scale is an interspecies art project: an audience-interactive installation that involves nocturnal electric fish from the Amazon River Basin. Twelve different species of these fish comprise a ‘choir’ whose sonified electrical fields provide the source tones for an immersive audiovisual environment. The fish are housed in individual tanks configured in a custom-built arc of aluminum frames placed around a central podium. Each fish can be heard — unprocessed or with digital effects added, with immediate control over volume via a touchscreen panel — through a 12-channel surround sound system, and with LED arrays under each tank for visual feedback. All software is custom-designed.

The project leaders are comprised of a composer/sound designer (Jay Alan Yim), a visual artist (Marlena Novak), and a neural engineer (Malcolm MacIver). Novak and Yim, collaborating as localStyle, make intermedia works motivated by the theme of perception and that explore such topics as boundaries relating to physical and intangible properties, issues of trespass, and the mating behavior of hermaphroditic marine flatworms. MacIver’s research focuses on sensory processing and locomotion in electric fish and translating this research into novel bio-inspired technologies for sensing and underwater propulsion through advanced fish robots.

The world premiere of scale took place at the STRP Festival (18-28 November 2010, Eindhoven, NL), one of Europe’s most important presenters of art and technology. The project was supported in part by grants from the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts, Northwestern University’s Research Grant Council, and the Murphy Society.

scale was also presented at the TransLife Triennial at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, 27 July-17 August 2011.

Text from documentary video entry:  (cited 6 July, 2011)