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A site-specific installation at the SCI-Arc Gallery transforms a musical composition by Ken Ueno into a digitally realized built environment.
A robot, a composer, and an architect walk into a gallery. It could be the start of a corny joke, but instead it’s the captivating formula for Patrick Tighe’s new exhibition at the SCI-Arc Gallery. The composer is Ken Ueno, recipient of the Rome and Berlin Prizes, and the robot belongs to Machineous, the Los Angeles-based fabricator hired to realize Tighe’s architectural representation of Ueno’s music.
The installation, entitled Out of Memory, brings together sound, material, light, and technology to create an extra-sensory cave within the school’s gallery space. Tighe began the work by creating a spectrogram of Ueno’s site-specific musical composition, translating the frequency map into points and vectors, which ultimately provided a basis for the digitally modeled 3-D surface.
After a framework of forms and thin plastic sheeting was in place, layers of closed-cell foam (for structural support) and open-cell foam (for acoustic value) were sprayed onto the wall assembly. Provided by insulation manufacturer Demilec, the vegetable and soy oil-based foams created a self-supporting parabolic structure as they expanded.
There were few transportation costs involved, said Machineous founder Andreas Froech. “It was extremely efficient, and an incredible statement for construction—that you can take construction material in liquid form to a site and expand it there.” Plus there are no seams.
Once the foam was in place, Froech’s six-axis robotic milling equipment did the work, using the musical data Tighe created to carve the cave’s interior walls. On the exterior, some surfaces were left untouched, creating a textural play between the carved sonic contours and the natural disorder of sprayed-on foam. Working with lighting designer Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting and acoustical engineer McKay Conant Hoover, Tighe then transformed the cave into a environment for listening to Ueno’s work. Custom sound software creates an ever-changing musical performance that visitors hear in a series of contrasting chambers, all the while experiencing a newly discovered frontier in digital fabrication.