Text by Sarah Oestreich (Editor) @Sarah_Oestreich
Images courtesy of Jerod Harris and Tiger Tiger

Algo-Rhythms at Sonos Studio 

On Thursday, July 17th, Sonos Studio premiered their newest exhibition entitled, “Algo-Rhythms.” Showcasing DevArt, or software-based art, Algo-Rhythms focuses on how music, art and technology intersect to change the way we experience music. The featured artists push past the accepted uses and parameters of technology to create unique installations that expand the UX to other senses — not only consuming audio through listening, but also seeing it and feeling it (sorry, no tasting or smelling here).

In a world of slash titles, combos and mash-ups (model/actress/waitress, musician/bartender, Branjelina, the cronut, the wonut), the lines between established categories have never been so blurry. No, I’m not referring to the over-played (and kind of rape-condoning) song by Robin Thicke. The eradication of boundaries between genres and classifications is exciting. The possibilities are infinite.

Sonos Studio

Open for just shy of two years, Sonos Studio is an “acoustic gallery” that displays music, art and technology in various forms of media. The space is located south of Beverly on La Brea, sitting between a rustic furniture store and a lighting store (it is La Brea, after all). Despite the differences in purpose, Sonos Studio’s simple design fits right in with its neighbors: white walls and dark wood floors. There are a few design features that do set the space apart are the two lit up signs bearing the location’s name, speakers set up around the square room, and the sound insulation installed on the gallery’s ceiling, which probably has little—if any—effect.

Past Sonos Studio events include performances, listening parties and Q&As with Charli XCX (of “Fancy” fame), Ziggy Marley, and Moby; How to Mix a Record, Build Your Own Speaker, and Make Open-Source Music workshops; screenings of films Beware of Mr. Baker and the Black Lips’ Kids Like You and Me; and exhibitions like HiFi, a retrospective on the 1960’s Jamaican dancehall scene.

Floating Point Collective recognizes
the importance of the moments we often
deem uneventful and insignificant.

The Installations

Sonos Studio Culture Marketing Manager Nu Goteh was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the Algo-Rhythms exhibit. He tells me that each piece is created live by the input and output of information, save for the first two items.

Once through the glass double doors, patrons are immediately greeted by a flat-screen television cycling through two of the featured pieces. The video installations not only act as introductions to the exhibition, but also to all art made with code.

Larry Cuba is widely considered as the founder of this type of art and even did the computer animation used for the Death Star in the first Star Wars film. He made his piece, Calculated Movements, in 1985 with Zgrass on a Datamax UV-I (for those of you who aren’t familiar with these early systems, click here for descriptions). Look closely and you will see a specific and sequential arrangement of ribbon-like graphics.

The other piece on the TV screen is ASCII Rock by Yoshihide Sodeoka. The Japan-born and New York-based artist used ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) software to transform performances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Judas Priest into collages of letters, numbers and punctuation marks.

Trick: if you want to better see the images displayed on the TV, you can a) go outside and look at the TV through the glass doors, or b) walk past the screen and look at its reflection in the doors.

The next installation asks gallery visitors and passersby to interact with and collaborate on this continually changing project. LANscapes (as in Local Access Network) is an interactive piece by Brooklyn-based Floating Point Collective. Two Kinects are attached to the top of the gallery windows to capture the movements on the busy Los Angeles street, which are instantly turned into landscape-like images projected onto the Sonos Studio’s windows with audio to match. LANscapes expands art beyond the gallery’s four walls. After all, art really can’t be confined. At two-minute intervals, the Kinects capture and record glimpses in time, the fleeting movements of everyday life. Some snapshots are then laser printed into 3D sculptures, some of which are displayed and for sale ($450-$1000). In this way, Floating Point Collective recognizes the importance of the moments we often deem uneventful and insignificant moments.

The backbone to the Algo-Rhythms exhibition is Dev Harlan’s Parmenides I. Named after ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides of Elea, the piece makes “the intuitive a reality and gives the work rhythms and a dialogue that set their own pace.” Harlan reverse engineered TouchDesigner, a program that usually turns audio into visuals but in this case, the Harlan projects light, colors and shapes onto a large geometric sculpture, which in turn determine the audio played by sound designer Hawking Leary.

In Transitions 89 – 2.0, LIA uses an algorithm to translate the sounds of Portuguese musicians @c (Pedro Tudela and Miguel Carvalhais) into visual representations projected onto a television screen. The piece is a commentary on ecological, social and cultural dynamics.

The last piece in the exhibition is Visual Music Sculptures by Refik Anadol. The installation is also made using an algorithm, analyzing live audio and converting it into images. Anadol’s choice of a classical piece of music—“Violin Concerto: II. Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows”—stands in juxtaposition to his high-tech paintbrush.

Though both LIA and Anadol’s pieces use algorithms to turn sound into moving illustrations, their conceptions of music imagery, and thus their results, are quite different.

The audio from each exhibit comes out of wireless Sonos speakers, each perched on an illuminated pedestal like they themselves are part of the art on display. Even though the electronics company doesn’t sell its products here, they of course want to showcase them as best they can.

Opening Night

The Algo-Rhythms launch party also featured music by bassist and Rolling Stone “Artist to Watch” Thundercat with music producer MonoPoly. The duo, both signed to Los Angeles-based independent record label Brainfeeder, went on at a few minutes past 8 pm and played for almost a full hour. Their performance was full of energy which transferred to the attentive crowd of 20 and 30-somethings as if through osmosis.

Like with any opening, attendees were there for a variety of reasons. There were those there for the art, those there for the technology, those there for the music, those there because they go to every opening in LA, and of course, those there for the free booze, which included a variety of beers and Stillhouse Moonshine mixed drinks.

A few of the artists also attended the launch party – Larry Cuba, Refik Anadol, Douglas Darnell (Hawking Leary) and a member of Floating Point Collective explained their pieces and mingled with the guests. Singer Kimbra, known from the infamous 2011 Gotye single “Somebody That I Used To Know,” also showed up to support Thundercat, with whom she recently collaborated for her new album.

The featured artists push past
the accepted uses and
parameters of technology to
create unique installations that
expand the UX to other senses.

In Closing

All in all, Algo-Rhythms is worth a visit.

If you aren’t fortunate enough to get your own guided tour like I was, don’t fret: Sonos Studio provides a large piece of paper that doubles as an exhibition program, with installation information and artist quotations on one side, and a poster, with an image from Andol’s Visual Music Structures on the other.

And if you can’t make it during the gallery’s business hours, you won’t completely miss out on the Algo-Rhythms exhibition completely. Larry Cuba, Yoshihide Sodeoka, and Floating Point Interactive’s installations will be running 24/7. In fact, while the Kinect cameras will always be on, due to the sunlight, the LANscapes projections are only visible at night. I recommend visiting Sonos Studio an hour before closing, going shopping and/or getting something to eat, then returning to the gallery for some interactive fun.

Sonos Studio
145 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12 pm – 6 pm
Algo-Rhythms Exhibition Dates: July 17 – August 25, 2014

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