Chris Salter

art / design / research / writing

Installation / Environment

Four participants enter into a small, closed off, pitch black dark room. The room houses a large architectural construction: 4, 1 x 6 meter long tunnels outfitted with a series of taught, fabric muslin screens. The rear screen is solid while the others feature progressively larger rectangular openings. Housed above the rear of the tunnels are cylindrical reflectors, each outfitted with 3 small but high powered super bright blue LED’s. The cylinders can be adjusted so that the back screens are indirectly lit from the LED’s. In the audio setup, a parabolic speaker/reflector is positioned at the rear of each tunnel. These serve the purpose of directing a columnated beam of sound directly through the tunnels. Additionally, a quadraphonic speaker setup and a subwoofer which can handle frequencies below 20Hz is positioned in the corners of the space and facing the walls so as to remove any perception of direct loudspeaker sources for the visitor.

A commercial CO2 sensor, which measures the fluctuations of CO2 in the room from the participant’s aggregate breath, is situated above the tunnel structure. Small changes of CO2 yield relatively static effects in their influence on the speed of change of lighting and sound intensity. Large changes of CO2 yield more pronounced results. These include raising and lowering the amplitude of the infrasonic audio signals (in the form of pulsed sine waves) continuously above and below the threshold of hearing, increasing the complexity of the audio mix, adding in higher, barely perceivable frequencies over 13Khz and finally, rapidly changing the speed of intensity of the LED’s. Such brighnesss changes yield oscillations or pulsing of the light, thus effectively making the tunnel architecture and the screens rapidly appear and disappear.

The experience lasts a duration of 15 minutes. The visitors are brought individually into the pitch black environment and shown their places on the floor by an attendant with a small flashlight. The visitors are told nothing about the technical system in the room; only to keep mindful of their breathing. Once all of the participants have entered, the room sits in total darkness for a period of 3 minutes. Gradually, a clock in the software increases the LED brightness level from 0-40% over the course of 8 minutes. Simultaneously, the system begins to poll the level of CO2 in the room every minute and, based on a look up table of values, begins to adjust the various audio parameters. After 8 minutes, the CO2 measurements begin to affect the lighting parameters as well. Sound, barely audible at the threshold of hearing, begins to fill the space from loudspeakers positioned in the distance, its amplitude, frequency and timbre almost imperceptibly altered by the minute changes and gradual fluctuations of carbon dioxide in the room’s atmosphere and the individual breathing of the participants.

Over the course of the 15 minutes, the barely perceivable lit surfaces slowly appear in the far distance. The changing intensity of the light’s color temperature makes these surfaces appear to be simultaneously flat and deep. The room, made apparent through the imperceptible changes of light and sound, appears to expand and contract, locked in a dynamic coupling with the participants’ own breathing patterns. Through a careful choreography of light and sound, the room moves in and out of the visitor’s threshold of perception with space functioning as a screen and canvas for their own mental projections and hallucinations.

Locations

Podewil and Transmediale,

Berlin, Germany  2004

Materials

Computers, microcontroller, 4 co2 sensors, 8 superbright LED's, plastic tubing, wood and MDF construction, batiste cotton screens (5 per unit)

Collaborators

Concept/Direction: Chris Salter
Collaboration: Thomas Spier, Kaaren Beckhof
Technical Assistance: Dylan McKay