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Premiere on June 2nd 2004: The dark side of the cell concert in the NANO space at LACMA

Anne Niemetz and Andrew Pelling, along with Tenzin Wanchuk created and installed the audio for the complete NANO exhibition. The dark side of the cell is one of the special events outside regular exhibition hours taking place in the NANO space. The concert utilizes a large part of the existing audio system, but transforms the space into a stage for "musical cells".

Photo: Andrew Pelling

Eight sculptural elements are placed in the inner cell space. Four ceiling-installed video projectors project still footage and video of singing cells and their sonograms onto the sculptural elements from above. The construction of the objects consists of a scaffolding inspired by the inner architecture of cells, over which a semi-translucent skin is stretched. The skin is translucent enough to reveal the scaffolding structures, but at the same time allows the surface to show projected images.

The cytoskeleton of a cell
image source: http://helios.mol.uj.edu.pl/conf_c/chapters/chap_6.htm

The cytoskeletons of cells are robust structures relying on the principle of tensegrity. Buckminster Fuller was the first to describe the tensegrity building principle in 1961, and applied this system of tensional integrity in his geodesic domes. Fuller also distinguished two types of tensegrity, the geodesic and the prestressed principle. Kenneth Snelson pursued the prestressed version of the tensegrity principle in his sculptures:

The Needle Tower -- a 1969 tensegrity sculpture by artist Kenneth Snelson -- viewed from below.

"... cytoskeletons have tensegrity -- short for tensional integrity. [...] In a cytoskeleton, protein chains -- some thin, some thick and some hollow -- take the place of wires and rods. Linked together they form a stable, but flexible, structure."


image and text taken from http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/livingthings/19jun_cytoskeletons.html

The dark side of the cell sculptures are constructed according to an unsymmetrical version of the tensegrity principle, which is closest to the irregular biological structure of a cell.

The dark side of the cell hardware setup plan

The surrounding setup of the audio system is of major importance. All 20 speakers installed in the space are utilized during the concert. The spatial distribution of sound through the “flocks” of small speakers, as well as the midrange speakers and subwoofers allow the creation of an immersive acoustic experience. The sound environment is different at each point within the installation.

Unlike a traditional concert there is no stage, performer or other particular center point of attraction. But there is a linear progression of sound, which makes it a concert in the sense of an acoustic narrative with a beginning and an ending. The dark side of the cell is a concert, taking place in an installation, perceived by the audience as “lounge-like” experience. The even placement of the sculptures is intended to motivate the audience to move through the space during the concert and to experience the spatial variances in sound.