ARTICLE

DATE
May 30th,
2019

KAME KAI

Kanta Horio / 堀尾寛太

In order to realize collaboration with various domains, Dentsu Lab Tokyo occasinally hosts talk session where artists, technologists, data scientists, scholars, writers come together.
Taken from Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Caretta Fountain”, a fountain of turtle, this talk session is named “Kamekai” (which literally translates as the “Turtle Gathering”) and aimed to bring various thoughts and view points among the participants and create an interactive session that won’t become a mere lecture.



■Kanta Horio 
Born in 1978. Live in Tokyo. Graduated Kyushu Institute of Design. Working as an artist / engineer, he develops electronic devices for exhibitions, events, and video, and also conducts research and development related to electronic musical instruments.
http://horiokanta.com/


It’s Happening Right Before Your Eyes

My name is Kanta Horio. As an artist, I’ve mostly produced works using audio, and I’ve presented them at live performances and exhibitions. I’m also an engineer, designing and manufacturing circuit boards, and also developing and building control systems. In March, I founded a company, Ponor Experiments Co., Ltd. Today I would like to share some works, mostly solo projects and organized by theme, as well as present the engineering work involved in the process. We’ll go in chronological order by starting with the earliest project.

particle (2003)

These nine electromagnets are arranged in a three-by-three grid. By switching the electrical current on and off and changing its orientation, the magnetism generated moves the cut ends of the metal clips placed on top. The black circles you see on the left and right are mics that pick up the sounds of the moving clips.

At the time, I wanted to do something with a computer, but when I do a live performance with the computer, I tend to do something inexplicable. To me it’s interesting, but the viewers watching only hear sound, so often the most interesting aspect doesn’t get conveyed. That’s why with this piece, I wanted to show the audience the mechanisms at work.

One thing I’d always been seeking to do is to make something happen on the spot, to put on a performance, rather than just making whatever sounds or editing sounds as I please.

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Controlling Motion with Sound

At this time, I was researching interfaces for electronic music. With an acoustic instrument that isn’t electric, like a guitar or drums, you can’t separate the player’s movements or performance from the sound produced. They become one. But if, for example, we consider the keys of a synthesizer, you press the keys on the left to produce low sounds and the keys on the right to produce high sounds. Those are the rules for how the instrument works. The sound is produced according to electronic signals transmitted inside the synthesizer. The rules just follow the mechanisms commonly found in instruments like the piano, so there’s no special reason in terms of electricity for why a synthesizer has to work this way. So, I wanted to create a way where the musical performance and the sound produced are more closely connected.

EM#2 (2005)

This piece is from 2005, so it’s kind of old, but this connects an amp to an electromagnet, instead of a speaker, and it sends audio with a sound-producing machine called an oscillator. A large electromagnet hangs from above, and clips are placed at the bottom. When you input sound, you don’t hear it as audio. Instead, the oscillator signal gets reproduced as the magnetic movement of the north and south poles. As the volume increases, they gradually begin to move, and the higher the pitch, the more quickly they move.

The oscillator controls the pitch, which then controls the movement of the clips, and the clips produce their own sound. That’s the interesting thing: the pairing of both movement and sound as one.

Control Test of audio signal

This is not a work, but rather an experiment. In the middle is a permanent magnet, and the ring around it is a coil. Here I use a special amp called a DC amp to send the audio signal. If I send the signal slowly so that it doesn’t produce sound, the amount of reaction from the north and south poles changes, and the movement becomes slow, like this. There may also be sudden movements, like a jump, without continuous waves. The principle is exactly the same as with a speaker, but I wonder whether I can make a system that unifies movement and sound by recreating a speaker like this using magnetism and electricity.

The Fascination of Video

viewKoma (2008) with Tetsuo Umeda

There’s a headphone festival called Le Placard, and if you go there, all you’ll hear is the sound of the performers rattling equipment around. That’s because everyone is listening to music on headphones. In fact, this kind of event is held in countries around the world. For one, I got a last-minute request to stream something live, and it just so happened that my friend Tetsuya Umeda, an artist, was staying over at my place, so we put on a live performance with featuring only inanimate objects. This is a video of that performance. There was a rule that we had to be off-screen behind the camera, and we couldn’t reach out with our hands, so from off-camera we fiddled with tabs or flipped switches, or we used sticks to move things. And since it was streamed live, I felt like we created a video like nobody had seen before, so we produced a series called viewKoma and we made a DVD, in addition to the live performances.

camera and balancing bar(2018)

This is part of an exhibit from 2017. The venue was divided into small rooms, each room had various exhibits placed inside, and those exhibits were connected to each other. This video is of a work made in 2014 underneath. A camera in a separate room was directly connected to a projector. The bamboo pole the camera is on is a counterweight that is slowly moved by a motor. When the center of gravity changes, the camera moves in a natural, smooth fashion.

