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Artists’ Statements 189 Fig. 2. Sam Woolf, The Sound Gallery, installation, 1999. A group of participants are immersed in an electronic environment, the structure and makeup of which transforms to match their movements. (© Sam Woolf. Photo: Sam Woolf; Photoshop collage: Gavin Graham) 2. From the Icelandic words hita (geothermal hot water) and vaettur (protector spirit). 3. For information on the thermocouple system, see G.F.C. Rogers and Y.R. Mayhew, Engineering Thermodynamics, Work and Heat Transfer, Third Edition (London: Longman, 1980). 4. D. Dominick Lombardi, “Two Approaches to Nature : Mysterious vs. the Unearthly,” New York Times, Westchester Edition (28 February 1999) p. 14. THE SOUND GALLERY: PROJECT STATEMENT Sam Woolf, 75 Cholmeley Crescent, Highgate, London N6 5EX, United Kingdom. E-mail: . Received 12 November 1999. Accepted for publication by Roger F. Malina. The Sound Gallery utilizes ideas and techniques derived from the science of artificial life (A-life) to create an interactive and adaptive installation artwork. The field of artificial life has spawned a diversity of new artistic media and sources of inspiration. There now exists a substantial body of work belonging to the canon of A-life art, and a growing number of artist/scientists who are increasingly active in the field. The Sound Gallery adds a new artwork to this lineage , drawing its inspiration from other works of A-Life art, but also making some notable advances. It achieves interactive and adaptive behavior in novel ways, making use of reconfigurable hardware technology that (as far as I am aware) has never before been appropriated for artistic ends. The composer Arnold Schoenberg claimed that music could be defined as “repetition and variation.” The aim of The Sound Gallery is to take this statement both literally and to its logical extreme : a sound source is transformed into “music” through repetition and distortion as it plays through four separate speakers simultaneously. The signal to each speaker is endowed with variations by the intervention of separate signal-processing circuits. The electronic character and makeup of these circuits—and, hence, the precise distortion effects they entail—are in a state of perpetual flux. The circuits are constantly manipulated and reconfigured through a process of artificial evolution driven by aesthetic selection pressures. The four speakers are to be positioned in an open gallery setting. Audience members, passers-by and curious parties will be encouraged to interact with this gallery space in whatever ways they deem fit. They should allow themselves to drift freely through the gallery space, exploring the soundscape generated by the speakers within it and seeking out those areas they find the most aesthetically pleasing or, at worst, the least repellent. Sensors in the gallery track the movements of those present over time. Fitness values for each of the four speakers will be derived from this information and passed to a genetic algorithm controlling the evolution of the four reconfigurable circuits. The fitness value of a particular speaker will be calculated from the movements of the audience and the ways in which individuals interact with that speaker. The fitness definition used will be one that has been designed to place the four speakers in direct competition , each one struggling against its adversaries for the possession of a scarce resource—the attention and appreciation of human spectators. A working prototype of the Sound Gallery system was developed at Sussex University, United Kingdom, during the summer of 1999. I am currently seeking funding to further develop this project, and exhibition space in which to display it. It is difficult to capture the aesthetic appeal of The Sound Gallery within a single image, as the project’s only physical embodiment is a bundle of fairly unattractive looking electronic circuitry. It is the dynamic and reactive qualities of the project that are its most interesting features, and these cannot be captured within a static photograph. Figure 2 depicts a number of volunteers interacting with The Sound Gallery system during a prototype run at the Center for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at Sussex University. ...


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