Company Post

TUNDRA's Powwow Under the Powerlines & Songs from Inside The Whale

TUNDRA is the collective from Saint Petersburg who last year brought us The Void, and with it the challenge to remain still long enough to "visualize the idea of emptiness". The tricky part was to attain this state of stillness while situated in a hyper-immersive 360-degree surround installation of vortex-style spinning panoramic projections and quadrophonic sound.

‘emptiness here isn’t regarded as an absence of everything, but as an initial state when anything can appear’ says TUNDRA. ‘to see the dark room turn into the big bang epicenter a visitor should become ‘empty’.

Drawing a bead on our perpetual state of distraction and fidgetiness,The Void delivered a graphic, startling experience, an intervention, that struck a chord as it rapidly rippled throughout the blogosphere. (see publication links at end of article).

Tundra define themselves as a "collaborative artistic collective" whose members include musicians, sound engineers, programmers and visual artists. Their focus is to create "spaces and experiences by making sound, visuals and emotions work together" in audiovisual performances and interactive installations.

The collective work out of a studio in the Taiga community, a "creative space" in a rented mansion that has become the epicentre of a disruptive "art revolution" The Guardian writes "an underground arts movement that is challenging the zeitgeist of greed, turning old buildings into creative utopias".

While this may well be an outside take on what has been transpiring in the arts/culture of Saint Petersburg/Russia it resonates with our experience from the standpoint of the work we see produced by artists and designers in the Russian and Eastern European TouchDesigner communities. The remarkably high calibre of work, the frequency with which it is created and the playfulness and elegance in the ideas and understanding generating the work have all led to personal rumination of a kind of 'renaissance'.

Tundra have been industrious this past year, producing in quick succession a series of complex and demanding back2back projects that draw visitors and participants into enchanting and other-worldly places. Le Vent Nous Portera invites visitors to play in and interact with an illuminated virtual forest; "The Whale" discussed here later, invites us into a giant whale's mouth to hear its songs!

Their latest installation "POWWOW" is a live audiovisual performance and light sculpture made for the Motive for Peace exhibition that closed at the Street Art Museum in St. Petersburg last weekend ." All night long" the promo said...

Installed and performed on the site of a decommissioned plastic factory TUNDRA controlled a large array of light and sound with TouchDesigner via DMX. We're looking forward to video but from the photos the piece has an eerie, vast, electrifying feel about it. We spoke to Tundra about their latest work and here is what they had to say.

Tundra: Powwow was performed in Saint-Petersburg at the Street Art Museum's closing event, the Motive for Peace exhibition. The exhibition brought together over 60 works devoted to an anti-war agenda. We chose to work with the large viaduct which circles the entire factory as a symbol of communication and dialogue.

The visual part of the performance was made with 40 parallel laser-like beams. The lights were mounted at a height of 130 meters along the viaduct and controlled with DMX. We used TouchDesigner to create a real device and pre-visualizer to project how the beams would look on the sit.

It was very much an experimental working process as we worked on site with various ideas. Some parts were recorded live, others were pre-written. The visuals were synchronized to sound either manually or by MIDI or OSC. The result was a 7-minute long audiovisual track recorded as a video file 40 by 4 pixels, where each pixel controlled one of the light parameters.

To perform this piece we created an optimized application with a small set of functions to fine-tune all the instruments on site. The sound was written using both software and hardware equipment, including analog synthesizers and classic drum machines. At some points the beams simulated lights from a giant drum machine's step-buttons, pulsating to the rhythm of the music, reacting to velocities.

We were trying to express the idea of dialogue by making the sound and light travel across the panoramic field between the left and right parts of the viaduct. Chaotic rhythms, arguing with each other at the beginning, gradually merging into one structure, and finally, augmented with more and more new instruments, culminating into one harmonious flow.

Tundra's "The Whale"Installation on the Brusov Ship, Moscow River

Tundra: The Whale is a site-specific installation by Tundra created for Brusov, a renovated ship, laid up on Moscow river and turned into an art-cluster.

The projection was made on the ship's mess hall's stunning hexagonal ceiling patterns which remained from the time the ship was built in Austria. Standing in this hall makes you feel like floating by the river inside the giant whale's head; observing things. The whale's brain made of glowing cells twinkles together with the Krymsky bridge and Tretyakovskaya gallery lights, reflected in the water.

Technical description

We used four ultra-short-throw projectors placed at the floor in the corners. The visuals and sound were controlled with TouchDesigner. It took more then a day to map 1400 hexagons angles to the geometry of the ceiling pattern. We created a special application controlled with a wireless keyboard, so you could move the things around lying on the floor.

There were five main audiovisual pieces played in a random order and mixed with effects. Each piece was based on the video for one hexagon and afterwards, the clones of this video were generated for the rest of the hexagons. Every cloned video had a random delay, so the generated pattern was always different. The initial video was either generated or drawn manually. Afterwards it was synchronized to audio manually or by OSC in Ableton.

There was also an interactive mode. To interact with The Whale, visitors placed their phone screens above the black box in the center of the room. Once the phone was above the box, the image from the screen burst into visual patterns and audio fragments all over the cells, merging all the precious moments of each life stored on the phone and with it, igniting the whale's imagination with the speed of light.

See also:

interactive panoramic projection by TUNDRA recreates big bang

Installation Uses Panoramic Projections So You Can Literally Enter The "Void"

Jumpgate Chic: THE VOID Absorbs Viewers Into Stunning Panoramic Projections

My Whale