Ctrl:N (2019)

Displaying text messages from an audience in real-time.

Platforms: openFrameworks, PureData, TouchDesigner, Python

Ctrl:N is an interactive dance performance by Audrey Gaussiran, with music by Joannie Labelle that premiered on September 9th 2019 at the Festival Quartiers Danses.

Ctrl:N poster
Ctrl:N promotional poster. (Photo: Guillaume Gorini, 2019)

Throughout the performance, Audrey and Joannie interact with the audience using text messages, which are displayed live on a LED screen. Through this medium, they connect with the public by asking questions. What do you think is wrong with world? What’s worrying you these days? How should the world change?

Ctrl:N Touchdesigner patch
Screenshot of Ctrl:N‘s TouchDesigner patch. (Photo: Francis Lecavalier, 2019)
Outdoor setup of Ctrl:N at Festival Quartiers Danses (Photo: Francis Lecavalier, 2019)

Using a dedicated phone number, audience members can text their answers back to the screen in real-time. This discussion shapes the entirety of the performance, as the two artists draw inspiration from the public’s answers and ideas, and strive to express their thoughts and emotions through music and dance.  As such, every representation of Ctrl:N is unique.

As a programmer, my job was to make Audrey’s vision come true and provide a way to display live text messages during the show. I did so by developing a custom openFrameworks application, as well as a small Python-based REST server to receive text messages from an online API. The openFrameworks app was intentionally designed as an iMessage look-alike, to instantly convey the purpose of the app to the audience. To polish the visual presentation of the app, I also piped its video output to a small TouchDesigner patch of my design to add some visual effects. Finally, I put together a PureData patch in order to forward MIDI messages from a controller to the rest of the software stack.

The result is an easy to use, robust and effective way of establishing communication between two artists and an audience using text messages. Ctrl:N has received very positive reactions following its representations at the Festival Quartiers Danses, and is set to be performed again in 2020.