Robert Ruth’s piece untitled signal paths is an interactive installation/performance that utilizes a room-sized analog audiovisual synthesizer. The technology developed for the installation builds on research done and works by Nam June Paik, Pia Van Gelder, Justice Yeldham, and many other pioneers and artists in video art. Six audio synthesizers, forty patch points, and four cathode ray tube televisions modified to bend electrons in accordance with the sound make up the bulk of the system. At its core, the medium is the audiovisual instrument itself; an unpredictable machine of messy wires and stray electrons that make up one single circuit. The audience can change that circuit, if they so choose, by reaching out to patch points in the room and making connections that will add their body into the circuit of the instrument. The piece was developed with the goal of addressing and contemplating violence as an act done by an audience to a work of art. Its interactivity is built in to deal with the artist’s conception of a public as both destructive and formative to artworks. The artist creates a three hour performance without the audience, then watches as the audience simultaneously destroys and creates the piece.
4 - 29 - 19
5- 6 - 19
this week i tested my setup and choreographed my performance. i tested the full setup of the piece minus the interactivity of the audience so i could build my performance without the inevitable disruption in the actual show. I also made a social media post to promote the show.
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untitled signal paths  untitled signal paths is an interactive installation/performance piece utilizing a room sized analog audiovisual synthesizer. the audience will have direct control over the audio and visuals, and will fully dictate the piece as i lose control of it. stop in and participate. may 17 | 6-8:30 PM | magnet center @ 2 metrotech center brooklyn | free tickets at bxmc.poly.edu/idmshow/ _ _ _ _ _ #signalculture #moog #videosynth #avsynth #avart #videoart #performanceart #glitchart #glitche
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4- 15 - 19
i used my 3D models this week to make schematics for the wiring setup of the interactible objects. i tested my synths to find the best points of contact and connections and used this information to set up the patch point layout in a way that would motivate responsive interactivity.
4- 8 - 19
this week was spent doing layout planning and making a simple 3d model to test room setups. at this point, the technical work for the project is completed, and the last thing to do is prepare, wait, and set it up.
3 - 18 - 19
i spent this week working on building oscilloscopes out of old televisions i repurposed (read: stole) from a recycling center shipping container. i wanted to look at video synthesis from a different direction than i had initially seen it. while i want to continue working on and incorporating vga synths into my piece, i found that it may be outside the scope of the project to build a fully interactive and stable video synthesizer. i instead looked into building oscilloscopes and oscillographs from cathode ray tube televisions by wiring into the deflection coils that control the movement of the electron beam, an idea i have known about for a while, but fully explored after seeing a video about the topic from look mum no computer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWh4wcPNwgM). i didn’t want to simply wire the synth up to the tv and have it be a simple oscilloscope, so i looked at other functions of the tvs that i could harness and manipulate. each tv i opened up was vastly different, with very different controls, but i started by looking for trimpots i could use, and tested each to find the uses of them, from brightness to color bias and vertical sync gain (which would allow me to desync the signal and make its position flash wildly). once i had found controls i liked on each tv, i wired my own trimpots up and put the controls on the back of the tv, then wired into the horizontal and vertical deflection coils and added patch cable inputs on the side of the tv, which allowed me to close up the tvs and still be able to manipulate the equipment. i also experimented with 30 lb magnets and found ways to add color gradients by positioning the magnets on the tube in the back of the tv. i’d be remiss if i didn’t mention that opening up crt tvs is extremely dangerous, as they store lethal voltages even when unplugged, so the tube must be discharged very carefully. the summary of this week’s work is that i now basically have four oscilloscope displays that react visually (in a chaotic, destructive way) to the audio changes i and the audience will be making, which is really what i wanted out of a video synth.
3 - 11 - 19
while finishing up my research paper/meeting with my advisor, i didn’t do a lot of hands on work. however, with a list of names given to me by my advisor (https://phillipstearns.com/), i started exploring the history and current state of the field. starting from signal culture (http://signalculture.org/), i explored some of the artists in residence, such as james connolly (jameshconnolly.com) and david sherman (http://davidshermanfilms.com/). i also took a look at the signal culture apps, one of which allows for real time datamoshing. in my discussions with phillip stearns there was a lot of discussion about performance art that deals with violence. after bringing up chris burden and the work of his that i admire, phillip recommended tehching hsieh’s (https://www.tehchinghsieh.com/) year-long performances and a chang’s ‘one meter democracy‘ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyaoHlFxA54), and after some research, it showed me the different ways performance art can talk about violence, from the extreme infliction of violence in performance art, to the implications of subtly violent and masochistic action.
