space, mimicking the sociological phenomena mentioned above.
To add an extra layer of complexity and depth, I introduced pitch shifting as a way to introduce the notion of polyphonic sonic experience. Mono = one / poly = many / phony = voice. By these definitions, polyphonic means many voices. Through pitch shifting one sample of a participants voice, we create the illusion of polyphony. This illusion further substantiates the problematic nature of the echo chamber. We believe that we are receiving new ideas to strengthen our ideas or beliefs but in reality, these are just rehashes of what we believe in.
Project Progress / Midterms Review
The receiving node is only comprised of an Arduino Uno + nRF24l01+ module. It will receive all the data.
This transmission node has both the nRF24l01+ wifi module, electret microphone and also the 8×8 dot matrix.
I decided to choose to go with an Arduino based setup due to its low cost and also ease of programming for me.
Moving forward from here, I intend to build a wooden/acrylic module to house the electronic transmission modules in.
The max patch also requires more fine-tuning to create a more smooth vocal pitch shifting.
I also would prefer to make the MAX patch as an .app instead because my Macbook will have to connect to a mic via USB and be part of the installation.
I had also taken the consideration to place these modules on the walls/pillars instead. This leaves the floor/space to be more free and hopefully encourage more engagement across.
I intend to create this project more into the interactive side. The user first inputs his or her voice into the MAX patch and afterwards, the sample will be looped in the space. Participants are encouraged to walk within the space and interact with modules.
I have decided to choose to place these modules on the wall instead to encourage more interactivity. I believe that using the voice itself would be more interesting and also because it is a more flexible tool for interactivity.
As the participant moves within the space, they will interact with the other modules and modulate different pitches of their voice.
I believe the interactive soundscape is only as refreshing as long there is a new vocal sample being played through.
I have also considered using the microphone connected to a Mac in order to visually encourage people to try.
The body storming process encouraged me to rethink the ways in which my project could have been developed. From the minor things such as placement of contact mics to the overall presentation, the body storming process allowed me to envision a close-to-end product realization.
The body storming allows the closest participant to installation presentation and therefore I found it very useful. For me, I have a vivid imagination as to the end product. Therefore, the body storming process brings it down to the basics and ensure I find more flaws in whatever idea I have in mind.
What surprised you while going through the process?
By having a 1-1 audience to system interaction, I could know first hand as to how an audience could react, purely from their faces/gestures and personal feedback. For instance, I had Kee Yong to be my tester. His reactions were of an initial confusion but also interest. Given the proper feedback, he navigated through the sonic installation quite well and showed mild interest.
I was honestly surprised as to how well it seemingly went. There were, however, a few faults in the entire layout. Namely the drawn-out waves that had him confused. I wasn’t sure how to replace the model as it is a simple representation of speaker+water ripples sculpture I am working on. Either way, upon going through the process — it seemed that he understood it and I felt quite surprised by it.
How can you apply what you have discovered to the designing of your installation?
The body storming process allowed me to think through as to how an audience would actually react to the sonic installation. A few salient points were
Ensuring that no echo feedback is picked up by the mic.
Setting a time limit as to how long the audio can be recorded by the participant into the system
Utilize a usable space, that ties in well to interstices — the project concept.
Encouraging a more participatory experience, by creating a visually enticing interest.
Allow a polyphonic experience of multi-mic inputs, for a more complete and complex experience.
Nonetheless, much of the feedback given was already ideas that I had tried to figure out / thought before. I was quite open to receiving new ideas but to me, I do feel quite confident with the final outcome of my current concept.
The echo chamber seeks to exist with its reflections (reverberations) and delays. Monophonic sounds (vocals) are reflected continuously, within a temporal space. Space therefore exists, as a physically static being, yet inherently unique. No space nor chamber are alike. Alluding towards the quality that a sonic experience in an echo chamber possesses qualities that make it spatially special.
Metaphorical (sociological/new media)
Echo Chamber alludes to the human nature of ideological conformity through means of interaction. We seek what we wish to confirm. Confirmation bias aids to relieve anxiety but also deny possible beings of alternate realities. Individuals in echo chambers ‘mimic’ out one another — to reassert what they believe is true and only their truth.These ‘chambers’ are therefore metaphysical spaces where idealogical biases exist within and seethe.
a liminal space we don’t hear explores the interstices of the psychological gap to which we as human beings, behave and consequently form social structures within it.. The concept of an echo chamber arrows down towards the notion of the unconscious interaction, the confirmation bias. Is it, therefore, normal to find justifications to our own means, and to our own ends?
By understanding the way in which our own unconscious have ultimately led to the creation of such chambers, we realize that these spaces are, somehow interstices too. Not only are these symbolic to the gaps of our imperfect human being but also spaces that are not literal. And thus by this definition, echo chambers are interstitial spaces made subconsciously. Even if, the truth is a reconstructed image of their own truth. Interstices in this respect, draws back to the meta-understanding that an echo chamber, is in a way, a voluntary act of participating in the cohabitation of your own gaps, subconsciously. An interstitial space thus symbolizes the gap between truth and false.
Being a rather site-specific installation, the concept carries itself as not being limited to the confines of a single space. The setup is visualized to be modular — to provide an experience both sonically and visually, site-specific. The concept, as it is sustained inasmuch as space it can be afforded to exist in. Ideally, spaces that are not used/abandoned/small/large/raw/brutalist are appealing locations. Drawing back to the idea of interstices, I intend this project to be launched in more lo-fi locations — places you would never expect to have a drop of life; the interstices.
Using the notion of reverberations and delays that exist in a literal echo chamber, the liminal space we don’t hear surveys the metaphorical concept of an echo chamber vis-a-vis the recreation of the sonic experience of an echo chamber. A liminal space is a gap in which we as human beings behave, interstices of an unconscious interaction. Participants are encouraged to explore the space and interrogate how movement inflects their looped speech. Movement in this aspect references directly to the act of finding information, the pursuit of reconfirming your biases.
a liminal space we don’t hear observes the way we unconsciously pursue spaces that reconfirms our own biases — echo chambers. The interactive element attempts to be both sonically and visually interesting. A mic will be set up for participants to input their speech into it. The speech will be replayed through a buffer and run through a reverb+echo (to mimic continuous talking in an echo chamber). Participants are encouraged to walk all over the space. In this space itself, floor mics or contact mics will be placed all over the space to pick up the audio of the footsteps and then used to alter the recorded speech continuously.
Ideally, there would be a few speech mics and a multi-participatory interaction can occur. Whereby if this exists, layers of multi-person speeches will reverberate into space. As each speech can be modulated as long as a participant moves all over the space, a new sonic experience can be heard.