Making tools for generating real-time visuals.

Tool: OpenFrameworks

CO/EXISTENCE is an interactive audiovisual installation by digital artist Herman Kolgen, presented in Quebec City’s Grand Théâtre from October 19th to December 31st 2019.

The installation takes inspiration from the sensory and information overload we experience in our day to day lives. Through his work, Kolgen crafts a metaphor that represents our constant exposure to a bombardment of real-time data, and how it affects our bodies, our minds, and our relation with the world around us. This is represented by projecting clips of human bodies, strange and otherwordly figures with gigantic heads that grow and change shapes over time.

CO/EXISTENCE in Quebec City’s Grand théâtre // Photo: Herman Kolgen

Under the hood, the installation reacts to the level of ambiant noise in the Grand Théatre’s hall, where the work is exposed. This data is processed in real-time and directly affects the size of the heads. Simultaneously, a fragment from a mural by Jordi Bonet, which is exposed right next to CO/EXISTENCE, is scanned using a laser: the topology of the scanned mural then distorts and interferes with the video projection in real-time.

For this project, I developed some of the visual effects using OpenFrameworks. The artist already had some tools for generating live visuals that were developed using this framework: however, he felt like they lacked a lot of features and that they would need to be significantly upgraded to be of any use in his project. My job was then to improve these tools and to implement every missing feature, chief among them OSC control from and to the application.

It was also my responsibility to ensure that the tools would be very stable, and suitable for live use. Some of those tools were also quite old, and in some cases, I ended up having to refactor and rewrite most of the application. Once the tools were complete, they were used by Kolgen and Patrick Saint-Denis, lead programmer for this project, to create the finished work.

CO/EXISTENCE in Quebec City’s Grand théâtre // Photo: Herman Kolgen, 2019