Kontinuum

02.01.2020

Art installation by Ursula Damm and Felix Bonowski, 2021

Curator: Yvonne Volkart

Commissioned for the Flux building by Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Technique: Two channel projection; one based on live camera footage and neural network learning rules; simulation based on Perlin noise, Navier Stokes-Solver, reaction diffusion kinetics parameterized with live measurements of Oxygen content, temperature, turbidity.

Kontinuum auf der Website der EAWAG

Felix Bonowski controling the “bachcam” screen, EAWAG Flux Building, Zürich
View of the projection – simulation and generative video

Kontinuum is a generative 2 channel projection based on live data of the Chriesbach, a rivulet flowing alongside the Institute of Water Research. The two projections represent a certain mode of “reality” of the Chriesbach and its flux throughout the year. Both translate data of seasonal variations, color patterns and physical principles of the stream into sensual images that associate impressionist and Japanese painting. By bringing the outside into the inside, the water into the Flux building, the object of observation to the site of its investigation, the installation reflects the Kontinuum of the stream and the function of the house in an aesthetic way.

The colored projection collects images of the Chriesbach stream and its inhabitants. Real time images of three cameras are passed through a graphics shader which is based on classical neural network learning rules that “remember” colors in areas of high activity. The resulting video is a collage of combined aspects of the streams’ visual appearance from different times and viewing angles. With their daily changes they serve as a kind of aesthetic weather report.

The black and white projection is a live simulation of a fluid meandering through a rock-strewn valley. Based on an ecosystem of nutrients, primary producers, and grazing microorganisms of the stream, it manifests digitally “how the world would look like, if nature followed these rules”. The formulas that govern the shape of the landscape, the dynamics of flow, and the evolution of life in the simulation are parameterized with values derived from actual real-time measurements of physical water properties. The measurements are performed by a station operated by the research institute just a few meters from where the cameras look onto the stream. Correspondences between measurements and model parameters are chosen so that seasonal changes (in temperature), daily rhythms (in oxygen saturation from photosynthesis) and occasional events (turbidity caused by thunderstorms and construction work) leave their traces in the graphics. Transforming from a valley with a few large boulders to a (virtual) riverbed with many small pebbles, from one emergent biological pattern into another, from a slowly meandering flow into a violent gusher, the simulation reveals itself as a being in permanent flux.

At the right border of each projection, the image logic of the other projection intervenes, so that the color-data of the live stream and the patterns of the black and white simulation intersect: contrasty movements in the colored projection (e.g. reflections of light or swimming leaves) become lines, scratches and holes in the black and white one. They appear as forces, which wipe out organic life and destroy the image. Thus, it becomes clear, that no image and no “reality” stand for themselves, rather they can be questioned, disrupted, or interpreted by manifold approaches.

Video documentation of the installation
Real time play-out of the so-called ‘bachcam’
Cameras observing the Chriesbach stream
Positioning of the cameras
Real time data from Chriesbach for the simulation screen
Felix Bonowski installing the cameras
Video auf der Website der Eawag
Schematic drawing of data flow
This is the concept video with samples of different interesting moments

doves

16.10.1999

Overflight – Art on Building Project for the Campus of BTU Cottbus

Doves from resoutionable on Vimeo.


Installation | video & images | Integration ins Gelände

Based on an anonymous, nationwide competition, “Überflug” and a sound installation by Rolf Julius were proposed for being realized on the campus of the Brandenburg University of Cottbus.

The Artwork

Pigeon lofts are to be installed for the departmental gardens on campus, to the left of the main axis. In the middle of these pigeon lofts, a virtual fountain is to be installed, in which a video can be seen instead of water. This fountain is the spatial and mental center of the work. In it, the trajectories of the pigeons are recorded and made visible over longer time intervals. The structure of these trajectories is intended to show a model image of the coexistence of the animals and offers the opportunity to compare our behavior with them.

