A selection of some projects I started last year.
1. What You See is What You Hear: Times Square (excerpt)
I went to Times Square with some electronics I built that convert light waves into sound waves. I used photodiodes, which are actually tiny solar batteries. When light shines into them, they generate voltage. Many electronic lights are actually flickering off and on faster than the eye can see. In the place of a normal microphone, the photodiodes let us hear this flickering as pitch.
I built these sensors into a preamplifier circuit and mounted it to the camera base, so that you can simultaneously look and listen to whatever light you're filming. What you see is what you hear, with no special effects or processing.
2. Discharge no. 1 & 2
Discharge is an interactive circuit composition. I discovered this circuit in June, 2009, and each successive piece in the Discharge series is a new iteration of this circuit.
The piece comes to life when a human touches certain wires and becomes part of the circuit. Upon making skin contact, electricity is discharged from the capacitors into the human participant, and, as energy leaves the circuit, the tone swells up into "view". When fingers are lifted, the capacitor begins to charge, and the tone slowly fades back to its original state. Discharge.
In April 2010, I was invited to present Discharge at St. Cecilia's Convent in Brooklyn, NY. Upon installation, however, I found that when I touched the circuit, radio noise blasted through the amplifiers. My piece was picking up the Disney Channel.
This had never happened before. I began to try anything that would fix the problem.
During my research, I discovered that Disney, through huge subsidies to the government, broadcasts their signal through the power lines, modulated at 60 Hz to allow for easy transmission anywhere. This fact was so disturbing, I could hardly believe it. How could Disney have access to the entire grid?
Old buildings with antiquated electrical wiring tend to "cook" with radio frequencies. Upon touching my circuit in St. Cecilia's Convent, a human became an antennae for Disney radio. I even tried wrapping the walls and the radiator in layers of aluminum foil, to no avail.
I decided to show Discharge in its incomplete state—without the possibility of human touch—as an act of protest against the Disney Corporation. Months later, I revised the circuit to work with headphones. I found my solution to my problem with Disney in the electrical system by going off the grid.
3. Candle Piece
After Nic Collins' "In Memoriam", I was inspired to make a circuit which responds to flame. I waited until I found the perfect candles— 5 minute long candles—which provided a concise narrative arc for this circuit.
I gave myself several limitations with this one: make the sculpture as small as possible, make it silent in darkness, and don't do anything besides light the damn candle. we filmed 7 takes, and finally got lucky with this lazarus candle. The original cut is 8 minutes long—incredibly, it kept coming back to light, to life.
thanks to andrew theiss and daniel terna for assisting in documenting these works. thanks to eric archer, nic collins, daphe oram, and bob bielecki for ideas and inspiration.