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utilising the mechanics of rugged realites.

Jon Rose, Robin Fox, Jim Sosnin, and Rod Cooper.

the sound embedded on this page is part of the interactive surround sound system driven by the handlebars of the lead bike in the canberra pursuit project of 2013.
the samples heard are chain, tyre, and drum

The Transmission Project aims to research, develop and beta-test new and innovative technologies and approaches to real-time interactive performance in challenging if not hostile environments.

The project combines decades of research and practical industry experience from two of the pioneers of electronic arts in Australia (Jon Rose and Jim Sosnin) with innovative approaches to interactive software and instrument design from two of Australia's most significant cross art form practitioners (Robin Fox and Rod Cooper). The project will also call on consultancy and co-operation from world leaders in the field of interactive technology development. Assitance has so far been forthcoming from STEIM (Amsterdam) and Frieder Weis (Berlin), CNMAT (UC Berkely), and IBBT (Gent, Belgium).

The Transmission Project endeavors to solve the persistent problems faced by artists attempting to implement wireless data gathering technologies. These include broadcast range, battery power (including investigations into kinetic battery powered sensor modules) and signal resolution. In so doing, the project will lead to the development of a unique system of tunable receivers and transmitters capable of communicating with precision engineering data gathering units including accelerometers, gyroscopes, resistance sensors, ultrasound devices and infra-red scanners, video and audio.

The interface, to be dubbed the Transmission Box, will provide a multi-function platform for designing human machine interfaces with a focus on wheel, wind and water driven as well as purely mechanical processes. In this way, the project eschews notions of virtual reality and embraces, instead, the paradigm of enhanced reality - utilising technology to engage with the real (crisis-ridden) world.

For years, advances in computer processing power and capacity have promised endless improvements in real-time interactive technologies. The reality, however, is quite different with the same limitations confronting practitioners in the early 1980's persisting today. Most electronic instruments, including hacked games, are not designed to go into hostile environments and function in on site performances over distances of 100 meters. And that is where we want to be...

A major testing opportunity for transmission presented itself with the Sounds Outback Festival 2008. First up, we had a chance to realise Team Music - an interactive netball game with the local youth of Mount Magnet. Then it was back to nearby Wogarno Station where gusty winds seemed to beckon other options.

The first attempt at Kite Music was quite short as kite, electronics and mini cameras were thrown casually by the wind into the nearest thorn covered tree (not too many of them around here but we found them courtesy Murphy's law). There was a broken stay but the accelerometers survived. Second attempt ripped half a nail off my finger. Interactive technology demands blood. Eventually we were receiving serious video.

There were three cameras, one pointing ahead reading like a NASA space probe (when there were clouds to give a sense of distance); one camera pointed back towards the tail taking audio-visual readings of swirling, disturbing intensity. The camera pointing down the kite line revealed a fish-eyed red ball world being spun and vigorously shaken; human dots stumbled around in the brightness.

The Aeolian sound was all shake, rattle and roll. It could be experienced raw (as are the historic hummers used in Indonesian and Chinese large box kites), or used to drive digital media. This we did using the vagaries of wind power to digitally drive violin sounds or a long sample of an eight-foot diapason organ pipe. The audio-visual data transmission dismissed all the standard new age delusions of the outback - here was a noisy and violent crucible.

Not many pieces of contemporary music call for a Kobelco Front End Hoe Excavator with minimum 250 Kilo loading in the score, but Digger Music did. Wogarno's owner David Campbell knew a neighbour (about 150 Kilometers away) who had just the ticket. It's all favours in the outback. The awesome Ivan McLay drove the excavator delivering on two separate evenings, 20 minutes of challenging post-modern choreography. An accelerometer gaffa-taped to the hoe mapped and transmitted this data to Robin Fox, who fused the live and stored digger images and sound of video artist Gabi Iglesias with the irregular clunks, clonks, and purrs of the mechanical arm at work. More animal than machine we all noted. Like a hand in the glove, the projections outlined the extremities of the shearing shed as dusk turned to night. I played violin obligato.

Later around an open fire, members of the audience offered that they had imagined being back in a world of the Brontosaurus. A number had a 250 Kilo loading monster on their own farm. The audio-visual animation of such a commonplace piece of equipment was clearly acceptable behaviour in the outback, a large city environment would probably have rendered the activity as performance art. No one complained about the violin playing either.

The Transmission Project is supported by the Inter-Arts Board of the Australia Council.

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