And before I knew it - that was that! My 5 week plan was over and I had emerged having showcased 2 of the 4 sculptures from my Playces project at our recent Salon event at the University of Gloucestershire - so what was the verdict? In one word (and one that cropped up again and again that evening) - fun! All who explored the sculptures commented on the engaging nature of the work and the positive effects of having to physically explore a 'location' to uncover and experience sound and music. Seemingly my new format for presenting musical outputs was proving to be effective in several different ways - gamification, non-linear soundtracking, and ludic architectures just to name a few.
And as I initially hoped, this showcase has given me the much-needed opportunity to take a step back and look at these works, free of the bonds of its arts funded agenda, and begin to establish the backbone for this multimodal praxis I want to start developing. Part of this reflection was enabled by the questions and suggestions that were thrown my way following people's interaction with each work:
"Why did you decide to use percussion sounds in The Shanty Town sculpture?" "Have you considered more contextually relevant sounds for The Cathedral?" "The scale of these works really mess with your perception and put you in a totally different headspace. Was this intentional as part of the experience?" "The cardboard is really unassuming, and this lures you in. At first glance, it looks like a load of cardboard, then you see that they're places, then you suddenly notice all of the small details. Then you see that some of those details move. They control sound! The layers just keep coming and coming, this is something I feel wouldn't be as effective if you used a more detailed/photorealistic construction resource..."
Some of these things I had actually considered during the development of this project. Some of them I absolutely hadn't - but answers to each and every one of the conversations I had that night could've been informed by praxis on multimodal creativity. But before I dig into that, this fork in the road marks the end of the involvement of Playces within my postgraduate focus, but the project will continue onwards with the first official public exhibition yet to happen! This will be taking place in Newport on the 23rd and 24th November as part of Art on the Hill 2019.
I intend to create a short video to document all of the sculptures in action during/after this event, as this will be the first time they will all be fully functional and working together for the first time as part of a consolidated interactive music experience.
But now it's time to begin what I came here to do in the first place... As mentioned previously - Playces was primarily driven by an agenda and set of requirements that thematically sit outside the core focus of my postgraduate ambitions, however, the multimodal nature of each sculpture (visual, sound, interaction) has provided me with the opportunity to begin to reflect on how I can move beyond subjective mindsets for creative multimedia projects and outputs and into a more objective and rationalised set of methodologies; emancipating my work from the influence of hunches, or chance! The first thing that struck me over the last few weeks was the impact that the complexity of one discrete modality had on the relative complexity of several other modalities - for example, a full composition compared with a detailed graphic illustration, or a melody compared with colours, or fundamental lightwave frequencies compared with fundamental soundwave frequencies. To coin a new phrase for my current thinking here, this is something I am going to refer to as 'the resolution of modality'. This notion has emerged because I came to realise, post-development phase, that Playces featured an inconsistent combination of modality resolutions across each of the modalities involved in this project. Here's a brief breakdown to explain what I mean by this: a). The visual element of the sculptures were highly complex (entire locations represented as advanced visual compositions)
b). The sounds being much simpler ingredients (voices, pitched melodies, rhythms, textures)
c). The movements/interactions being fundamental. (pull, tap, press, slide) ...and this got me asking - does it make sense for such a complex modality resolution (in this case, the visual) to be paired with a less complex modality resolution (in this case, the sound)? Maybe it does? Maybe it doesn't? Maybe it's not that important? However, although Playces generated some effective and meaningful experiences, I'm not yet convinced I'm working at the most informed level I could be working at when it comes to my creative generalist workflow. I feel that the current iteration of Playces isn't the best example of an informed and objective configuration for the modalities, which leaves me feeling evermore reassured that a praxis for multimodal creativity could help me to develop a better version of Playces; one that is informed by all of the options, rather than just taking a punt. And I'm starting to feel that this 'resolution of modality' is one of the major components I need to consider when I start to construct my praxis. So, this aspect alone has helped me begin to establish 3 important areas of focus that should help aid me in my efforts to establish the beginnings of my praxis for multimodal creativity. So here are the proto-questions that will drive the next phase of my explorations:
Q1. Which/how many sensory modalities do I need to include within my toolkit/praxis, and how are they relevant for the creation of new media artifacts and experiences?
a). Basic senses (touch, sight, sound, smell, taste)
b). Sub-sensory (proprioception, kinaesthesia, etc)
Q2. At what resolution do fundamental sensory ingredients need to be observed and compared in order for me to formulate useful approaches and methods within my praxis that are relevant to a generalist workflow?
Sound a). soundwave (Hz) b). phrases/voice/instrument c). composition/scores.
Sight a). lightwave (Mhz) b). colours/texture/shape c). paintings.
Smell a). molecule (olfactory) b). smell c). recipes/meals.
Taste a). molecule/ions (gustatory) b). flavour c). recipes/
Touch a). vibration (touch) b). pleasure/pain/texture/temperature c). (highest dimension of this??)
Proprioception a). position b). gesture c). choreographed routine.
Q3. How does time and space mediate/influence the relationships between different modalities?
a). Temporality (timeframes, rates of modality, frequency of stimulus).
b). Dimensionality (position, spatialisation, scale).
c). Conditionality (location, context, climate, population).
Throughout the next 6 weeks, here's how I will refine, build, test, and complete this next phase of work: Refine - arrive at the true foundation that forms the rationale for my desire to develop this sensory praxis.
Build - create 2 to 3 mini practical experiments that explore the elements of each of these questions, and explores a variety of modal combinations, in a more controlled and uninfluenced fashion (i.e. projects which are completely free of real-world project agendas).
Test - observe the results of these mini-projects via 3rd party interactions and reflection, in relation to the components of my proto praxis.
Complete - establish the final nature of the praxis. Identify the name, the blurb, and format of my toolkit-in-waiting at the end of this process. So, updates on the next step to come soon, but first, it's one more trip to cardboard land for me as I get ready for my first public Playces exhibition. I'll catch you on the other side - carefully unpacked, and this way up.