Bumblephone (2010): proposal for a floral and phonographic installation
Bumblephone is a design for a large scale interactive installation. Collaborators: Lauren Fenton (3D model design), Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Veronica Paredes, Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, and Laila Sakr. It was originally proposed for IndieCade’s Temporary Installation 2010 in Culver City.
In Bumblephone participants speak to each other through giant phonograph-shaped flower pods, triggering a mischievous aural remix that blends their intimate interactions with the ghostly sounds of cinematic and videogame history. Composed of four fluted canopies that hang from a central stalk, the piece is designed to evoke experiences of intimacy, memory, and a playful rearrangement of history. Visitors can whisper to one another through tube-like apparatuses that resemble the reproductive organs of a flower.
When someone speaks into one of the tubes, the “organism” interjects by echoing back the participant’s words and mixing real-time communication between visitors with sound segments composed of memorable lines, refrains, sound effects, and dialogues culled from histories of cinema and video games. In massaging these soundtracks into a dialogue with its visitors, Bumblephone gives rise to delightful surprises, stimulating confusions, and uncanny presences. By designing these flower-shaped objects to be suggestive of multiple forms — a camera, a projector, a telephone, a phonograph-horn, and an interactive organism — we encourage visitors to think about the ways that various technologies tend to absorb and respond to one another.
We will assemble the frame of this evocative structure using aluminum tubing for the supportive structure and lighter PVC and wire for the sound flowers. A central pole will be secured by four tension cables, supporting a hollow aluminum platform, in which a laptop and a mixer will be housed. A hollow aluminum ring circles the platform, connecting the two curved aluminum tubes that serve both as support for the flowers and carriers of sound from flower to flower. Visitors speak into a microphone that amplifies the sound within the tubes and also records their speech, prompting the Voce speech recognition platform to decode participants’ utterances — looking for keyword matches within a library of lines from noteworthy films. A positive recognition will trigger a Processing program to playback sound from these particular filmic moments. In addition, sound recognition sensors will trigger the Processing program to translate the participants’ voices into sound effects from a library that includes classic video game sounds.
The sound flowers themselves will be assembled using thick copper wire sheather in clear colored PVC tubing, while their decorative buds/stems that link them to the aluminum structure will be composed of molded PVC. To make them sound proof, clear vinyl upholstery fabric will cover the flowers’ wireframe.