3 - 4 - 19
this week i built the circuit for the video synth and built in patch points to loop in the contact synth’s control voltage and oscillators. the first test i did was unsuccessful on my television, but i used a clean vga signal generator and found that the crt just wasn’t taking signals, and i needed to use a native vga system to take the signal. next week, i’m going to try to find native vga crt monitors to use, but in the meantime i went over to a friend's house to use his flatscreen vga. below are the results using only the simple oscillators i built. once i use the other synths to control the horizontal and vertical sync of the signal, i’ll be able to create more interesting imagery than i have now in the video below. as well as the video below, i have included photos of my workstation, the circuit, and the vga signal converter i’ve patched into.
2 - 25 - 19
the contact synth is functional. below is a video of me testing it by making patches with random metal objects. when the installation is set up, there will be 40 patch points throughout the room (rough connection diagram below). because of the resistance of the body as well as the resistance of certain metal objects, the movement of your hand on a patched object can be expressive by allowing a way to dynamically vary the voltage passing through you.
2 - 18 - 19
in my research about analog video synthesis, i came across two synthesizer systems i intend to model my base conversion system on (much of the signal generation will happen on moog and korg hardware going out to this system). the first one i looked into was jonas bers’ CHA/V, which is a diy hacky video synth system that helped me figure out the basics of converting analog synth voltage to something readable by a television. i’ve ordered some components, like a vga signal generator and a 40106 chip for simple oscillation, and i will begin assembling the system in the next few weeks as the parts arrive. I also looked at the 3trinsRGB+1c as an inspiration for signal pathing, and will use some of the ideas to build the patch points for interactivity.
below are a few preliminary sketches of the wiring and the room layout itself:
2 - 11 - 19
ive begun my research project and found many interesting pieces of research. the research outline is linked here. ive begun playing with modifying av outputs by combining two competing inputs (in this test a super nintendo vs a nintendo 64, pictured below) on the same line running through to a crt. i then used a moog werkstatt to output a sawtooth wave and a sine lfo to modify the signals going into the av cable, which had the effect of desyncing the xy arrangement and creating a horizontal and vertical slow scrolling distortion, which I could control the speed of. im very happy with how this is going, but eager to not only modify video signals but to generate them synthetically. i also am excited about the interplay of the synth with the video signal, and wonder how familiar the visuals will be when i output the audio that is generating their distortions. i also began usinge image/ine, a 1999 piece of software developed in part by steina, who used it in ‘mind‘ in 2000 to distort digital video signals live. i was able to take only the blank output and use the digital modifiers in the software to create very interesting modifications by looping noise through with a digital lfo and slitscanning its output in intervals. as i didn’t even put visuals in yet, i’m already quite happy with the results (screenshots below). my next steps are to take the research and find some interesting ways to use this work (with knobs and connections for analog, and midi controllers for the digital) to create interactions for the audience to play with and experiment through.
2 - 4 - 19
my plan for this senior project is to create an interactive audiovisual experience installation where the audience takes part in controlling and distorting the music and video of the installation directly, through analog circuits spread out throughout the room with connections people can make with their hands.
my first steps will include looking into the precedent for this sort of thing. i am more curious as to what i will find looking into interactive video installations, as i haven’t seen many. after all my research has been completed, i will begin experimenting with different ways to connect circuits with just one’s hands.
i believe this is the perfect size for a project for this semester. i have experience with installations, with modular synthesis and circuit bending, and my biggest challenges will not be in figuring out what to do, but how to best execute.
this is for me a personal culmination of everything i’ve been doing at idm; it incorporates much of the psychology behind my last showcase piece (robruth.net/unplugshowcase) as well as the scale (room-sized installation), as well as incorporating the work i’ve done in game design; seeing how abstract i can make the interaction and still have it be considered a game. i see the instant feedback interaction of the audio and video of this project as game-like, and am curious to see how people will interact with the piece.
below is a sample of the music/film style of the piece: