SND @ Club Transmediale 09 from Wuestenarchitekten on Vimeo.

You’ve had those moments in which the dock of your Mac popped up or the mouse became visible. None of us enjoys that. But what about when the interface itself – the UI that’s directly related to producing what you’re trying to express — becomes visible? To reflect on that idea, we head out to a very cool event at Transmediale, so we can — you know — transmediate.

Sometimes, layers of goodness converge into an awesomeness event horizon. And there are some delicious flavors in the event itself. So, where to begin?

  • TouchDesigner is a striking, modular GPU-based video + compositing + 3D app for Windows that does … well, everything. It’s “node-based” or patching-based. There’s a free-for-non-commercial use version with slightly fewer features. (Thanks to our mate TweakingKnobs for calling this app to my attention.) But aside from the fact that the tool itself combines everything you might want …
  • Markus Heckmann / W├╝stenarchitekten, showing off TouchDesigner in this case, is a wonderful live visual artist. The technology here is really adeptly used by the artist/developer. And the choice of tool is, to me, essential to the event that results.
  • SND and Alva Noto make perfect sonic collaborators, with stripped-down, raw, elemental digital sounds.
  • Together, they join to form the CTM.09 performance at Transmediale 09, which the presenters describe as an audiovisual “infinite dancehall.”

Our friend Greg J. Smith (Serial Consign) writes about all of these folks more eloquently than I can. Aside from how the collaborations interconnect, Greg notes that a moment in which you see the interface actually produces an entire additional layer of meaning to the performance.

About a third of the way into the video there is a moment when the “full bleed” visuals pull back and reveal that the graphic we were looking at is actually just one of many, nested in a larger interface.

I love these wide angle views where visual performance acknowledges its underlying systems of organization – this could almost be described as visualist marginalia. In moments like this, integrated AV performance is transformative and turns clubspace into a situation room, a self-monitoring synesthetic feedback loop.

Full-Spectrum Dominance | Serial Consign

Greg was, in turn, inspired by vade’s post last year on this site for us on KDaG_nato+0.55. The mysterious woman who invented that creation didn’t bother separating glitches, mistakes, UI elements, output, input, interface … it’s all one big jumble of visual information, but united by a relentless aesthetic.

This is quite nice, as we’re getting sort of recursive blog post loops going, and the beauty of TouchDesigner is that its interface is recursive. The UI is built in the same environment that makes the output, the output is the UI, you use the UI on the output, you can zoom into the UI to an output that … you get the idea. Instead of manipulating one screen to impact the result on another screen, you can layer your work inside a larger patch, and make everything visible as you go.

Greg wonders if there are other software tools that work in this way. But I suppose I’m as interested in finding ways of building UIs in your own creations in the same way. Instead of hiding the interface – or, alternatively, instead of trying too hard to reveal what you’re doing – there seems to be lots of potential to fuse the two and eliminate anything that isn’t strictly needed. Food for thought.

After the jump, more video examples.

Alva Noto @ CTM 09 from isabelle rousset on Vimeo.

Quite minimal stuff, but here’s more of TouchDesigner in action. Apparently, TouchDesigner has evolved out of a motion graphics package — Houdini — but has been rewired for real-time. And that’s exactly the sort of thing I hope we see more.

Particle Simulation in TouchDesigner to Pan Sonics Askel from their Album “A” from Wuestenarchitekten on Vimeo.

For more on TouchDesigner, our friend Todd Thille has a terrific write-up. Here’s a shot he took of the interface. So imagine being able to zoom in on a single node, and have that then reveal the next section of your performance.

Getting back in(to) TouchDesigner | todd thille

The software has been around since 2000, but then, I’m pretending like a lot of the last eight years never happened (for a range of reasons, not only political, but because it also means I’m completing my PhD REALLY FAST), so — hey, it’s NEW!