Michael Allison and Aaron Sherwood — both musicians and performance artists — have created “Firewall,” an interactive audio/visual installation that truly explores the elasticity of imagination and reality.
A sheet of spandex stretched over a wooden frame acts as a performance membrane that, when pushed, creates fiery visuals and music. The deeper users push into the spandex, the faster and more intense the piano music becomes. In the “instrument mode,” the deeper the membrane is pushed, the higher the pitch of the sounds.
The effect is quite mesmerizing, as this video shows, and is similar to the scenes in countless sci-fi films where individuals encounter and touch portals to other dimensions. As Sherwood explains on his blog, exploring the space between dimensions is exactly what Firewall is intended to do. The installation will be used in a soon-to-be performance piece called Mizalu, where dancers will press into the spandex as the audience watches on the other side.
“Mizalu is about death and experience of reality, so this membrane represents a plane that you can experience but never get through,” Sherwood writes. “As hard as you try to understand what’s in between life and death, you can never fully know.”
Firewall was developed using Processing, Max/MSP, Arduino and a Kinect camera. Here, Sherwood further explains how it works:
The Kinect measures the average depth of the spandex from the frame it is mounted on. If the spandex is not being pressed into nothing happens. When someone presses into it the visuals react around where the person presses, and the music is triggered. An algorithm created with Max allows the music to speed up and slow down and get louder and softer, based on the depth. This provides a very expressive musical playing experience, even for people who have never played music before. A switch is built into the frame which toggles between two modes. The second mode is a little more aggressive than the first.
Sherwood is expected to premiere Mizalu next month in New York City in collaboration with Kiori Kawai, co-founder of Purring Tiger, “a multi-cultural, multimedia, experimental performance group dedicated to bringing people together in the context of art, in a subtext of wonder.”
Credit: Yang Jiang Photography