A little bench next to a pink orchid – Florian Grond, Austrian artist, scientist and ZKM alumni, offers visitors to Along the Line a friendly, but calculated spot to sit down in front of his abstract, wider than wide video projection. Once they do they inevitably become part of it. Captured by a small camera that feeds a Pd/GEM patch people present emerge as blotchy, seismographic disturbances within an otherwise steady horizontal stream of vertical lines. Each line – representing one of 18 camera images recorded per second – starts as a fractal square on the far right of the screen. As the square untangles towards the center, the camera image dissolves, straightens and eventually merges with the continuous memory pattern on the left. Technically, Along the Line is a series of curves. It is their curious space-filling behavior, a century-old mathematical phenomenon, that Grond has been fascinated with for years.
[Above: screen capture of the Pd/GEM software rendering in Along the Line]
“Space-filling curves (SFCs) have an interesting theoretical background,” Grond writes on his website. “Their core property is to linearize high dimensional content, thereby keeping vicinity relationships.” Discovered nearly 120 years ago, Hilbert space-filling curves (David Hilbert’s variant of Giuseppe Peano’s original space-filling curves) permit a squared surface to be traversed without crossing the same point twice. Depending on the number of algorithmic steps, the pattern provides a high enough resolution to describe complex content, a camera image for example, with a single line. Put together vertically, as in Grond’s projection, these video lines create an abstract activity log of the installation space. 2048 of them are displayed at once and map 1,53 minutes of installation past-time – enough for visitors to connect and engage with.
The result of a 2008 residency at OBORO in Montreal, Along the Line is only one of Grond’s many excercises examining the nature of SFCs (see also his works Knitting Dreams and Hilbert_02). It is his only work however that uses the visual properties of SFCs for dynamic sound synthesis. “The color information of six vertical lines at specific log points control 64 resonance filter via Super Collider, each with differently tuned partial tones,” says Grond about the generation of Along the Line’s acoustics. The result are clusters of ambient drones that correspond to audience presence. “No visitors, no sound,” he writes. Just the steady stream of projected lines, indifferently documenting the space-time conditions of the room. The only sign of life: a feeble pink line – the orchid.
Florian Grond (Graz, 1975) studied chemistry and nonlinear dynamical systems. Since 2001, he has worked at the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, where he developed his interdisciplinary artistic practice working with new media. He participated in exhibitions in Europe, North America and Asia. Since 2003, he published in the fields of sonification, art and science, and nonlinear dynamics. He is currently finishing his PhD in sonification at CITEC Bielefeld University. He lives and works in Montreal.