Ghost Writer

Proof of concept and documentation of the process behind an interactive installation system created for Visual Literacy for Digital Media at RMIT Saigon South, Vietnam, and some interactions it [2016].

The title Ghost Writer was inspired by the incredible animal that made it all possible, the ‘black ghost knifefish’. This species of fish uses electrolocation and swims in multiple directions using the undulating fin that extends the length of its belly. The title also refers to taking credit for the work/ideas/talents of others and/or fish.

Choosing the theme ‘time and movement’, this installation aimed to give a nod to performative practices like music and dance. Visually, the fish’s movements resemble those of a black inked brush performing calligraphy. Because of this, and the location of the installation, a portrait-style tank was chosen to mimic the paper used for Oriental calligraphy.

The programming employed Max for Live which enabled the amplitude captured by the microphone to trigger visual delay effects upon the webcam feed of the fish tank. This created a system whereby the vocal sounds of the participant would be interpreted as ‘brushstrokes’ based on the position and movements of the fish. Therefore, the user could perform the force/velocity and duration with which they wanted the strokes to appear. It became somewhat of a dance between human and fish.

The controlled feedback-like effects were created in Ableton, designed to give the sense of being within a glass tank. An unintended side-effect was that the best visual results were achieved by creating long sounds with the voice, which required large lung capacity, and often left participants gasping as if they had just been underwater.


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