SCYNESCAPE synopsis of the project

1. SCYNESCAPE – About the project

What have we done?

In the grant proposal the work was referred to as The Biological Maze Project. The final title for the work is SCYNESCAPE which is an aggregate of many words - including synaesthesia, a condition where a sensation in one sense is triggered by stimulation in a different sense, (such as seeing sounds or hearing colours), kina (movement), landscape, science, and escape – all of which allude to some aspect of the work.

The intention was to create an immersive environment that focuses the bodily and conceptual experience of space back onto the user/viewer.

The viewer interacts, in a physical manner, with the physical structure of the installation. Their presence triggers the environment and their passage through it shapes a distinct conceptual experience as well. The sound and video become integral to this process. The video animation, constructed from biological samples of myself, carries this idea of the shifting inversion of space – what was once internal is now external, what was once attached has been detached, what was once microscopic is now all-encompassing.

The sound extends this metaphor by including samples of biological mechanisms, such as venal and arterial blood pumping through my body, to create a fusion between the organic and the electronic. The audio experience mirrors the visual one, whereby the sound acts as both a container (by surrounding the site) and an infuser which passes through the physical structure. The aural element is also activated by the presence of the viewer/user through the use of motion sensors.

The outcome attempts to focus on both the physical and the virtual. Physical because an actual mazelike structure exists which has to be navigated through "bodily," and virtual in the sense that what cannot be seen or heard is manifested. Art, technology, spatiality, and the body all intersect at this site.


How was it done?

The actual production involved three components.

(1) The creation of the animation sequences. Using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) I captured high magnification images of cellular structure and surface detail. To do this I made moulds off the skin from various locations on my body and the inside of my mouth and ears. From these I made positives. They were then coated, along with samples of hair, in gold. The gold gave the electron beam in the microscope something to conduct with in order to render an image, as none of these imaging techniques use light. I used real-time recording to create eight individually choreographed pieces of video animation that were then projected onto the latex surfaces of the chambers in the installation. By real-time recording I mean that I used the inherent capabilities of the microscope, which were actually quite limited, to create sequences based on panning, zooming, and rotating the specimens "live". These sequences were then edited together in post-production.

(2) The creation of the sound. Mazen Murad + Tammy Brennan composed a soundtrack for each to the eight tracks. They were generated in part from a resource of sounds we collected using a vascular ultrasound machine, and an anechoic chamber. An anachoic chamber is a dead room with no ambient sound. A special microphone that accurately pinpoints the location of sounds was used to record the scratching of skin, the creaking of bones, the saliva moving around the mouth. They also used voice, instrumental elements, and sound effects to achieve compositions which escape sounding like industrial noise. The sound was designed to work in a surround sound environment with the knowledge that at any point in time there might be only one chamber "activated" or all eight chambers. To that end Mazen and Tammy tried to structure the sound as a group of sonic layers, interwoven by the user/viewer’s presence or absence.

(3) The installation. The installation is a physical structure consisting of a series of chambers constructed from semi-transparent material (latex). The latex gives a surface for the video to be projected onto, and also pass through, creating a two-sided moving image wall. The nature of the latex has been incorporated into the architecture of the piece. The walls are tensioned so that they "give" when touched. Feeling your way through the structure is encouraged, as it makes the walls move like waves, and gives the imagery a liquid quality. Each chamber’s sound is choreographed to the specific animation running in that chamber. The sound then builds as the viewer moves from one chamber to another activating them as they enter. Activation occurs at either of the two entrances of each chamber through the use of motion sensors. These are linked to the DVD players controlling the surround sound and video. The actual experience will be dependent on how many people are in the installation at any one time. Should you be there alone you will have areas of darkness and light, more minimal sounds, and perhaps more disorientation. If you were there at a "peak" time, the experience would be one with a lot more movement and imagery, along with a fuller soundscape. It appeals to me that what is elicited in each passage through can be variable.

Where did we do it?

The video sequences were created at the Australian Key Center for Microscopy and Microanalysis.

The video editing was done at Sydney VisLab.

The sound was created at Moodkiller productions and Studio 301.

The installation setup and test was done in a private warehouse space.

What are the specifications for exhibiting it?

The final piece has been mastered onto dvd with the surround sound and animation together.

The piece has been designed to be modular, in the sense that it can be tailored to the specific dimensions of an exhibition space within reason, but optimally there would be 4-8 chambers.

Total darkness is a requirement for it to work successfully.

A ceiling height of 3-4.5 metres would be ideal. Otherwise some sort of scaffolding would need to be erected.

For a 4 chamber installation the following is required:

4 DVD players

4-8 wide angle video projectors

20-40 speakers

8 motion sensors

router to control the communication between the sensors and dvd players

hardware to build the framework for the latex walls

50 metres of 2m wide semi-transparent latex.



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