Iuav, University of Venice
It collects the sounds of Venice, and transforms invisible audio streams into beautiful visual light flows. This encourages people to take care of Venice, a living but endangered entity, and help ensuring its survival. Users in Campiello del Remer can interact with the glowing animation projected on the ground.
This site specific installation had some poetic ephemeral qualities, but we would have liked to see it explored further with some live experience prototypes.
Loquor, an audiovisual interactive installation, evokes the city in real time as it is: a vast, pulsating organism whose breathe is its precious, special soundscape of voices, bells, footsteps, the energy flows of its humanity. It collects the sounds of Venice, and transforms invisible audio streams into beautiful visual light flows. This encourages people to take care of Venice, a living but endangered entity, and help ensuring its survival. Users in Campiello del Remer can interact with the glowing animation projected on the ground.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The labs teachers G. Crampton Smith and P. Tabor assigned to the class the following brief: "Design and prototype an interactive, informative and biomorphic device for a public space in Venice • It must interact in some way to the presence of the spectator. • It must communicate some kind of information, perhaps via the Internet from a changing data source: it is not just an aesthetic object. The information may be precise or impressionistic. • Its form and/or behaviour must in some respect resemble those of a person, animal or plant; but this resemblance may be very fragmentary and oblique. ‘Behaviour’ here does not necessarily imply movement. • One or more than one device, perhaps distant from each other, but intercommunicating. • It must be set in a specific space, outdoor or indoor." After a research about the city and its history we were touched by the contrast between the touristic side of the city and its relationship to its residents.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The narrow calle, the sundrenched campi, the scent of ancient beauty that suffuses Venice, all this make it a marvelous, unique city. Despite this, however, as a place to live in, it is threatened by abandonment. Every city is the mirror of its inhabitants’ life, and Venice, endangered by the abandonment of the residents, needs a special attention and care. So living this city day by day, infuses it with a pulsating energy that keeps it alive, and saves it. In Venice and its islands people speak loudly in the streets and have a very warm relationship to each other. Since the ancient times they gathered to chat around the many wells located in almost every campo. Each one of them has its own distinguish acoustics, its ‘sound’. Very often its loudness level indicates how much activity is taking place in some areas in relation to others. The place, where all the information travel to, is Campiello del Remer, a little corte near the Rialto bridge, in the historical and physical center, the true heart of the city. This place is at the same time concealed and exposed. It faces the Canal Grande and is shaped as a theatre stage, but there is only one way to reach it by foot, and not so easy. Thanks to that, it remains outside of the common touristic routes, and requires people to spend some time to figure out how to get there and discover its well kept secrets.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
From the beginning, we focused on an installation that used some statistical data and we agreed on developing the critical problem of abandonment for the city of Venice. We came across many interesting newspaper articles about the uncertain future of Venice. While the city is visited everyday by hundreds of people, real inhabitants are decreasing in number every year. “In 40 years, Venice will be a “ghost” city, with no inhabitants but only tourists, with opening and closing gates, like an amusement park.” veneziasi / 24.10.2011 “The reality is that Venice is already dead. And it rose again as a showcase.” Corriere della Sera / 26.03.2012 Starting from these considerations, our challenge was to develop a project to help Venice to stay alive. Our installation targets the three main categories: residents, vendors and tourists. To venetian residents and vendors, it would be important to remember their responsibility toward the city: they are the ones that should keep the city active and alive day by day. The tourists, in turn, should understand that Venice needs people’s energy to survive, so they should not only admire it as a museum or an amusement park, but take part responsibly to its life. Loquor combines the idea of sound exploration with that of flowing energy and life. It represents this data with a projection of lights on the floor of the campo. Interaction is performed by users when stepping on an active light triggering the playback of the sound. The lights behave like dynamic fluids. The sounds in Campiello will be heard as if coming from the ground and the environment around, like an echo from a distant place. Visual streams of light on the floor, around the well, represent information: each light changes its shape and behavior according to what kind of sound is heard. During development of concept and design, we had the opportunity to make many user tests. Each one was very productive for us, since we gathered feedback on our work and could immediately see user’s reactions. The most useful one was the very first one, that we did projecting an early graphic experiment on the school’s ground. Seeing the people instinctivly interact with the moving lights by stepping on them, gave us the clue of our whole project. The second time we involved external people in our tests and we project directly in our chosen location. Some girls sponteneusly joined us and gave us some interesting feedback about how the lights should move and how the interaction could be improved. For the prototype, we worked a lot on the audio/visual interactions. We created a working prototype, succeding in making graphic and sounds really interact in real time. For the audio analysis, we decided to record real sounds of the city and then use them to simulate a real sound stream. We reserved an audio stream to the real time audio interaction.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
To gather users’ feedbacks and see the real effect of the outdoor projection, we tested our design in the real location. When we simulated an indoor version prototype, in a dark room, the result was surprisingly good. Users agree on the fact that it is very important to actually hear the sounds. Technology can be helpful in developing this feeling, giving the user a clear retro-active satisfaction: the feeling of having touched a “living area” just by stepping a shimmering light on the ground. Users were fascinated by a “real time nostalgia”, by the fact that the device fits perfectly with the soundscape of the town, giving the listener the illusion to be in many different Venetian alleys at the same time. We got a lot of good feedback from both locals and tourists during our prototype tests. Our project goal is that Venetian and travellers will understand the relationship between their activities and the city – being encouraged to take care of our living Venice.