Overall I was quite pleased the final installation. Although there are a few things I know I can work on to improve, I think it was a great starting point for me to understand the Sound Lab and how the array works as well as the limitations of the room – in terms of space, projections (throw) but also where there is room for other possibilities in how to use the space.
Going into the project open minded and without much pressure on myself helped me explore what the installation might be/look like. I had a checklist for myself of what I want to use – the array, back projections, plants. Everything around that was experimented and explored whilst installing/designing the installation.
It is fairly easy to say what I didn’t like and what I thought didn’t work but I am going to focus on what I thought did work first.
The Architecture -I thought the final shape of the space worked really well in the end and I was really pleased with how they looked when the screens were back projected onto. I have always though that, in immersive installations, if you have recreated a space within a space that allows you to forget that you are inside an entirely different space then it partly a successful installation. I think I managed to do this and I think that sewing up the edges on the screens/cloths tied the whole installation together and allowed for this reterritorialisation/deterritorialisation process to come through. The size of the space inside was a good size – it didn’t make it feel claustrophobic.
Black Clothes – Having never worked with black clothes I was quite surprised about how well they worked. Initially they were used to block the projector bleed but then realised they were super effective. That is why I added the corridor type thing into the space.
The Plants – I really enjoyed working with the plants. Having something like that to interact with in the space I thought completely changed the dynamic of the space. I liked the hanging basket with the ivy in – it made sense to have a hanging plant with the speaker up above. I think more plants though next time? I still feel like the installation wasn’t very active even though it was always doing things.
Installation Rules – I like installations that have rules. In ways they can make audience either become more interactive with a space. Taking your shoes off was something I’d been thinking about for a while. It wasn’t necessarily to keep the floor clean but to make you feel comfortable in the space. When you take your shoes off you become automatically more ‘mobile’ thus you’re probably more likely to interact with the plants differently. It is also something that we can all relate to, you take off your shoes when you are at home so instantly become more relaxed – it supposed to be a comfortable and immersive space.
Ambisonic Recordings – The actual process of going out and recording was part of the process I enjoyed the most. I had been reading up on sound artist and recordists, such as Hildergard Westerkamp, who have discussed whether it is ok for themselves/human activity to be heard in the recordings when out recording – or whether it is important or not for us to be removed from recordings. I found it was really hard for human activity to be removed from the recordings – From car noises to people shouting in the forest. Even though at the time I was annoyed about how I could hear lots of cars in the recordings, I think looking back on it there is nothing I could have done to prevent these things. In the recordings themselves there are some lovely bird noises – with that mixed with human noises it added depth to recordings and allowed for the forest acoustics/large space to come through.
Abelton/Max MSP – I think this is a really important part of the evaluation process even though you can’t see it. As I never thought I’d get to grips with using Max and only know the basic of Abelton, I felt I have definitely started to understand how Max MSP and Abelton are working together. I have a bit further to go with understanding how envelop in Ableton is working as well as understanding the array as a whole but as the installation worked exactly how it was programmed, I’m pretty happy with that.
Array – Working with the array has allowed me to think about how the space is working. Knowing that you are able to move speakers and in the space and that it isn’t too difficult to recalibrate to a different configuration has helped me think about the room, and space in general, in a different way. Initially I wasn’t going to move nay speakers but then when I was told that it totally possible to have two ambisonic sections working inside each (which I didn’t even know what possible!) then it made sense to bring speakers in side the central zone of the installation then use them for the plants to their things. The installation as a whole has made me a lot more confident in what I can achieve.
MIDI Sprout – The MIDI Sprout is amazing piece of equipment. It enabled me to record data from plants that the piezo microphones could trigger.
What I thought didn’t work and how they could have been improved
Sounds –For me, I think the sound was the hardest part to get my head round because I knew what I wanted the installation to do and I knew how it was going to work – i.e triggers in Ableton through the piezo microphones – but I didn’t necessarily know exactly what it was going to sound like. In away it kind of became secondary to the process and I’m sure if that is a bad thing or not. I had been quite immersed in the build, the plants, the programming that it I suppose in away the sound had kind of become more conceptual. I didn’t want it to be too ambient and I wanted the sounds to show unsettled plants actually are – which I think did come across in the installation – but I always felt a bit cheated by just using MIDI instruments and editing them in Ableton. I didn’t really feel like I was giving a plant a true voice. I think I’d need to think about this more in terms of how I would improve it.
Ceiling – I was probably the only person that may have realised the ceiling? but I this if I did it again I would try and cover the top of the installation maybe with some black cloth. For me the ceiling lit up quite a lot in the central space.
Piezos – looking back on it, the use of masking tape on the piezos was quite scrappy but maybe that doesn’t really matter as it the aesthetic was quite make shift – the screens. I quite like that about it but I think if I’d attached them neater i.e. a bit of blue-tac/something sticky on the back of the piezo then I would have looked a bit more professional.
Triggering – Although the idea was nice – the piezos being used a bit like the MIDI Sprout, I think that the changing in sounds could have been a bit more obvious/noticeable to give it bit more of a live/real time feel to it like the MIDI Sprout- which made such a massive difference to the installation. I would have to work on how to make the sounds changing noticeable enough to have that very responsive element that the MIDI Sprout has.
Tight Screens – Although this has been mentioned to me about the screens being tight – firstly due to them being hung by bungy clips they had sunk but personal I didn’t see it as a problem. The reason why I like using sheets is because of the materiality of them. They may not look professional but the tent type/bedding fort aesthetic is something that I think is very much a part of my aesthetic. Saying that, they probably could have been tightened a little bit more – but that was also another reason for sewing the edges together.
Field Recordings – There were mixed thoughts about the field recordings. Some of the clips would cut straight in or out without a fade. I’m not really too sure what my thoughts are about this as I’ve spoken to people who liked how it would come in all of a sudden and others would prefer a gradual fade in. After the assessment I did look into the automating the gain of the field recordings. I think it did feel a lot better with this gradual fade in. I also know that some of these comments are because of my limitations/knowledge of how to do things in the software.
What I would have done differently
Visuals – I would have preferred for the MIDI Sprout to have been manipulating the visuals. I think this would have been a really strong element to the installation. As I wasn’t able to that this time, instead I used the MIDI data and tried to represent that in the visuals through the editing process. Saying that, I did actually like visuals played in the installation.
Promotion – Next time I would definitely make more effort on promotion. I am really pleased with the outcome and I as it was my first installation in a while I knew that if I made added pressure for myself then it probably wouldn’t have turn out better than I expected.
Space Possibilities – Now that I can see how I can use the space and the flexibility/possibilities the space has I know that I would be able to design something with a lot more confidence. I think the 3 screens back projected work well and can see that that would probably be the maximum size of the installation with the limitations of the throw from the projectors. I would be interested to see what other shapes of spaces could work in there.
Installation adaptions – The installation was designed to have an entrance and exit but I think maybe it didn’t particularly need an ‘exit’ bit. Whilst the installation was still up after the assessment, I blocked off the ‘exit’ part to make the space just a single entrance and exit. I preferred this and I thought that it made the space feel more enclosed but not claustrophobic.
I always think about the movement of the audience and how they can flow easily through an installation – if it was presented in more of a gallery setting I can see that this would be something that it probably would have needed but in this case with very little people in the installation just one entrance/exit would have been fine. I also think that if it was in a public space it would need a capacity limit.