Infinity Divided by Sixteen

1987 ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
Coauthors: Jeffrey Shaw, Harry de Wit (sound)

Software: Larry Abel
Hardware: Charly Jungbauer

This installation attempted to create an interactive conjunction of visual and sound components whereby the viewer’s exploration of its iconographic space simultaneously constituted the composition of its auditory space.

The installation consisted of a finely perforated projection screen that was visibly divided by black lines into a four-by-four grid of sixteen sections. Every section concealed a single speaker, each connected to one of sixteen individual amplifiers and tape decks. The viewer controlled the visual movement of the projected imagery using two trackballs to pan left, right, up and down, as well as a toggle switch to control zooming in and out.

The sixteen sound tracks were composed and recorded specially by Harry de Wit for this installation. Each sound track was assigned to a specific section of the screen, and the volume of each of these spatially located sound tracks was modulated by real-time analysis of the changing light intensities of the images being projected onto that section of the screen. Harry de Wit’s compositional strategy for the sixteen sound tracks specifically addressed the fact that they would always be modulated and combined in an aleatory manner.

The analog image-to-sound control system technically entailed putting the projected imagery onto a separate TV monitor, in front of which a grid of sixteen photoelectric sensors was mounted. These sensors were connected to voltage-controlled amplifiers so their respective registrations of the varying light intensities in each section of the screen directly affected the volume of the sound tracks assigned to each of the sixteen speakers. Thus the user-controlled movement of the imagery over the screen surface caused the simultaneous mixing of the sixteen sound channels, and the dynamics of this sound mix was determined by the shifting distribution of light intensities caused by the viewer's manipulation of the images.

The pictorial space created for this installation embodied a specific composition of images that were both conceptually and formally organised in relation to the sixteen-part division of the screen.  For example the shapes of certain images could activate a diagonal or horizontal line of speakers, while a single small image could be moved from one single speaker section to another. The chessboard configuration of one particular image could be positioned to address clusters of eight of the sixteen speakers. Furthermore, zooming on images would change the number of screen sections being illuminated and thereby immediately increase or decrease the number of speaker channels being played.

Exhibition Record

1987/06/26 - 07/03 : Image and Sound Festival, Haags Filmhuis, Den Haag, Netherlands

1987/11/27 - 12/06 : Manifestation for the Unstable Media, V2, V2, Aawal 2a, Den Bosch, Netherlands