(((clang))) at WID

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Client: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin - Madison

Location: Madison, WI, United States

Completion date: 2012

Project Team

Artist

Andrée Valley

Artist

Nathaniel Bartlett

Other

David Krakauer

Director, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Overview

The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) at the University of Wisconsin – Madison encourages collaboration interfacing computation, laboratory science, the humanities, arts and entrepreneurship. “This collaboration between artist Andrée Valley and Nathaniel Bartlett – a composer and computer scientist in our Optimization group – merged the visual with the spatial and acoustical. (((clang))) was a compelling work that strongly aligned with WID’s mission to support creativity at the interface of disciplines. It successfully drew visitors and building residents to experiment, interact, and play in its landscape.” (Jennifer Eagleton, Senior Outreach Specialist, WID)

Goals

1. (((clang))) created an interactive installation that was visually engaging and aurally exciting. For five months, the large slowly rotating colorful sculptures “played” the music (((clang))) composed by Nathaniel Bartlett. Through hand and body motion, viewers were able to interact and manipulate the music.
2. The goal was to engage viewers to experience the unlikely interaction of a colorful, abstract, hanging pair of sculptures that produced sounds triggered by lasers sensing their moving topography. A viewer could also physically manipulate the texture of the produced sound using body or hand movements creating a true multi-media interaction of sound and space.
3. (((clang))) fit into the vision of WID with this interdisciplinary installation; collaboration between art (the colorful aluminum sculpture), music (the composition of (((clang)))) and science (the development of a computer program and the interface technology used to make it all work).

Process

This collaboration of sculpture, science and music was conceived to fit into the vision of the institute. A grant from the Puffin Foundation allowed Valley to commission the composition (((clang))) that was played by her hanging and rotating aluminum sculptures, made specifically to fit the scale of the building. Sculpture fabrication required making 3-dimensional models and then creating the final design on a computer CAD program for cutting at a local factory specializing in metal component fabrication, then finished with a powder coat color surface. Nathaniel Bartlett developed the computer-generated interface for his composition that was “played” by the sculptures to make an immersive viewing and listening space. His arrays of laser beams were programmed to sense movement, following the surface topography of Valley’s sculptures as they slowly rotate, triggering sections of the composition (((clang))) to play. Valley worked with the staff at WID to place and safely hang the pieces. The hanging hardware was specifically fabricated for the location. Setting up the computer and speakers involved solving the problem of accessibility, equipment security and safety necessary during high traffic times by making simple barriers that allowed access.

Additional Information

WID was founded on the idea that unexpected and novel collaborations can yield amazing insights. WID welcomes creative minds from any area where challenging thought is valued and hosts a range of programs at the Institute for artists, writers and entrepreneurs. The public space is a venue for ideas and exploration. Installations are not permanent. The audio – visual installation, (((clang))) was located in the public space or “Town Hall”, a place for study and gatherings where ideas are mulled and fermented by undergraduates, researchers, faculty and visitors of all ages.