Melissa Clarke

time machine: inner landscape

Without a computer or a microcontroller, time machine: inner landscape is interactively controlled by five-fifty-five timer chips and photo resistors which advances slide show imagery and amplified sounds via analog and digital sound circuitry.

Basic Analog Circuits

The light and photocell sensor combination in this piece creates dynamical systems and feedback cycles, this is because the faster the slides go, based on the sensor interaction, the more likely it will become brighter and thus effect the relays, and this continues into very dynamic time results.

Ideally the space is dark and somewhat isolated. In that space, there are two physical units: a projection piece and a base/cabinet piece. These units face each other and are angled to give the a sense of receding away and moving towards. Virtually all working components, such as the five-fifty five timer circuits, operational amplifiers, sound circuits, speakers and the slide projectors are exposed and designed into one of the units. The other unit is an angled board that is mounted on the wall, and projected on by the slide projectors. While the projection is a visual focus, the other (base) unit is also a large part of the visuals. This base has been designed to invite curiosity and inspection. There are knobs that control sound elements. And photo resistors capturing bounced light that inform the slide projector speeds, via relays in the circuits.

The interaction takes place using the light of the projectors, both direct and bounced light in the room hit the photo resistors. The five fifty-five timer circuits, control the timing of the whole piece. Three projectors are controlled, each by a separate relays, triggered by these circuits. And the fourth circuit controls a motor spinning a blade covering and uncovering the bottom fourth projector this is more of a light to frequency circuit (no relay), this creates the feeling of many frames per second, since the strobe can go faster than the slides.
Lastly, there are contact microphones inside of the projectors, as well as signals running from the timer circuits into other oscillating sound and sound shaping circuits, then into operational amplifiers I made and little speakers built into the component unit. The sound one hears by both the knobs and the interaction. It is very rhythmic, somewhat mechanical and sounds sometimes like camera shutters.

Research and curiosity about electronics, physics and technology inform much of the content. The physics and theory behind electronics, which we covered in basic analog circuits, revealed a physical world that is moving at mystifying paces. Meanwhile we also learned how much of the technology has not changed in many applications; we continue to use nineteenth and twentieth century technologies in electronics. As well, in basic analog, we discussed, and I’ve done independent research, regarding the tiny and rapidly changing world of sensors, integrated circuits, and other advances such as in the areas of optics and sound communications. I also built on past work I’ve done exploring geophysics and geology.

I anticipate this project would appeal to people who enjoy experimental media art, analog and digital technology, optics, science, rocks and crystals and people who like anything handmade.

User Scenario
The time frame to experience the piece can be as short or as long as desired. Ideally the piece has a life of its own to some degree, since there are a number of combinations and variations that can happen between the sensors informing the visuals and sounds. Typically the relays will advance the images every few seconds and the strobe effect motor should give the appearance of 24 frames per second. At the faster speeds the relays move up to ten times a second or more, which is a little much for the projectors, but should be only occasional at that speed.

The ideal user would try to understand if something is, or what is, causing these shifts to happen with the slide projector technology, which is general not assumed interactive and so dynamic. They may try to see where the sound is coming from on the different speakers and ask to play with the knobs on the base console. Or they may attempt to interact with the timing of the piece.

While overall the piece may actually seem somewhat repetitive and minimal when experienced for a long period of time, it can also be erratic at times. Ideally this would appeal to people that enjoy this contrast.

If you look at my blog documentation, you will see: the physical parts of the project have been built. Most of the circuits have been designed, although still need tweaking. The audio speakers are now being set into the base/cabinet unit.

What I have left to do: clean up the sound and overall interaction, which means tweaking at school, because everything changes outside of the studio. Also left to do is to open up the back panel of the base/cabinet and laser cut the house for the circuits and knobs. As well, I plan to finish the wood and paint the sides of the projection unit.

It seems obvious that creating moving images and sound on the computer is really popular and the way things have gone for a reason, mostly because you get a lot more bang for your buck. But at the same time, like most tech/media artists, I got sick of staring at the computer screen, and I wanted to work with my hands. I discovered I like electronics and crafting with all the little components, it is an art form and meditative. However, while I learned that making electronic pieces without programming them is somehow physically rewarding, it’s also really challenging. Making sound and interaction with these circuits takes a tremendous amount of time, and very hard to control. Things will work for a while, then suddenly not work, and there isn’t any code to go back to or command Z.

Lastly, extremely hard work is the key to understanding what seems like the most esoteric skills and knowledge, especially related to tech and engineering stuff. I always wanted to play with this stuff, but I felt it was not accessible. To continue I tell myself, doubt will kill attempts in getting at core of a subject matter. Don't be afraid to push hard and block out negative expectations.