Here we use homemade hardware and software to initiate, monitor, and meaningfully interpret the transfer of data through skin contact between multiple people.
Participants pick up a carrier signal--line level audio at set frequencies in a series of digital feedback loops--through contact with conductive fabric sensors. By touching other participants on the skin the signal is transferred at varying impedance levels--a direct result of minute variations in the quality of touch from gently brushing to fully grasping. When the varying impedance is measured, a map of the physical interaction is created by the software and used as control data for visualization and sonification of the group interaction. Combinatorial geometric patterns and interlocking tone series allow for each gesture to retain transparency--each individual's slightest touch registers a shift in the sound and the image created, and yet, through the intricacies of multiple points of combination and modulation, the overall sensation of the piece is of group identity. In addition to this crucial transparency, the guiding criteria of the project are scalability (easily used by both very large and very small groups), self-sustained operation (no need for centralized control), and intuition (easy to learn, and to teach).
Each instantiation of a “Make a Baby” performance is unique, depending entirely on the "shape of the group" of audience members participating. At the heart of our interest is the simultaneously intimate and mediated nature of group relationships. the performances themselves bring to light the dynamic shapes and behaviors that may exist beneath the surface of any group, whereas the collaboratively created sound and image serve as insightful illustrations for these “social sculptures”. The possibilities for technological innovation at the stage of mediation and translation--how data about the group interaction is collected and converted into visual and audible expression--approach the problem of using touch as a controlling and mediating action, in other words, extending the possibility of complexly communicating with one another through touch.
Ideally the technological and aesthetic designs of the project will continue to develop with parallel goals--to serve as an illustrated model of group interaction on a very intimate level, and as a tool for collaborative creation. The aesthetic evolution of this project has yielded a wealth of audio-visual patterns and textures created as a by-product of physical interaction within a group structure. It is so interesting to witness the forms that arise out of a simple consideration for practical technological criteria--what works as a tool also works as a thing of beauty.
if you have some nice documentation of one of these performances definitely get in touch