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Artist Manipulates a Universe of Light and Sound with a Single Balloon

It's amazing what you can accomplish with just a balloon and an array of audiovisual sensors.

The humble balloon is transformed into a mighty versatile controller in installation artist Maotik's audiovisual collaboration with innovative percussionist Diego Espinosa, Six Drawings. Connected to a series of microphones, sensors, and a computer running Max multimedia software, the rubber orb controlled both the immersive light show projected onto the walls of Montreal's Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) and the trippy aural vibrations emanating from speakers spread throught the space during last year's IX Symposium. The result feels like you're inside a balloon yourself, while a massive otherworldly being is rhythmically stretching and pounding against its skin from the outside.

"I've always been interested in the idea of building new tools and learning how to use them, it’s a powerful means of expression," Maotik, a.k.a. Mathieu Le Sourd, tells The Creators Project. This may account for his interests in Espinosa's experimental music, which is made from pans, glasses, and fittingly, balloons. "His techniques gave me the idea to set up a physical instrument in the dome to generate visuals and sound in real time," Maotik continues.

Maotik, designer of giant wormholes, physics-defying installations, and misbehaving artworks, connected the custom balloon instrument, which was designed by Espinosa and composer David Adamcyk, to the TouchDesigner program, which allowed it to process audio data as 3D generative visuals. Throughout the six-part performance, which takes its structure from a previous collaboration between Espinosa and Adamcyk called Six Drawings by Randall, Espinosa shows off the the balloon's versatility by tapping, bending, inflating, deflating, and bouncing its elastic membrane for a spontaneous mashup between man and machine.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the installation is how little it actually changes the balloon's existing sounds, relying on dry amplification and the minimal use of filters to create dynamic sonic landscapes. "This means that the variety and musicality of the sound depends on how the ballon is performed live rather than how it is filtered," Maotik explains. At the end of the day, Six Drawings proves that even a brilliantly designed interface is only as good as the artist using it.

Photo by Sebastien Roy

Photo by Guillaume Langlois

Photo by Guillaume Langlois

Image courtesy the artist

See more of Maotik's work on his website and in our coverage below.

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