Meet your Creator (2012)



16x custom quadrotors with motorized mirrors & RGB LEDs
16x moving head spotlights
IR cameras, computers, network switches,
9m x 5m metal truss
Duration: 7:00
Dimensions: 9m x 5m x 10m

A live theatrical performance / kinetic light sculpture with quadrotor drones, LEDs, motorized mirrors and moving head spotlights dancing in a joyous robo-ballet celebration of techno-spirituality. Exploring semi-autonomous, computer programmed UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) as a means to deflect and divert light and create floating light sculptures dancing to music. Machines which are traditionally purveyors of surveillance, oppression and death; are artistically re-purposed to be purveyors of music, dance, joy, celebration, creativity.

Modern day drones were conceptually born in post-apocalyptic, post-singularity science fiction and manifested themselves in the real-world as weapons of remote warfare. Particularly gaining notoriety during the Obama administration, they are now seeping into mainstream as consumer devices are released and embraced by hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts. Their role in this piece is purely an artistic subversion of their original purpose – concentrating on the key feature of these flying robots: following trajectories in space without being bound to external fixed supports. That is the role of quadrotors in this project: programmable vertices in space, the floating cornerstones of a kinetic light sculpture. Thus the vehicles are in fact not the stars of the show. They are the puppet masters operating in the dark, that carry the light, synchronized and choreographed to a bespoke score by Oneohtrix Point Never.

The performance explores the boundaries of anthropomorphism in abstract light forms, using the programmable quadrotors to breath life into hovering, morphing, quivering networks of light. It is this abstract virtuoso being of light, contorting and morphing, playing a bizarre musical instrument not yet invented, that is the star of the show. The ultimate goal of this anthropomorphic study is to establish an emotional connection between audience and this abstract light being carried by the drones. Can the audience feel empathy towards what was originally weapons of remote warfare?

Individually the drones are incredibly precise at following trajectories, but already have their own character in the way they move and orient themselves. Once swarmed together, the laws of physics and aerodynamics become more prominent. The dirty wind from one affects the other, and causes a chain reaction of autonomous self-corrections and self-alignments rippling through the swarm as they struggle to align to the trajectories designed for them by us humans. This autonomous behaviour is amplified as we use mirrors to bounce light off the drones. A tiny change in orientation is magnified as the beam of light diverges more and more from its desired position. Their own character becomes stronger and shines through with so much flavour that the resulting performance is in fact not exactly how we choreographed it, but is the machine’s interpretation of our choreography. We embrace this performative interpretation and thus the final piece is in fact a collaboration between us humans and the machines. Our role has become ‘guidance’ to the machines as opposed to absolute control.

In the broadest sense, this piece continues the theme of exploring the relationship between form, movement and sound. A well established area of artistic research dating back to artists such as Norman McLaren, John Whitney, Kandinsky.

A Marshmallow Laser Feast project. An arts & technology studio I co-founded in 2011.

Credits

Event concept created by
Marshmallow Laser Feast and Saatchi & Saatchi creatives Jonathan Santana & Xander Smith

Producer
Juliette Larthe

Production Supervisor
Holly Restieaux

Show Directors
Marshmallow Laser Feast
Memo Akten, Robin McNicholas, Barney Steel

MLF Team:
Raffael Ziegler
Devin Matthews
Rob Pybus
James Medcraft

Quadrotor Design & Development
KMel Robotics

Sound Design
Oneohtrix Point Never

Intro Music
Spiritualized “Shine a Light”

Typography & Design
Farrow Design

Set Design
Sam & Arthur

Production
Ben Larthe
Mike Tombeur
Gaspar

Thanks to Vicon for the tracking system.

Acknowledgements

(partly) made with openFrameworks

Related keywords

c++, clay paky sharpy, computer vision, dmx, drone, infrared, interactive lighting, jonathan santana, juliette larthe, kmel robotics, live performance, marshmallow laser feast, motion capture, motion tracking, oneohtrix point never, openframeworks, osc, quadcopter, quadrotor, raffael ziegler, robotics, saatchi & saatchi, spiritualized, vicon, xander smith