Pollen Soup

VOICEPRINTS is an interactive audio visual installation. A person speaks into a microphone, decease their voice is analysed for frequency content, search and then a number of small similar textile patterns are re-arranged in an abstract representation of the person’s vocal frequency print. These patterns are either projected onto a surface or displayed on a large screen and eventually turn translucent and then fade away. The person’s voice becomes a playful and intuitive interface to the visual display.

In human speech the basic acoustic unit is called a phoneme. The visual equivalent is called a “viseme”, a basic speech unit in the visual domain, in other words a facial expression that can be used to describe a particular sound. Using this analogy, I have written a piece of software which describes sound using basic visual units to represent recorded frequencies.

My inspiration for a basic visual unit came to me while staring at a wall where I had hung up three Japanese fabrics covered with repeating iconic motifs. Here was an already established set of visual patterns comprised of small repeating elements.

These textile motifs seem appropriate for use in a computer artwork as they are already tiled in a networked, matrix fashion and their morphology resembles miniaturized automata. Woven textiles form part of computing history, through Joseph Marie Jacquard’s automated patterned textile weaving machine in 1804 which led to punch cards in computing devices.

POLLEN SOUP is essentially a non-linear, physician never-ending computer animation of pollen and other microscopic fossils made from a collage of images obtained through high resolution digital microscopy.

Through photographs taken using various camera-equipped high resolution microscopes from a laboratory in the Department of Archaeology and Natural History at the Australian National University in 2006, more
I created the visual source material for several pieces of software that I wrote, of which Pollen Soup is one.

These images used were taken from both archival slides and recent material collected by palynologists and palaeoecologists from such regions as the Galapagos islands, south east Asia, and northern Australia. Photographs of the slides were edited to isolate particular micro-organisms or fossils, many of which consisted of pollen, diatoms, testate amoebae and other small specimens.

Generative processes seem to be particularly good at creating morphologies and narratives from large quantities of data and this proved to be a useful tool to navigate the data-sets I collected while working in the laboratory.

The animation can be viewed in a java-capable web browser here.