Building Materials

Building Materials is an installed composition, made in direct response to the architecture and use of Exeter Phoenix arts centre.

Sensors spread throughout the building carry raw data back to a listening room to form a self generating audio composition, created in software designed by myself in Max/Msp. I am interested in allowing what goes on in particular architectural spaces to dictate the structure of the composition, be it through human activity, light levels, air flow or its functional, operating life.

Sounds and data wind their way through the building and are expressed visually through coloured tape carrying wires along walls, floors and ceilings, reminiscent of the iconic London Underground map. This network is there to be explored, followed through the building, drawing attention to what often seem like very ordinary activities: the shutting of a door, the squeak of a floorboard, the whir of the air conditioning. I want the work to be underpinned by  such narratives, I like how working like this fills a piece of music with snippets of unforeseen stories through the opening of a window, the joining of a dance class, or meetings in a café.  These insignificant happenings are re-presented in the final composition, transformed, altered or rearranged, leaving only fragments of traceable sound.

At once site specific and portable to other situations, Building Materials cedes much of the artist’s own authorial control. In any other building and at any other time audiences would experience a completely different work because its form is sensitive to, indeed largely determined by, its environment.


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Jun 16 2011 | 2:08 am

Hi Owen,

I really enjoyed the video. Could people hear the installation live? and was it audible only at the hub or elsewhere in the building?

It occurred to me that if a live installation were connected to an FM transmitter, then some of your audience could hear the changes taking place on their phones.

Great work


Jun 16 2011 | 2:19 pm

Hi Richard,
Thanks for the kind words :)

Yes, the installation was all live (the patch ran non stop for 5 weeks) and was only audible in the gallery ‘hub’ space. I was interested in the idea that people might change their behaviour around the building, slightly, once they were aware of the piece, but that they would be apart from the results of their actions. The cause and effect of direct interaction was always just out of reach, but was replaced with a heightened awareness of ones movements through the building.



Jul 14 2011 | 9:50 pm

This is great–very inspiring. Nicely done.

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