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Interactive Installations : Minimal Object (with time on your hands) (2012)

Minimal Object (front)

Minimal Object (with time on your hands)

Since the early 1980's I have been creating interactive sound installations where empty space is made reactive: movement is translated into sound. I construct invisible structures of possibility which can only be sensed through physical exploration.

This encounter between the very physical and the very virtual has long been of interest to me. It seems to me to be emblematic of the 21st century condition where we are regularly asked to physically engage with things that have little or no physical presence. A touch-screen brings the physical world of natural gestures into contact with the immaterial world of information. What exactly do we feel in our bodies during these engagements? What sense of the intangible object does our body receive (or construct)?

Sound is particularly interesting in this connection. It is invisible, yet tactile. When sound is added to a 2 dimensional image, video, or movie, the flat work suddenly opens forward from its surface to occupy space.

Minimal Object (with time on your hands) explores the invisible tactility and spatial presence of sound. A blank canvas hangs on the wall covered in the fabric used to cover the fronts of speakers). There are two speakers embedded in the the canvas, barely visible through the open weave of the fabric. On the wall above the canvas is a depth sensing camera which effectively projects a layered field of 300 sound objects into the space in front of the canvas to a distance of about 70 cm.


The sound objects respond if your hand(s) enters their space, playing their sound through the speakers at positions in the stereo sound field matching the position of your hand. The sounds overlap, creating a seamless explorable three-dimensional field of sound.

The sounds all involve some sort of rhythmic repetition, sounds that in a sense measure and express time. They include mechanical, electric, human and natural sounds: the ticking of a wristwatch, the tolling of a bell, the beating of a heart, the mechanical clatter of an printing press, the pounding of a pile-driver. As you explore the work, the rhythms play against each other, syncopating and slipping in and out of phase.

The physical object is minimal and almost without character, except for the subtle impression of the object's internal frame and speakers perceivable through the fabric. It functions as a sort of vertical pedestal for the actual work, the sculpture of sound possibilities projecting out from its surface.



MACHines, Centre des arts, Enghien-les-bains, France

Plot Against Time, Gallery Stratford, Stratford, Canada

Sounds Assembling, Museum London, London, Canada

Interaction, The Museum, Kitchener, Canada

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Copyright 2012 David Rokeby / Very Nervous Systems / All rights reserved. 12/06/27