Transubstantiation – Radiophonic Sculpture Installations | living documentary

Rabía Williams (ACA)

Radiophonic seed pod pictured: pod, copper wire 22, screws, AM radio receiver circuit (detail below), pill bottle coil, and telephone receiver.
Circuit

Through the telephone headset you can hear the AM long-wave radio, recognizable as radio with help of the diode.

AM receiver consists of:

  • Two coils (copper wire 22): 1st band of 40 turns and 2nd band 30 turns
  • 1N34A Germanium diode
  • 47k Capacitor
  • Variable Capacitor
  • Telephone headset – headphones
  • Insulated wire: 50ft for antenna / 25ft for grounding cable
My working corner in the Dinacon with AM radio transmitter.

Pulling radio waves, tapping in, circuiting, a translation,   somehow nothing feels so present as working with radio waves. But it is rather an act of presence.  Distance is compressed.  There is a leap in time. Wrapping the coil around the object keeps one present. If you are counting the turns, as any good crystal radio aficionado is supposed to, you cannot lose yourself in the action fully. I sometimes did this canal-side. It feels like a mantra.

During my time at Dinacon I was making radiophonic objects to create kinds of living documentary installations working with radio waves, found and archive objects and sound – the
so-called inanimate, the man-made and the natural.  They are something like witness objects.

I brought the pill bottle at the center of this pod from my grandmother’s house. Both my grandmother´s parents lived for a time in Panama, individually emigrating from the West Indies to Panama before coming to the States and eventually meeting each other in a church in Bedford–Stuyvesant, over 100 years ago. This pill bottle is for thyroid medication. My Grandmother´s thyroid was damaged as a child, burned through iodide painting, an experimental practice of the time. This left her with a permanent thyroid condition that she has been taking medicine for ever since.

I spend time in Gamboa´s Soberanía rainforest, sometimes recording alone and others times with Dina colleagues who made exploring a much more curious experience…

On the Laguna trail, Lisa Schonberg demonstrating the many sonic layers heard and unheard in this jungle – recorded with an ultrasonic mic.

Mostly the village of Gamboa seems like a ghost town, abandoned structures and houses.  You could easily walk the loop of the town without crossing another pedestrian.

But it does not sound like you are alone! Two sonar worlds seemed to rule here, the balance unknown:  

1) That of the jungle, which the town is carved and shaved into. These are sounds from inside the trees, the dirt, and grass, and the sky above.  As I rendered these sounds into words I think of my childhood books, a collection of descriptions: roaring, picking, tweeting, buzzing…, amongst my first words practiced just after Moma and Dada and no, no, Rabía no!   

2) The other sonar world sounds from the bordering canal. “Canal” is quite appropriate: a vibrating, tremble, something like a “horn blows low”.   It is a recognizable machine-at-work sound. And water

Does the nature remember, what? 

The people remember the territory occupied.  They remember who lived on which side of town.  Pastor Wilbur explains: “The Black West Indians lived on this side…” 

This town exists as an important drenching point.  Here in the town of Gamboa the land is always sliding into the canal and must constantly be dredged.

I  often wander around Gamboa town and I sometimes go to  Panama city for supplies. I record folks I meet, not on the street but along the way: a young man who is the son of Panamanian canal engineer- one of the only in his position during those times when Americans ran everything to do with the Canal; an American pastor recruited to preach in English over 40 years ago; and the local sign builder.  And I collect sound archives.  



The Americans came up with the locks as a solution for the canal project the French gave up on. 

Matthew Parker:
“[The canal] did not so much impact on the environment as change it forever. Mountains were moved, the land bridge between the north and south American continents was severed, and more than 150 sq miles of jungle was submerged under a new man-made lake. To defeat deadly mosquitoes, hundreds of square miles of what we would now call “vital wetlands” were drained and filled, and vast areas poisoned or smothered in thousands of gallons of crude oil.”
– Changing Course, The Guardian

 Many lives have been lost in the building of the canal, most to accidents and others to yellow fever.   The majority of lives lost were black men from the West Indies. Thousands died drenching the canal – over 20,000. 

I recover items from the River Charge:  flip-flops, obviously modern, so many types and sizes of flip-flops -there is something about shoes that are haunting – and find lots of pesticide containers and bottles of many different sorts. 

The Americans made there own little universe in Panama. The archives are astounding – and some shameless. ...”it was a provincially ordained world empire domination that the U.S. was meant to enjoy” – Jackson Lear
Pastor Wilbur shows me where one of the last standoffs happen of Noregas troops happened during in 1989.
By RA conversation across-time. Testing a mix at Dinalab space, live, working with archives American Propaganda film and a testimonial documentary about the 1989 Panama invasion.

Rabía Williams
salvaging for radio parts.

