by Philipp Mohr & Selektivton


Origin is an interactive sound and light installation that functions through the electrical capacity produced naturally in the body of the user. Through this artwork participants are given the opportunity to experience a world of light and sound by means of their own physical body. Origin enables its attendees to become part of a critical and poetic transition of egocentrism into a sculpturally shaped figure consisting of light, sound, and a representational object..


Origin is an object already catching the attention of its observer simply by its formal aesthetics. The use of an interface between man and machine enables the user to become an essential part of Origin thereby overcoming the point of view of only being a recipient of the art. Through the immediate audiovisual response, Origin offers the possibility to experiment with the physicality of the human body and the resulting consequences. Therefore, the individual capacity to abstract is of central importance to the visual appearance of the installation. The interface that empowers the participants to interact with the installation between man and machine is a Theremin. As the first electronic instrument in the history of music, it was designed and developed in 1920 by the Russian physician Lev Termen. Today, the Theremin is mostly unknown and rarely used by musicians because contactless style of play makes it a difficult instrument to master.

Despite its relative anonymity and difficulty the Theremin is the operating principle of the Origin´s interface. The non-existent contact between the actual sensors of the instrument and the participant creates a special and fascinating experience for the user. To influence the installation with their own visions, attendees have to enter into resonance with the electrodes of the instrument using their own electric field. According to the principle of capacitive distance measurement, the user thereby generates different frequencies through delicate movements, thus initiating optical and acoustical changes according to these movements.


The content created by the participant becomes visible in the projection on the sculpture. It is structured in a manner that, 144 cylindrical projection objects are spread in every direction. The closer to the centre, the denser they are arranged. In this way an explosive impression is created, in which artificial light in terms of partial optical paths radiates on the surface starting from a fixed point. This construction permits a view from all perspectives – 360° around the installation Origin. Every change of perspective of the participant causes a modification of the object. Due to intensive observation and change of perspective in the supposedly chaotic system, the participant is able to recognize symmetry and order. The sculpture’s title, Origin, stands for the abstract illustration of the causality of human interaction. Every action precedes an according decision by ourselves. At the same time, this action – how small it may be – has a direct consequence on the environment, which can be experienced by the individual. Since the effect itself is again the cause for a new causality, each decision launches a causal chain, which loses more and more control the further it moves away from its origin. The installation Origin is an interpretation and manifestation of that principle in sculptural form.


Through the use of the cylindrical shape of the luminaries, it seems as if the participant controls LED tubes. Due to the fact that the projectors cannot be seen immediately and because of exact masking, which does not allow any glare to occur, practical experience has shown that even experts are mistaken that they control the LED tubes. The conscious decision for projectors as light source allows for a more differentiated content than LED technology. Through different gestures, with which the participant controls the mapping on the installation, the user is able to generate delicate colour gradients, beginning in the centre and continuing to flow over the projection objects. The impression of movement is supported by special highlights which constitute a break within the aesthetic form consisting of soft transitions. These highlights act synchronous to the colour gradients.


According to one of the basic ideas of Origin, namely the search of the origin or rather the origin of things, one of the first questions in art and music research was “What does an origin sound like?”. Very soon it became obvious that it must have been a kind of roaring. This roaring often results out of the superposition of many individual sounds that the human ear is not able to distinguish. Everything is caught up in the noise but in an unshaped manner. As a consequence of this, the Theremin will not play its traditional sound, but instead it is used to control the light installation and to modify many different roaring noises. The programming used for this system and the different noises undergo different stages. A change of stage can be caused by a participant through particular movements; but also change during random time periods. The most important parts of signal analysis are the frequency and the amplitude. Next to these signals the rate of input, the remaining on certain tone pitches and the periods of silence, which can occur at certain hand positions, are also being evaluated and subsequently used musically and visually.