Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Uwang (Formerly called "Eye of The Storm")

 "Uwang" is an interactive media installation. It is a new work created for Art Fair Philippines 2015. Formerly called "Eye of the Storm", "Uwang," which means "Coconut Weevil" in the dialect of Luisiana Laguna, consists of two parts. One part is made of real matter,  while the other part is a computer program.

The 'real matter' part is a log harvested from a kaong tree, . Uwang lay their eggs in the ubod, or pith, of toppled kaong trees. The eggs become larvae, which are called "kuok". The log on display is filled with live kuok, who feed on the pith, and occasionally exit into the basin on the left. The headsets above the log play a recording made of kuok harvested from the log. Funnels filled with water hydrate the log in order to keep the kuok alive.

The computer program part is an interactive audiovisual instrument. The viewer interacts by putting headphgones and scribbling lines on a graphics tablet with an electronic pencil. The lines form virtual kuok, which crawl across the screen, creating sounds as they repeat the viewer's scribbled line. A maximum of 4 virtual kuok can be drawn, creating evolving sounds and graphics that translate and reflect the life and situation of the real kuok inside the log.

The piece was created with the idea of enabling the viewer to jam with the kuok with a digital instrument I coded. The code builds on the work of Golan Levin, a pioneer in the field of software art. In the town of Luisiana in Laguna province, both ubod and the kuok that feast on it, are considered delicacies. Humans plant and harvest kaong. Uwang lay eggs in the kaong, which become new uwang, and another food for the humans. The tree, the insect, its larvae, and humans are tangled in a cyclic web of eating and reproduction. "Uwang" reflects and celebrated this tangle with both real and digital materials.

On February 8, at the close of the Art Fair, Uwang will be dismantled by harvesting and cooking the kuok in The Link. Viewers are invited to come. The harvest takes place at 4 PM, at the roof deck. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Bell is an interactive installation named after Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the audio speaker. It imagines an alternative future where speakers are not transparent conduits of sonic information, but architectural artifacts that generate specific experiences.

In its first iteration as Bell 1.0, the "clapper"  --an electromagnet pressed to the cylinder by a metal armature-- vibrates the cylinder at the frequency if household current. This frequency is 60 Hertz in the Philippines and 50 Hz in countries like Singapore, whose electrical protocols were formed under English rule. This causes the cylinder to hum. However, because the cylinder is an imperfect physical artifact, other frequencies arise in it, filling the hum with other sounds and frequencies.

In addition, the cylinder sways and wobbles when touched. This motion affects the sound experienced inside the cylinder, which wobbles in response to such motions.

(This text/post/entry is part of an experiment in using QR codes to tag art objects with metadata) 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Notes on Translection

So: in my previous post, I coined the word "translection" to describe what I thought might be a computer-native form of musical variation, which I had previously been referring to as "tag-shifting". I like "translection" better because it contains a word fragment ("lect") that  comes from legere, the Latin verb for "reading", which is the crucial operation here. The tags are not changed (as the word "tag-shifting" seems to imply). In translection, the way the tags are read is changed.

I might as well try to make a short definition for translection here. Literally, it means to change the way a signifier is mapped to an operation. Put mathematically, this is equivalent to changing the transfer function. To changing the algorithm by which one set of symbols is mapped to another set of symbols (or, in the case of a computer, to a set of operations). It's a case of remapping that specifically refers to remapping the data of time-based media. Translection differs from Translation and Interpretation in that it involves using clear and defined algorithms to change the meaning. Translation and Interpretation invoke much fuzzier forms of remapping. They invoke an art reliant on using judgement, rules of thumb, code-shifting between various mapping systems. Translection refers a more literal, more transparent form of remapping.

So why take such care in defining the word? I'm thinking it is already a way of talking about a specific kind of variation, and could be specifically useful in talking about/thinking of glitches as a source of  musical (and possibly extramusical?) variation.

 It occurs to me that playing a traditional score in a different key is an instance of translection.

I also realize that my sequencer's translective variations were the consequence of  a feature of MIDI data structure, specifically of  its feature of defining the note's duration with velocity (a note-on command consists of the note-number accompanied with a nonzero note-velocity, whereas a note-off command consists of the note-number accompanied by zero note-velocity). While traditional Western musical notation treated note duration as an atomic unity, MIDI grammar split note duration into note-on and note-off,  i.e. two grammatical units. Doubling the number of signifiers that defined duration opened the possibility of performing operations on the two signifiers which not only were previously impossible but literally unthinkable in terms of traditional notation,.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Translection: a computer-native form of musical variation

My collaborator Malek Lopez and I were playing around with some MIDI sequencer code. Based on his desire to have a rhythm generator, I kludged a 16-step sequencer that would spit out a sequence of 16 commands. For the sake of simplicity, let's say the sequencer did this by randomly choosing a number between 0 and 2 sixteen times, and putting its choices into a list.

So for instance, it might spit out: 0112 1020 2201 2021

The number sequence was then read as a sequence of tags/commands according to the following system:

 0= start a note;  1 = end a note;  and 2 = do nothing.

Now, if we assume that the numbers determine the gating of a single sustained pitch, then the sequencer would output a sound that could be represented as:

 Where a stretch of blue squares indicated a sustained pitch, and a stretch of white squares indicated silence.
After listening to the sequencer do its thing for a few hours. I realized that changing the way the sequencer interpreted the commands would create musical phrases that would differ from one another, and yet be related by rules of translation.

The most obvious variation would be produced simply by inverting the interpretation of the start and stop tags, ie

0 = stop note;    1 = start note;     2 = do nothing.

 Well, I said it was the obvious variation. It produces a negative of the previous sound, where previous tones are replaced with silences of equal length, and previous silences are replaced with tone.

However, if we use a different system of tag interpretation, say

0 = do nothing;   1 = start note;   2 = end note;  

 then we get something like this:

Which is a sonic product with a different and less obvious relationship.

I'm currently referring this kind of variation as Translection, as it consists of changing/shifting the way the tags are read ("lector" = reader, from the Latin verb legere:  "to read"). I find the idea of translective variation interesting because this kind of variation is native to music made with computer code. As far as I know, it is not a named, known or acknowledged form of musical variation. Still not sure where it goes from here, but tag-shifting functions will definitely be coded into the coming sequencers we'll be making..

Friday, September 09, 2011

Art and Evidence

An object can become art in the same way it can become evidence. In both cases, the object is placed within a specific context/given a certain role.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not-Very-Subliminal Advertisment

Should mention that his left hand's pointing downward, in case the photo's too blurred to be clear. Apologies. Hard to drive and shoot at the same time.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Postmodernese instructional