Is it Art or can we Toss it?

Is it art or can we toss it? This is a great title for starting a design lecture because we all ask this questions sometimes if it comes to design matters. Florian Doppel-Prix is the musicologist and sound engineer in the field of experimental media and electro-acoustic music who asks this questions in the field of exhibition technology.

He presented a lot of work of his company cat-x which is specialised in exhibition design with multimedia technology for a greater immersion. The most interesting part in his lecture was for me the way he talked about sound and how he includes it in his installations for a bigger improvement. The reason for his major interest in sound might be his background with sound and music and that he is also a designer of amplifiers called “Kaulbach”. He also mentioned the conference Prix Ars Electronica with the exhibition part cyberarts which is kind of a try-out/ do-it-yourself area for interactive installations with a kind of chaotic, artistic and experimental vibe. But sometimes you can get pretty afraid of the professional artists who are working on their projects there but Doppel-Prix said something really true:

“The more professional and famous they get the less you have to be afraid of them”

Besides the audio and sound part, he is also specialised on creative video mapping with projectors and interactive walls which is also quiet interesting. For his work, he brought up some examples. One of those was from 2017 and it had a gamification installation with interactive parts like the touch wall with contact paint colour and sensors behind it to trigger something. In that project, he also pointed out the importance of audio feedback as an interactive reaction on the visual changes through acoustic elements. You can also guide a person wherever you want them to go or what to touch next through the right placement of sound.

Another interesting project he talked about was at the U2xU5 Exhibition in 2016 where they built an emulation of a subway station through projection mapping for the “Wiener Linien”. Buttons were really important for that project although the people are getting more used to touch surfaces because of the smartphones etc. But for the interactive part, Doppel-Prix said that the buttons and their haptics made it lively. And for sure, if you want to bring something to life, you need fitting audio elements like a shaker for really feeling the machine moving. A short story to that, when I did my internship at Idee und Klang in Basel, I was working on the emulating an elevator ride for the new Visitor Centre of Schindler (the company does mainly elevators and escalators – you probably have been in one of the “Schindlers Lifte” already without actually knowing that. And for that project we also implemented two shakers in the ground to support the sound design and the immersion of the elevator emulation.

A funny project Doppel-Prix did as well was the moving grand piano which is called “Verdichtungsflügel” – a project by Georg Nussbaumer. Here you can hear and see a short example of that live exhibition:

It is moving through vibrations on all four feet, kind of like a jackhammer and the stones lying inside the grand piano on its strings make the moving object to a sound object.

Unfortunately, he mentioned at the end that the interesting and funny stuff is not the on which is running the company and keeping it moving. That’s why he pointed out some important points at the end which I’d like to repeat here:

  • It’s about the content, not the technology
  • Prototyping, but not rocket science
  • Budgets are crucial – never downgrade your money because there are people behind working on the content, you always need more money!
  • Computers might do some of your work but they don’t make it easier

100 % consists out of – 40 % specific and technical knowledge
40 % common sense, basic knowledge
20 % luck (but don’t rely on that one)

All in all, I’d like to say that I enjoyed watching Florian Doppel-Prix lecture although I had some technical problems first to struggle with. He is a nice and passionate person about his work which he can forward through his presentation.