Four Seasons reflects our interest as a group in the fluidity of structures, in a lived reality that is transformed by interaction and defined by change rather than by static frameworks. The project is an ongoing experiment in change as it occurs within and through patterns of communication and interaction. Our use of interactive technology is therefore an attempt to explore the nature of interaction on varying levels.
Our starting point was the basic premise that all interaction is communication – we cannot not communicate! It’s not only when we verbalize our thoughts that we communicate, but in every little movement and action that we make or refrain from making throughout the day. Embedded within this premise is also the notion of interdependency: if all interaction is communication and vice versa, we are dependent on whom and what we interact with in order to communicate our existence to the world. Given the increasingly rapid environmental and social deterioration our world is experiencing, we thought it particularly relevant to research the nature of interaction. How can we become more aware of what and how we communicate with both our social and natural environment?
In this project we are using interactive technology as a tool to investigate communication as it occurs in physical states. Technology in general has transformed the way in which we communicate with the world and is undoubtedly reshaping our reality - both for better and for worse. Yet while the use of technology in overcoming the material obstacles of life has been extensively explored, its potential in revealing our inner states warrants further investigation. In the spirit of Henrî Bergson we maintain that the ‘absolute’, what we might refer to as the whole of reality, has two sides: spirit and matter. The human body is a dynamic convergence of these two aspects, and in the movement of its matter, in the changes of its physical states, spirit can be revealed. Communication is the abode of the human spirit.
A guiding premise in shaping our use of sensor technology is that no interaction is unilateral: I cannot affect you without you affecting me. Rather than use sensors to give a ‘player’ control of a mechanism (as in the case of sensor activated musical instruments), we wanted to create a situation in which distinct identities could affect and be affected by one another. The sensors would facilitate interaction, which we thought of in terms of feedback loops: the action, or output, of A is the input for B; B’s response to this input – the forthcoming output – is then input for A, and so on. The patterns of communication that emerge out of these feedback loops define our relationship both with individual identities within the environment and with the environment as a whole.
Every system or pattern of communication exists within a larger system – its environment – and changes in the environment will affect the system just as changes in the system will affect the environment. With this in mind we set about creating an environment that both facilitated certain relations and was defined by them, one in which the feedback loops between distinct identities would be defined by and define the environmental structure. Changes in music, lighting, video projection, and movement both of the performer and the viewers are interlinked through a number of sensors, located on the performer’s body and in the space. In this way the interactive performance environment ‘Four Seasons’ is able to evolve out of its own patterns of interaction, out of the communication between the very elements of which it is composed.
The system is of course governed by rules, which are necessary in order to create patterns. That is to say, there are limits to the interaction of each element, and these limits in a sense serve to define the particular identity of the element. But the rules serve as guidelines rather than directives, so that the content of the performance is not predetermined. Neither the performer nor the audience is told what to do, but each is limited by certain rules of interaction within which they improvise. For example, in the interaction between the performer and the music, the information from the sensor input is given varying tasks in the music-generating processes, according to a compositional plan. This means that details and even formal structure of the musical composition will vary depending on the behavior of the performer, but the identity of the piece as music, which is grounded in a ‘biological clock’ that travels through four distinct seasons, is always retained. (click on SoundBrainOne for more information)
Four Seasons is a transforming work! While we present the installation to the public, we continue to work on it and develop its varying aspects, so that the project itself evolves as we and the public interact with it. In our structuring and restructuring of Four Seasons we are aware of an overall rule which says that no rule is final: under certain circumstances, patterns may be altered and combined into more sophisticated systems to allow for higher unity with increased variety. With this in mind we are looking forward to future developments in which the environment can begin to learn its own patterns and change in response to them.
‘Four Seasons’ was born of a unique collaboration between René Mogensen, Ahmi Wolf and Ophra Wolf - three artists from very different fields coming together to bring their ideas to life. It is itself the child of an exercise in communication and interaction, and relies on this ongoing communication between the collaborators, their peers and their public in order to develop further. Pursue the Pulse is gratefully indebted to STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music, Amsterdam) for their support – both in the use of their facilities and in their openness toward our ideas – without which this project would not have been possible.
The performance is 65 minutes in length and transforms to fit the space and time in which it is performed!