on top of the opera

An outdoor event on the roof of the opera house in Oslo, with two short concerts using video projection.
This was a projected iniated by electric violinist Victoria Johnson, which is currently a research fellow at the National State Academy of Music in Oslo.

The white marble opera house designed by Snøhetta has become one of the main tourist attractions in Oslo, with a nice view over the harbour and the city. It is almost like a iceberg that you can climb onto.

Standing on the roof, listening to the sounds of sirens and seeing something which could almost be a skyline (actually 90% of the tall buildings in Oslo are just behind the opera house), you could get the impression that Oslo is actually a big city!

opera_snohetta

In short, a quite spectacular setting.
The concert consisted of two compositions by Knut Vaage, Electra and multimorf, performed by Johnson and Thorolf Thuestad. Ellen Røed has made a beautiful volcano timelapse video for Electra, and I did a live impro video for multimorf.


We decided to do the concert in front of one of the walls of the stage tower, which is about 30x15m. We managed to cover one half of the wall, using a 15000 ansilumen projector.

We have performed multimorf twice before, in very different contexts: First with a big brassband at a concert venue in Bergen, then a stripped down version for electric violin,electronics and live video at the Concert Hall in Oslo. My video has changed from venue to venue, trying to adopt to the setting. The only connection between the three performances is a series of microscope images from brass instruments, which I made for the original version.
For the outdoor concert on the opera roof I wanted to have a more direct relation to the surface we projected onto, a beautiful aluminum wall with a relief pattern made by the artists Løvaas & Wagle.
The 30x15m wall consists of panels of the relief patterns and I decided to use my videoprojection tools software to mask rows and columns of these panels.

Working outside with a short timeframe means a lot of practical issues needs to be solved, and this left very little time for my slightly ambitious masking project.
It gets dark quite late in Norway in the spring, so the concert was to start at ten in the evening. Only at around nine was I able to see enough of the projection to actually start masking the image, so everything needed to be done in less than an hour. On top of this it was freezing, so I was literally shaking while I was trying to do very precise masking.

In the end, it turned out quite nice, and triggered some ideas for a project I am planning to do next year.

All photos from multimorf and of me is taken by Ellen Røed, thanks!

more images from the event.

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snow lab

snow lab, originally uploaded by hc gilje.

It is not so often that there is snow in Bergen, it usually rain by the time it hits the ground. But last week has been an exception, which finally gave me the opportunity to testing out my videoprojection tool on forms made in the snow. It was a pretty nice location, on the roof terrace of BEK overlooking the harbour of Bergen.
I hope to develop this snow projection project further as it is quite fascinating to explore black and white contrasts. I am especially happy with projecting black with a white background, check it out in the video below.
There are more images to see.


The wind-up birds continued

la forêt de Nouzhat Ibn Sima, originally uploaded by hc gilje.

The wind-up birds didn´t settle in the forest of Lillehammer.
Some of them went to the airport in Oslo, some of them to a park in Rabat, Morocco.
Two very different contexts in many ways:

Oslo Airport Gardermoen is celebrating its 10 year anniversary, and I was invited as one of two projects from the UT21 exhibition to be part of this anniversary.
The work was to be placed outside, in a passage between the parking area and the terminal building, a very busy pathway.

It was freezing, windy and wet the weekend it was installed. Of course everything at an airport involves heavy security, so I had a special permission card which I wore to avoid frightening passengers (bearded man climbing trees with electronics,wires and batteries). Actually I got a lot of strange questions, people wondering what these devices were against or for, was it to chase off the woodpeckers? When I explained that they were mechanical woodpeckers I got a lot of blank stares.
More images from the airport.


A week later I was off to Morocco, 25 degrees and sunny in Rabat, the capitol. There is a small art space there called l´appartement 22, run by Abdellah Karroum, which had been invited to present work at the first Brussels biennale. Abdellah decided to invite Anne Szefer Karlsen from HKS in Norway to curate some projects in Morocco, so she again invited Pedro Gomez Enza and myself to do projects in the frame of the Brussels Biennale, but in Morocco. It gets weirder.
Unlike the very organised airport project, things were a bit looser here. First we needed to find a location, and after some scouting I fell in love with a beautiful and strange park, on the outskirts of the center, la forêt de Nouzhat Ibn Sima( also known as le parc sportif), with lots of eucalyptus trees, cute fuzzy pine trees, mint tea houses and people exercising in the strangest ways.
Public art in Morocco isnt common and there had been quite a lot of discussion before my arrival as of what to do with permissions etc.
We ended up doing it without permissions, and therefore without a ladder to not draw attention on ourselves, and it turned into a strange undercover operation trying to set up woodpeckers in trees while pretending to do other things. We even drove around in a car while I was programming in the back seat.

