Meet your Creator (2012)



16x custom quadrotors, each with motorized mirror, 8x RGB LED
16x Clay Paky Sharpy moving head spotlight
20x VICON IR camera
3x Computers
Network switches, DMX routers, various splitters extenders
9m x 5m metal truss
Duration: 7:00
Dimensions: 9m x 5m x 10m

A live theatrical performance / kinetic light sculpture with 16x quadrotor drones – each equipped with LEDs and motorized mirrors – and 16x 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.

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.

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 starting to seep into the mainstream as consumer devices are being released and embraced by DIY hobbybist groups. Their role in this piece is purely an artistic subversion of their original purpose. The one thing these flying robots can do that absolutely nothing else can, is follow precise trajectories in space without being bound to any external fixed support – and that is the role of quadrotors in this project: programmable vertices in space, the floating cornerstones of a kinetic light sculpture.

The performance isn’t about the vehicles, in fact most of the time they’re hidden in the dark, in the background. The vehicles are merely the carries of light, tightly synchronized and choreographed to a custom score by Oneohtrix Point Never. The piece is in fact exploring 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 it’s desired position the further away it travels from the drone. 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.

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