in collaboration with Chris Salter, Sofian Audry, Adam Basanta, Elio Bidinost and Thomas Spier
N-Polytope (After Xenakis) is a spectacular light and sound environment combining cutting edge lighting, lasers, sound, sensing and artificial intelligence software technologies inspired by composer Iannis Xenakis’s radical 1960s-1970s works named “Polytopes” (from the Greek poly, many and topos, space). As large scale, immersive architectural environments that made the indeterminate and chaotic patterns and behavior of natural phenomena experiential through the temporal dynamics of light and the spatial dynamics of sound, the polytopes still to this day are relatively unknown but were far ahead of their time: a major landmark in the history of the audio-visual arts and performative architectural practice.
This re-imagining at LABoral runs in both a 25 minute performance as well as a continuously evolving installation mode, both steered through a sensor network utilizing cutting edge machine learning algorithms which learns different rhythmic and temporal patterns produced by the light and sound and helps in generating a totalizing, visceral composition that self organizes in time. 150 10 Watt LED’s and many tiny speakers are suspended through the space on a single ruled surface constructed of thin aircraft cable, creating a walk-through performance environment which continually swings between order and disorder, akin to Xenakis’s original fascination with the behaviors of natural systems. Creating bursts of light as well as evolving patterns, the behavior of the LED’s suggest cosmological events, like the explosion of stars and supernovas. While the LED’s create a changing space of bursting points, colored lasers that bounce off the surface of fixed and changing mirrors generate fleeting architectures of lines and shapes that that appear, flicker and disappear before the visitors’ eyes. Counter-pointing the intense visual scenography, multi-channel audio from the small speakers as well as the larger environment fills the space, shifting between sparse natural and dense electronic textures – noisy bursts, clangerous, gamelan-like lines and percussive explosions of sound. Across the architectural structure, the network of tiny speakers produce the behaviors of mass sonic structures made up of many small elements (sonic grains) creating swarms of tiny sounds that resemble a field of cicadas or masses of insects.
N-Polytope is more than just a historical exercise but instead an attempt to grasp how Xenakis’s’ interest in modeling the behavior and patterns of nature and the cosmos in their exquisite fluctuations between order and disorder more than forty five years ago can still powerfully resonate with our own historical moment of extreme instability in natural and artificial systems creating in our current time a strange, flickering, unstable world of non-human presences constructed of light, sound and space that unfold before us.
- Concept/Direction: Chris Salter
- Composition: Chris Salter and Adam Basanta
- Architectural Design: Thomas Spier
- Casing, Lighting and Laser System Design: Elio Bidinost
- Embedded Systems and Micro Sound & Light Design/Programming: Marije Baalman
- Structural Consultant: Schlaich bergermann und partner / David Sommer
- Electronics Assembly: Rene Wassenburg (Schrikdraad Ontwerp) and Stan Verberkt
- Openframeworks Laser Mirror Control Software: Samuel Tissot-Jobin
- Production: LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial and LabXModal, Montreal
- Electronics design: Simon Claessen (drukknop) and Marije Baalman
- Electronics assembly: Alexandre Saunier, Garrett Lockhart, Owen Coolidge
- Casing design: Morgan Rauscher, Alexandre Saunier
- Casing design: Garnet Willis
- Production assistance: Martin Kaffarnik, Alexandre Saunier
- Architectural design: Marije Baalman
- September 22 - 24, 2021, TRANSART festival, Bolzano, Italy
- September 1 - October 23, 2018, “Open Codes”, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany
- June 21 - October 8, 2017, “In search of Expo ‘67”, Musée d’Art Contemporaine, Montréal, Québec, Canada
- October 3, 2015, Nuit Blanche Paris, Hallo Pajol / Jardins Rosa Luxembourg, Paris, France
- May 1 - 13, 2014, Darling Foundry, Montréal, Québec, Canada
- January 26 - February 23, 2014, CTM ‘14, Stattbad Wedding, Berlin, Germany
- January 2014, Lighttopia, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany
- July, 20 - September 10, 2012, LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Gijón, Spain
In collaboration with:
With the support of:
Behaviours of light and sound
This post was originally written in 2018, but then not published on the website yet. I’m happy to post it now, finally! In this post, I will describe how the sound and light composition of N-Polytope is structured. For this I will start with the physical components, describe the sound synthesis and light synthesis algorithms, and then go to the bigger picture of the composition with these instruments and how the machine learning algorithms are used.