Forking Shadows

Sound and light installation.

«He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times
which themselves also proliferate and fork.»

J. L. Borges, “The garden of forking paths”

Once I looked at a pendulum casting its shadow on the floor. I wondered whether it was possible to stop the movement of the pendulum and yet observe a swinging shadow.

I built a sort of “totem”, made of wallpaper, hanging from the ceiling. This artefact stands still in the middle of the space, and casts its shadow on the wall. Actually, it casts more than one shadow, because the light source is a series of 12 aligned LED lamps: their timing, lightness and colour configuration is controlled by a Max/MSP patch. LED lamps normally contain three different colours of LEDs, red, green and blue, the mix of which creates the whole range of colours. In my installation, those three colours are independently controlled and they cast three layers of shadows on the wall; the lights are activated and deactivated in such a way that makes the shadows swing as if they were cast by an oscillating element.

Accompanying these oscillations, nine different sound sets, each one constituted of ten sound samples, are used to resemble clock-strokes. The samples were recorded scratching the grainy surface of the wallpaper. An always different pitch-shifting structure enables a custom harmonic development in time, exploiting the quasi-pitched feature of the resonating paper. This way, the light beams are ideally “touching” the totem and producing the sound themselves. In fact, the totem becomes a sort of immobile, extraneous object similar to the monolith of “2001: a space odyssey”: it remains always the same, despite the passing of time; it is a sort of out-of-time, eternal element.

The installation is a 6/7 minutes cycle of events (every time occurring in a different flavour). At the beginning, the three colours are bound together in a slow oscillating movement, and a single shadow is cast on the wall. Later, the three layers/colours are used as three polyphonic voices which start to differentiate their speed, thus intertwining in a counterpoint. The overall speed becomes so fast that an almost continuous granular status of the material is achieved. Here, the dimensions of the game are subverted, and the 12 lamps react all together to a multitude of 40 patterns (actually visualizing a FFT analysis), which gradually melt into single clockstroke-like rhythms. The material is now back to its initial state and a new cycle begins.


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The work was developed in Inter Arts Center, Malmö (Sweden) and was premiered in Århus (Denmark) on December 9th, 2012.

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