.. devolve into ..
curatorial statement, by Peter Courtemanche
The piece works by generating a series of web-cam image streams with accompanying audio. The information for generating a particular stream is contained in a "room" on the server. The browser can move between rooms to navigate through the different streams.
Each of these rooms is developed by one of the artists. The artists are working with the idea of digital decay and filtering processes. What happens when something is digitized and then transfered many times through different processes of compression and alteration?
Peter Courtemanche is a sound installation artist and curator. He has developed the software for the piece. The idea for image filtering is an extension of a web-cam program that was first developed for "Narratives II" (with Elisabeth Schimana and Lori Weidenhammer). This is a web-cam that allows the transmitter to alter the images as they are being broadcast. This stream is colour filtered to re-create the idea of slow-scan (video over telephone lines) transmissions.
As a sound artist, Peter has worked mostly with tape manipulation and the alteration of sound through editing and analogue processes. One of the most interesting aspects of sound art is the transformation of sounds from one context to another - often filtered through the microphone, the radio, and the tape machine.
His most recent installation work - "slowing down radiation" - uses a generative audio algoryhtm that is influenced by the motion of the listener in the space. This piece questions the idea of man's mastery over the environment. It compares the promise of the industrial age as decribed by writers at the turn of the century (1800's to 1900's) with some of the more utopian ideas of modern bio-technology and electronics.
For ".. devolve into ..", he has created a framework that artists can use to create generative streams on the Internet. These streams are composed of images and sounds that are filtered and modified as time passes. The framework links many different streams together, allowing the browser to navigate between them.
The initial prototype of this system contains streams that have been programmed by Peter Courtemanche, Shawn Chappelle, Joelle Ciona and Lori Weidenhammer. All of these artists work through the Western Front in Vancouver.
Shawn Chappelle is a video and film artist. He works intensely with animation, many layers of filtration and image manipulation. His work deals with technology, science, the mind, and the evolution of philosophy. His recent video - "Far Reaches" - uses images of chemical models, partical accelerators and circuit design meshed with cultural icons reflecting man's search for both the minute and the cosmic.
Joelle Ciona is an interdisciplinary artist. She works with sound, performance and video. Her work tends to focus on "behaviour" and communication. Recently she has developed a series of performance works where she takes on the personae of the insect - the queen ant smothered in vasaline, the slug rolling along the ground, the bee building its hive. For ".. devole into ..", Joelle is working with portraits of herself.
Lori Weidenhammer is a feminist performance artist. She uses video, audio, and computer interactive systems in her work. She works with the image of herself in costume and character. Her most recent work is "Brain Dress" - a costume designed like the folds of the brain. When she touches different regions on the garment, video and sound memories playback on the wall behind her. In "Narratives II" (an Internet exchange performance with Elisabeth Schimana in Vienna) Lori used various facial expressions, filtered through web-cam software that attempts to re-create the sensibility of colour slow-scan. For this piece (devolve), Lori is working with the image of the "breast pump".
Much of the soundtrack focuses on the voice and various methods of manipulating/filtering vocal utterances. The listener will hear the alteration over time of words and short phrases. These are designed to complement the images of face, body, machine, and the contemplation of landscape.
".. devolve into .." was inspired by earlier Kunstradio and projects including Immersive Sound (negotiating live audio streams in Bregenz, Austria, 1998) and Sound Drifting (generative audio streams at Ars Electronica, 1999).
The eventual aim of the "devolve" system is to create a navigational framework to connect various streams and streaming projects from audio artists around the world.