The Musicians (2017)

Theoretical Context.

In Quantum Theory (QT) observations of sub-atomic particles, like neutrinos and positrons, influence the behavior of those particles. We can even assume through QT that when a conscious entity observes matter, matter exists. Or in other words, when we reverse this sentence, particles who have not been observed do not exist. Thought or conscious observations thus presumably affects sub-atomic particles, and thereby is shaping reality.

Of course this is all theoretical, but strangely measurable, even though the human eye is in no capacity to observe these processes directly without an intermediate technology. Clear reasons for particles to behave differently when observed are not found or agreed upon and it is assumed that magnetic interference of the devices that are making the observations are causing the deviations and changed behavior. Nevertheless, it is an interesting idea that inanimate material is changing their behavior when observed by conscious minds. Even in QT, assumptions are made that the observation is generating reality, thus the act of looking or gazing at things let those things spring into existence. Let’s somehow reverse and work with this fringe theory in a work.





1. Evading the Observers (shyness)

The Musicians is an installation which behaves and is activated only when the audience cannot observe it directly, when the audiences approach the proximity of the installation, the components of the installation will turn into a passive inanimate state. Cameras will be positioned on the little components, the actors (the musicians) of the installation and can be viewed in a different space. There you can see when nobody is around that the components are alive and active and enjoying their animated state. They pretend to be static when someone is around, but are having a little party when they are tricked of not being directly observed. To them the camera is invisible and they disregard the camera as a non-existent or as a non-conscious object which can be ignored. We can observe their actions, but only through a security monitor in a different space. Not directly.

2. The Actors (the musicians)

Each component, in its abstraction has anthropomorphic qualities. This can manifest in both shape and movement, but also in the way these inanimate objects will react to an audience. It is clear that they will monitor their surrounding and react upon it. Each component (further called musician) will receive an individual treatment, which will give each actor its own personality. The actors are all given one task to do, which they will diligently do. Due to the mechanic nature of the technology behind the workings of the actors, a clumsiness and a randomness will be included in the design of each actor. Flexible bodies, which can swing and can make the actors move in a jerky and uncontrollable way will give them a more live like appearance. They are making little sounds as they are playing their act. Each sound is based on a rhythm, which has it randomness and variability given through both physical properties and algorithmic randomness. This creates unpredictability at the level of each actor. Each actor has its own sound producing instrument, which will give each actor its own unique voice. All together they form a micro cacophonous composition based on interweaving patterns and rhythms which denote their communications. They live in their own world, which are two 2-dimensional squares where they live a 3 dimensional life, connected with a bridge. They are contained to the their world, but are looking outward, not unlike we are looking out to the stars and are asking important questions about our existence. The musicians are appearing to reflect on their own existence and thus displaying a form of consciousness. Hereby I refer to Object Oriented Ontology in which it is assumed, that everything is firmly ingrained with consciousness, as they form the building blocks of everything. Most recently it is speculated that physical matter can be compared to the software of everything while consciousness forms the hardware which let the software run its program. Consciousness thus forms a framework in which matter can exist. In this speculative concept the world of inanimate and animate objects, organic or non-organic all are embedded with and within consciousness. Its a reversed way of thinking to conceptualize something as abstract and difficult to grasp, like consciousness to be the hardware and all physical matter to be the software. The musicians are playing their role in that way. The artist or creator is only an idea in the background and the actors obviously are not aware of its existence. The creator, became an allegory of god, if the musicians were able to develop religion. The actors are communicating through music and rhythmic patterns, which makes them musicians. Through coding the actors are giving a repertoire, which explores generative music. Repetitions are unlikely as there are 12 musicians which are all generating different patterns, which are all occasionally simultaneously synchronized or are exploring discordance through dissonances and conflicting patterns. Thus acting and reacting in a perpetual music jam, only interrupted by visitors when they appear to close. The actors are displaying a shyness and a fear for the strangers to come to look at them.

