Elements of a Configuration
The team always consists of the two principal investigators and the external invited artist. Hanns Holger Rutz and David Pirrò take complementary roles. One of them joins the invited artist, and together they carry out development, implementation and artistic investigation within a selected algorithmic context. The other becomes facilitator and supervisor of this process, supporting the team in focusing on their agreed upon procedure and protecting them from counter-productive distractions.
The algorithmic context provides a frame of reference, pre-chosen by each team. Instead of a canonical algorithm, such as a cellular automaton or a generative grammar, a context precisely questions these boundaries and instead opens a search space for the experimentation. For example, if one takes a well-known algorithm in signal processing, a Feedback Delay Network (FDN), and decomposes it to its constituents, a context could be ‘feedback’ (recursion), ‘delay’ (diachronicity) or ‘network’ (connectionism). We want to understand how these constituents act when they are treated as compositional material. We look at their specific temporal, spatial, and performative affordances.
The investigation utilises a host environment in which algorithms are implemented and run and that forms part of the laboratory apparatus. We have built two software systems, Sound Processes2 and rattle,3 which are part of the permutation matrix such that Rutz and Pirrò in one configuration would each work with their own system, in another configuration with the partner’s system. In the first case, we would establish a state of ‘extimacy’, while the second case would foreground the idiosyncrasies through the adaptation process of a foreign composer. Likewise, the invited artists would either utilise their own software—in this case, the differential reproduction of the stable algorithmic context is ignited by the change in processor—or they choose to use Sound Processes or rattle—in this case, differences are produced by the change in human agent.
In the project's implementation, it became clear that the personal investment in each of these systems was too strong to force them onto the other researchers, so eventually each artist-researcher during the project worked independently with the system they developed.
Finally, we include a rhythmical element across the entire project, applying alternating strategies of ‘dilatation’ and ‘condensation’. This is on the one hand to create an additional support structure for the artists, something to help when the search space becomes too large, and on the other hand, more importantly, to counteract the strong bias of algorithms to produce growth (“generative”). By requiring the artists to contemplate the idea of an algorithm that “diminishes” material, we also want to encourage a subtractive way of working.
Dissemination and Assessment
We provide a variety of platforms, time scales and representations in which the results of this experimentation will be communicated, in order to work around the “blind spots” of each partial perspective and to assess the quality of the project.
In-between the configurations which last in their intensive phase around two months, there are events, occasions to present the findings and process for the general public and expert audiences, using mixed forms from concerts and exhibitions to symposia and workshops. These are conducted in collaboration with our international partners. Parallel to this, a continuous exposition is the ongoing transcription of each group’s work into the online Research Catalogue, a platform that allows the interleaving of text, sonic and visual objects, and also their discussion with the artistic research community. Furthermore, all experiments were to be observed and analysed by a scientific researcher who is not actively involved themselves in the artistic production process.
In the project's implementation, we abandoned the idea of a “neutral” third observer outside the artistic domain. Instead, the team was complemented by Daniele Pozzi as artist-researcher in an assistant role.
- Hanns Holger Rutz. ‘Marking a Space of Algorithmicity’. In: Proceedings of 4th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X (xCoAx). Bergamo, 2016.
- Hanns Holger Rutz. ‘Sound Processes: A New Computer Music Framework’. In: Proceedings of the Joint 11th Sound and Music Computing Conference and the 40th International Computer Music Conference. Athens, 2014, pp. 1618–1626.
- Georgios Marentakis, David Pirrò and Raphael Kapeller. ‘Zwischenräume – A Case Study in the Evaluation of Interactive Sound Installations’. In: Proceedings of the Joint 11th Sound and Music Computing Conference and the 40th International Computer Music Conference. Athens, 2014, pp. 277–284.