Small Changes big leaps


the touch to processing patch now works well. the platform is a bit flakey but as you can see from the video all three electrodes control one of the circles in the processing sketch.

In simple terms, I’ve discovered how to address and take data from each of the electrodes using a protocol called GPIO (general purpose input output) the upside is that this is a simpler way of getting data out. the only downside is that not all electrodes on the touch board can be used with GPIO.

This is a big leap in achievement and considerably simplifies the process of getting and using data from the touch board into processing.


little steps to touch tabla

Been working on getting data from the touch board and it’s been an uphill struggle.  I read up on the chip that is used for the capacitive sensing (MPR121) and had to think so hard it nearly killed me.  I’m a few steps closer and have got it kind of working.  when you touch electrode 11 on the board I got a little circle to flash on my computer.  it wont scale up to other electrodes but it is early days. See the video below.

touch board

Attack points

In order to take touch data from a drum, I have been examining how Rishii’s hands move over the tabla using slow motion video. Referred to as attack points different parts of the drums create different sounds.  After analysing thousands of frames showing the surface of the Tabla being played, I created this composition to make sense of where best to attach sensors.



For this project I’ve been reading a wide range of essay’s and books. I’ve also been exploring past exhibitions that have explored similar themes.

Below is a list of a few things that have been of interest.


‘The Information’ (2011 Published by Pantheon) by James Gleick is a broad study of data and information from both a historical and contemporary perspective.  This book set the foundation for this work as it first introduced me to the concept of a broader interpretation of language i.e. the talking drum

‘Muntadas. On Translation’ catalogues 27 projects by Antoni Muntadas that explore translation.  The book is epic (though a little full on at times).


Marking Language (exhibition) Drawing Room, London: 10 October – 14 December 2013

Pavel Büchler, Johanna Calle, Annabel Daou, Matias Faldbakken, Karl Holmqvist, Bernardo Ortiz, Shahzia Sikander



Draft text

I’m developing a text to use in the performance in some way.

here’s the latest draft


So this is data

It’s all around us
we see it – touch it – use it
every day
we translate it into new realities
It’s up to us what we see and how we interpret it
which data are we capturing
zeros and ones or less
much less than we are dismissing.

let’s look at it It flowing through this system
Your chirpy contributions are being translated into tabla.
Luckily Rishii is fluent in tabla.
And this is how our process begins.

Each drums feels the attacks
they are being measured and re-coded as chromatic states
then being decoded as movements by hand
recycled by Rishii as commands
whilst also being taken as touch and relayed as X and Y for your viewing pleasure

all this in the blink of a few eyes

around the world and back from

server to server

device to device

Exits and Rethinks

It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the project. The performance artist we has hoped to work with is no longer able to join us. this opens up the possibility to take a new look at the project and assess what is integral to the project and what is superfluous. to this end we met on the 6 August to work through different possibilities and look at whether the dancer is really necessary or if I or someone else could step in on a more casual level.

This was a great day as we seemed to achieve a great deal in a short space of time. The first point of order was to define the piece as its stands. the best way to do this is to think in terms of a series of blocks which are incongruous but are connected by the throughput of data.

  1. The first block is the audience and the twitter conversation they create.
  2. The second is the twitter to tabla sketch and  Rishii playing that data
  3. The third block is the system that takes touch data from the surface of the tabla and turning that into light formations
  4. the forth block is the individual who sees the light formations and interprets them as hand gestures that Rishii sees (this is where a feedback look occurs as data from the tabla goes back as direction that controls how the tabla are played)
  5. the final block is the system of taking movement information from the hands of individual looking at the light formations and reinterprets that as movements or coordinates sent to a drawing machine.

The idea of the human locked in the algorithmic process is still intact as is the critique of contemporary uses and understandings of data. The idea that data is a type of truth and the visualisation or sonification brings us closer to the origin of that data is very much part of  our life and the work tries to challenge the fetishisation of data both in mass media (through the proliferation of data visualisations in newspapers and magazines) and art (the use of data to create generative artwork using algorithms and software).

More recently I was talking to my four-year old nephew who is into sea creatures and he mentioned a Siphonophorae which (in simple terms) is an organism constructed of smaller creatures called zooid’s.  Each zooid has a particular function, is very complex and different. It is therefore dependant on the zooid’s.  I’m starting to see this artwork as a Siphonophorae as it is a series of linked sections each dependent on the others.

The piece feels like a whole and a series of individual pieces.

Conductive Paint Tests

We tested conductive paint with Rishii recently and the idea of drawing touch data from drums look really promising. 20150805_094100 20150805_094053

The conductive paint was painted onto fabric and an old set of bongo’s.  the key thing about connecting to a drum was how to fit electrodes that could connect  to the arduino board. I attached some bits of wire using the conductive paint but found that it did not adhere very well and broke off after some use.  With the fabric it is much simpler to connect to the board as one simply needs to pinch the fabric and connect a crocodile clip. the disadvantage of using fabric is that it dulls the sound of the drum when played.

We tested to see if the application of talcum powder on the hands affected the sensitivity of the paint.

The next steps:

  • We need to look at using other conductive materials such as copper tape or conductive thread.
  • I’m hoping to work with rishii to better understand which parts of the drum he uses – which areas are his hands constantly in contact with and which are the areas of ‘attack’.
  • we need to create a patch that reacts differently when two different connectors are touched




After another great conversation with Mentor David Cotterrell I created a visualisation of the piece to be sent out to venues and such like.  In the absence of live footage from a rehearsal or performance it is important to have a document that provides a clear and concise depiction of the project.

The piece has essentially been chopped into five main stages:

  • Audience send tweets
  • Tweets translated to tabla notes which are played by Rishii
  • touch data from Rishii is used to create lighting formations
  • Light formations interpreted to movements by performer (movements are watched by Rishii who changes how he plays – this forms a loop)
  • performers movements are captured on a camera and turned into instructions for a drawing machine.




Methods for visual

Click on the image above to view a larger JPEG image

Human Hardware

A major concern with respect to this has been the idea of our evolving relationship with technology.  How has our relationship with technology changed.  I look at my children and their enthusiasm for technology and wonder if we have a will or choice to turn away from technology. Is there a place for a digital apostate???