Humanity: From Survival to Revival
*This work won 2023 Best of Competition Award from Broadcast Education Association in Interactive Multimedia and Emerging Technology Category.
Humanity: From Survival to Revival is an award-winning (2023 Best of Competition Award in interactive media and emerging technologies category from the Broadcast Education Association) interactive audio-visual performance work that depicts the transformation of the dystopian state of humanity to utopianism in both the visual and sonic realms by including the faces of live audiences as part of the multimedia performance. Not only do audiences play an interactive survival game via microphone (sound interactive), but the collaborative efforts are meant to represent saving humanity through collective transformation, healing, and renewal. In act one, audience members are asked to stand in front of the camera and contribute their facial images to build a digital gameboard. As their faces are added, they become a live electronic instruments by triggering the sound files. In act two, audiences are asked to play an interactive survival game based on their free speech. Audience members can either exhale a breath into the microphone, signifying giving CPR to another person to save a life, or they can say positive words into the microphone; speaking a positive word affirms the power of speech, imitating a scenario where people in crisis can lift other people’s spirits to help them stay alive. To encourage participation, when there is no sound from the audience member (no effort to save each other), the audience member's face is randomly dropped from the screen to signal the demise. The sound going into the microphone further affects the faces by temporarily blurring them. In act three, the chaos gradually calms down, and those (audience’s faces) remaining on the screen are being transformed via real-time audio-visual interaction. In this act, improvisational performance on the Danso (Korean bamboo flute), singing bowl, and live electronics affect the visual content. In the final act, humanity revives and imagines the peak utopian state by building the 3-d digital model made out of audiences’ faces. The violin improvisation interacts with the rotation of the model and the intensity and shape of the light to represent utopia. (Credit: technical support and programming by Martin Ritter)
The work depicts the transformation of the dystopian state of humanity to utopianism in both the visual and sonic realms by inviting audience participation as part of the performance. Not only do audiences play the characters in a film-like context, but the collaborative efforts are meant to represent saving humanity through collective transformation, healing, and renewal. This work will culminate in a participatory experimental performance where audiences and live music improvisation synergistically drive the work's visual storytelling framework.
The first movement depicts how humanity can survive a crisis through the participatory efforts of audience members. In this movement, audiences will play an interactive survival game. They will be invited to stand in front of the camera installation for a brief moment. When the audience member walks up to the camera, his or her face will be captured and projected onto the screen in the form of a facial outline and the sound will be simultaneously triggered. Each time a person walks in, it will trigger different sonic responses. Survival can relate to varying aspects of the human condition of today; it may involve survival from a trauma, survival from an accident, survival from depression, survival from illness, survival from random gun violence, and the senseless mass shootings which are happening frequently today. The first movement is a chaotic, solemn, idiosyncratic sonic maze.
In this movement, audiences can strive to resuscitate human lives and spirits. This will happen in two symbolic gestures. Audience members can either exhale a breath into the microphone, signifying giving CPR to another person to save a life. Audience members also can say positive words into the microphone; speaking a positive word affirms the power of speech, imitating a scenario where people in crisis can lift other people’s spirits to help them stay alive. These gestures further affect the video in an interactive way. When the audience members blow air or speak into the microphone, their facial outlines will gradually brighten and move fluidly. To this effect, audience participation will have a gamifying aspect, whereby audiences are working together to save and transform humanity through the literal act of helping one another to survive.
While audience participation primarily drives the first movement, in the second movement, the audience are seated but can continue to personally engage with the work. The survivors of this game will be able to view their facial images on the screen (not everyone will “survive,” since this will depend on the efforts of participants). In the second movement, the chaos gradually calms down, and the healing process begins, at which point my violin and cello performance will start and drive the visual and sonic narratives. In the third and final movement, humanity revives and imagines the peak utopian state. Each individual face will transform from an individualized self into a physical state of non-identification. The visual aspect will showcase the metamorphosis by creating a 3-D human sculpture (made with participants' faces) via my musical sound.
Concept, Interaction Design, Music, Video, Artwork, Performance: Cecilia Suhr
*Credit: programming and technical support by Martin Ritter
VU Symposium, Park City, Utah, July 5-7th, 2023
“Humanity: From Survival to Revival,” Instruments, Interfaces, Infrastructures: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Musical Media, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, May 11-13 (version 3)
“ Humanity: From Survival to Revival,” Sound and Music Performance, Ammerman Center Biennial 2022, Connecticut College, New London, CT Nov. 10-12
“Humanity: From Survival to Revival,” Eugene New Music Festival, Oct. 15-16, Eugene, OR
“Humanity: From Survival to Revival,” Intermedia Demo (trial) Performance, Arts and Humanities Festival, Miami University Regional, OH (non-peer-reviewed)