AURAL-I: THE TAMING OF MOLOCH (2015)

PROJECTION MAPPING INSTALLATION FOR BRISTOL ART WEEKENDER

Aural-I is an audio-visual collective of Bristol and Bath based artists, it is mainly comprised by Jon Savage, Kyle Roberts and Pablo Villierezz. We work in partnership with Bath Spa University, who provide us with most of the technical equipment we use in return for opportunities for some of their students. We formed in July 2015 as a way of being able to carry out our first projection mapping commission as part of the Bristol Art Weekender festival in October that year. As this would be a rather ambitious project, it was necessary to pull in together to share resources and opportunities for making it happen. Our main partners for this project were Hamilton House & Coexist, 77 Stokes Croft studios and Bath Spa University. The installation would run from dusk till dawn throughout the duration of the festival.

Installation

This project was meant to be a progression from the Space Shuttle project that took place in 2014. Originally we wanted to pursue the idea of installing a massive screen on the Hamilton House building but the original team that was putting that forward disbanded, and so we had to try different ideas. Projecting onto Hamilton House was also rather difficult. The only place where this can be achieved from is the 77 Stokes Croft building across the road from Hamilton House. It has recently been refurbished and the new windows don’t open fully, making it almost impossible to get a clear, bright projection to cover the building. We did some tests during the summer and we had to come to the conclusion that a different approach was needed.

 

We carried out further tests, this time projecting from Hamilton House onto the 77 Stokes Croft building proved more fruitful and we opted for this option. In this way, we could install all our equipment in one of the storerooms in the building and leave it there safely overnight. We were able to achieve decent coverage of the whole front façade of the building with just one of the projectors, meaning that our setup was much less complicated than expected.

Sound problems

We wanted this to be a fully audio-visual experience but since we didn’t have an events license to play amplified music outdoors throughout the night, we researched different ways in which we could stream the soundtrack so that anyone with a smart phone could listen to it as they passed the installation on the street. Whilst we did find some services allowing us to do this at a decent quality and free of charge (mixlr.com for example), the main issue we encountered was that it was impossible to achieve accurate synching between the visuals and the sound. This is because the sound streamed over the servers would always start a few seconds after the real event, depending on when audiences would link up to the stream.

At present it is not possible to stream sound in any other way, so we had to change our expectations about how people would perceive the sound in relation to the image. To get over this hurdle, we chose soundtracks that were generally atmospheric so that it wouldn’t matter so much that the images didn’t coincide exactly with corresponding sounds. 

Themes

When first discussing ideas about this project at the end of the Space Shuttle installation, one of the things we wanted to offer to the public, was a warm reminder of nature, summer and open spaces at a time when days begin to get considerably shorter, rain is frequent and temperature begins dropping dramatically. The vision was to project beautiful images to contrast a grey urban environment during the winter months.

 

For this project we had to adapt some of these ideas since the team had changed, yet we tried to keep the overall theme somehow related to Bristol’s progression from being a highly industrialized city towards a Green capital. Taking influence from Ginsberg’s poem Howl , the title for the work, The Taming of Moloch, was decided. In the poem, Moloch stands for all that is hateful not only about urban life, but also about a way of life which keeps us under constant pursuit of capital and away from what makes us human. Bristol encompasses these ideas perfectly, taking into account it’s dark history of participation in the slave trade and its continuing attempt as a city, to become something better.

 

We approached the theme in a very abstract way, each one of us coming up with different visual motifs. Due to our busy schedules, we worked separately creating 20 minutes of footage each that we then collected into an hour-long reel.

 

Conclusion

The project received good feedback and it was a great learning experience for the team. Whilst we had some disappointments regarding the sound aspect of the work, overall, the impact of the installation was evident on Stokes Croft. The work could be seen from quite far away, and people passing by would always stop to look and engage with the work.

Perhaps we could have worked more collaboratively during the development phase of the work, yet since the project was not funded and we all had to fit it in between other projects, it was unlikely that we’d be able to approach it any other way. However, I think that collectively we saw this project as a stepping stone for more ambitious projects.

AURAL-I: PLAYING THE BUILDINGS SOUL (2016)

PROJECTION MAPPING INSTALLATION FOR SEEING SOUND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

For the 2016 edition of the Seeing Sound International Conference on Visual Music, Aural-I proposed this project to take part during the performances at the Commons building at Bath Spa University Newton Campus. It was a quick turnaround project that was somewhat rushed in the end, but it nevertheless gave us a good experience in troubleshooting under different circumstances to our previous experience in Stokes Croft.

 

The main concept was to create an audio-visual instrument that would play audio-visual objects created from recordings carried out inside the building we’d be projecting onto. We would process each of the recorded sounds through various effects and other sound sculpting techniques and then create short animations illustrating each one of the created sounds. These would then be mapped onto a MIDI keyboard and linked up to Resolume so that these AV objects could be played as an instrument in real time.

 

Originally the idea was that we would project onto two walls facing each other to create an all encompassing experience, with one musician performing at the foot of each one of the walls. We would react to each other’s sounds and create an immersive soundscape throughout the performance. There were however some issues regarding when the event would take place and in the end we set up the projections as an installation that would run throughout one of the performance nights.

 

Another problem that we faced was that it was not possible to turn down the lights in the foyer of the main building, which made the projections much dimmer than expected. The building, being energy-efficient, has a rather complicated wiring system that required specialized personnel to turn off the lights. Unfortunately this was not possible to arrange prior to the event. We had to treat this project as an experiment for further projects as the end product didn’t fulfil many of our initial expectations. However, the mapping looked well and the sound design worked successfully as part of an installation.

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