This audio-visual iPad app is a commissioned work for this exhibition that focusses on gestural interaction.
In addition to works selected on the basis of the open call, a new work by the Norwegian musician and artist Espen Sommer Eide has been commissioned for the exhibition.
Entitled “The Movement I-X”, the work will be in the form of a iPad multi-touch instrument, to be played by one or more users simultaneously. In the exhibition two iPads offers possibilities for collaborative music creation. The app is still a work in progress as of this writing, but the following artists statement details the ideas and inspiration that is driving the development:
The hands and the fingers are the central manipulative organ of playing most musical instruments. A number of gestural and manipulating movements of the hand are used in playing, like fingering, picking, grasping, touching, sliding, tapping and so on.
On a hot summer's day in Tana, hanging over the side of the riverboat, I let my hand move through the water.
Each of the digits has their own name and movement range. The thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger and the little finger or the pinkie. Each finger may flex and extend, abduct and adduct, and so also circumduct. The hand has 27 bones.
In evolutionary biology the hand has always held a special position. A contemporary of Darwin, the anatomist-neurologist-philosopher, Sir Charles Bell, was considered in his time one of the greatest authorities on the nerve connection between the brain and the hand. He began his famous Bridgewater treatise on the hand in 1833 by writing: “We ought to define the hand as belonging exclusively to man, corresponding in its sensibility and motion to the endowment of his mind".
Culturally and religiously the fingers and the hand has been the focal point of all kinds of symbolism and allegories. In the ancient tradition of palm reading – palmistry – the idea at its core is that this connection between life and the hand is so tightly interwoven that the things that affects the grander “system” simultaneously affects the hands. It forms lines that can be read as a language. But in d’Arpentignys version of palmistry from 1839 even the shape of the hand and fingers themselves are readable. The first finger is considered as the Dictator, the Lawgiver, the finger of Ambition. The shape of the second finger is an indicator of Melancholy. The length of the third finger indicates an extraordinary desire for Glory, Celebrity, Publicity and the like. The fourth, or little finger, if long is indicative of power of Speech and subtlety in choice of language. The thumb is in itself more expressive of character than any other member of the hand. D’Arpentigny wrote: "the thumb individualises the man».
"If my hand traces a complicated path through the air, I do not need, in order to know its final position, to add together all movements made in the same direction and subtract those made in the opposite direction. [...] It is, as it were, dove- tailed into the present, and present perception generally speaking consists in drawing together, on the basis of one’s present position, the succession of previous positions, which envelop each other. "
– M. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception.
It is not consciousness which touches or feels, but the hand, and the hand is, as Kant says, "an outer brain of man".
In Hinduism the gods reside in the fingertips. The tip of the thumb is occupied by Govinda, the forefinger by Mahldhara, the middle finger by Hrishikesa, the next finger (called the nameless finger) by Tri-vikrama, the little finger by Vishnu.
In Greek mythology the fingers themselves are corresponding to the gods, counting from the index finger: Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo and Mercury.
In Buddhist iconography every buddha is depicted with a characteristic gesture of the hands, the so-called "Mudras". These are a kind of religious-pedagogic language, that help reach various goals in meditation.
Sliders, buttons and knobs are the physical interaction interfaces of most electronic instruments. In relation to the touchscreen I want to rethink this paradigm and give the various unique aspects of the hand the possibility to express themselves. Of the fingers, the pinkie illustrates this point. Of the four fingers it has the biggest range of sideways movement. This is reflected on classical instruments, for instance various flutes and the recorder, were this finger is used to reach two or more holes side-by-side. On the trumpet the tuning slider for those hard to reach notes, is also operated by the pinkie. But for some reason it has never been given any special role in usual electronic interfaces. Rethinking this on a touchscreen interface, the smallest finger should become the most important for sliding things around, maybe only rivaled by the thumb.
In magic, the gestures of the hands serve a dual purpose. They seek to confuse and distract the audience – to control their attention, but at the same time hide the rapid hand movement needed to do the trick itself.
Sometimes the interaction between player and instrument is imagined as the instrument becoming part of his or her body. Like a trumpet extending the mouth, or the accordion becoming like a second belly or lung. This is taken to its demonic extreme in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. In several of the famous scenes from Hell, instruments and humans grow together. The human being crucified on a harp or locked in a drum. The hurdy-gurdy, allegorically the instrument of the physical body, is being played automatically by an acrobat who lies on it. A woman, trapped in the body of the hurdy-gurdy, is playing the triangle.
Why make a musical instrument for the soul-less, cold, non-tactile, non-haptic touch-screen? Compared to other physical interfaces it is lacking and limited in every respect. The touchscreen's one advantage is its connection to visual experience.
"In visual experience, which pushes objectification further than does tactile experience, we can, at least at first sight, flatter ourselves that we constitute the world, because it presents us with a spectacle spread out before us at a distance, and gives us the illusion of being immediately present everywhere and being situated nowhere. Tactile experience, on the other hand, adheres to the surface of our body; we cannot unfold it before us, and it never quite becomes an object. Correspondingly, as the subject of touch, I cannot flatter myself that I am everywhere and nowhere; I cannot forget in this case that it is through my body that I go to the world, and tactile experience occurs ‘ahead’ of me, and is not centred in me."
– M. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception.
The touch-screen attempts to bridge this gap between the tactile experience's "here and now"-ness and the visual experience's "everywhere and nowhere"-ness.
Ornaments in music require rapid finger movement. The parergon of speed. The thrills of the flute or the fiddle. Where does the main line end and the ornaments begin? Is the quality of the sound itself also ornamental? I want to make an instrument for the ornamental alone.
Espen Sommer Eide is a musician and artist currently living in Bergen. He composes under the alias Phonophani, and as a member of the band Alog. Live he uses elaborate setups of custom made instruments, hybrids combining electronic and acoustic elements. He has several releases on the record label Rune Grammofon. Alogs album "Miniatures" was awarded the Norwegian Grammy-award (Spellemannprisen) in 2006. In addition to touring extensively with his musical projects, Eide also has produced a series of site-specific pieces and artworks, and is currently a member of the theatre-collective Verdensteatret, involved especially with building instruments and sounddesign.
Other works include composing and performing music for the 50-year anniversary of Le Corbusiers chapel in Ronchamp, France, building the sound art installation Sonus Barentsicus for the Northern Lights Festival in Tromsø, Norway, and a special performance at the Manifesta7 biennale in Italy, where local vinyl records were reconstructed into new musical instruments. Recently he presented the work "Kreken", made for a custom built instrument, the "concertinome", at the GRM festival Presénces Electronique in Paris. Eide has also been involved in a series of net-art projects with various topics connected to the Barents and arctic regions of Northern Norway, under the heading of "rural readers", including a permanent installation for the Eastern Sami Museum in Neiden, Norway. In addition to making music and art, Eide has also been directing the Trollofon electronic music festival in Bergen (2001-2006), and works as artistic developer at BEK (Bergen Center of Electronic Arts).