Color Projector / RGB Cabinet (2014)

This is part of an exhibit from 2017. The venue was divided into small rooms, each room had various exhibits placed inside, and those exhibits were connected to each other. This video is of a work made in 2014 underneath. A camera in a separate room was directly connected to a projector. The bamboo pole the camera is on is a counterweight that is slowly moved by a motor. When the center of gravity changes, the camera moves in a natural, smooth fashion.

Switching the Scene or Mode

This is not so much about a video but rather an overall visual effect, but when you use a strobe light, sometimes the light can make reality itself seem like a video. This is one thing I’m interested in.

Hokan(2017)

Here, I replaced all the fluorescent lights in the basement of an abandoned building with LED strobe lights. In this space, the strobe lights only come on when the installation moving inside makes a sound. When you watch it on video, I think it’s hard to understand what’s going on, and even when you see it in person, you still don’t quite get it. In this experiment, you can’t see anything in the gaps between those moments, so you can’t quite understand how the objects are moving.

This room is part of the installation. Everything outside the basement is a bright space.

Sound Performance Platform 2018

I create works using light effects and put on a live performances, but the effect of the light and shadow seems nostalgic, so when I use light in my work, it makes it seem that I wanted to create something nostalgic. Of course, this can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s too much, so I made a device to forcibly alternate the lighting with the machine to avoid creating this impression as much as possible, and presented it live. I enlisted the help of the venue’s lighting technician to send the lighting signals from the stage. The instant when we switch between scenes or modes feels like the LED era, and I think that’s interesting.

Engineering Work

Now I’ll show you some work I was involved in as an engineer. I make these one at a time, usually for circuit boards that have to be custom-made, like for sensing or mechanical control.

SHISEIDO | ULTIMUNE PROMOTION (2014)

I’ve done lots of different projects, but recently I’ve made a lot of physical performance systems linked with mechanical apparatuses. This stepper motor, something I work with a lot lately, is a motor for fine-tuned control. Since I’ve had the opportunity to use it in my work, I’ve used it to move motors completely in synch with video projected onto a monitor. Wow was in charge of planning and production, while Tasko was in charge of mechanical control.

「ジブリの幻燈楼」制御(2018)
制作・監修:スタジオジブリ
© Studio Ghibli

The stepper motor moves the glass works, while LED illumination projects shadows throughout the space. In addition to controls for each movable part, I developed special dimmers and the like to adjust the light in a pretty way. Additionally, to project light reflected off ripples in the water onto the floor, I put a magnet inside liquid paraffin and sunk it in the water, then moved it around with coils outside. That movement then disturbed the water’s surface to make ripples.

For the stepper motor, I used a driver I developed that can control it with the Open Sound Control communication protocol. This is quite handy for productions, and there are many works that move around on this base. I am preparing to start selling it in the near future.

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ステッピングモーター8軸制御基板

This piece is from the same exhibit. These propellers also move with a stepper motor. The controls are very precise, and they turn with slow, smooth movements. The drive method moves them so that rotation doesn’t produce vibrations, but at times I intentionally make it so that the sound of the motor is audible for the production.

The vertical movement is also made by a stepper motor, but this is controlled via a large industrial driver.

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ジブリの大博覧会「スタジオジブリ 空とぶ機械達展」飛行建造物 制御・操演(2016-)
制作・監修:鯱丸邦生、スタジオジブリ
© Studio Ghibli

Next is engineering work, but in addition to work it also falls within the realm of research.

βooming βox (2015) with Taeji Sawai, Satoru Higa

When Intel launched the Edison ultra-small PC, they made a showcase like this. I worked with the artists Taeji Sawai and Satoru Higa to make this musical interface.

This is like a drumhead, but we made it so that the pad itself vibrates, and we assigned the pad a vibration for each tone. When the pad moves, it pushes the hand away, and may come in contact with the hand again, creating a kind of loop with the hand. We are running this experiment because we think it could be interesting to then combine a speaker acting as the sounding body with a controller.

This sensor on the back of the motor detects the amount of movement. When the motor moves, if it moves more or less than anticipated, then we know that some outside force is acting upon it. This way, we can combine the moving and controlling elements into one, thus imbuing it with dual roles.


This is a record from a job where normally you would make the slider move smoothly, but by configuring unusual values, it ended up in a state just like a simulation of a spring. The power source is a stepper motor. When the processing rate quickly picks up speed, the repetitions of the vibrations also accelerate rapidly, which gradually produces an audible sound.

I think that after gradually developing an understanding and ability to use individual technologies, we can now finally think about things like what produces sound, what exerts control, and reactions to the body in terms of how they work together.

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