Gegenort Virtual Mine Proposal 15.04.2001
PO Box 338,
SOUND MINE / GERAUSCH ABBAUEN
Since the start of the twentieth century, artists and musicians have investigated the concept of extracting music from machinery and industrial noise. In 1920 in Soviet Russia, a ‘Concert for Factory Sirens’ was performed, to celebrate the bold beauty of work and factories. In the 1910s, the Futurists Luigi Russolo and Ezra Pound realised the potential of factory and machine noise. One particular investigation postulated by Pound was that of a factory orchestra:
"according to the needs of the work, with such pauses and duress...the various tones of the clangorous noisiness, the clatter and grind, the whang whang, the gnnrrr...the men at the machines shall work like members of an orchestra." (H. Zunes (ed.), "Quantum Poetics - Yeats, Pound, Eliot and the Science of Modernism", 1997, p.214)
Although the industrial and noise based musical concepts of Russolo were popular at the time and were used by comtemporaries of his including the composer Igor Stravinsky, they were soon forgotten (C. Tisdall & A. Bozzolla, "Futurism", 1978, pp.111-116). Yet recently, this industrial rhythmic aesthetic has found an unlikely rebirth within Techno music, a genre that uses relentless pounding mechanical beats and noises to energise a whole culture (of largely but not exclusively young people) to dance for days without stopping.
In this project, I propose to create an interactive audio visual installation which uses virtual mining machinery as an ‘industrial orchestra’, allowing the audience to construct soundscapes and musical pieces through a digital and physical interface. Equipment from the Gegenort site (or similar mines) will be digitally reconstructed and projected onto the interior walls of the container, accompanied by the sounds of the machines and mining processes played through a hidden surround sound speaker system. These can be interacted with using real control panels, buttons, switches and levers taken or derived from mining equipment, which will allow the audience to operate the virtual machines. Thus the audience will be able to experience the sensations of being a miner, but they will be mining for ‘acoustic ore’ which can be used to create tonal energies and, ultimately, music.
The selection of virtual drilling, crushing and processing machines can function as an orchestra, allowing the audience to operate and experiment with them, creating musical pieces that would be dangerous or even impossible to realise in the physical world. Such musical pieces may be seen either as an ironic reflection upon the Futurists musical hypotheses, conveying themes of destruction and entropy, or as an embracing of the limitless potential inherint in such sites to recreate and recontextualize the energy extracted from the earth to build new songs for a new generation. Through the interfaces of the machines, the audience will be able to mine raw materials from which musical energy can be derived. The stages of coal production (cutting, loading and ancilliary processing) will be mapped or translated into the auditory medium, so that raw noise is mined and then must be processed into music.
As the physicist M. Goldstein states, "noise is the only music the universe provides" (M. Goldstein, "The Refrigerator and the Universe", 1993, p.186). From primordial pure noise, energy can be extracted in the forms of rhythms and melodies, analogous to the extraction of mechanical and electrical energy from the depths of the earth.
In ‘The Digital Dialectic’, Katherine Hayles proposes the breaking down of culturally imposed structuralist dichotomies such as materiality/information, pattern/randomness, information/noise etc (P. Lunefeld (ed.), The Digital Dialectic, 1999, p.76). This installation will explore the tensions and possiblities that such dichotomies/dialectics create. Through the interactive processing of drilling and machine sounds, the apparent oppositions and boundaries which exist between noise and rhythm, mechanical and musical, virtual and physical, will become blurred, forming unstable, delicate or dynamic musical hybrids.
This project will also break down the hierachy that traditionally exists between the musical composer (in this case geologists who analyze the mining site and the engineers who designed the machines), the performers (the miners who operated the machinery) the audience or users (who interact with the installation, structuring and sequencing the sound) and the computer iself (which controls and plays the sound). There is also the play on techno culture and the sometimes inhuman and mechanical nature of techno music.
A fundamental yet largely overlooked umbilical connection links contemporary music to such sites as Gegenort, as analogue and digital audio signals and information rely on electricity which is still largely supplied by coal-driven power stations.
The production process of this installation will require source material from the Gegenort mine and/or other similar coal mines either in Germany or Australia. Visual source material will be images and/or video footage of the machinery used to mine and process the coal, their immediate enviroments, such as coal faces, tunnels and the external surface landscape, as well as textures from the equipment and around the mine site. Audio source material will be sound recordings from the fuctioning drilling, crushing and processing equipment. Web-based communication between myself and the Neunkirchen artists will assist in the acquisition of the source material.
As stated above, such machines will be digitally reconstructed (animating the images of the original machines using video footage and/or 3D modelling and animation tools) and projected onto the interior walls of the installation container. Sound will be played through a hidden system of speakers using surround sound and sub-woofers to create a spatialised and immersive effect.
Interactivity will be enabled through a hidden computer (or two!) which will control the image projections and sound output. I will design custom software to allow the users to turn the raw noises of the drilling and processing machines into loops, rhythms and tones etc. Interaction will occur using real buttons, switches and levers which will produce electronic (MIDI, peripheral or keyboard) signals sent to the computer.
I have relevant images and animations which are too big to be sent in this format so I will send them as regular e-mail attatchments. They are relevant examples from previous digital art pieces and interactives I have created over the last five years. Included are quicktime movies from ‘Orchestra of Rust’, an interactive work from 1998 (exhibited internationally including the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia), MILIA 99 (France) and Videoformes 2000 (France)), and a selection of digital images.
If you have any queries, comments, or wish to have complete CD ROM versions of my interactives, please contact me.
Danke und thanks!
Chris Henschke is a Melbourne based digital artist who has been working with interactive multimedia since 1993. His main areas of research are in experimental virtual environments and interactive sound. His works have been shown in various Australian and international exhibitions including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (2000), Videoformes 2000 (France), the Create Australia conference at the National Gallery of Victoria (2000), MILIA 99 (Cannes, France 1999), the Centre for Contemporary Photography (Melbourne, 1999), D.Art 99 (Sydney, Perth & Darwin, 1999), RMIT First Site gallery (Melbourne, 1997), and the Fifth Australian Contemporary Art Fair (Melbourne, 1996). He has had artworks published in the Australian Film Comission's 'Digital Australia 99' showcase book and '21C' magazine.
He has won several awards including an ATOM International Multimedia award for the best virtual reality product.
He has an Associate Diploma of Arts in Electronic Design and Interactive Media at RMIT (1996-97), and is presently studying for a Masters by Research in Animation and Interactive Media at RMIT. He is a lecturer in digital imaging and sound design at RMIT and has also taught at Monash University and VUT. He also works in sculpture and photography and has been in a variety of bands and other obscure musical projects since 1990.
PO Box 338
tel: + 61 3 9380 4492