:echōlot is an ambient audio-reactive light installation, which imagery complements the music, providing the viewer with graphic echo feedback.
I wanted to take the medium of interactive motion graphics towards the direction different from creating a complicated digital mirror responding to our behaviour through various sensors. I didn't want to grab the viewer's attention with flashy images either, as that TV-style approach is nullifying the atmosphere and the significance of the place it’s displayed at.
My goal was to create a setting for the encounter—a piece, which would aesthetically melt with the atmosphere so the spectator who meets with the art could feel their presence in the here and now. Something lush, which will stop time from flowing for a while. Something lucid, pleasant for scrutinization and yet not being unraveled too early.
On one hand, graphics should blend with the architecture and ambient light conditions, to better fuse into the scenery. On the other hand, its motion should not react to the shape of the sound mechanically, like a spectrum analyzer, but should subtly extend the musical piece itself, so its movements become sounding synesthetically.
The artistic effect of the installation is achieved by synchronization of the complex visual structure with music. The four core parameters of the :echōlot—swaying, breathing, unfolding and emerging—are all driven by the music's phrases and structure. Rhythmical palette of the ambient techno genre perfectly complements to hypnotic visuals.
The project started with creation of an image. During the sketching phase I was balancing between analog and digital equally applying all the techniques and tools I had in my possession, until I have finally achieved the uniform result and have brought my vision to life.
Next, that intertwined sci-fi sigil was translated into the visual language of thick solid monochrome lines with slightly rounded corners, to complement to the mood of daydreaming melodies, played live on set by analogue synthesizers. That was done on a tiny laptop during a trip (mostly outdoors).
The animation was also created outside. Eliminating any noticeable gaps in the loops and imparting very subtle motion to the rig was required for a pleasant contemplation—where you could focus on sound with your eyes relaxed. And as soon as all the weights and counterweights were dialled and rendered out, the time came for making this piece responsive.
Setting up the scene so I could fine-tune its music interactions live was a matter of choosing the right tool. I consider visual programming languages more appropriate for that type of work than a code-based languages or game engines. But none of the above provides any convenient way to work with dynamic vector graphics, so I had to export all the assets and animation data, optimize them and then recreate the rig in a realtime environment.
Derivative TouchDesigner was barely able to run the graphics until I upgraded my rig with the latest hardware. vvvv has showed some really great performance at a cost of barely having GUI. Flaretic, newly-created tool of Julien Vulliet aka mr. vux—turned out really well, while is still being developed. Truth to be told, the engineering phase took me a while.
When the installation was ready, the scenery of The Popov's Passage, a desolated 19ᵗʰ century shopping arcade, was chosen for displaying and shooting. Currently giving shelter to a huge architectural bureau, its white walls and rich interior details served as a perfect museum-looking space for an audio-visual project of that nature. On the other hand, less than a generation ago that space was full of visitors, cutting from Kuznetskiy Most to Pushechnaya Street through its numerous кафетушки (cafés)!
Being able to set the installation among the walls, silently keeping echoes of footsteps from the past, was considered as a great opportunity to celebrate the spirit of my beloved hometown.
The whole :echōlot project is an étude for bigger AV piece I have in mind for a long time and which is still being worked on. I hope to release it someday, but for now—thank you for your interest and see you next time.