Platinwald a Conductive Sound Installation

Platinwald is a sound-producing installation engaging with tactility through interaction. Using materials not seemingly paired with technology, the piece challenges the notion of existence through the relationship of physicality and the juxtaposition of the intangible aural experience which unfolds before the explorer.

The project’s creator, Media & Sound Artist Thalia Agroti mentions that through its playful environment, the installation aims to focus attention on embracing the fleeting moment spent in the space rather than questioning further.

While tracing the terrain of embroidery inspired by aerial views of streams, an intimate and ephemeral experience unravels, formed by touching and hearing. Much like wandering lost in thought through a forest, echoes of the vastness of nature reflect the process of interaction at it’s most exploratory, whether fuelled by instinct or simply curiosity.

The title of the piece means platinum forest in German and is a play on the name of a Berlin-based district called Planterwald. The specific district’s pronunciation has always amused the artist when passing by with the train upon frequent visits.

While she doesn’t nationally originate nor does the location pose a reference in relation to the project, it is surely a city in which Thalia personally feels a sense of belonging. The concept does not propose a focus on works that engage with the topology for the reason that in Platinwald’s case it is much more an imaginary and personal bubble which becomes present through the interaction with the material and in embracing the sounds.

In addition, the design of the embroidery which was largely inspired by aerial landscape shots of river streams and cracked ice insinuates an abstracted and distant perspective or observational view of the world from above.

The physical aspect of the work is made up of three double-sided geometric shapes of woolly fabric. The front surface’s design is digitally embroidered with platinum thread. The larger and thickest of streams have manually sewn within them a line of a conductive thread, which is connected to a single core wire tucked between the two sides of the fabric.

The reason for using a normal thread for the main design was to be sure that the individual conductive threads would not overlap, as well as having more control of which areas to use as triggers. The finished soft sculptures are finally attached to a wooden frame in order to have a more solid surface to touch against.

The wiring leads up to the Touch Board microcontroller, which is programmed in Arduino IDE. The Touch Board is mapped to communicate with Logic Pro in order to receive MIDI data.

Thalia created a customised virtual MIDI instrument where each piano key represented one of the sounds which she had produced beforehand.

Since the instrument is using notes, the keys had to be translated into midi numbers in order to be mapped correctly within the code. The majority of sounds are set to fade in and out and last about a minute except for a sound-effect like sound which is much shorter and can be re-triggered, unlike the rest. Each individual sound was created to play in harmony with all other sounds at whichever point it comes in as they eventually blend together until they all fade out when left alone.

Learn more about Thalia Agroti’s projects on her website.

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