Laminar Flow (2017)
Laminar Flow is a work of video art in which images and videos of navigational sea states and the Beaufort wind scale are mixed with images of cruise and container ships and footage of migrants at sea.
The images and videos are edited and prepared in advance; when displayed they are layered over each other. The combination of images and videos that is shown is determined automatically by a program that analyses the sounds made by a purpose built electric wind harp.
As the wind blows over the harp the strings resonate producing an ethereal combination of drone-like sounds and dissonant chords. The program splits the sound of the harp into four frequency ranges and the average volume of each range is used to select an image or video.
Laminar Flow is, essentially, a rule-based audio and video composition. The rules that determine the selection of images and videos in response to the sound of the wind harp can be calibrated according to the conditions. The frequency of updates to the visuals can be specified as can the sensitivity by which the output is calculated. Laminar Flow can be calibrated as a sort of multi-media anemometer, or it can be set up such that light breezes will produce a wide range of values and, in turn, imagery.
My intention with Laminar Flow is to share my feelings arising from the plight of refugees, the carnival of consumption that is the modern cruise industry, and the fact that Britain perceives itself as a nation with a proud sea-faring history. While sales videos show cruise passengers dressed in traditional African costumes, dancing on the decks of impossibly high ships, overloaded boats of the desperate capsize. And, since 1805, Britain has been the international custodian of an empirical means of assessing sea conditions by understanding the wind.
Laminar Flow can be shown in two modes: live and playback. In the live mode the harp is positioned in a suitable location and broadcasts to a computer that generates the visuals. In the playback mode, a recording is shown of visuals generated in response to a recording.