Nate Walsh

[August 1 – August 15th] Background in advertising and psychology. I currently live in Austin, Texas, USA, working at a…

Jorge Medina Madrid

Jorge Medina Madrid, es un estudiante de 24 años que cursa el último año de la carrera de Biología Animal…

Ananda Gabo

I am here as part of the documentation team for DiNaCon 2 (2019) to help archive some of the collaborative…

Unnatural Language – Michael Ang and Scott Kildall

By Scott (Seamus) Kildall and Michael Ang

Unnatural Language, a collaboration between Michael Ang and Scott Kildall, is a network of electronic organisms (“Datapods”) that create sonic improvisations from physical sensors in the natural environment. Each Datapod has custom electronics connected to sensors, a speaker, and a wireless network. The sensed data, for example from electrodes that measure the subtle electrical variations in the leaves of plants, is transformed into a unique synthesized sound. Encased in sculptural materials (natural fiber, leather, leaves, etc) and dispersed into a natural environment, the Datapods enter into a sonic dialogue with the existing ecosystem of plants and animals.

Unnatural Language proposes that technology and nature are forming a new hybrid ecology, where innovations such as intelligent devices that occupy the natural landscape are dissolving the traditional nature-culture dichotomy. This work repurposes this technology to amplify unseen processes such as plant intercommunication, river health and subtle microclimate changes. 

We were at Dinacon in Gamboa, Panama for 18 days and this was our first full development and installation of our project. After several adventures in the area, we decided to deploy eight Datapods in Lake Chagras, which feeds the Panama Canal, since this constitutes a transitional space: a brackish marshland, which also had signs of human outflow such as garbage floating in it.

At Dinacon, we developed two types of sensor-synthesizers. The first detected electrical conductivity levels in water and modulated different sampled sounds that we recorded of rocks sinking in water from a hydrophone. As the water quality fluctuated with these sensor readings, the output of the synthesizer played higher and lower-pitched samples accordingly.

For the water-based datapods, we put our speakers, and the electronics, which consisted of custom software synth code on an ESP32 chip with an on-board amp and water sensor onto various garbage flotillas, which we constructed from the litter that we had collected by kayak.

The second sensor-synth combination was a plant sensor, which detected electrical activity in plants using electrodes. Plants tend to respond relatively rapidly (2-3 minutes) in response to various environmental triggers. The synth we developed acted as a drum machine, modulating different tempos according the the plants that it was attached to.

We learned many things at Dinacon! Making a compelling Datapod took much longer than we thought it would. To achieve the best type of synth effect, we recorded humans performing an activity with the thing being sensed: rocks being thrown into water and water being poured through a strainer onto a plant. We then cut these up into bite-sized pieces and ported them into our software, which uses compiled C++ code on the ESP32 to make dynamic effects.

Also, the janky look for the sculptures themselves had a broad appeal and this will be a direction for the project into the future. We’re looking forward to further site-specific installations of Unnatural Language.

Many thanks to all our fabulous co-Dinasaurs for the wonderfully playful and productive atmosphere, and especially to our intrepid film crew (Monika, Ruben, Cherise, and Andy on the drone!)

Michael Ang & Scott (Seamus) Kildall

The Frog Show – by Mónica Rikić and Ruben Oya

Frog Show wants to elevate the singing frogs to an audiovisual experience.
Since our arrival to Gamboa every evening we were amazed by their singing. It didn’t sound like the frogs we knew. This was more of an electronic synth-like music performance. We saw opportuniy to join the frogs and develop some visuals to add to the show.

With the goal of low impact on the environment and not disturb the frog’s activity we came up with this solar-powered red LED installation. The solar power makes the system self-sufficient and the red light is known to be less perceived by frogs.

The installation relies on the following hardware: microphone, arduino board, battery pack, solar panel and LED strip.

Testing

The light effects are audio reactive and controlled through code on the arduino board. Every single frog sound triggers the LED strip depending on it’s volume.

The result is an installation that charges during daytime and activates at night with the frogs’s concert. You can read the intense activity of the animals through the light show.

Active show with frogs on a sidewalk

Technical details:

  • Arduino Nano
  • Adafruit MAX4466 microphone
  • 12.000mAh 2.4A 5V battery pack
  • 7W solar panel
  • 1,5m WS2812b LED strip
  • arduino code based on neopixel library.

Ruben Oya & Mónica Rikić

Emily Volk

Weaving fish scale "fabric"

Dinacon 2019 Dates: August 16-25th

Project: Interactive sculpture, “Fabricated foliage.” I will be researching, augmenting, and replicating jungle flora to create an interactive, responsive sculpture that emulates the sounds of rustling leaves, though with non-natural materiality. As a back-up to this project, I will be experimenting with fish scale structures and making an interactive, mobile sculpture using structures inspired by particular natural fish scales. As a back-up-back-up, I am coming to Dinacon ready to be inspired, and ready to make!

Bio: Emily Volk is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder, now embarking on the world. Her research and curiosity spans science and art disciplines. Specifically, her prior research delves into bioinspired engineering designs. In undergraduate research, she has extensively studied the mechanics of fish scale structures, with application to novel flexible armor designs and biomimetic swimming robots. Importantly, Emily believes that science is nothing if not shared, and continually works to creatively infuse data-driven projects with aesthetics to appeal to a wide audience. This passion has led to great collaborations in the Boulder, Colorado community, including events, conference panels, immersive performances, public installations, data-driven storytelling, and innovative course design. She is so excited to launch out of university and into Gamboa, Panama, to meet all of you thinkers and makers, all while frolicking outside!