Author: Erin Gee

Project H.E.A.R.T.

A twist on popular “militainment” shooter video games, Project H.E.A.R.T. invites the viewer to place their fingers on a custom biodata device, and summon their enthusiasm to engage their avatar, Yowane Haku, in “combat therapy.” Fans of the Vocaloid characters may recognize Haku as the “bad copy” of Japanese pop celebrity Hatsune Miku, a holographic personnage that invites her fans to pour their content and songs into her virtual voice.

The biosensing system features a pulse sensor, and a skin conductance sensor of Gee’s design. Through principles of emotional physiology and affective computing, the device gathers data relative to heart rate and blood flow from index finger, and skin conductance from middle and ring fingers of users. The biodata is read by a microcontroller and transferred to Unity VR, thus facilitating emotional interactivity: a user’s enthusiasm (spikes in signal amplitude in skin conductance, elevated heart rate, and shifts in amplitude of the pulse signal) stimulates the holographic pop star to sing in the virtual warzone, thus inspiring military fighters to continue the war, and create more enemy casualties. At the end of the experience the user is confronted with their “score” of traumatized soldiers vs enemies killed, with no information whether this means that they won or lost the “game”.

The user is thus challenged to navigate soldier’s emotional anxieties and summon their positivity to activate Haku’s singing voice as soldiers battle not only against a group of enemies, but also against their own lack of confidence in times of global economic instability.

The landscape of Project H.E.A.R.T. was built from geopolitically resonant sites found on Google Maps, creating a dreamlike background for the warzone. In-game dialogue wavers between self-righteous soldier banter typical of video games, and self-help, bringing the VR participant to an interrogation of their own emotional body in a virtual space that conflates war, pop music, drone technology, and perhaps movement-induced VR nausea.

 

 

As Kathryn Hamilton pointed out in her 2017 essay “Voyeur Realism” for New Inquiry,

“VR’s genesis and development is in the military, where it has been used to train soldiers in “battle readiness,” a euphemism for: methods to overcome the innate human resistance to firing at another human being. In the last few years, VR’s usage has shifted 180 degrees from a technology used to train soldiers for war, to one that claims to “amplify” the voices afflicted by war, and to affect “world influencers” who might be able to stop said wars.”

Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid.  Images of Worldbuilding exhibition courtesy of Trinity Square Video, 2017.

Exhibition history:
November-December 2017 Worldbuilding @ Trinity Square Video, Toronto
February-March 2018 Future Perfect @ Hygienic Gallery, New London Connecticut
April 26-28, 2018 @ Toronto Digifest, Toronto

Credits

Narrative Design: Sofian Audry, Roxanne Baril-Bédard, Erin Gee

3D Art: Alex Lee and Marlon Kroll

Animation and Rigging: Nicklas Kenyon and Alex Lee

VFX: Anthony Damiani, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon

Programming: Sofian Audry, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon, Jacob Morin

AI Design: Sofian Audry

Sound Design: Erin Gee, Austin Haughton, Ben Hinckley, Ben Leavitt, Nicolas Ow

BioSensor Hardware Design: Erin Gee and Martin Peach

BioSensor Case Design: Grégory Perrin

BioSensor Hardware Programming: Thomas Ouellet Fredericks, Erin Gee, Martin Peach

Featuring music by Lazerblade, Night Chaser and Austin Haughton

Yowane Haku character designed by CAFFEIN

Yowane Haku Cyber model originally created by SEGA for Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA 2nd (2010)

Project H.E.A.R.T. also features the vocal acting talents of Erin Gee, Danny Gold, Alex Lee, Ben McCarthy, Gregory Muszkie, James O’Calloghan, and Henry Adam Svec.

Thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and AMD Radeon, this project was commissioned by Trinity Square Video for the exhibition Worldbuilding, curated by John G Hampton and Maiko Tanaka.

This project would have not been possible without the logistical and technical support of the following organizations:

Technoculture Art and Games Lab (Concordia University)

Concordia University

ASAP Media Services (University of Maine)

WorldBuilding: TSV Toronto

November 3rd – December 9th 2017

Trinity Square Video, 401 Richmond, Toronto Canada.

My work made in collaboration with 3D artist Alex M. Lee for VR and emotional-biosensors, Project H.E.A.R.T. (2017) was debuted on November 5th at Trinity Square Video, Toronto.

This project was commissioned by TSV by curators John Hampton and Maiko Tanaka, thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. The exhibition also features amazing works by Canadian artists Jeremy Bailey and Kristen Schaffer, Eshrat Erfanian, and Yam Lau.

Visit the Worldbuilding website by clicking here.

 

KidzLab Montreal

KIDZLAB September 28-29 2017

Perte de Signal is happy to announce the launch of its first edition of KidZlab, a 4-day digital arts festival for young creators: “Un laboratoire d’innovation pour l’imaginaire.”

