Ode to the birch


Ode to the birch is a collaborative project between Bojana Petković, Guida Ribeiro, Timo Johannes and Max Wolfs, created at MAiR (Media Artist in Residency) in Prolom banja, Serbia. The cultural historicity and uncanny geological formations located nearby was explored during the artist in residency program, especially by the research of the mythologies and narratives that such a place holds.

The installation Ode to the birch intends to relocate the natural reality of Prolom Banja into the gallery space. The birch trees (represented by 2.5 m long silkscreen prints on rice paper) have been present in folkloric tales as a metaphor for the medium between worlds: between the world of men and the world of spirits, between the human and the non-human. The branches carry the messages joining those worlds: the black and white patterns of the tree are scriptures being sent. To interact with these branches is to negotiate in this relation and to become kindred with these planes: human, natural and spiritual.

In the context of the art residency, this installation reflects our pursuit into bridging the gap between our technological experience, the natural environment and the local mythologies. The interaction with these trees is made possible through several patterns which were printed using bare conductive paint. When these areas are touched, sounds and whispers are played. As we wanted to create big and atmospheric textures of sound, we needed the installation to be able to play more than one sound file at a time, and also if possible, to let them fade into each other. As the Touch Board is only monophonic this meant we needed to solve the issue of polyphony.

We decided that instead of using the Touch Board to play the sounds directly, that we would use the inputs of the Touch Board as a Human Interface Device to just use the sensors, and send those inputs to a computer via USB. The computer runs the Software Soundplant, in which we mapped the different sounds to the keyboard keys from the Bare Conductive HID_Keyboard example sketch. The software was set up to start up automatically after the laptop is booted. For this setup we followed the polyphony tutorial on the Bare Conductive Website. We added some fade in and fade out time to every mapped sound, so the transitions are smooth and not too sudden. The sound of the installation is made up of field recordings for the whispers and recordings of a Soma Laboratorys LYRA-8 synthesizer for the organic qualities of its sound.

Title photo: Franziska von den Driesch


2019 2nd MAiR
Galerie Herold Bremen, DE