The "Batocki" Re-Action Orchestra

The "Re-Action Orchestra" symbolises the continuous alternation between on the one hand the active, agile phase, loaded with energy, and on the other hand the passive phase of recuperation, from which strength may be drawn. Of decisive importance is the equilibrium between tension and relaxation, which is upset either by exaggerated action for action's sake by hyperactivity or by pessimistic lethargy. Both the incessant assimilation of information and total lack of interest lead to immobility. The sound installation does not tackle these extreme attitudes; rather, it seeks to deal with action and reaction as if in a game. The public can decide itself whether it wishes to be the conductor of a small orchestra or merely to go through the "orchestra" and perceive acoustic or optical changes. When people play with the installation, every change of tone simultaneously means a change in the optical situation. Lines of viewing are opened up, while others are obstructed. If none of the objects are activated, the installation reacts to the public, and thus from time to time individual sequences are to be heard. The installation consists of twelve objects, made up of wooden and metal strips which are screwed together in criss-cross fashion, so that each object can be moved as if it were a pair of scissors. Through the linking together of several of these scissors-like elements the object can extend and then contract again. In everyday life one finds such constructions as coat-hangers, in lifting ramps or as pergolas in the garden. Changes in the extension of the object are measured and converted into electronic signals, which accordingly affect electro-acoustic events. Just as the trombone makes tonal shifts directly visible through the activation of the slide, so in the Batocki Orchestra acoustic and tonal changes, as well as rhythmic and metric ones, are made visible. The "batocki" can be extended and contracted in two different ways: through direct activation of the instrument by the public or through an electronically steered mechanism, which automizes the changes of length.

The objects themselves fall into two groups:

Group 1: Electro-acoustic production of sound
Tones, sounds and noises are produced electronically and radiated via a loudspeaker. The extent to which the objects are stretched out can affect the tone, the quality of sound, the filter frequencies, the v olume and various other parameters.

Group 2: Mechanical production of sound
The stretching out of the objects steers motors, electo-magnets, pumps, air compressors etc. By means of a mechanism, acoustic sound-producing devices, such as drums, strings of a zither, metal bars, cardboard boxes etc. are made to "sing". The extent to which the objects are stretched out influences the number of times the material is struck or the intensity of the noises and sounds.

Arrangement of the room
At one end of the room I will place four objects, which can be operated by the public. Four independent tones and sounds are produced. Through the actions set off by the public the eight other objects erected in the room are activated. A random generator selects various patterns of reaction. The simplest pattern is synchronic imitation of the movement concerned: if one object is stretched out, all the other objects automatically extend. The viewer can thus multiply his or her own action, and the number of acoustic events is raised to a power. All the instruments play in unison. In this way another variant - the mirror image - can also be produced: if the person lengthens the object, the orchestra "contracts", and vice versa. A canon is possible too: the action is taken up in turn by individual mechanical objects. For this purpose a micro-controller program assumes the task of varying and composing the musical material fed in by the public. Not always does the orchestra react immediately and synchronically: it "decides for itself" when, whether and in what manner it will "respond" to each action.
If the public changes more than one of the four objects at its disposal, the micro-controller program selects the sum or difference of each action and transforms these instructions to the "orchestra".