The making of “Weaving in the Dark”

Genetic Moo LG and Jockel Liess LG provide an insight into the computer programs that brought the numerous digital photos, video and sound clips together, creating an audiovisual Smörgåsbord.  

For the last two years, The London Group has run the collaborative group show “In the Dark”. We were all set to run our third in January 2021 but, as with most physical shows over the last 12 months, it had to be postponed.

Nevertheless, with the Group raring to work together, we decided do a collaborative experiment, combining digital photos, video and sound clips into the Smörgåsbord that is Weaving in the Dark.  An incredible 32 members joined in.

The following is an insight into computer programs written to create the work.

Weaving in the Dark

A collaborative audio-visual experiment by 33 London Group members and 2 hand-written computer programs.

Description of Genetic Moo’s visual process:

Weaving in the Dark was edited algorithmically. The process was developed by Nicola Schauerman from an earlier Genetic Moo piece called Medusa and the Snail which was shown in the artists’ moving image exhibition Self-Service at Waterloo Festival 2019.

The program takes two buckets of visual sequences and mixes them together according to certain rules. 31 films and 45 photos were sent in by 33 LG members in an open call. These were chopped up and put into a bucket. In bucket A, the first 20 seconds and the last 20 seconds of each 1 minute video was used. In bucket B, the middle sections of videos were placed interspersed with 5 to 20 second bursts of still photos.
The next stage of the process was something akin to A/B editing techniques adopted by many professional digital editing frameworks. The two buckets or rolls are played in parallel and a mix is made between the two images. The mix types were ‘additive dissolves’ and ‘solarisation effects’. The red/green/blue coloured pixels on screen each have a value of 0-255 and can be allowed to pass through each other or be combined with each other with certain thresholds. These mixes were chosen, or rather played, by the operator; Nicola. Once the process was set in motion it spat out over 55,300 frames in real time with the operator steering the process in response to the image generated. These were done in two 20 minutes sessions.

The final length of the film was determined by the length of the soundtrack generated in the sound system program created by Jockel Liess

Description of Jockel Liess’s audio process:

The sound for Weaving in the Dark is composed by a randomised generative computer system. The system design is inspired by and is also a sonic response to the computer program described above.

The source materials are 22 sound files/video sound tracks submitted by 14 London Group members. Ranging in length from 8 seconds to 3.14 minutes, these 22 files are subdivided into 154 segments approximately 8 seconds in length. To create the ongoing sonic collage, 3 of these 8 second segments are ‘played’ by the system at any one time. They are however not played from beginning to end, but rather as a continuous circular succession of short sonic loops. The length of these loops fluidly varies from ¾ of a second to 2 ½ second. The starting point of each loop meanders freely backwards and forwards through the timeline of the sound segment in question. This allows the system to ‘play’ each segment for an unspecified length of time and in a non-linear fashion. Always starting in the middle of each segment, the pathway the loops take through the sonic terrain is determined by chance. Each segment is ‘played’ until either the beginning or end of the segment is breached. Once this happens, the segment is replaced by a randomly chosen new one, and will not be ‘played’ again.

The length of this recorded version of ‘Weaving in the Dark’ is determined by the time it takes the generative system to ‘play’ its way through all 154 sonic segments. As the systems decisions are determined by chance the total length of the recording is also determined by chance.

Genetic Moo and Jockel Liess, 2021

Click to view the Weaving in the Dark

Weaving in the Dark is an online prelude to the Group’s up-coming Waterloo Festival exhibition In the Dark III: Being There, in The Crypt at St John’s Sat 19 June – Sun 27 June.