• Marina Victoria Pascual

Sensitive Chaos

The description I wrote for the exhibition in Berlin:

Sensitive Chaos is the visualization of vibrations and energy. This installation reflects the sensibility of water and its ability to shape energy in a way we would otherwise not be able to perceive. The frequencies at which the water creates these patterns is so low that our human organism is not able to apprehend them. Sensitive Chaos is meant to serve as a tool to reflect upon all those things that we, because of our physical limitations, cannot sense, and a reminder to keep an open mind about other imperceptible vibrations in the world.

Here is a list of the materials I used for the final open studio:

  • 2 Speaker

  • Max/MSP

  • Midi controller

  • Metal plate

  • Water

  • 2 lights

  • 2 light gels

  • Mixer

  • Projector


First set up: I used RECKHORN BS-200i as the speaker, because this device only output vibrations, not sound, with the idea that it would be perfect for my experiment, since what I was most interested in were the vibrations. This was my first attempt, at using this device, with a plastic plate.

As you can see, it was quite a successful first attempt. However, the device was very complicated for me to use. Firstly, I had to find the right amplifier for it, which took me more time than I had originally expected. And secondly, I could not figure how to mount the plate onto it (it tried making a structure for it out of wood, but failed), so it required me to hold the plate agains it, because otherwise, with certain frequency changes the water would spill. So this was not the best device for me to use. But still, before finding a new method, I tried with different types of plates and materials:

After my not so good experience with Reckhorn, I decided to try the experiment out with an actual speaker. Luckily, I had access to 2 KRK Rokit5 speakers from NYU Berlin, so I connected the speakers to a mixer and took a metal plate that I had previously bought (which happened to be the exact size of the speaker disk) and tapped it onto the speaker to further secure it. This set up worked much better and was easier to carry on with, so I quickly shifted my energy to work with these speakers.

This was working much better but I realized that I needed a specific light environment to truly appreciate the visuals. So I got two lights and two light gels and pointed them towards the metal plate.

On the side, I had built a quick Max/MSP patch as the audio output for the speakers. So at this point, you could hear the audio that I was outputting from Max. But on that same day, a friend of mine gave me the idea of using a synthesizer for the audio instead of using Max/MSP. I tried it out, and thanks to this, I realized that I could actually use very low frequencies as the output that although they are believe the hearing range of human audition, they created very beautiful and distinct patterns in the water, compared to the regular high frequencies that I had previously been using. For some time, I thought I was going to stick to the synthesizer, since it allowed me to reach these low frequencies. But it was very difficult to know what frequency exactly was on, and in the end I went back to using Max/MSP, but with this new concept in mind.

Here's an example of high frequencies vs low frequencies:

And here are the real-time videos of these frequencies respectively:

As you can see, it is quite hard to see the form of the pattern sometimes when its in real-time. Thus, realizing that I could have more symmetrical patterns with very low frequencies, I started to make slow-motion videos of the cymatics out of pure curiosity. But seeing that at a slower rate, one could actually appreciate the movement and the patterns much better, I recorded a few videos of it in slow-motion and ended up projecting it on the wall during the open studio.

In the image below you can see the set up of my installation, with the two speaker (each speaker output different audio; one was for the cymatics and the other to create an appropriate ambiance in the room), the metal plate with the water inside, the two lights, my laptop with Max/MSP, the mixer, the midi controller, and a projection of a slow-motion video of the cymatics.

At the open studio in Berlin:

For the open studio in Berlin, I decided to make the piece interactive because people seemed to be very curious about what was happening and some of my friends, prior to the opening, asked me if they could play around with it. After all, for my final piece of Sensitive Chaos, I did want to make it interactive so I thought it would be a good idea to try it out in the open studio. In addition to making the installation interactive, I also displayed a prerecorded slow-motion video of the cymatics so that the audience could further appreciate the sacred geometry of the water in a way that is not so noticeable in real-time.

Unfortunately, during the open studio, I was not able to take many photos of the piece, but here is a very short video of someone interacting with Sensitive Chaos.

And here are some images of me during the exhibit:

To improve:

  • I would have liked to have access to bigger speakers so that I could make the installation bigger. This set up was very efficient but at the same time, not many people could look at it closely at the same time since the metal plate was actually quite small.

  • The lights were not the most adequate for this installation. The reflection of the light greatly varied depending on where the viewer was looking at the installation from. Thus, I would have liked to try using circular lights standing directly perpendicular to the metal plate, with different colors and different radii.

  • Although many people in the open studio told me that they considered a finished work, I would have liked to make the installation a bit more professional.

Here is a link to my research paper.

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