Unnatural Language

Collaboration with Michael Ang
Site-specific Electronic-Sculptural Installation
2019

Unnatural Language is a network of electronic organisms (“Datapods”) that create sonic improvisations from physical sensors in the natural environment

Plant Sensor in the Chagras River, Panama

Unnatural Language is a network of electronic organisms (“Datapods”) that create sonic improvisations from physical sensors in the natural environment. Each Datapod has custom electronics connected to sensors, a speaker, and a wireless network. The sensed data, for example from electrodes that measure the subtle electrical variations in the leaves of plants, is transformed into a unique synthesized sound. Encased in sculptural materials (natural fiber, leather, leaves, etc) and dispersed into a natural environment, the Datapods enter into a sonic dialogue with the existing ecosystem of plants and animals.

The Datapods also communicate their environmental findings to each other wirelessly, and engage in group behaviors such as affirmation of presence and expressions of desire. The group’s emergent sonic expression creates a site-specific interplay of machine intelligence and the local environment.

Unnatural Language proposes that technology and nature are forming a new hybrid ecology, where innovations such as intelligent devices that occupy the natural landscape are dissolving the traditional nature-culture dichotomy. This work repurposes this technology to amplify unseen processes such as plant intercommunication, river health and subtle microclimate changes. 

Unnatural Language is a site-specific installation that can be developed at residencies and festivals. We survey the area and figure out possibilities for developing new sensors in the environment, then record sounds of humans collaborating with nature, such as pouring water onto plant leaves through a strainer or dropping rocks into a tub, capturing the resulting plunks with a hydrophone. We then isolate selected samples to create drum machines and intermittent loops that react to live sensor data. From here, we build sculptures that encase the electronics from found materials in the area such as garbage, bamboo, wood and leaves and disperse them to create a spatialize soundscape performance.

Unnatural Language Installation @ Dinacon 2019 in Panama

Plant Sensor @ PIFCamp in Slovenia

Portable Soil Sensor with Scramble Synth @ PIFCamp in Slovenia

Water Sensor with Floating Garbage Sculpture in the Chagras River, Panama

Food Compost Sensor @ PIFCamp, Slovenia

Tree Sensor @ PIFCamp, Slovenia

Exhibitions
Dinacon 2, 2019, Panama Canal

Credits & Thanks
Projekt Atol, PIFResidncy (Slovenia)
Dinacon: The Digital Naturalism Conference, (Panama)