Building Materials

February 22nd 2011


Building Materials is an installed composition, made in direct response to the architecture and use of Exeter Phoenix and created as a result of the 2010 Digital Art Commission.

Sensors spread throughout the building carry raw data back to a listening room to form a self generating audio composition, created in software designed by myself in Max/Msp. I am interested in allowing what goes on in particular architectural spaces to dictate the structure of the composition, be it through human activity, light levels, air flow or its functional, operating life.

Sounds and data wind their way through the building and are expressed visually through coloured tape carrying wires along walls, floors and ceilings, reminiscent of the iconic London Underground map. This network is there to be explored, followed through the building, drawing attention to what often seem like very ordinary activities: the shutting of a door, the squeak of a floorboard, the whir of the air conditioning. I want the work to be underpinned by  such narratives, I like how working like this fills a piece of music with snippets of unforeseen stories through the opening of a window, the joining of a dance class, or meetings in a café.  These insignificant happenings are re-presented in the final composition, transformed, altered or rearranged, leaving only fragments of traceable sound.

At once site specific and portable to other situations, Building Materials cedes much of the artist’s own authorial control. In any other building and at any other time audiences would experience a completely different work because its form is sensitive to, indeed largely determined by, its environment.

Here is a pdf outlining the project in more detail and here is the production blog, which has photographic documentation of the final results. Above is a 15 minute section taken, unedited, from the work, and below is a video of the piece which gives a sense of how it looked and worked.