Last weekend I created an installation for Alpha-Ville 2011. Here it is, ticking along behind Molly Pearson as she recites her poem, 'Picture This':

The entire installation was conceived and built in a week, most of which was on the day itself as a piece of 'Live Art'. What this means is that I arrived that morning, and set about building the installation as visitors milled by -- all with the (invaluable) help of Simon Dell and Hayden Anyasi.

(Note: This footage was taken on a handheld device, and from not the best angle for seeing the installation -- I will post up some clearer footage when the festival organisers release it.)

The Context
On each day of the festival a different artist created a piece as a response to a different poem. I was assigned Molly Pearson's poem 'Picture This', the transcript of which is available here.

The poem was revealed to me exactly one week before the festival. I was free to react to the poem in any way I liked, (given the specs of the space as described below). I didn't actually meet or even talk to Molly at all, until she came in on the day to recite her work in front of the installation.

The Space
The guys at v4wednesday had secured a (5m square) exhibition space in the Netil House venue, London Fields. They had installed 3 wide-throw projectors, using homography to seamlessly cover one corner of the room. They had a decent PA for audio, and a media server on which to run any vvvv patch.

A sketch showing the room layout
A sketch showing the room layout

I was free to use the physical space and any of the equipment however I liked. Hayden was there to provide technical assistance on the day.

My Installation
Molly's poem is rich with visual imagery. I wanted to avoid simply illustrating it, and instead to add to or augment it somehow. For me, everything in the poem is structured around the basic idea of the present moment. The present is portrayed as a dividing line, separating a patchwork of interwoven memories (the past), from an empty space (the future).

This concept has only a moment to breathe in a spoken, time-based narrative. I decided to draw it out, and use the installation space to draw as much attention as possible to the (passing) present moment.

To do this Simon and I installed the metronome in the corner of the space. A metronome is interesting, because it is not a time-keeping device. It doesn't provide any information about days, weeks, hours or minutes -- and therefore is liberated from contextual association with ageing, achievement, progress and myriad other things. Instead it's only association is with meter, the measure of short and equal snippets of time.

Simon rigged up a live microphone feed to allow the computer to listen to the metronome. We amplified the sound through the PA, to make the activity of the metronome really present in the room. I created a generative pattern in a vvvv patch, which 'listens' to the ticking metronome and visually 'explodes' on each tick. In this way the installation was really being driven by a single physical object, and to amplify it.

The Competition
Oh and PS: it was a competition, judged by the audience. And we won!