Sound of Life (2009)

Sound of Life is a provocative audio-visual performance or installation that consists in dynamically generating sounds and visual through the tracking of the movement of spermatozoa in fresh semen observed under a digital microscope.
The obtaining of the semen is an intrinsic part of the performance.

Artist Statement
When spermatozoa are the ones generating sounds, who is the performer ? Are the spermatozoa the performer or are they already a distinct autonomous living entity ?
Sound of Life is trying to address these questions by limiting the interaction between the performer-creator, as the one who gave birth to the spermatozoa, and the spermatozoa to a minimum. Spermatozoa that enter the field of vision of the microscope are all potential performers and the sounds they generate depends mostly on their movements that are not controlled.

By making the act of obtaining the necessary fresh semen a part of the performance, the artistic creation is voluntary confused with the creation of life. The created life, the spermatozoa, becomes an artistic creator, blurring the border between life and art.

Detailed description
Interactivity is provided by the ability to choose the tracked spermatozoa. Each tracked spermatozoon can be seen as a single track in a software music sequencer with its own sound characteristics that are modulated by the tracking information (for example, position or direction of movement). Several spermatozoa can be selected and simultaneously tracked. The selection of a spermatozoon as a candidate for sound generation is performed through a Wii Remote used as a pointer/mouse. The Wiimote allows performing several additional actions, such as to desactivate a tracking, to change the active track, or to change options of the display.
There are several modes of display. In one of these modes, the background is a picture covered by digital black paint. The movements of the tracked spermatozoa remove the paint, thus revealing the hidden picture. In another mode, the tracked spermatozoa are assimilated to small cars driving in the night. Only what falls inside the light beam of the cars/spermatozoa is revealed. In yet another mode (called “Myselves”), the tracked spermatozoa are replaced by the face of a person. When someone comes in front of a camera, a picture is taken and processed to keep only the face (video) and replace the head of each tracked spermatozoon by it.

Technical Statement
Fresh semen is viewed under a digital microscope (a microscope equipped with a camera) that sends the stream of images to a program written in C++ with openFrameworks. The program processes the video stream in order to detect the moving spermatozoa and track them. The program sends the tracking information through OSC (Open Sound Control) to a Pure Data patch to generate sounds.

Flickr (screenshots and demo videos)