Perth Institute of Contemporary Art
‘What I See When I Look at Sound’
Perth ― Western Australia ― 2014
Filament Orkestra is an installation about contemporary networked cultures. Utilizing simple electronics – wires, light bulbs, relays and speakers – a complex physical and behavioural system is constructed to reflect on mediated memory and communication.
Arguably information storage and retrieval has become a continuous performance of repetition, reinforcement and emergent change. The rise of machine learning in financial, security and social media systems, has led to a situation in which both human and machine are constantly ‘performing’ and ‘(re)viewing’ knowledge and memory.
And it is by no means just (or even) a human performance – the machines are actively, if not more involved – essential in composing and choreographing knowledge by managing, associating and prioritising access to what is ‘relevant’ and ‘human readable’.
Filament Orkestra plays with conceptions of surveillance, the psychological notion of self-reflection and our primary (if not contrary) expectations of technology: that it be both useful and magical.
Instead, this cryptic contraption is literally not working: it is obsessively watching itself – constantly attempting and failing to ‘see’, ‘remember’ and ‘reproduce’ its own performance. Each light globe is controlled by a magnetic relay, and each light globe has an optical sensor monitoring its current state. Using this feedback loop, a series of initial patterns are played, and the Orkestra attempts to learn and re-play what it has just perceived.
As the errors in correctly reading the on-and-off state of the bulbs propagates throughout the installation, a stochastic descent into noise occurs, before being restarted (again) with a precise sequence of light and sound, only to fail (again, endlessly) at self-reflective reproduction. The misfiring and imperfections of this machine are intentional, and speak to the myth of machines and digitality as utilitarian, precise, elegant, reliable and infallible.
Audiences are drawn to reflect on the a/liveness of this mad, unscientific machine. Literally thrown into the stroboscopic flash of its magnetic light, they may become aware of their lack of agency in the face of a system that no longer needs them.
But there is also a warmth and more primal joy to be found here: as the chatter and flicker continue, a modern material animism is revealed. As simple – or complex – as fire dancing shadows on a cave wall, the inner life of the machine appears writ large in constantly shifting self-shadow on the gallery walls; the auto-animatism of its own unreasonable complexity.
Sound Design, Code & Electronics
1.3km x AC Power Lead, 3.7km x DC Hookup Wire, 8 x Arduino Fio’s with Wifi Modules, 1 x MikroTik Wifi Router, 64 x Magnetic Relays, Light Dependent Resistors and Incandescent Globes, 16 x Contact Microphones, 16 x 12” Speakers, 8 x Stereo Class-D Amplifiers, 1 x 2013 MacBook Pro, custom software developed in openFrameworks.
Variable (as exhibited)
11000mm W x 22000mm L x 12000mm H (room)
“With the passion of a technically gifted child, Gingold can play his instrument with an intuitive sense of how his abstract grid of light can be turned into a machine of beauty. His contraption is obsessive and strange, a steampunk factory designed to solve obscure riddles. Like a template for something greater than itself, Filament Orkestra looks like an experimental model that has yet to betray its true purpose.”
Darren Jorgensen – Realtime
RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 pg. 47
“It grabs and holds attention and causes reflection even though the idea is no more complicated than (simple) sound and (plain white) light being presented (or not presented) both at the same points in time.”
August 15, 2014
“Filament Orkestra resembles a deconstructed Broadway extravaganza, its forms recalled through disembodied choreography, staccato syncopation, and rhythmically flashing lights. In spite of its apparent simplicity and minimalist aesthetic, this is an elaborate and immersive piece, uncanny in its automatism, comical in its motion, and hypnotic in its rhythm.”