NPR, Infrared Reflections and What’s Next

My work with Infrared Reflections — where I sonified the Joshua Tree using live infrared data — was covered in NPR’s All Things Considered just a few weeks ago. I’m very happy with the article + radio broadcast, and being in front of the camera is always an adventure in distilling complex ideas into something publicly digestible.

I’m probably the first artist to capture infrared data from plants and transform it into music. I can also use these sensors with other plants and trees, so I hope to do other performance events, especially since it is a particularly non-invasive method, where I wave my glove over the flora to capture live data.

 

I have been working on sensors + soundscapes for a number of years and have developed a generalized data architecture for getting sensor data and transforming them into art installations.

I first develop my own sensor boards, which combines of off-the-shelf sensors, with my own electronics, and from these, I develop my own circuit boards for them.

Above: Mycelium sensor to capture electrical signals with probes inserted into mycelium

 

I hook these up to various plants, water, mycelium or really anything I can think of that captures invisible data from nature. The sensors transmit this data wirelessly over OSC (Open Sound Control) into a data stream that other devices can pick up over local wifi network. These can be “Datapods” — which are small embedded electronics that I co-developed with Michael Ang, or a laptop, or a Raspberry Pi, really anything that can pick up these signals.

 

What’s next? Well, a new version of Fungitopia, which will play evolving ambient soundscapes from four cultures of mycelium at Four Chicken Gallery in San Francisco. And then, an entirely new project with Michael Ang, which will be a performance at the end of July (2024).

After several years of work, I have a robust toolset, where I can quickly develop site-specific installations using sound sensor technology and can come up with conceptual art that can tap into emergent soundscapes.

While I’m certainly not the first to use plant sensors or mycelium sensors to make sounds, what I do have to offer is a family of evolving sensors that I can easily use in art residencies, installations and performances without having to get mired in the technical how-to.