We hear sound, but few of us (beyond audio engineers and synesthetes) ever get to see it interact with the world at large. Yet in any given room, we’re inundated by a sea of waves crashing their way across tables, chairs, and walls.
Murmur, by Chevalvert, 2Roqs, Polygraphik and Splank, is an installation that infuses the mundane practice of speech with elements of A/V wonder. At its heart is the Echo Chamber, a megaphone-like device that captures a person’s voice, transmits it via LED cord, and eventually splashes it against the wall in a giant, animated geometric pattern.
“The installation is based on the popular kid’s game of listening and talking through yoghurt pots linked by a thread,” the project’s Julien Gachadoat and Stéphane Buellet explain, no doubt missing the regional differences between yoghurt pots and tin cans (which before this moment, I certainly had no clue existed). “After the first moment of surprise, an intimate relationship between the person, the object, and the surface arises.”
You could attribute that intimate relationship to the system’s custom algorithms, which convert the signal of a mic’d voice into incredible shapes, but that would be selling the experience short. Because the particular genius is that each element of the installation provides the user with reassuring tactile feedback, from the almost comically oversized Echo Chamber that funnels speech down to a whisper, to the (mostly aesthetic) blinking umbilical cord connecting the megaphone to the wall. These elements might seem a bit whimsical, but they’re absolutely integral to visualizing an invisible process, and leveraging digital technology to connect a person to the analog world.
“The main idea is to communicate with the wall, trying to turn it from a concrete and cold presence to a living and responsive surface,” the team writes. “When a user begins to understand he is somehow connected to the wall, he falls for the game and involves himself by modulating the volume and the rhythm of his speech. There’s a kind of feedback relationship.”
So paradoxically, amidst the resplendent images of digital projection, someone may actually grow closer to the subtle, invisible forces behind the human voice.