Fungus-box

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Background

The idea for making a musical instrument which generates sound influenced by a natural living score, derives from one of my former projects 'ACOUSTIC MIRROR _ MOSS'. In this project moss served as an acoustic mirror reflecting and absorbing both sound and light. More information about this project you can find on the dedicated website acousticmirror.org.

More then just being an artefact, the F-BOX represents an important stage in the developement of my artistic career. As I started as a musician, to continue as a composer of electronic music and to take the step some three years ago to audio-visual installation art, the F-BOX means in a sense a return to my roots, the stage. The creation of a musical instrument that holds in it the different phases of audio-visual installation developement and musical composition, brings together some of my general ideas about sound and art.

** the artistic results of technical issues

As discribed above, the ideas for the F-BOX are closely affiliated with my experiences during the Acoustic Mirror works. Basicaly in am_moss, as well in F-BOX there's an interaction between sound and image with an intermediate biological element. In am_moss, moss served as medium that reflects and absorbs environmental sound. The growth of moss - seen as a merely visual process - was to influence our perception of sound. Dayly recorded images of the slow growth process would again be projected on the moss, but in a time-compressed way. I suffered a lot to grow the plant from scratch in a controlled environment. Being confronted with the highly precise, but nonetheless not well-defined ideal growth conditions of moss, it was hard to get them right and even harder to keep them that way. The installation travelled a lot during the last two years and therefore the little moss I was able to grow, each time had to adapt to other temperatures, rainwater, etc.

This confrontation with the reality of nature implied the demand for a higher level of creativity and artistic flexebility. It was during that period that I came up with the idea of growing mold/fungus. It would give me results much faster, it was as simple as that. But at that moment this was only a future plan and I still had to deal with the present problems of maintaing the poetics of the am_moss-installation in a changed technical reality. In order to do so, I moved the stress from the attempt to visualize the growth process from scratch to a more pragmatic approach of accepting a kind of inertia. I believe that I realised that it was not possible for any public to notice a difference in sound that would be influenced by the amount of moss present at that moment in time.

** the poëtics of the void

From the time I started considering this inertia as given, I began to realize that the dynamics of the Acoustic Mirror-idea were to be found in some dichotomies lying in it. I put sound together with image by means of an interaction, but also nature with technology. It was moss, the oldest plant in the evolution of earth, that found itself in front of one of the symbols of progress and a fastly changing world (see schematics below). That confrontation actually had created a void, but with it also a great deal of freedom, as it brought me back to where I started from, the research on the characteristics of sound. It was the sense of freedom one can experience noticing to be on the right track.

Acoustic Mirror initially was a collection of ideas I had concerning sound and its relationship with image (light). Some eight years ago I started wondering why we attach more importance to the visual then to the auditive and I figured out that it had something to do with their characteristics. I thought it was the aspect of tangability that made the difference: every source of image - objects that reflect and absorb light - can be touched. With sound this is not the case. Sound is a small difference in air pressure, a wave which is transported trough the medium we call 'aether'. Until the end of the 19th century scientists tried to prove the existence of aether, but they never succeeded. And with the publication of Einsteins 'Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper' in 1905, the neccesity of proof became irrelevant because the notion of the vacuum was used to explain the propagation of light. But nevertheless this didn't mean aether could not exist:

"Recapitulating, we may say that according to the general theory of relativity space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists an ether. According to the general theory of relativity space without ether is unthinkable; for in such space there not only would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time (measuring-rods and clocks), nor therefore any space-time intervals in the physical sense. But this ether may not be thought of as endowed with the quality characteristic of ponderable media, as consisting of parts which may be tracked through time. The idea of motion may not be applied to it." (taken from Einstein's lecture at the university of Leiden, 5 may 1920)

The fact that sound and light both propagate through the same medium - a vacuum or void - of which the existence seems very hard to proove with our current scientific methods, gives me an excellent poëtic starting point for the F-BOX project. Here again, a visual process (the growth of fungus) will be a source of influence for the perception of sound. Bringing sound and light closer to each other by means of an interaction thereby is the continuation of what I started with the Acoustic Mirror _ Moss-project.

