Interactive Musical Performance

Collaborative Project

Arduino, Max, Ableton


Puncture, an interface and performance that explores pressure, tension, and release. This piece expands on my previous work entitled “ ” that employs the distortion and crumpling of paper to reflect on emotional stress that cannot be undone. It is a collaborative project with Elias Jarzombek.

Emotional distress usually originates from non-physical sources and may be the result of regret, grief, or loss, amongst others. In many cases, the distress can build up over time and result in the emotional pain of strong intensity that negatively affects someone’s life, which in certain instances may become permanent and incurable. The artist in this work uses physical materials and kinetic systems to reflect on the gradual emotional collapse we experience during moments of despair. Originally, the surface of the paper is completely flat and unharmed, but over time it wrinkles twists or tears to bits. Paper is fragile, as well as human beings.

Puncture是一件探索压力,张力和释放的声音界面装置。这件作品从我的“  ”作品基础延展,依然用纸张的扭曲和揉皱来反映无法消除与治愈的情感压力。

情绪崩溃通常源于非物质来源,可能是后悔、悲伤或失去等的结果。 痛苦会随着时间的推移而累积,并导致强烈的崩溃与绝望,对生活产生负面影响。在某些情况下,这种痛苦可能成为永久性和无法治愈的。 在作品中,艺术家使用物理材料和动力系统演绎了我们在绝望时刻情绪崩溃的过程。 最初,纸张的表面是平坦且完好无损的,但随着时间的推移,它会起皱、扭曲或撕裂成碎片。纸张非常脆弱,人类也是。


”     ”  started as a box prototype, documented as a video in the physical computing class last year. This May, I was invited to make a large-scale installation to a group exhibition in Shanghai. I developed the small prototype into a completed kinetic system. I would call it “sound installation” somehow because sound plays an important role in the piece.

The initial idea comes from my unfortunate experience when I was in senior school. The reason for the outlook(box shape)is because it has a similar shape to the student locker in my school. It took me a long time to get rid of the shadow of the locker because something bad happened with it which was deeply affected me at that time. The intention of the paper is pretty obvious as its materiality: easy to be broke and tortured which makes me feel it is fragile like a human being. Although it is from my personal experience, I don’t want it to be “my personal” somehow. I didn’t include any specific direction in either description and project title. I intend to encourage the audience to recall their own memories, some painful and broken moments in their own lives instead of thinking like “this is the experience of the artist, having nothing to do with me”.

I was inspired by my favorite artist Zimoun, a Swiss artist, composer, and musician who’s most known for his sound sculptures, sound architectures, and installation art. I was obsessed with meditative sound and movement and got a lot of artistic senses and inspiration from it. I like to be in a daze, just listening, watching and feeling. For me, I believe art is about subtle perception. Somehow it might be a reason for loving Zimoun’s work.


System diagram showing the relationship between the two boxes and the software

The title Puncture, or “cause a sudden collapse of (mood or feeling)”, provides a blueprint for how we wanted the experience to feel. The words we used to describe the feeling were “uncomfortable, annoying, chaos, anxious, not beautiful”. “You have to push it very carefully to touch the boundary and breaking point.”

Performing with this device involves exploring the paper’s texture and resistance by inserting ‘prods’ into holes in the back of the box and pressing against the paper surface. From the front, the audience sees a paper sheet being poked and stretched from under the surface. The sound of the paper crinkling, stretching, and tearing is blended with synthesized and recorded audio that is modulated by the pressure being exerted on the different prods. The harder you press, the more intense the sound becomes until eventually you puncture the surface and are left with silence.

Our performance also featured a second box, an early prototype that we repurposed to create a duet. The second box is positioned flat on the table and is played like a percussion instrument, using the box frame and paper surface to create texture and rhythm.


Sound Design

The sound consists of a mixture of raw audio from the contact microphones and synthesized/recorded audio from Ableton Live. We use Max/MSP to map the pressure sensors to various parameters in Ableton. In addition to the raw pressure values, we also calculate the velocity and acceleration of the values. This allows us to explore many more sonic avenues than with just the raw values — for example, quick presses affect the sound differently than long slow presses.