CAN was all over the recent International Marketplace for Digital Arts (IMDA) event that took place as part of the first edition of the International Digital Arts Biennial (BIAN) in Montreal. These speed talks allowed a global roster of artists, curators and organizers to discuss their current projects for the assembled audience and—fueled by a lot of coffee—approximately two dozen practices were presented over the course of two days. For the next week and a half, I’ll be pointing out some of the artist and projects that were discussed during these sessions and the first up is Montreal’s Darsha Hewitt.
Hewitt describes her practice as being invested in exploring “the ways in which electricity is experienced and perceived in domestic environment” and she presented three projects during her talk, two of which are showcased in the below video. Electrostatic Bell Choir is a kinetic sound installation consisting of small bells and pith balls that are ‘played’ by static electricity emitted from salvaged CRT monitors that cycle on and off and Feedback Babies deploys an array of low-cost Fisher-Price nursery monitors from the 1980s as a squawky phase piece.
Hewitt’s artist statements for the two pieces:
The Electrostatic Bell Choir is a kinetic sound installation that consists of small bells and pith balls suspended in front of cathode-ray tube televisions. The TVs are muted and tuned to various channels of white noise. A control circuit cycles them on and off in alternating sequences, building up static charges that attract the pith balls and cause them to waver and lightly strike the bells; resulting in quasi-melodic bell compositions. The movement of these apparatuses is subtle and the sound is delicate. To some extent these variables are unpredictable as the nature of the static exchange fluctuates over time.
The Fisher-Price Nursery Monitor (circa 1983) was a low watt household radio set originally intended to “let parents be in two places at once” by broadcasting the cries of a baby in distress to a mobile receiver accompanying a parent outside of earshot. However, when in very close proximity these devices produce audible feedback that sounds uncannily like whimpering electronic babies. Feedback Babies is an electromechanical sound apparatus that makes use of slow moving motors to automate these transmitters in order to create nuanced feedback patterns.