I built a special version of the wind-up birds for this actionist installation. Basically I replaced the radio modems with a parasite brain (a timer and a light sensor), this made the birds more independent and maybe slightly more intelligent.
This actually corresponds quite well with the natural woodpeckers, some enjoy the company of its fellow creatures, while others insist on being alone.

more images from the wind-up birds in morocco, and some other images from morocco as well.

There are several types of natural woodpeckers in Morocco, but I unfortunately didn´t get a chance to see one.

colour psychology

tannerie, old medina in Fes, originally uploaded by hc gilje.

Last week I went to an inspiring lecture with professor Byron Mikellides from Oxford Brookes University about colour psychology.
Mikellides is together with Tom Porter editor of a new edition of Colour of Architecture Today which comes out in December this year. This book is a completely revised edition of the first one which came out in the seventies.

He spoke about colour related to our environment, about NCS (Natural Colour system), about the relation between the perception of time, volume, weight, size to colour.
He looked at different examples of combinations of colours in architecture, mentioning Josef Albers “Interaction of Color” as a great source for practical colour theory. Mikellides made a point of not only looking for relations in a space, but over time (diachronic), so looking at how colours change in the course of a day, over the seasons etc.

Since my primary interest in the topic comes from working with light and projection it was interesting to hear other people talking about painting with light, and he showed several interesting examples of use of light in architecture, particularly the architects Speirs & Major who have made a study of light with the website and book. (It doesn´t quite compare with the monster book from ZKM: “Light Art. Artificial Light (Emanating)).

lights out?

Park, originally uploaded by hc gilje.

I am not the most efficient blogger I have to admit, but its been a very busy period the last 2 months. Here is a short summary of my activities, I will elaborate on some of them in later posts:

After the opening of the wind-up birds in end of august I organised the seminar Conversations with spaces at Bergen Kunsthall Landmark, which was a success. I will most likely get the chance to see the work of two of the speakers, Lawrence Malstaf and Kirsten Dehlholm in november in Holland.

Straight after the seminar I went to New York, mainly to follow the conflux festival, but also to catch up with some people. I went to Kurt Ralske´s closing day of his show at the MFA Computer Art Gallery, I was at the opening of Luc deBois´ exhibition at bitforms, I saw Olafur Eliassons huge rotating mirror at PS1 and his waterfalls, the Buckministerfuller show at moma.
I hung out with Keiko Uenishi (oblaat) at conflux and share, Eric Redlinger showed me the mrmr application, Carrie Dashow explained her concept of live video editing for multiple cameras.
I had planned to get in touch with Eyebeam, but after two months of not answering my emails I gave up. 

The next two weeks I spent in a monastery cell of the grey brothers in Roskilde, Denmark, preparing for my installation Shift at Museet for Samtidskunst. It is part of a show called Total Aktion (on until christmas).

On my way back from Denmark I met the wind-up birds who had settled down at the airport in Oslo, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the airport.

Right after that some of them flew to Morocco, which is where I spent the last week as well. This was part of the Brussels biennale.

wind-up bird(s)

Introducing a new species, the wind-up birds.
The wind-up birds are a flock of mechanical woodpeckers, having found their first home in a forest in Lillehammer, Norway as part of the UT-21 project.

How will nature treat them, with hostillity or acceptance? How will the wind-up birds adapt to heat/cold wet/dry conditions? Will small insects creep inside the circuitry creating possible short circuits, beetles eat the wood, squirrels use the wood slit as nut storage (or the roof as a slide?), birds use it as a shelter, etc.? Will they be treated as foreign objects or accepted into the local eco-system?
How do real woodpeckers react? Are they threatened, attracted, or not bothered? Will they use the roof as a pecking drum?
Initial tests indicate an attraction: it took 15 minutes for a real woodpecker to join a wind-up bird on the same tree.

