documents | Performance and Installation Proposal, Garage 04


White Cube in Black Box

Thomas Kumlehn and Gareth Mitchell (Radioastronomie)

interface - black box : white cube

black box_ something whose internal structure and internal functioning are
unknown or not considered to be important

white cube_ an ostensibly neutral space, wholly geared toward the
presentation of "the artwork" and thus never unproblematic

3. play me (interface music).
One focus of the festival programme lies on the presentation of acoustic art
forms. The social quality of music especially its function as carrier and
mediator of content is unquestioned.
Artists and projects are invited to discuss furthermore concepts of
interaction and interfaces in music in various ways. Performative
intermediations, ways of communication between artist and audience will be
questioned as well as forms of interaction of musicians in performances, but
also production processes, unusual and special (software) interfaces, the
presentation of different listening habits, the construction of sound
environments and factors of perception.

We would like to perform inside a very, very small room, or better still, a box. If a box, then ideally painted black on the outside, white inside. We would play for several hours, only ever allowing a maximum of two people into the space at any one time.

Outside the space would be two Walkmans with cds of our pre-prepared sounds on them. Participants would be able to listen to these first outside, or whilst simultaneously experiencing the live playing for the first time. They would then be encouraged to play sounds against that which could be heard in the room: the extent to which they should do this would be entirely up to them. At this point, we the musicians would be unable to hear the pre-prepared sounds. The audience would be creating their own unique mix.

Whilst this is occurring, we two would be exchanging musical ideas using a technique we have been evolving over the past few years. Sounds played from one instrument would be sampled, altered, and played back to the originator in real-time. This would be facilitated via a custom-made Max/ MSP interface, formulated to respond differently depending on the tonal value, density and velocity of input. Utilizing this method, each musician would be creating the seeds for the sounds that he himself would at some point, and in some form, have to play with or against.

Audience members would be able to interact with this live improvisation. Keys on a keyboard, and various other interface tools (such as remote, motion-sensitive ones), in the middle of the space would be correspondingly numbered to the tracks on the cd. The opportunity would therefore present itself for participants to play sounds (already known to them) through speakers in the room, thereby directly engaging in, and therefore influencing, the live performance. In the majority of incidences, this would probably also mean an engagement with the process of producing sound, previously unconsidered. (Sounds aired by the guests could also be captured via laptop and remain a feature of progressive sampling and re-sampling.) Of course, the extent to which this task is undertaken would be entirely dependent on the individual.

The hidden environment dictates that creative decisions will remain unknown to anyone outside of the room. This means that later participants will be unconditioned by previous responses to the offer, which will prevent a potentially repetitive or preconditioned aspect from developing.

Each audience member is being confronted with the possibility to engage with musicians who would normally be separated by the psychological, as well as physical, barrier of the stage. The unusually small environment means they would be in such close proximity, as to feel a part of the evolving improvisation, if for no other reason that they will be clearly visible and therefore subconsciously impacting on the playing.

Due to being so close to the musicians, will audience members literally speak out and ask how they are expected to behave? At what point does the ordinarily perceived separation between audience and musician break down? What kind of substitute relationship evolves as a consequence? These are some of the questions we will be posing with this performance/ installation in regard to "White cube_ an ostensibly neutral space, wholly geared toward the presentation of "the artwork" and thus never unproblematic."

To what extent can audience members be expected to break with convention and begin to become involved with creative process? How will audience participants react to having their own impromptu triggering of sounds, sampled and integrated into performance? Will this enhance or denigrate the performance? In regard to" Black box_ something whose internal structure and internal functioning are unknown or not considered to be important," we are seeking to investigate these matters.

As a visual addendum to the above, we would like very much to bring a photographer with us who would take digital images of proceedings inside the space and send them to the mobile ‘phones of those people who are elsewhere in the festival. (Perhaps a list could be kept as people enter the building.) This would serve as both an advertisement of the (otherwise hidden) activity and a continual visual update of the state of the experiment. Should this be logistically feasible, we would like it to be a key means of informing visitors of the event.

Another possibility we would like very much to be entertained, is that of also advertising the performance by way of using an extract from our performance-accompanying cd as the "Waiting on Hold" musak on the sponsors telephone line. We would adapt this extract, reading out an invitation to the event over the top of it.