Liquid Architecture [IX Symposium, MUTEK MTL, MUTEK MX, Festival TransArt]

An audio-visual collaboration between Wiklow, Diagraf and Ewerx, Liquid Architecture approaches generative composition and performance methods in an immersive environment. Combining LIDAR data and creative modelling, real-world structures and imaginary landscapes are displaced and reconstructed point-by-point in a 3D immersive projection environment. Ancient churches, waterfalls and forest environments melt into one another, combining to create impossible structures. As each scene builds and dissolves, a transformation of energy takes place, contrasting the ideas and beliefs they represent.

“Liquid Architecture” is a forty-five minute immersive audio-visual performance created and performed by Michael Dean and Patrick Trudeau with collaboration from visual programmer Ehsan Rezaie. Based on the re-representation of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system data, immense real-world structures and environments are represented in a highly digitized form. The work exposes a fierce contrast of values, juxtaposing waning traditions with a mirage of new technological developments. Generative performance techniques are a primary focus, resulting in unique performances. Using the natural world to imitate digitalism, the work responds to the ‘post-digital’ aesthetic.

The work addresses the current climate of audio-visual performance:

  1. Audio and visual components are considered a singular entity.  Audio and visual mediums share performance data and generate content by translating visual content into sound, and visa versa. A common aesthetic is used to communicate a reaction to extreme digitalism.
  2. Immersive techniques are used as primary compositional elements. Composed independently of a single configuration, the work is developed as a basis for future projects. The performance may be adapted to a variety of performance environments and loudspeaker configurations.
  3. Generative performance techniques.  A shared performance system is developed to generate performance data. This is part of the artists desire to engage in conversation with the computer as a part of the creation and performance process. These techniques ensure a unique and unpredictable performance on each presentation, for both the audience and the performers.

The work is a response to ‘post-digitalism’. In post-digital artworks, errors, glitches and bugs are used as primary artistic materials. The failure of digital technology becomes desired. Digital processing techniques are used to expose the characteristics of the medium so that it becomes difficult to determine what what components in an artwork is actually present, and what may be a by-product of an environment or playback medium. Now, with over a decade of tradition, the use of digital artefacts have become standard media vocabulary. This has led to a disassociation with glitch as technological failure.

Through “Liquid Architecture”, we respond to this normalization of glitch. We extend the use of by-products as compositional elements. We aim to achieve a sense of ‘glitch’ in the natural world through the use of ‘meta’ effects, a concept borrowed from 1960s minimalism. Often, these effects are a result of psychoacoustic or psychovisual manipulations, such as ‘ghost tones’ that are created as a result of sound interactions, or visual movement that appears from interference patterns (like the ‘moiré effect’).

Referencing the post-digital lineage, we also make reference to this original aesthetic of failure. When digital visual systems break down, images are reduced to simple polygonal shapes. The primary content of “Liquid Architecture” is thus made from simple geometry and ‘point-cloud’ data.

These are married with particle systems and physics engines to induce natural behavior in the materials. The use of 3D point cloud data provides a unique method of manipulating visual content. This data is taken from a number of scans produced by Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system data in order to represent immense real-world structures and environments are represented in a highly digitized form. Each point or data-set can be acted on by complex theories such as fluid dynamics or the swarming behavior of birds.These serve to create transitions and transformations of content that is both original and elicit a connection with the natural world. Combined with a strong sense of digitalism, old is set against new, tradition against technology.

The performance of both audio and visual content is influenced by data that is produced by a shared system. Additionally, each performer generates content from their individual machines. Data is sent back and forth, communicating spatial, rhythmic, colour and various signal information. Custom code allows either performer to dig deep into the internals of signal generation and affect the result in a sort of feedback loop: signals driven by signals driving signals.

Intended for presentation in a variety of immersive performance environments, the project exists independently of specific technical configurations. Multi-projection dome environments, virtual-reality headsets and multi-screen projections as well as multi-channel speaker configurations and binaural listening environments are considered. As part of the MUTEK festival and at the Société des arts technologiques artist-in-residency, “Liquid Architecture” will be presented in using a multi-projection dome environment with a thirty-one channel loudspeaker system.

Liquid Architecture is part of a year-long artist-in-residency program at the Société des arts technologiques in Montréal, Canada. Over 28 performances have already been scheduled, including at MUTEK, at the Société des arts technologiques and Festival TransArt.

  • IX Symposium [Demo]. La Société des arts technologiques. Montreal, Canada. 2 June 2017.
  • MUTEK Montréal. La Société des arts technologiques. Montreal, Canada. 24 August 2017.
  • Festival TransArt. Stahlbau PICHLER. Bolzano, Italy. 10 September 2017.
  • MUTEK Mexico. Mexico City. 11-15 October 2017.
  • Satosphère. La Société des arts technologiques. Montreal, Canada. 2-21 November 2017. [30 presentations]

The code used to develop the project is found here:

Photo credits: Sébastien Roy