Repurposing the omnipresent portable device, Alter is an audio-visual installation for 16 iPads and 16 people in a delicate meditation on invisible systems and interconnectedness. Bodies, light and space are threaded together in this intimate sensory encounter. Created by Tamara Saulwick in collaboration with Peter Knight, Martyn Coutts and Steve Berrick, Alter creates a pocket in time for the act of collective listening and contemplation.
Alter was commissioned by Arts House as part of the Australia Council’s Digital Theatre Initiative and premiered at the 2016 Festival of Live Art.
“Performance maker Tamara Saulwick and composer Peter Knight have created a meditative, slightly muted audiovisual experience in which audience members place softly glowing tablets in various positions around a large darkened room, creating an ethereal surround-sound symphony of faint murmurs, rustling crepitations and soothing hiss. It’s a subtle work, so subtle that it might at first appear slight, but one that, in that pale, strangely comforting light, does create a real, if fleeting, sense of shared intimacy.” Andrew Fuhrmann, RealTime Arts
“As if we has summoned a set of windows into another world.” Owen Richardson, The Age
Concept/Visuals/Text: Tamara Saulwick
Composition: Peter Knight
Dramaturgy: Martyn Coutts
System Design: Steve Berrick
Film Footage: Scott Morrison & Tamara Saulwick
For Alter, I worked with Tam to build a live AV cueing system driven by midi.
An app built using openFrameworks and running on a MacBook Air operates as a media syncing server, midi router and OSC timeline broadcaster. For development, Tam worked in Ableton Live, sending midi to the Alter app, which routed OSC to the iPads at 60Hz. The midi notes trigger audio, imagery and video on and off. Using the timeline controls within the Alter app, she was able to change iPad screen brightness, audio volume and also group the iPads together, so at times they’d play grouped content, and at other times unique. For production, Tam exported the midi sequences out of Ableton and Alter loads and plays them back in realtime.
The iPad app was also built with openFrameworks, and is really a dumb OSC client, with the exception of syncing all the media from the server on launch. We experimented with different mobile devices, both iOS and Android, and ended up going with iPad Minis as they have decent screen viewing angles for the cost.