For this first edition of KidZlab, I presented a workshop entitled “Strange Theremin” – teaching teams of young people to work in groups to assemble a circuit that allows them to manipulate musical tones with their skin conductance.  This new musical instrument allows students to explore touch, sweat, and emotional engagement as a potential musical material.

Here’s what my young students had to say:

 

The event also featured very interesting workshops by artists:

Eric Cariat (BE) – Stephanie Castonguay – Maxime Damecour – Erin Gee – Alice Jarry – Roby Provost-Blanchard – Alexandre Quessy

at Perte de Signal 5445 De Gaspé – Espace 107 (RDC) Montréal.

With thanks to:

Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec
Wallonie-Bruxelles International
KIKK Festival 2017
Les Journées de la culture
Le Fab Lab du PEC

For more information (in French):
http://perte-de-signal.org/kidzlab-festival-dart-numerique-pour-le-jeune-public/

KidZlab Laboratoire d’innovation pour l’imaginaire from PERTE DE SIGNAL on Vimeo.

William Basinski @ Pop Montreal

September 15th, 2017 – 17h POP Box (3450 St Urbain, Montreal)

In the context of this year’s Pop Montreal Festival Symposium, I have been invited to engage in a public conversation with avant-garde composer William Basinski .

Click here for more information on the Pop Symposium, taking place September 14-17, 2017.

Creator of the widely acclaimed album set Disintegration Loops (2002), Basinski is an intuitive composer of ambient electronic music who works work magnetic tape loops to access dreamlike acoustic spaces.  He once described himself as investing incredible amounts of meditative energy towards improvisation and locating the “timeless, amniotic bubble” of sound one could float within. A bubble is an apt metaphor for these sounds: expansive, swirling voids that physically emanate from thin slips of magnetic tape.

Among other topics, I’m looking forward to this opportunity to speak with Basinski about the physicality of sound, both in the sound producing bodies (the magnetic devices he charms into circles and feedback-song) and the receptive media bodies (us leaky humans).

Take a listen below to Basinski’s soundcloud account in order to experience his processes in tape loop and delay systems, found sounds, feedback, and shortwave radio static.

of the soone

of the soone re-embodies the cognitive processes and creative voices of three agents (a deceased author, a deep learning neural net, and an ASMR performer) into a tangible device. The device transmits the soft vocalizations of a computer-generated text, attempting to induce autonomous physiological sensations that reveal the listener as an integrative part of the assemblage. These human and nonhuman agencies are further materialized in the object through words etched onto its surface as well as into the device’s silicon memory, blurring the boundaries between time, cognition, language, and technologies of communication.

 

The algorithmic process used in this work is a deep recurrent neural network agent known as “long short term memory” (LSTM). The algorithm “reads” Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights character by character, familiarizing itself with the syntactical universe of the text. As it reads and re-reads the book, it attempts to mimic Brontë’s style within the constraints of its own artificial “body”, hence finding its own alien voice.

 

The reading of this AI-generated text by a human speaker allows the listener to experience simultaneously the neural network agent’s linguistic journey as well as the augmentation of this speech through vocalization techniques adapted from Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). ASMR involves the use of acoustic “triggers” such as gentle whispering, fingers scratching or tapping, in an attempt to induce tingling sensations and pleasurable auditory-tactile synaesthesia in the user. Through these autonomous physiological experiences, the work aims to reveal the listener’s own cyborgian qualities as part of the hybrid system in place.

Exhibition History:

September 2018: Ars Electronica, Linz

April 2018: NRW Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany

March 2018: XXFiles Radio @ Nuit Blanche, Montreal

January 2018: Her Environment @ TCC Gallery, Chicago

Erin Gee recording session 2018

text 2018. Courtesy of artists.

Jury member for Equitable Bank EDAA

I am pleased to have been selected to join the jury of the 2017 competition for the Equitable Bank Emerging Digital Artist Award.  Equitable Bank’s Emerging Digital Artist Award celebrates early-career artists doing exemplary works in digital media, reflecting their interest in creating opportunities for digital innovation.

Award Program Description

The Emerging Digital Artists Award (EDAA) is one of the only corporately funded digital art awards in Canada, designed to foster experimentation in the work of emerging artists and build on funding opportunities currently available to those working in digital media.

The Equitable Bank Collection

Equitable Bank began collecting art in the early 90s and currently holds over 150 artworks in its collection. Our collection focuses on modern and contemporary Canadian art, with a particular interest in modern painting. Our contemporary collection also includes video animation—an area of continued growth, concurrently with the growth of the EDAA.