Methods

As discribed above, the F-BOX developement process represents some twelve years of artistic work with different media, and will therefore behold a variety of working methods. The importance of the F-BOX journey lies in the opportunity to finetune and purify these methods. Below some points of attention around which action will be taken:

Research __ Apart from the applied research needed when starting any project, my next two years' journey will be one of research to my work itself. Some possible questions are: what is its place in the contemporary art scene, how do the disciplines in which I work relate to art history, and more specifically, which working methods can I use and how do I improve them?

Reflection / deconstruction __ The investigation into the working methods will necessarily entail that results, satisfactory or not, are analyzed and deconstructed in order to be adjusted. The embedding of the various ideas in Gert Aertsen's VERSION-project (see collaborations) will be very useful in that sense.

Experiment __ Because I conceived my previous installation as a project (with corresponding result-oriented goals), I always took to little time to carve out some important aspects of my work. I think about my core business, namely sound. That includes programming systems that make sound interact with image, or designing software synthesizers that are affected by the growth of plants. I hope in this process I can catch up with this.

Documentation __ The fairly and thoroughly documenting of the project this time deserves special attention. Apart from the daily sharing of information with partners or other interested parties through this wiki, I would like to write a small paper about my experiences during the process. Documenting means also the setting-up of a website for the F-BOX project, communicating via Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Performance __ Notwithstanding the importance of the F-BOX project and its subs lies merely in the process rather then in a pre-defined artefact, the intention is to present intermediate results periodically to a test public, and that in different ways: by means of presentations, live performances, workshops and exhibitions. Collaborations with specialized cultural institutions should allow me to direct the various projects and put them in touch with various audiences.

Collaborations

** Lahaag / Gert Aertsen: Artistic Partner/Soft- and hardware / Code

Oppemstraat 70-1000 Brussels - 0496/506223 - info@lahaag.org - www.lahaag.org

The embedding of F-BOX in the VERSION-project (http://atkn.org/dk/index.php/Version) will provide a continuous reflection utility and can create a dynamic in which the various issues (research, reflection, experimentation, etc.) can be translated into development phases. Simultaneously, this collaboration is no obligation and it will be the journey itself that determines what the possibilities are.

Gert Aertsen is since 2001 involved in various new media projects. He works as an artist, operator, technician and programmer for various Brussels cultural centers. Together with Pieter Heremans and Hendrik Leper he started Code31, an open studio for research, development and discussion techniques and methodologies in media art. In 2004 he co-founded OKNO.
Here are some links to his latest work:

Version: base - http://www.vimeo.com/28617432
A tribute to Karl Nessler - http://www.vimeo.com/19321777
inForm - http://www.vimeo.com/19068399

** OKNO: Residency/Presentation and Developement partner

Koolmijnenkaai 34 – 1080 Brussels – 02/4109940 – www.okno.be

OKNO is an artist run organisation for art and media technology. The working of OKNO hinges on two driving principles that are interconnected: collaboration and ecology. Together with Gert Aertsen a Version:base will be build. Experiments with mold-growing and the transcription of it to sound will take place.

** NADINE: Residency/Presentation and Developement partner

Herdersstraat 30 – 1050 Brussels – www.nadine.be

This in Ixelles located laboratory for contemporary art offers in the autumn of 2012 a residence of two months. They provide logistical support and a production budget. Given the timing (at the end of the first program year) and the type of organization NADINE is, this residence will be perfect for an analysis of the results achieved so far. We think about engaging a writer / art critic who could comment the process from an external perspective.

** ARTS ACADEMY ANDERLECHT: logistical support

Place de la Vaillance 17-1070 Anderlecht - 02/5230371 - info@academieanderlecht.be - www.academieanderlecht.be

In the womb of this academy the Acoustic Mirror _ Moss-project arose. Partly because of their support I was able to develop this installation. And now again the New Media art studio, where I am a student will play an important role in executing one of the ideas within the F-BOX journey: a video triptych in which I want place my work to be seen from other perspectives.

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