Aeolian Lights is the culmination of a large-scale practice-based research collaboration under the collective umbrella of Squidoup. It is one part of a larger ongoing critical collaboration with Rowe and Birtles of over 8 years, using an action-research methodology to continuously create and test various hypotheses and strategies for the affective qualities of mixed reality environments (i.e. spaces that incorporate physical and digital content in combined, collective socio-technological experiences).
This particular research trajectory extends Bennewith's previous research through the development of an environment that incorporates audience movement alongside, elemental factors (such as the wind) to create the overall aesthetic experience. Previous research focused on the development of linear time-based immersive visualisation systems using 3-dimensional grids of LEDs, with no interaction.
Bennewith's contribution to the collaborative research process was to devise the "visual language" for the system to elicit desired responses from an audience. The visual language was developed through a series of interventions, observations and insights with "test audiences" to hone its effectiveness and maximise the experience for the audience.
The research resulted in the development of mechanisms for interfacing audience tracking and weather sensing technologies into the visualisation system for the grid of LEDs; alongside a new visual language for the system that translated both inputs into meaningful visualisations in 3 physical dimensions.
This new and novel public art installation allowed the conception of unique audience experiences. The work was disseminated through its selection to be the first artwork shown in the Quays Culture programme. This innovative Arts Council funded programme immersed audiences in new and exciting public-realm exhibitions with a focus on technology, creativity and digital innovation. The work redefined the audience's experience of Salford Quays allowing the immersive visualisation of unseen elemental forces.
From left, Dr Anthony Rowe, Gareth Bushell and Professor Chris Bennewith with their work, Submergence. Credit: Paul Blakemore
Squidsoup is an international group of artists, researchers and designers (UK/NO/NZ) working with digital and interactive media experiences. Our work combines sound, physical space and virtual worlds to produce immersive and emotive headspaces where participants can take an active role in their experience. We explore the modes and effects of interactivity, looking to make digitally mediated experiences where meaningful and creative interaction can occur.
Find out more about the collective's work at http://www.squidsoup.org/