Adding a layer to the perceived reality:
The sound of the wind-up birds easily fool humans. The initial reaction is surprise, and then bewilderment, as there seems to be a whole flock of birds communicating. Then the curiosity of trying to track them down, to localize the sound, becoming more aware of the surroundings, sharpening the senses.
This was the initial motivation for me, the movement of sound in a space, and the effort involved in trying to localize the source of the sounds which lead to a stimulation of our perceptive apparatus.
By introducing an element or layer which somehow relates to the environment, but still is a bit off (It is very unlikely to hear a flock of woodpeckers drumming at the same time, and it is usually restricted to the mating season in the spring), you perceive the reality differently. This could be called an animalistic alertness, one of the three listening modes described by Barthes  (Listening).
This project is related to my soundpockets project, and as with that work I feel it is somehow more interesting when people happen upon it by chance, instead of looking for a piece of art in the forest.

The development of the wind-up birds have gone through a lot of phases:
It was important for me that the sound produced was not playback of a recorded sound, but mechanically produced, so I looked at many different ways of creating resonance boxes and ended up with a construction resembling a wood block: a piece of wood with a slit. I ended up using a simple push-magnet solenoid for the mechanical part.
The first prototype was an arduino board, the solenoid and the woodblock, trying to find the right pecking frequency for the solenoid, and testing different woodblock designs.
I decided to add a roof, to protect the wood and circuitry from heavy rain.

Since the wind-up birds are communicating, they needed to be in a wireless network. I decided early to use the xbee radios which are programmable, low-energy, high speed radio modems which can work in a mesh network.
A lot of effort was put into creating and deciphering xbee datapackets to be used in the arduino/processing environment.
Energy consumption was an important factor in the project, since the wind-up birds would be in a forest with no access to electricity and should be active for a month. One strategy was to use low-power components. It´s amazing the difference between two voltage regulators for instance when they have to be on for a month(the difference in consumption was the size of the battery I ended up using for the whole project).
I also decided to use a low power version of the arduino, basically just the microcontroller chip running at half speed (which meant using a AVR programmer to program the chips).
The other important factor in reducing energy consumption was to make use of the xbee and arduino´s capability to go to sleep when inactive. I decided the wind-up birds would be pecking about every 5 minutes, and inbetween they would sleep. Also at night they would be sleeping.
After having decided upon the components to be used, I designed a prototype circuit, which was later made into a proper circuit board making it easier to mass produce the birds.
It took a lot of trial and error to get the wind-up birds alive and pecking in the lab, but I had a pretty reliable setup when I placed them in the forest. The challenge in the forest was to find interesting locations within the range of the network, and to find interesting pecking patterns. I ended up making a system where the pecking pattern is different everytime, so it wouldn´t become a simple playback of movement, but a dynamic system.

More images of the wind-up birds

thanks to Tom Igoe, Jeff Mann, Kristian Skjold and Roar Sletteland for helping me realize this project.

Here is a link to the first technical post related to the project, which covers how to program and hook up a atmega168 as a minimal arduino standalone, using the internal oscillator running at 8mhz and 3.3 volts.

UT-21: polish norwegian art project

UT-21 is an art project that invites 7 Polish and 7 Norwegian artists to work in Lillehammer- Norway, outside galleries and Museums.
The name UT-21 reflects two things:

  • UT can simply mean ”out” (of the Museum) or ”without title”

  • 21 refers to the fact that in 1987 there was a similar art project in Lillehammer with Polish and Norwegian artists and that in 2008 it will be 21 years since this took place.

‘UT-21’ presents interventionistic art which comprises land art, urban interventions etc. Interventionistic art means art projects which in one way or another include or reflect the physic, social or mental structures associated to a special place. The works are often characterized by being temporary and procedural. Points of contact with daily life and the surroundings we all relate to in a close and natural way, the landscape and the urban environment, may enable the communication between the work of art and the observer to become both more unpredictable and immediate than an encounter with art in a traditional setting. We want to create an exciting and intensive meeting between art and public, between art from Poland and Norway, in the tradition art outside galleries, in 2008 in Lillehammer.

Participating artists:

Jan Berdyszak, Teresa Murak, Janusz Baldyga, Egil Martin Kundøl, Marit Arnekleiv, Leszek Golec, Tatiana Czekalska, Marte Aas, HC Gilje, Elzbieta Jablonska, Anna Widén, Oskar Dawicki, Maciej Kurak, Maksymilian Skorwider, Grim Erland Lyng Svingen, Victoria Pihl Lind.

Images of some of the projects

the UT-21 website