Saturday 03.06.2023 17:00

Audio–Visual Piece Absence, NIME, Mexico City

Solo audio–visual piece Absence played at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), Mexico City.

Absence evokes several notions of absence: Absence of light, absence of love, absence of humanity, when societies and all human artefacts will be destructured to gradually disappear within the materials and textures of the natural world, which, by themselves, will eventually dissolve back into primordial cosmic dust.

The piece starts with the images of crepuscular cities, the buildings mere shadows, before evolving towards images of cities in ruins, warning of impeding and very possible catastrophies for humankind, to which sounds are played that evoke emptiness and desolation. These elements gradually dissolve into the basic textures of natural materials of stone, sand, water, wood, with the sounds exploring different sensations of materiality through roughness and textures.

This path through different sentiments of absence is evoked in sound and images by a journey through intertwined corpora of sounds and images, linked by their cross-modal aesthetic properties of colour, texture, timbre, played via dynamic gestural control.

The piece Absence explores the symbiosis of audio–visual creation by installing a perceptual link between the two sensory modalities. These two nourish each other by the linked gestural navigation through spaces of audio and image characteristics. The performance thus probes human multi-modal perception by creating inter-modal associations in gestural navigation in joint audio and image corpora. It augments timbre-based sonic exploration by colour and texture-based image exploration, sometimes with congruent inter-modal associations, following universal perceptive expectations, sometimes with contradictory ones.

The work also proposes a new take on digital art by asking whether this performance should be seen as a digital artwork. At first sight this seems obvious — the whole system is treating digital sound, image, and movement repre- sentations algorithmically. However, looking at the content, this is not so clear cut anymore. The piece uses audio field recordings and photographic images taken in the real world for its sonic corpora. What’s more, the narrative and dynamic structure of the piece is created from gesture input, which means the physical body movment of the artist in the performance space. And finally, the output may well be projected via a digital projector and rendered from a digital audio interface, but the sights and sounds arrive at the audience through analog light and sound waves, crossing and mingling with the physical space of the performance. In the end, what is given to listen and see is a joint audio–visual recontextualisation of impressions of the real world, a symbiosis of the physical and digital.

Another telling characteristic of the performance is that it is squarely opposed to all trends in modern computer graphics and sound synthesis, where everything is fluid, three-dimensional, parametric, and generative. Instead, just short sound grains and still images are used, the appearance of which is not given by parameters of a generative model, but by specifying the desired visual descriptors, modeled after the human sensory perception. And last, images are not generated by an artificial intelligence, but chosen by the human sensibility of the musician/AV performer. As such it offers an alternative approach to animation and narrative, creating evolution from instants, and movement out of stillness.

Comments are closed

You must be logged in to post a comment.