in a thousand drops...refracted glances

In a thousand drops... refracted glances work creates adynamic cinematic environment encompassing multiple screensand audio channels that work together to present the hybrid human body. By choosing the human body as the center of attention this work reflects multicultural fabric of our Canadian experience and points to the way we judge and gain a sense of both others and ourselves. The dynamic and interactive nature of the work becomes a symbolic of how we both construct and discover our identities.

The driving inspiration for this work is an idea that we are all part of one body, one ecology and one planet. We therefore create an image of a human body that reflects the notion of the whole humanity as one organism. Created Vancouver, British Columbia, which is characterized by its diverse social fabric, this work is reflective of our contemporary multi-ethnic reality, depicting, almost literally, the metaphor of cultural mosaic characteristic of our Canadian experiment. Here people from the variety of world cultures come together and share the same living environment. While the core idea of the work is that we are all one, in parallel this new organism points to the notion that we are also multiple. Each one of us is composed of many influences, memories, and histories swimming in this river of rich and diverse world cultures. Every day we are working with and interacting with people from everywhere in the world and this installation reflect this multiplicity that we live in today.

in a thousand drops... refracted glances is an audiovisual environment that constructs and deconstructs bodies through processes of stitching, repetition, collage, animation, stretching, contraction, multiplication and reduction. As a result of these processes new hybrid bodies are born that speak to the variety and complexity of the ecological and interpersonal balances that depend on the mutual interdependencies of the community of agents that make up its population.

We photographed 100 Vancouver residents and their various body parts, faces, eyes, lips, hand, etc. The work draws from a database of more than 1000 photographs and generative sounds to create dynamic unified composition distributed across 110 unique screens and 8-channel audio. A camera-based motion tracking system is used to determine the location and direction participants’ movement. A set of layered generative music processes is guided in their production by the data inferred by the motion tracking system. As the same motion tracking information is also used to guide the visual animations, as a result the audible and visible images have a strong synchronization. The participants, in this way, become collaborators with the unfolding audio-visual experience

The experience of in a thousand drops... refracted glances is an audio/visual sculpture in fragmented space and time that becomes a single audiovisual image as one interacts with the space of the exhibition. The sense of embodiment creates an interrelationship between the visible images, our movement and the harmonically rich sonic environment. The interactive aspects of the work provide points of focus for flows of both audible and visible images.

The work is structured so that if there are less then five participants the tracking system looks for their movement and position tendencies, which prompt the animation and sound algorithms to direct their activities towards the movement center. As participants move around the work a subtle effect is exerted on how the images are animated. Characters composed of multiples emerge and are accompanied by synchronized emergent musical gestures produced by the engagement of the participant. The interaction encourages a collaborative relationship with the work as it mediates between participant’s presence in a simple but engaging negotiation of action-reaction. If there are more then five participants the animation and sound enter an automatic animation mode where the images and sounds are directed and spread evenly across the installation space. Our aim is to achieve subtler forms of interaction that give a sense to the audiences that are they are in the right place at the right time.

Biographical information

Aleksandra Dulic is an artist-scholar working at the intersections of interactive multimedia installation and live performance with research foci in cross-cultural media art.

Kenneth Newby is a media artist whose research and creative practice explores expressive applications of computer assisted media composition, performance and diffusion.  

Martin Gotfrit's research centers on the creation, performance and function of music and sound in many different disciplines and contexts.

Together the three authors of this work have been working together as the Computational Poetics Research Group for the past four years

Spatial Requirements, Dimensions and Preparations

The work requires a quiet darkened space for installation. The images can be projected on a wall as long as it has been prepared by treatment with white paint to make the surface suitable for projection. Preferably we would come to install the screens that hang in the gallery space for 100 video channels, achieving double-sided projection effect for a more sculptural presence in the gallery space. We will need to be able to mount or hang the camera, computers, monitors, projector(s) and screens from the ceiling. The original dimensions of the work are 3 meters wide by 2.25 meters high, with 3 projectors, 4 computers, 8 speakers and one camera. However, the work can be scaled down to accommodate a variety of setting and conditions.

Technical Description


in a thousand drops... refracted glances is constructed of four systems:
1. a camera-based motion tracking system;
2. a control system that mediates the interactivity, controlling musical processes and video animation process;
3. an interactively controllable multichannel music system; and,
4. a multichannel video animation and diffusion system.

These four systems are programed in MaxMSP and Jitter and make use of two high-performance computers which are networked together to form an integrated system

1. Camera-based Motion Tracking. Fire wire IR camera, motion-sensing and analysis software. The camera is mounted over the interaction area in front of the projected video channels to capture any movement on the part of participants. The analysis is able to sense multiple participants and outputs parameters such as location, speed, direction, change of direction, etc. 

2. Control. A control module mediates between the motion tracking information and the musical and video animation processes. A set of encoded compositional processes are accessible to the control module allowing a wide range of musical and visual responses to participant presence and interaction. 

3. Multichannel Music. A set of encoded compositional processes are sonified through a virtual chamber ensemble composed of a sampled prepared piano, modeled violins and cello and synthetic timbres drawn from a set of formant synthesis modules. The output of the audio system is in six channels. Four loudspeakers are mounted in a line above the video projections with the two remaining loudspeakers behind the participants to provide a panoramic and immersive aural experience. 

4. Multichannel Video Animation and Diffusion. A multichannel system that manages 100 discrete channels of animated video drawn from a database of more than 1000 images of faces and hands in various details drawn from 100 subjects. A variety of compositional processes guide the compositing and animation of these materials across the 100 output channels. A single video projector can be used to present these discrete channels. 
The work is scalable for specific conditions of installation and level of technical support available. The artists will be able to provide for a modest presentation in which a single computer integrates systems 1 through 3 (camera sensing, control and music) with a second computer running system 4 (video animation).


Aleksandra Dulic: visual concept, photography, installation, animation, interaction, image post production

Kenneth Newby: visual concept, animation, visual / audio software, music composition, interaction, lighting

Martin Gotfrit: music composition, music software, installation

Post-production assistant: Naghmeh Abbasi
Production assistant: Kunal Sen

Interactive Installation, Media Diffusion: 6-channel audio and 100-channel video.

Commissioned by: UCI Beall Center for Art + Technology, 2008
Supported by : Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design + Media
Media and Graphic Interdisciplinary Centre, UBC
School For the Contemporary Arts, SFU