For more information,

http://edaa.equitablebank.ca/

MediaLive Festival 2017

Happy to announce that I will be presenting a new version of my “BioSynth” at the MediaLive festival (Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art) in May.  This year’s festival features an amazing group of artists, gathering under the theme THE VOID.  For this upcoming performance I will be moving towards a more sophisticated sonic treatment of the physiological signals, and returning to the ideas of “choir” and “vocality” of emotion that I began with my earlier work “Song of Seven: BioChoir” with the Hamilton Children’s Choir.

Canadian Art Magazine

I’m featured in the January 2017 edition of Canadian Art Magazine! I’m particularly honored to be a part of this issue, entitled Futures. Including essays by the amazing Kai Cheng Thom, indigenous futures, an article on Xenofeminism, as well as a feature on “Forward Thinking” Canadian artists, I feel like this publication really reflects my attention as an artist equally engaged with science fiction as well as political realities of the moment.

Click here to read the full feature written by Rea McNamara, which includes 10 profiles of amazing Canadian artists working across media.

canadian_art2017

VR Commission Update

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the art developed last summer in a residency at the Technoculture Art and Games lab at Concordia University with lead 3D artist Alex Lee, AI designer Sofian Audry, art assistant Marlon Kroll, and research assistant Roxanne Baril-Bédard. Among holographic popstars who may or may not have their own consciousness to begin with, the project includes rhetorical analysis of post 9/11 counterterrorist video games, reality television, startup culture, and self-help manuals for improving emotional state.

I am implementing the Biosensor control system this Winter and plan on working on finalizing the game’s art, music and sounds this summer for a launch towards the end of 2017 in an exhibition at Trinity Square Video in Toronto.


In the future, weapons of war possess advanced AI systems, systems that guarantee successful automated combat on behalf of soldiers wielding the technology.  The military still trains its soldiers in case of equipment failure, but at this point, fighters function more as passive operators. The terrorist threat has nothing similar to this technology in their ranks, and the effectiveness of our systems is swift and deadly.  Historically, our soldiers manning the machines have never witnessed violence or devastation at this scale: the largest threat to soldiers today defending our nation’s values is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

To address this unfortunate state of affairs, the military developed a startup fund open to the public to resolve this issue through technological innovation.  Significant scholarships and research funding was provided for researchers interested in devoting time to creating a means towards mitigating the psychological crisis.  A risky but intriguing proof of concept was eventually presented: the creation of a revolutionary entertainment for the troops as they fought the terrorist threat.

Yowane Haku became the face of this entertainment: a mobile holographic pop star engineered specifically for psychological distraction on the battlefield.  

The world’s most talented engineers, design consultants, and pop writing teams were assembled to enshrine Haku with every aesthetic and technical element to impress not only the troops, but the world with her next-generation technology.  However, the initial test-run of this mobile holographic pop medium in combat trials was….a failure.  

On the battlefield, Haku’s perfect body glowed faintly amongst the dust and screams, bullets and explosions passing ineffectually, dance moves precise, vocalizations on point. But ultimately her pop music performance lacked resonance with the battle.  Instead of the soldiers being emboldened by this new entertainment, which was intended to distract or inspire them from their gruesome tasks, their adverse psychological symptoms…flourished.  Some of the men went mad, laughing maniacally in tune with the holographic presence smiling sweetly at them.  It was only due to the superiority of our AI weaponry and automated drone operation that the morally corrupt foreign threat, with their violent and technologically crude methods, were stopped that day. The minds of our soldiers were lost.

Months later, a young pool of startup professionals would provide another solution.  This vocal minority of engineers…though others called them crazy….had a hunch. For the hologram pop star to “work,” her systems needed access pure emotion, to link a human element with the trauma of the human soldiers.  But it was not clear who, or what, could best provide this emotional link…and what amount of embodied “disruption” this might entail…

This enthusiastically crowdfunded group of millennials completed their groundbreaking research without the strings of ethics funding or institutional control.  Human emotions and consciousness now flow direct to Haku via experimental trials in VR technology.  Haku rises again on the battlefront.

Simultaneously, a new reality television show has been borne of these first human trials. The star of this reality show could be…….you.

Could you be the next American Sweetheart?  Do you have what it takes to provide 110% Best Emotional Performance?  Join us through advanced VR technologies, Live and Direct on the battlefield, to find out if you could be fit to man the ultimate weapon of war: Our Next Holographic Idol.

This project is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and Trinity Square Video’s AMD VR lab

BioSolo

Using the BioSynth, I improvised a set for my breath/voice and my sonified heart and sweat release at No Hay Banda in an evening that also featured the very interesting work of composer Vinko Globokar (Russia).  The improvisation is very sparing, the goal is to exploit interesting rhythmic moments between heavy breath-song and the heartbeat, all the while exploring limits of respiratory activity and seeing what effect it has on my physiology.

Photography: Wren Noble

BioSolo was first performed at No Hay Banda series in Montreal at La Sala Rossa, organized by Daniel Àñez and Noam Bierstone.