UNITY is an interactive installation created by Alberto Bonanni and presented during the MA Digital Direction’s final show at the Royal College of Art in London, 2020. The project visualises the inherently invisible energy and electricity characteristic of clubs, raves and other collective music experiences, flowing among ravers and featuring a sense of oneness and belonging. Within the rave culture, this is the 'vibe'. In fact, such energy is often described as the overall vibration that results from each participant’s contribution with dance, movements and expression of their affective state: according to situated cognition psychology, what this generates is a loop of ‘positive vibrations’, similar to the "collective effervescence" described by E. Durkheim, where we are influenced by the way people around us respond to music, but vice versa, we influence them with our movements as a catalyst to provide the overall rhythm. This synchronization becomes an action-perception loop called entrainment (social synchronization) (Maria Witek, 2019). Ultimately, UNITY re-creates a clubbing environment, where our movement and our emotional state are inevitably influenced by both the music itself and the people around us, again converging in the so-called vibe.
/ TECHNICAL DETAILS
UNITY consists in three rear projection screens applied onto a metal structure (2m by 1m each). Each screen displays a animated avatar: the central screen presents real time motion capture data captured with a Kinect v2 depth camera attached to the frame: data is attached to a digital avatar, rendered in front of the participant through a particle system responding to velocity. In other words, the higher the velocity, the brighter the particles. The avatars on the left and on the right display recordings of previous users, rendered with different particle systems sets but presenting the same motion capture data and velocity of their related users.
Near the structure, a TV screen displays raw velocity data captured from the user, along with the visualization of the music frequencies. Through a custom algorithm based on the Laban Effort paper (1947) (for more info about research and development, please visit Laban Effort Algorithm), which tracks the velocity aggregate from each user’s movement, motion data can be wrapped up and sent to a sphere, affecting its size accordingly. The sphere will therefore respond to the effort – translated into velocity data – of each user’s movement, indicating the movement intensity and engagement with the music. The comparison between the sphere’s size and music frequencies – seen below as circular waves – showcases the synchronization of our movement to music's frequencies and dynamics.
Music features and repetition analysis was developed by duo TSN1 & Ostalgia (from the pugliese team Equipe Fatale). They produced a acid-techno track that perfectly facilitates the syncronization of bodies through a repetitive, arousing tempo ranging from 125 to 130 BPM, plus a serialized syncopation. Thanks to their track, we were able to simulate a clubbing environment and therefore elicit the feeling of dancing and synchronizing with other people around us.
Music - TSN1 & Ostalgia (Italian Electronic Duo)
Technical Support - Thomas Deacon (Specialist Technical Instructor in XR, Royal College of Art London)
Research Support - Maria Witek (Researcher in Music & Cognition at the University of Birmingham)