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/viewers 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 chambers 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
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
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.