Sunday, July 27, 2008

More on ISEA

Above is a video of me and Corey Manders (who is contributing the gesture-recognition technology to the piece) fine-tuning the gesture tracking system. You can actually see the headless ghosts triggering the notes by moving their white-tipped drumsticks. The piece has since premiered at the opening but I haven't been able to digitize the footage yet. Incredible opening. I didn't know it until a couple of days ago, but this is ISEA's 20th anniversary. So it's a big festival. Over 500 delegates! Speakers include Lawrence Lessig, the inventor of the Creative Commons. The Singapore Tourism Board funded the buffet, so there was red wine that never ran out, servers with (among other things) huge trays of satay and some kind of salmon salad in those little Chinese porcelain spoons. A whole LOT of people managed to get drunk on red wine, which doesn't happen very often in Singapore, as they tax the shit out of alcohol. They opened the exhibit to the public at 9PM during the Night Festival, so there were huge crowds of ordinary people plowing through the space. Must have been 15-20 people in my room at any given time. Weird group dynamic electricity in there as people watched one guy interacting with the ghosts playing the gamelan. When the interactor would get off the platform, you could feel the twin drives of curiosity and self-consciousness building and warring in the audience until something would reach a limit and one brave soul would step up to bat. Really, really, really fantastic experience.

Chako flew in especially to catch the opening, which made it a real culmination for the three months we spent apart. (Thanks, babes). A bunch of Pinoys came and formed a kind of ambassadorial contingent. Old Mowelfund compatriot Yeye Calderon, his friends Nelle and Al Torres, (apparently the former personal chef of Kris Aquino), Lee Gibson and her husband Scott, Edsel Abesamis and his wife Sarah, plus some friends like the Malaysian photographer Nico Ong and his wife, and Ivan Thomasz, an old friend from the Singapore International Film Festival. A couple of the I2R guys who I had gotten close to were there too, their significant others in tow: Tze Jan Sim nd Chong Chieh Tseng. Varghese Paulose brought his whole family along! It was nice to be able to tell his daughters how grateful I was for his help, and it was really good to be there with everybody, there at the light at the end of the tunnel. Al and Yeye in particular took a kind of proprietary pride in the piece and became impromptu museum guides, explaining to everyone who stepped up how the piece worked. Woohoo!

Oyeah, finally got some time to surf the ISEA site again and found that the blogger JoelOng posted an interview with me here:

Couple of typos and things, but on the whole I think he really put it together well. I was afraid I'd kind of rambled during the interview.

Friday, July 11, 2008

ISEA Update: Robot Gamelan Beaters

So far the concrete (actually wooden) results of my two months in Singapore:

Above are two shots of the beaters for the Kenong (3 units from a set of 10)

Above is the Kendhang Ciblon (medium-sized drum) and one of the 2 beaters I made for it.

These weren't even the biggest gongs in the full-scale gamelan I borrowed them from.

The beater for the Saron Panerus.

Another angle.

Closeup of the solenoid mechanism. About as simple as you can get. Many thanks to Professor Jan Mrazek, the the head and teacher of the NUS gamelan group (Czechoslovakian, but an absolute Southeast Asia geek), for his very generous loan of the instruments, and to Varghese Paulose, the head of I2R's fabrication laboratory, without whose enthusiastic and welcoming support I wouldn't have been able to move a single step on this project.