maya.rouvelle ExiTrip project 6.2011
robot radio/transient, set



Project Description:

robot radio/transient, set is an assemblage that presents an oscillation between the fixed and ephemeral as it senses visitors and other environmental variables and infuses its space with light and sound that serve as tipping points between different perspectival situations.

Built of things in various states of transition and fragility, formed into a delicately balanced structure, robot radio/transient, set is an arrangement of two distinct works that present a structure of materials and systems that may be understood to be either causally linked, spatially/compositionally integrated, or separate.  Each perspective is correct, and intended by us, yet activated, and largely determined by interrelationships between factors including visitors’ movement and location within the coordinates of the site.

robot radio/transient, set both have unique sensors, outputs, and programming languages (robot radio was developed in max/msp w/arduino, and transient, set was developed in processing) yet share physical resources and programmatic logic.  Great care was taken to develop these pieces in such a way that they would respond to their locations independently but that they would posses the potentials for coordinated behaviors determined by environmental fluctuations.

A major contribution to the realization of this work has been the ExiTrip, which we chose to use as a sensor.   By coupling the ExiTrip with an fm tuner chip from Silicon Industries we were able to read variations in its signal strength.  These variations were translated into parameters of a live sound work.

Through experimentation we found that the signal strength of identically powered, individually tuned ExiTrips placed in close proximity to each other and outfitted with antennae sized to their respective output frequencies varied in response to subtle ambient factors such as the placement and movement of solid bodies – including people.  Signal strength of these low range transmitters also seemed to be affected by additional factors (internal or external) that we could not identify specifically. 

While each element of this project was carefully chosen and situated in order to present our intentions, the sensitivity of the ExiTrip to multiple ambient conditions, and the dynamic, additive effect the visible and invisible forces in the room had on it seemed particularly analogous to the variation in perspectives as process that was a central concern of this work.

The ExiTrip’s transmission fluctuations, transformed as they were into the audio composition of robot radio, contributed to changes in understandings of the relationship of the works, as the sound and image shifted by degrees from the clearly causal to the separate, and back.  As visitors entered the space at different times they would experience different sequences of events, so that specific visitors within the work at the same moment would be experiencing different perspectives of the piece in that moment, and as visitors were free to chat during the project the expressed differences in perspective were significant to the overall affect of the piece.  The transmission of information from viewer to viewer became a formal aspect of the project, and, in fact, provided insights into the project that were essential to our own understanding of it.

One of the pleasures of robot radio/transient, set is the experience of the variation both on and of perspective as an index of the process that is one’s presence within a complex network of ambient events. While the intentions and forms of many of these events may remain little known or unknowable, we remain inextricably connected, and the events and processes continue.   By presenting a dynamic of juxtaposed perspectives activated, in part, by human agency within the environs of the piece, our intention is to expose the visitor to the feedback, abundance and coexistence of different understandings and forms that create a given moment, and to engage them in a practice of creation that is place and mind. 

The ExiTrip project at large, with its focus on the simple idea of creative re-use, produced a wealth of experimentation, conceptual development, discovery, and art-making for us.  Through this process we have new understandings of our work, materials, and interests that we will be exploring over the immediate future.  As artists working with a variety of media and forms, including new and electronic materials, assemblage, the handmade, and the digitally programmed, we have always used a mix of new and surplus material.  This initiative has caused us to become familiar with the practice of designed obsolescence, its perils and its riches. We are inspired to update our skills to make re-use a more prominent, formal concern in our projects moving forward.