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In Conversation with ‘PLAYSpace’ Artist, Glen Walton

“It will be a bit of a mad scientists’ workshop – wires coming from plants, plenty of computers and speakers, and probably a couple of instruments laying around as well.”

Go behind the scenes to see how science and art collide to make music from plants, or join in and make your own musical compositions thanks to this interactive installation.

Where did the inspiration for ‘PLAYspace’ come from?

‘PLAYSpace’ is an evolution of the experiments Playable Streets have been doing for the last couple of years. For this work I wanted to focus on plants as the musical interface. I was influenced by the plants themselves, as they are all so different. I’m interested to see how people interact with them. I’m interested in the absurd and surreal nature of making music with plants – it’s quite strange, but also makes some sense when you’re doing it.

How does ‘PLAYspace’ work – how do science and art collide?

Capacitive touch technology is at the core of this work, just like the way your smartphone knows where your finger is on your phone! When you touch one of the plants you trigger a sound file or MIDI instrument on the micro-computer it is connected to. We use a variety of micro-computers (Arduino, Raspberry Pi etc.) which are loaded with code that we have written especially for this work.

How did you come to collaborate with your co-artists, Cayn Borthwick and Michael (Pikkle) Henning, and how do your diverse skills combine for ‘PLAYspace’?

Cayn, Pikkle and I met through music; we all play in bands and we have all played in the same band at one time or another.

Cayn is an amazing composer and multi-instrumentalist; he knows a lot about how sounds go together. Pikkle is an engineer, computer code wizard and inventor – he’s built some pretty cool music toys and instruments. We have a lot of crossover skills and interests, and we’re always challenging each other to come up with new and weird ideas.

You’re holding open studio sessions this week at the Convent. What can people expect to see and do when they visit your studio?

It will be a bit of a mad scientists’ workshop – wires coming from plants, plenty of computers and speakers, and probably a couple of instruments laying around as well. You can test out the work in progress and ask us questions about how it works.

The Convent commissioned ‘PLAYspace’ as a site-responsive work. What was it about the Convent that made you want to show your work here?

The Convent is perfect for this work because it’s a place that people come to for many different reasons, and where people are always up for a new experience. There are also plenty of plants everywhere, so we thought it would be fun to discover that you could play music with some of them!

What do you want children and big kids alike to take from ‘PLAYspace’?

We want people to explore and experiment, to test out the work and find new ways of creating music. We are sure that there are ways of playing these installations that we haven’t even thought of yet. We hope that people have fun and leave with a smile!

What are you working on next? 

We have a couple of more works coming up in 2017 which further explore ways of making music by collaborating with others. We can’t reveal too much detail at the moment, but one work will be about creating narrative with sounds. You can follow us on Facebook and check out our website to keep up to date with coming works!

Visit the ‘PLAYspace’ open studio in the Antique Bookstore (Sacred Heart Courtyard) at the Convent, Tuesday 16 – Thursday 18 May 2017, 2 – 4pm. 

Visit the ‘PLAYSpace’ interactive installation on the Hospital Lawn (opposite the Convent Bakery), Saturday 20 – Sunday 21 May 2017, 10am – 4pm.

This project was proudly commissioned by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation.