Name: D’Art Buoy.
Who: Benedetta Piantella Simeonidis.
What: A site-specific multimedia installation that creates generative and meditative sounds thanks to a buoy anchored in the East River, which broadcasts its presence and voice live through music and evening light shows.
With: Generative audio composition, conception and programming by Gadi Sassoon.
More music conception, composition and performance by Alex Giorgetti, Ben Murphy and Andy McCarthy. Recorded by Jess Dunlap, Conrad Osipowicz @ WERS Studios. Mixed by Mike Davidson and Alex Giorgetti.
When: 26-27-28 September 2008.
Where: Brooklyn Bridge Park Beach.
Why: 12th Annual Art Under The Bridge Festival held by the Dumbo Arts Center.
Dumbo is the part of Brooklyn between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, giving both parks on the East River a perfect view of the bridges. This installation also sits between two of the massive Waterfalls designed by Olafur Eliasson.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park
The location of the buoy and of most of this piece is the beach between the two bridges. The buoy is anchored a few feet from the shore while marble steps in semi-circle represent the perfect ‘amphitheater’ area for the audience to sit down and contemplate the audio composition broadcasted by the speakers.
This is an overview of the Brooklyn Bridge Park beach, which is open to the public from morning until about 11pm (midnight during the festival days).
From the park, the grass and the trees, people move to the steps down to the pebble beach.
The buoy will not only broadcast the accelerometer readings via small frequency radios (I chose to use Xbee radios instead of Bluetooth for better energy consumption and larger coverage) but will also charge during the day to glow for a few hours from sunset to close. 3 floating solar lamps surround the inflatable buoy that contains the radio module. The solar lamps will create interesting light shows and a fantastic atmosphere.
The Original Inspiration for the Buoy
This project sprung from the research I had conducted on the contemporary Tsunameter systems employed by the NOAA to detect and assess tsunamis and their inundation maps.
My research on the sensors is on my ITP blog.
My sensor report is on the ITP Sensor Workshop page.
Some of my presentations on the topic here.
More importantly this installation belongs to a series of works that I have been developing around the theme of the Tsunami (having survived the Tsunami of 2004 while on spiritual retreat in Southern Sri Lanka). This series of works will culminate into a reforestation effort that I am focusing on right now, called The 40.000 Trees Project.
Electronics & Data
Due to the length of coverage and better battery consumption, I am using low power digital radios. Taking advantage of Zigbee IEEE 802.15.4 standard communication protocol for wireless personal area networks I am using Xbee Series 1 modules to communicate between the buoy and the Mac Mini/ Laptop.
The base station simply connects the Receiving Xbee to the Serial Port on the computer and later to Max/MSP. While the sending unit includes the Xbee, the accelerometer plus the battery.
The Remote radio sleeps at certain intervals in order to conserve useful energy. During testing I managed to obtain 54 hrs of data transferring with a single AA battery.
During previous tests this is what the data coming in looked like:
Speakers & Audio
The more i visited this Park, the more it started taking on a different meaning for me. I was more interested in creating a beautiful space for others to develop memories into, rather than a place where to share my own.
THE MARBLE STEPS
It would have been really great to project somewhere close to the buoy. I think that keeping the space confined by angle of vision while also keeping it also more intimate, would have worked best for this environment. Projecting in white light things like phrases, bits of conversations, historic quotes and love poems on the dark marble steps can create the perfect mood for a solitary moment as well as for a romantic date to remember.
These are the rocks that embrace the beach on both sides. Among them is where i ‘disguised’ Rock Wireless Speakers. The rocks could have also represented a perfect location to project on phrases, photographic stills of my personal history mixed with the history of New York. I was also thinking to project images of waves crashing on the shore to not only broadcast the East River’s voice but also its visual power beyond its current boundaries.
I imagined the audio as something both organic and nature-inspired as well as somewhat melodic and romantic. A human touch. A conversation between human emotions and digital manipulation. Generative music that intertwines with samples, with instruments like classical guitar, violin or harp.
This park is one of those jewels of New York where you can finally appreciate what you have, where you are, what you have been working towards, for a minute or two, at least. The view of Manhattan is gorgeous and its thousands lights glow beautifully in the evening and so does the buoy. When the night is approaching it’s really nice to sit by this beach and get caught between the sound of the river and the subway train passing over the Manhattan bridge.
You can’t fully escape the city but you can carve out spaces for yourself to stop and think, to meditate upon a long day, to relax, to read a book, to sketch or to talk to a friend or lover. I want to enhance what it’s already there, the beauty of a space carved out of a busy industrial city by humans looking to feel like they were in a softer and more accepting environment. At least for a few deserved minutes of peace and contemplation.
This is where I sit and i am reminded that things are not so bad. That they can get better. That they can be worse. This is the place where i come to remind myself of the oceans, the waters, the rivers that still exist outside of the busy streets of the boroughs of New York. This is where I come looking for nature, looking for energy, looking for beauty in an often gray and cold city. This is where I am reminded that New York can be beautiful and that my life, at the end of the day, is not as stressful as it seems. I take a long breath and then I go home.
It’s better (and cheaper) than a visit to a psychologist.
p.s. For the audio composition Gadi & I worked on in the past, check out this blog page, where we used the readings coming in from a NOAA buoy anchored in Indonesia to create music and trigger samples based on tides.