MIA HARRIS VOCAL ARTS
Vocal Improvisation and Motion-activated Electronic Sound
Vocal Improvisation and Motion-activated Electroacoustic Sound Interaction (VIMES Interaction) is an innovative body of research that, from January to March of 2022, brings together three important artistic teams located in the province of BC: myself ( a classically trained/experimental vocalist/performance artist), Dr. Bob Pritchard (UBC) and his Tracking And Smart Textile Environment (TASTE) project, and Installation Artists Danielle Savage of Montreal and Alexandra Goodall of Penticton with their multidisciplinary installation, ‘Migration Parade”.
VIMES marries research involving movement and gesture-controlled synthetic and processed real voice with an existing interactive installation in Penticton in BC’s Interior. It will explore the relationship between human and artificial voices, and between individuals and the collective experience, drawing on my expertise as a singer/actor/mover/performance artist, as well as on the expertise of a software/hardware developer (Daniel Tsui), a costume designer (Alaia Hamer), a choreographer (Emmalena Fredriksson) and a music technology professor (Dr. Bob Pritchard) to bring a series of open “rehearsals” in a public gallery space. We will develop the piece in public, affording gallery attendees the opportunity to respond to the research as it is being developed in situ. We will provide a means for public written feedback as well as host a Critical Response Session based on techniques developed by Liz Lerman. As part of this research, key parts will be video-documented, posted on the project website, and provided to each collaborator.
In March 2022, the Penticton Art Gallery (PAG) will host “Migration Parade” (by Savage and Goodall), a Canada Council-supported multidisciplinary immersive installation. The main gallery of the Penticton Art Gallery will hold nine large pod-like sculptures of felted wool. These pods will have sensors whose activation by gallery visitors will create an interactive multipart soundwork. The sculptural sound installation will explore the individual within the collective and vice versa, using ultrasonic sensor technology as an “internal nervous system” to create reciprocity with the audience. The installation will be mounted at the PAG in the spring of 2022, and this is the space in which I will carry out my research. I will expand on their concept by taking on the character of an android, using TASTE sensor technology as a quasi external “nervous system”, while I interact both with the sculptures and the public.
Throughout my time with “Migration Parade” in the PAG, I will research and work towards the creation of a performance piece that can be independently mounted in other gallery spaces and stages.
This project will involve my travelling to Vancouver six times to work with Dr. Bob Pritchard and the TASTE team in order to develop a custom performance costume with e-textile sensors, using the TASTE project’s Responsive User Body Suits (RUBS) technology, and interactive on-body lighting. (Current TASTE project research also includes wireless interactive lighting in costumes, controlled through sensors, gesture, or presets.) I will learn to set up and use the Kinect-Controlled Artistic Sensing System (KiCASS) software and hardware infrared tracking systems in order to trigger and process sounds in my developing work, and I will be given a KiCASS system for use in Penticton so that I can continue to research the sound-world in conjunction with Danielle Savage and Alexandra Goodall (who are developing the existing installation) at the PAG.
Overall this research project involves developing sound and sensing systems and then creating a narrative/conceptual arc that will be the foundation for a performance work. Besides the practical component of becoming conversant with TASTE, RUBS, and KiCASS technology, I will investigate the imperialist and patriarchal norms built into many technologies including language and robotics. The “being” that I will embody will undergo a process of learning of and about itself, developing a language using real and synthetic voice, and discovering the extent of the technological vs. “natural” behaviours it can/wishes to engage in. This may include learning what the word “natural” means to a technology-based life form. As part of its process of self-discovery it will also confront its own environment.
For today’s audiences, exploring the ethics of technology, robotics, machines, and AI is important: our growing reliance on these creates rapidly changing social, economic, cultural, and environmental landscapes, and demands our attention, our thoughtful consideration, and ethical responses. Artistic expression using technologies can be a powerful means of drawing attention to these issues.