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Scale

Scale (2010) by Jay Yim, Marlena Novak, and Malcolm Maclver is an interactive installation that uses fish to create a choir. They used twelve different nocturnal electric fish from the Amazon River Basin to form this ‘choir’ by using their electrical fields as the source tones. The fish are “housed in individual tanks configured in a custom-built arc of aluminum frames placed around a central podium”. The fish can either be heard in their natural state or with digital effects added. The twelve frames are controllable with a touchscreen panel with custom-designed software. There are also LED light bars under each of the tanks that give visual feedback parallel to the sound emitted from the respective fish. The exhibit itself could be categorized as telepresence art; a “way to expresson an aesthetic level the cultural changes brought about by remote control, remote vision, telekinesis, and real-time exchange of audiovisual information.” Topics usually understood separately, such as mechanics, biology, and electricity, are brought together in the discussion of self-stabilizing control action and communication, and man and machine are seen in analogous fashion. Regardless of its pertinence, the ordinary use of the word memory to describe the storage unit of a computer is an example of the pervasive influence of cybernetics theory [2]. Scales is a perfect implementation of the cybernetics theory, in that it blends the natural and the unnatural; biology and electricity and mechanics all presented together.

The piece explores on topics such as boundaries relating to physical and intangible properties, issues of trespass (the electrical fields of the fish), and the “mating behavior of hermaphroditic marine flatworms.”[3] www.localstyle.tv – Mating between electrical fish.

“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” [4] www.neuromech.northwestern.edu – 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 National Science Foundation, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts, Northwestern University’s Research Grant Council, and the Murphy Society. scale was subsequently presented at the TransLife Triennial at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, 27 July-17 August 2011. [5]

Additional sources of information:
Http://mediaartchina.org

Source cited:
[1] http://vimeo.com/19933816
[2] Eduardo KAC Telepresence Art [1993], AEM Documents p.233
[3] www.localstyle.tv– Mating between electrical fish.
[4] www.neuromech.northwestern.edu – Fish robots
[5] http://mediartchina.org/