Surface Bursary 2011: James Bulley – October Update

As the bursary period has progressed, I’ve been studying the use of textiles as a medium for interaction and sonification (the translation of input data into relevant sound). I’ve encountered a wide range of printing techniques and chemical processes involved in the day to day running of the workshop, and been exploring the history of tactilism in art, touch and sound works and notions of haptic perception.

Alongside and informing my research and development with textiles, touch and sound, September saw a new installation of Variable 4 sited on Elizabeth Castle off the coast of Jersey, (covered here on ITV and broadcast for 16 hours on BBC Medium Wave radio), the co-curation and opening of ‘Oramics to Electronica‘ at the Science Museum and a new interactive sound work that bid farewell to the Bush Theatre (created as associative artist with the art collective Non Zero One, here).

The last month has seen the physical realisation of the research areas I’ve been working on during the Surface Bursary. By way of an update, below is a photograph of the Braille score as a first prototype. The score is conceived to explore the potential of showing tactile work in a gallery context and the creation of artwork for blind and partially sighted people.

Prior to developing the piece in its full incarnation with textile surfaces, I’ve created the following handmade paper version (50x70cm, 300gsm Somerset Book paper) to enable the calibration of the touch sensitive and musical aspects that underly the work.

In this early prototype, each braille dot has been embossed by hand. Currently there are 8 areas of notation, each of which correspond to and describe a different generative musical element, triggered when read by the fingers. The score is designed so that at any given point there are multiple tactile routes available for anyone encountering the score.

Once a musical element is triggered, this musical theme develops based upon its notation using chance procedures, and only stops when no touch signal has been received on that notation for a specific amount of time (currently around 20 seconds).

Underneath the paper score is a touch sensitive backboard, with piezoelectric sensors that pick up vibrations from each of the 8 notation areas, sending signals through an Arduino board via custom software that then controls the score within Ableton Live.

The next stage will see the testing of the textiles and print element of the physical score, including prototyping the score with a number of different textiles, including different types of Tyvek and Leatherette, to create surfaces that have different qualities of tactility dependent on the sound content linked to it.

I’m planning to try a number of techniques to add the braille to these textiles at LPT, including embossing and puff printing. I’m open to any suggestions of ways to add the braille to the textiles (in a durable and legible way), as this has proven quite a conundrum, please let me know if you have any thoughts in the comment section below.

Alongside the creation of a textile version of the score, I will be integrating a further 8 sensors in a circle within the current 8 (see the square areas in the paper version above), which will correspond to less tonal versions of their corresponding outer musical counterparts. The aim with this is to explore the breakdown of the rigid Braille notation on the outer areas as the user reads towards the centre of the score (so as the user gets nearer to the centre of the score, the music will change from a strict notated form towards a more ambient atonal version of the score). This idea is also reflected in the tactile break down of the braille notation to more pattern based non-communicative braille aesthetic.

The layout of the score itself is also continually developing (with the help of graphic designer Joseph Hales) as I test the first prototype on various users. Below is an image of the most recent version, incorporating clearer tactile routes through the score.

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One Response to Surface Bursary 2011: James Bulley – October Update

  1. Pingback: » Leverhulme Surface Bursary

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