Sonicplattforming is an interactive installation that uses reclaimed materials and found sounds to create a 'Теннисный аудиостол' a table tennis table where sounds are triggered by bat and ball.
Each of these three elements – object, audio and play - are equally important, with participation vital in the activation of the work. As in previous projects social interaction is a core aspect to the work. We look to projects, whether temporary or permanent, which create inviting spaces for people to meet and exchange experiences.
Site-specificity is fundamental to Sonicplattforming. Detritus and rejected ephemera from the surrounding area are the source of the table’s material structure, reused and transformed to create a once more familiar object.
At Guslitsa, the finished table reflects many of the characteristics of the building in which it was made and sited. Industrial architectural elements were used, including doors, filing cabinets, metal cupboards, roofing, springs and shelving, so that it would appear that the table had grown from the same fittings and ingredients that make up its surroundings. The table would seem very much at home.
The audio used is a mixture of field recordings from the environment where the installation is sited and the sounds of the materiality of the playing surface manipulated and amplified.
The field recordings were gathered from the immediate locale including the sounds made during the constructing of the table itself. Once edited, these recordings were stored on a laptop to create a library of sound specific to Guslitsa. Sounds appropriated from this site included amongst other things building tools (drilling, screwing, hammers and saws), musical instruments(piano, mouth harp, didgeridoo), industrial sounds (local freight trains, plant machinery) and vocabulary (Russian and English).
The sound files are triggered using contact mics situated within the bats and an Arduino, an open source programmed controller. When the ball hits the bat, a change in voltage is detected by the Arduino which in turn then selects a sound file from within a sound folder stored on the laptop. Power tools versus musical instruments!
Whilst no one is playing, the table being in an idle state generates a sound of pulsing feedback created by the bats that sit on the table’s surface. When these are lifted to start a new game the feedback stops. If during the game the ball hits the net, one can hear the amplified notes created by the tensioned door springs.
As important as the aesthetic qualities, a crucial consideration when foraging for materials was their suitability for play and sound creation, with playability, such as ball bounce and consistency, set against acoustic quality. In addition the workability of the material alongside the availability of tools informed choice and compromise.
During Plattformers’ short residence at Guslitsa other factors influencing the decision and making process were location, an ex-industrial building which in itself is in a state of transformation form derelict factory to arts centre, and communication. The cross-national, often improvised dialogue (broken Russian and English) with the workers, the host and site manager and other artists-in-residence played an important role in the borrowing and exchange of tools, negotiating of suitable spaces or general requirements such as the day-to-day needs of living in situ.
An example of this was in the logistics of where to locate the intervention. The careful choice to use a room adjacent to the main exhibition space was mainly lead by acoustic properties, the other suggested spaces resulting in too much echo and disruption to the other works exhibited. However, it was only made possible by moving the ‘workers’ temporary sleeping quarters to another part of the factory. This required specific interaction between organisers, workers and artists in order for the work to commence. (It was agreed that the room would be left as found, the features of the room hinting to the factory’s past use and activities).
These influences resulted in an installation that was site specific, not only in its siting, rationale and aesthetic and logic but also in the experiential. Experiences were drawn upon, fed into and ran through the decision-making process as a whole.
Eco-Tectura Festival Guslitsa 29th September 2012
On the opening day the table attracted a lot of different people over the day and during the whole evening who came to play or just watch and listen.
photo by Asya Gefter
Others came to share inspirations and ideas they had got from experiencing the installation.
Alongside the art related audience there was a lot of children who immediately started playing when they saw the table. Other people who joined the experience included some of the workers who were renovating the factory around us during the previous week and who we got to know sharing and swapping tools and recording some of their mobile phone mp3 library to use in the table.
Special moments included the plumber who had only slept a few hours over the last days joining us. Inspired by the field recording sounds of the table in action he told us about his city’s monastery being famous for Andrei Rublev’s paintings and the biggest and heaviest bell in Russia with a height of 6m and more than 6m in diameter.
Bringing the table to its full life at the opening of Eco-Tectura festival was a special moment that only happened through the interaction of at least two people playing with each other. We see this moment as a part in the process of it’s coming to life and possible being dismantled or adapted in the future.
The site: Guslitsa Factory and Ilyinsky Pogost