Overflow (2021) – A real-time data sculpture that bridges people and places

Overflow is a site-specific kinetic and generative sound sculpture driven by real-time traffic cameras that monitor the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a famous cable-stayed bridge spanning the Lower Tampa Bay connecting St. Petersburg to Terra Ceia, Florida USA. Footage of traffic flow is interpreted by custom software and transformed into a living soundscape. The physical sculpture is a stringed instrument and sculptural interpretation that maintains an indexical reference to the bridge’s traffic. String tension is robotically attenuated as dynamically changing traffic patterns create an indefinite suspension of time and space. Like the bridge itself, the evolving sonic arrangement suggests a living connection between people and places.

Technical

The artwork utilizes software written in Processing (Java) to obtain IP camera data from a state-owned public traffic information website. The live traffic footage is processed using OpenCV to identify moving objects on the bridge. The view is segmented into regions delineating northbound and southbound lanes. A sculptural abstraction of the bridge provides a physical analog to the movement by referencing the bridge’s two main cable stays, transforming them into bar graphs that represent the quantity of traffic movement on either side of the bridge. Servo motors, driven by an Arduino Mega microcontroller, control the actuation of the physical instrument as data flows through the sculpture. An additional visual abstraction of the traffic flow is projected on the wall, next to the original camera footage, in order to help anchor the viewer and reveal the artistic appropriation happening in the work. The enlarged visualization uses minimal shapes and colors to match the aesthetic tone, but also functionally drive a set of parameters that modulate sounds played back in Ableton Live. The amount of traffic, as well as each vehicle’s position on the bridge can attenuate and change the audio composition in order to create its perpetual and evolving soundscape.

Project Page

Credits

  • Art Concept/Design – OK! Transmit (Mikhail Mansion, Olivia Mansion, Gregg Perkins, James Curran)
  • Software – James Curran and Mikhail Mansion
  • Sound  Design- James Curran and Gregg Perkins
  • Sculpture/Firmware – Mikhail Mansion
  • Communications – Olivia Mansion
  • Photos – Mikhail Mansion
  • Video – Gregg Perkins
  • Curators – Christopher Jones, Ola Wlusek
  • Museum – The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota FL

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