Point, line, surface computed in seconds

point,line,surface computed in seconds
interactive installation

LAb[au] 2005
Manuel Abendroth, Jerome Decock, Alexandre Plennevaux, Els Vermang

Point and line to plane is an interactive installation immersing the user in an audiovisual space. By the means of a touch screen the user creates a sonic and visual composition rendered in space through quadraphonic sound and a 10x10m floor projection which s/he animates through finger-movement.

In a reference to Mondrian's 'Broadway Boogie Woogie', which draws a connection between the rhythmic structure of a jazz-piece and the composition of primary colour elements ordered on a grid, the installation extends these relationships to an interactive and electronic play.

"light, color, rhythm, image, sound; the basis, the data's for a new performance; we can call it electronic play" - Le Corbusier, in "Le poème électronique", Editions de Minuit, 1958.

During the Bauhaus period Wassily Kandinsky applied to his painting the music principles of Schönberg, leading to the development of his synesthesia theory, as formulated in "On the Spiritual in Art" (...point line to plane... ). He described synesthesia as a phenomenon of transposition of experience from one sense modality to another. More than a transposition of musical and colour harmonies through sound and light frequencies, he investigated two essential problems: the ones of dissonance and temporality. His synesthesic approach can thus not be understood in simple correspondence schemes as the tone-colour relations, but more on the level of a composition based on visual and sonic patterns in "collaboration and opposition" in order to reveal tension and emotion inside the inter-play of colours, forms and shapes.

In a similar way Piet Mondrian studied the problem of the visual perception of movement in his apparent static compositions. By the use of the perceptual effect of a rhythmically moving raster he wanted to add to the two-dimensional painting not only a proper dimension of depth, but also the dimension of time, as visual suggestions of movement. Movement in a visual raster remained a central theme in Mondrian's experiments, culminating in the 'Broadway Boogie Woogie' painting, showing - as he described it - the city of New York seen from a skyscraper while listening to jazz music. In the painting, coloured areas correspond to sounds with definite pitch, whereas areas without colour correspond to sounds without any definite pitch to which Mondrian refers as noise.

The primary colours of painting have their analogues in the pitches of the standard music scale, recalling Isaac Newton's analysis of the spectrum in terms of the seven tones of the Western scale. Other relations in Mondrian's scheme are the visual notion of size, corresponding to dynamics or acoustic amplitude, and position in space, corresponding to position in time, recalling the flow of cars through a maze of city streets or the complex interplay of rhythms in a jazz improvisation. Combining time-sequenced logics of music with visual principles of painting, Mondrian explored the perceptual phenomena of synaesthesia and the cognitive modalities of the pictorial space.

The installation 'Point and Line to Plane computed in Seconds' revisits the methodological approach of these pioneers while extending it to digital technologies.

Artistic description

In this project the user creates out of simple finger-drawing on a touch screen an entire audiovisual environment surrounding him. The major differences with drawing on a canvas are that an object like a point or a line can directly influence sound, be a sound; and that drawing as an act includes motion and as such introduces the parameter 'time'.

Following these dynamic principles audiovisual compositions are gradually build out of the user's finger-drawing resulting in animated colour surfaces and sounds evolving in and around the projection space.

The user, immersed in this space, launches geometrical topologies linked to sonic and spatial ones. In this way, the user creates more than an audiovisual composition - s/he creates a physical environment due to the spatial distribution of sound and the scale of the projection space.

The interrelation between visual and sonic parameters is based on the primary colours of light, basic geometric shapes and sonic topologies. Similar to Piet Mondrian's approach, the project is an elementary expression, experience, of these elements but in the case of the installation it is founded on the additive colour model of light in contrast to the subtractive model of painting. Also the colour-pitch relation is extended to the logic of spatial sound topologies such as: short clicking mono sounds (points), pure sine wave (undulating) stereo sounds (line) and textured spatial sound, planes. Grounded on these strict assignments the user's input shapes a dynamic play between dissonance and temporality. The installation is an instrument which like any instrument has its own codes and modalities. The aesthetic work consists here in building up these performative and perceptual codes.

Each user's composition can be recorded and played back. Also the recordings are indexed on an isometric grid following the two parameters of density: motion and time. As such, the compositions are creating vertical objects, making reference to towers. Both density and motion qualify the audience's interaction while expressing the temporal and spatial parameters of the sonic construct. The successive adding of user's composition forms a sound database rendering isometric towers, making reference to a city, on a grid.

Following these preoccupations / principles the installation transcribes Mondriaan's quote about his

'Broadway Boogie Woogie'-painting expressing the synesthetic interrelation between the rhythmic structure of music and the dynamic composition of visual elements structured in space.


The software is based on a multi-channel 3d sound engine 3d real-time engine developed by LAb[au] The project is an executable file based on C , basic programming The touch-screen interface is developed by LAb[au]

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