The Analog Color Field Computer


Photos from the ACFC exhibition at  BAPLab
New York City. July 2006.

BAPLab photos by Brendan Fitzgerald

Photos from the ACFC exhibition at  soukmachines
Montreal, Canada. September 2006.

ACFC video    

Reclaiming the Video Screen

The Analog Color Field Computer (ACFC) is an installation of participant-controlled sculptural computers that produce swells of uniform colors and pure tones. Exhibitions of the work present multiple ACFC units in the same physical space. Their individual pulsations combine to form an emergent composition of light and sound. The clarity of the piece's visual and sonic output, the immediacy of its user-interface and the spareness of its physical form serve to counter the omnipresence of information-based stimuli in technological society.

The Analog Color Field Computer (ACFC) is an interactive video and sound installation that makes both minimal and maximal use of computer monitors. Exhibitions of the piece employ a suite of sculptural computers whose custom electronics drive standard video displays and loudspeakers. Instead of presenting complex images (like computer graphics or photographs) each ACFC unit repurposes its monitor such that at any one time a solid field of color is spread across its entire display surface. Likewise with sound, instead of producing complex timbres each unit produces a pure sine tone. The sculptures' colors and tones surge in steady pulses, conveying sonic textures and luminescent patterns into the sparsely lit exhibition space.

The ACFC endeavors to revisit the computer as a standardized multi-function instrument. By reducing the content of its audiovisual renderings to solid colors and pure tones, the device offers relief from the myriad of visual, sonic and operational conventions traditionally associated with computer displays. Each unit provides controls for users to adjust its hues, pitches and rhythms. The audience is offered a renewed ability to determine what they see and hear. This experience represents a novel mode of interaction with everyday computer hardware and affords participants a fresh perspective on a ubiquitous technology.

An installation of the ACFC demonstrates the complexity encountered when multiple sources of steady, asynchronous pulses are combined. When a number of units are exhibited together, their individual surges of light and sound merge to form emergent textures of hue and melody. Simple pulsations give rise to intricate musical passages with compelling rhythmic structures and shifting multi-part harmony. The walls, objects and visitors in the sparely lit exhibition space become illuminated by stray light from the computer screens. Their surfaces serve as palettes where colors are blended in manifold and changing proportions. The ACFC's continuous audiovisual renderings along with its controls for color, pitch and volume, allow its exposition of light and sound to satisfy both contemplative experience and purposeful composition. The piece can accommodate a wide range of audiences, from a small group of passive listeners to a crowd of active participants.

Presentations of ACFC are flexible and easy to install. The devices are compatible with any VGA computer displays including CRT monitors, flat panel LCDs, plasma-screens and projectors. This makes them well suited to a wide variety of configurations and exhibition settings.