In an extended fancy on the sounds inside the body “Organ Alpha” is a kind of responsive musical instrument that transforms human input into surround-sound audio. Your body speaks, it listens, and it answers. Sensors watch for movement inside a virtual stomach, as stethoscopes dangle, inviting input.
Watch for the kid’s reaction in the video.
The project is the work of Israeli-born, UK-based media artist Avi Ashkenazi and Scottish textile designer Marion Lean, for their MA at Goldsmiths. I think it’s worth posting as part of an ongoing series of works that use biological interaction as the basis for music, on a level that goes beyond just physical control. And there’s more of that to come.
So, who’s hungry?
Stepping into a place we shouldn’t be, that’s inside the body, users are invited to touch and hear, elements we shouldn’t normally touch and sounds we shouldn’t hear.
Organ Alpha is an opportunity to enter one’s own body, considering sound and touch as a possibility for diagnosis and detection. The installation is big enough for around 4-5 people inside and is a space for discussion and questioning around the ways we perceive and conceptualise the body. It is a sound and textile experience, inside which we promote visitors to touch all the elements and interactive with a series of hanging stethoscopes which when pressed against the body reveal prerecorded sounds of the perceived sounds of the body.
Crossing boundaries between metaphor and biological language the space is a place which you can escape the outside; aenter a place you shouldn’t be, hear sounds you shouldn’t hear and touch pieces you shouldn’t touch.
Colour change represents different stages of the stomach; moving through empty (colour blue), digesting (pink) and in love (a multicoloured wave ) Upon entering the stomach, sensors detect movement and the glowing ambience changes colour according to how many people and movement goes on inside.
Surround sound suggesting low frequency inner body sounds plays rumbling, watery noises mimicking sounds from the stomach encapsulating visitors in the space and providing a sense of being enclosed, away from the outside world manipulating the user into an unknown experience.
Using sonic sketching, participants were invited to share how they thought their body might sound. Responses to questions like ‘How does your stomach sound when you are hungry? how does your hair sounds when it grows? how do your eyes sound when they focus? Etc. play when the touch activated stethoscopes hanging inside the installation are pressed against the body.
I think it’s quite unique that rather than pursuing a literal sonification of biological inputs, Organ Alpha instead creates a kind of collage-artwork composed of people’s perceptions and expected, imagined sounds. It also represents a dialog between sonic art installation and textile and garment design, as seen in the shoot below. Taking these subtler, less-direct approaches to the topic could unlock new possibilities in this kind of work. I look forward to seeing more.