The actors are powered by micro electricity, 5V and their muscle power are small servo motors (60°/90°/180°degrees)

3. The Musical Instruments. (their dwellings)

Each actor has its own unique platform, stationary instrument to play with. Each instrument is designed to accommodate the unique but rather simple micro sounds. They live in their own world and they developed their own unique communication rhythms. It is a form of analogue percussion patterns which are not unlike the African ritualistic tam tam instruments, but then on micro-scale. Nobody except them can decode their conversations creating thus distance and separation from their world and ours through scale and abstraction. The music instruments can be categorized into small drums, small xylophones, small string instruments, and are all a form of micro percussion. Each surface will be developed into its micro sound qualities, but not aesthetically worked out. It should maintain a sketchy character which creates a freedom of changes and a feeling that it is still a world in progress, somehow in the middle of evolution. The instruments are forming all together the habitat of our little friends, not unlike a small scale twin-city, and the whole set-up has some resemblance between an architectural maquette and an electronic motherboard of a computer. Some of the instruments can be interpreted as an attraction of a fancy-fair on micro scale. Each object has due to its clumsiness characteristics the possibility to project human-like emotions. Little creatures which are hard working to do whatever they are doing, in a way that could be better, more efficient, more technically advanced, and we can think about them how to improve their lives. By looking at them, we feel empathy to help them and to nurture their actions. But they refuse because of their shyness. They don’t want us to interfere. They are happy with each other in their own world.

4. The City (their habitat)

They live on two 12 mm plywood board, which is cut approximately 40 cm X 40 cm. The board is elevated on two small pedestals, which allows the audience to approach them and investigate their city and them. But never in an active state. A light bulb, made from clear glass is hanging above them as their sun. It creates dramatic shadows. The light bulb is weak, like 15W and provides the only light in the space. Their world is observed by a camera. It films them in real time in close up. A wire is connecting to a security monitor in a different space where the audience can observe secretly the active actors, without their knowledge. They are tricked.

The surface of their world is painted in a way which resembles PCB’s (Printed Circuit Boards, see image below) but also a city plan, giving the musicians an order in their existence. Wires are elevated through special designed cardboard gutters, which provides a form of infrastructure to their world. A central power station is providing their life force, and a micro-controller, (Arduino Mega) is providing their communal brain, or Central Control Authority building. All decisions are made there.

Further the musical components and their instruments are forming their own environment. Its their architecture. It has a high level of DIY, emphasizing that their development is still in a rudimentary stage. We can look down on them as a minor species, but we can also be amazed by their inventiveness of creating this environment. It is raising questions of our anthropocentric attitudes. Of our superior position in the hierarchy of existence. But are we really on the top, or are we just like these simple characters living in a simple world doing our clumsy things. What if someone is looking at us, like we are looking at them? The DIY character of the installation allows a lot of space for improvements, not unlike out own world which demands a complete rethinking of our existence to improve and to secure our survival on the longer run. The little installation turns into a vessel of introspection and contemplation. Maybe these little actors are stubborn, like us. Maybe they do not want to change or to listen to anybody who could help them.

As with all living species, the actors can die. Their life span is finite. And the lifespan of the servos which will be used should be able to work throughout the exhibition, but technical problems can occur and perhaps 1 or 2 musicians will die during their performance. This is part of the project though and should not be considered as a mechanical failure but as an allegory of life.


Sketches of the work



Additional note on the work:

The basic idea for of the musicians was born out of a fascination of the candy Tic Tac, which had both the qualities of an abstract cute head and a tip to hit a percussion instrument. It turned out to be hard and light enough, and made the perfect micro sound, thus fulfilling the desire to create a mini musician, which was simultaneously a beater to struck or hit a surface, and creating its sound.



On exhibition from 4th of August, 2017, until 20th of Augustus.

Event: Nameless, Tilt Platform,

Venue: Building; Beau Rivage, Loutraki seaside

Curated and organized by: Makis Faros, Takis Zerdevas, Katerina Gkoutziouli and Zoi Pirini.

Coding and collaboration with Frixos Konstantinos Gavalas….

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