The Loft

In consultation with a pigeon fanciers’ association located in Cottbus, I designed a two-story tower suitable for racing pigeon breeding. The presence of pigeon fanciers is to combine university life and research with the experience of folk traditions. Unlike the city pigeon, breeding pigeons are highly civilized. The whole effort of the breeder is devoted to the health and fitness of his pigeons, with the aim of achieving good flight results. To encourage the pigeons to return home quickly, they are separated from each other – young married (widowhood). The drive to quickly return to the female not only makes pigeons fly thousands of kilometers unerringly, but sometimes leads to life-threatening states of exhaustion. The way pigeon breeders deal with these characteristics speaks of long experience and contrasts the abstract thinking of the natural sciences.To give insight into the dynamics of the pigeon loft, these are glazed on two sides. In addition, the breeding and flight results of the pigeons in races are to be made public on a bulletin board. The trajectories of the flights are shown on a map.

First draft for the pigeon loft:

Interior design of the loft:

Model of the dovecot

The fountain

In consultation with a pigeon fanciers’ association located in Cottbus, I designed a two-story tower suitable for racing pigeon breeding. The presence of pigeon fanciers is to combine university life and research with the experience of folk traditions. Unlike the city pigeon, breeding pigeons are highly civilized. The whole effort of the breeder is devoted to the health and fitness of his pigeons, with the aim of achieving good flight results. To encourage the pigeons to return home quickly, they are separated from each other – young married (widowhood). The drive to quickly return to the female not only makes pigeons fly thousands of kilometers unerringly, but sometimes leads to life-threatening states of exhaustion. The way pigeon breeders deal with these characteristics speaks of long experience and contrasts the abstract thinking of the natural sciences.To give insight into the dynamics of the pigeon loft, these are glazed on two sides. In addition, the breeding and flight results of the pigeons in races are to be made public on a bulletin board. The trajectories of the races are shown on a map.

Preliminary sketch:

Model of the dovecot with virtual fountain

top

Video

A special computer software (already available) calculates the positions of the pigeons from the image and writes their trajectories into the video image in real time. Over the day a line drawing is created from the traces of the pigeons, which with its (chaotic) structure questions the surrounding architecture according to its order (rectangular) for its compatibility with the geometry of the natural movement of the birds. The birds, which are not fixed in their directions of movement by paths, benches or buildings, refer here to a freedom beyond the structures given on the site. At the same time, the work should stimulate us to question our planning and systems of order and – depending on the possibility of cooperation with the university – propose a model for spatial order from data obtained through observation. What takes place above the pigeon lofts reports not only random trajectories, but also swarm behavior and the group dynamics of the pigeon lofts. It is worth noting here the comparison between the almost mysterious order of flocks of birds and the frequent collisions of people in massed gatherings. Ultimately, the work with the dove takes up a symbol (dove of peace) found in numerous older murals on campus. While there the dove is understood as a metaphor, it now becomes the object of consideration in its concrete function.
top

“doves”, generative video


top

Integration into the terrain

The grounds of the BTU represent a staged living and working space for students and staff. The microchip grid of pathways and building layout speaks of meaningful order and purposefulness. The garden area offers relaxation in this landscape and also provides the departments with the opportunity for individual design. Nature as a counterpart, but also an object of technology is to be made increasingly tangible here. Adding animals to the plants is one idea. While the trees emphasize the rootedness in the earth, the birds connect with the sky. It would also have been possible to observe the movement of people and translate it into a virtual landscape. However, the environment of the site is so defining that the movements would only be seen in response to buildings or created attractors (benches). Observing the pigeons gives visitors a view of social group structures, whereby swarm behavior and population behavior take up a highly topical subject in computer science (reference microchip) and could be the starting point for a problem definition of a collaboration. Thus, an architecture could be developed from the traces by adaptive algorithms, which translates the territorial behavior of the birds into spatial constructs. These spatial systems could become the occasion for further planning on the campus site. (The software to track the trajectories already exists as well as the implementation as a graphical interface. It would be desirable to do further work on the software in the sense described above with the BTU FB Mathematics or Computer Science).