ARTISTS Jaap Blonk and Joan la Barbara are babbling,
but the audience is transfixed. They are using their voices as the input for an
amazing performance at Ars Electronica, a week-long electronic arts extravaganza
in Linz, Austria.
The performances include five groups of Australian
artists, among them Linz-based Time's Up (http://www.timesup.org/), with Australian
researcher Tim Boykett.
The group's work immerses individuals in acts that
challenge space and gravity, such as Sensory Circus, Sonic Pong and SPIN.
Australian artists are Experimenta, the Next Wave Festival, Electrofringe and
In Jaap and Joan's act, three enormous screens behind them display their
sounds transformed into lines, curves and bubbles. The audience is equipped with
3D glasses and the objects float out towards the audience.
In one part of the
performance, Jaap and Joan stand against a red background like a field of distress
flares and seem to speak in streams of white lava and teal oil.
they use their voices to paint: very basic, fat black lines for louder sounds,
holding a note steady makes the line stay straight, pitch variations curve and
where lines cross, colour appears vibrant.
Jaap paints dots with staccato "ha,
ha, ha" sounds while Joan creates sweeping curlicues with trills and swooping
"I was more driven by what I saw on the screen than by what I heard,
but intuitively we use some things that relate to each other, some rhythms," Jaap
"There are certain tasks we're trying to accomplish," Joan says. "I'd
like a little more control, but I think it's a matter of getting used to the instrument.
There's also cross-talk between the two microphones. Sometimes I would be singing
and doing a line, but because of what he was doing it would get jagged."
creators of the software, Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman, say it's early days.
"Zach and I are software developers, more than software artists," Golan says.
"The work is about the relationship between sound and image. In the combination
of the two, hopefully it succeeds. The ideal would be for Joan to walk away saying
the audio is great, this is an album, and I could walk away saying the collaboration
If this is just the beginning, the possibilities are impressive.
What would come out if it was played with an aria? What sort of works will artists
of the future create with this technology? There will be further performances
in England in November (see http://www.ultrasound.ws/ and http://www.ica.org.uk/ for details).
Electronica is at http://www.aec.at/. The centre has four floors
of permanent exhibition (including a virtual reality cave with simulated time
travel) and many other works exploring digital interface, haptics, music and more.
For the festival and the coveted Golden Nica of the Prix Ars Electronica, the
exhibitions and installations have overflowed into at least four other venues.
In the Brucknerhaus, the electrolobby is filled with experimental works, including
Trash Mirror, which reflects your shadow at you in a collection of lost bus tickets
and packaging; and Switch, an interactive feature film from Denmark. In the Hauptplatz,
an enormous climbing wall laid over big printed letters forms the TeleKletterGarten,
a programming interface that requires bodily intervention.
scheduled twice daily, with coders relaxing on the couches below asking for the
next letter through a microphone as climbers scramble across to the Enter key.
In the OK Centre, visitors can explore the winning works of the Prix, including
the stunning animation Tim Tom, a student project from France (by comparison,
last year's prize for animation went to Monsters).
This year's theme is Code,
and Humboldt University-Berlin's Institute for Aesthetics music history and aesthetics
professor Friedrich Kittler starts with a history of code, code as law, code as
a set of instructions and code as language.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
legal director Cindy Kohn discusses the legal implications of code as speech,
and Smart Mobs author Howard Rheingold tells the audience "the battle over code
is the battle over our ability to organise collectively".
"We need to take
back the public sphere," he says. "We have opportunities for new technologies,
new social forms, new cultural forms. It's important to stress that a smart mob
is not necessarily a wise mob."
Around all this is woven a soundtrack of digital
and analog music, from the cutting edge Blockjam, toy of the future, to Audiopad,
a collaborative light interface for performance by James Patten and Ben Recht
One Japanese work involves instruments that play themselves, including
an automatic xylophone shaped like four flowers with moving petals.
of the Golden Nica for interactive art is Blast Theory from the UK, which aims
to be in Adelaide in February 2004, with a work called Can You See Me Now? It
has real-world players chasing online players using GPS and WiFi.
is an occasional series.