Jingling Cell Phones

Made by Christine Lee

I critique an installation using cell phones to reinterpret the Christmas tree.

Created: November 30th, 2015

Experience Mobile Mobile
James Théophane Jnr - https://vimeo.com/8118831

James Theophane, Jr. and Yanni Kronenberg were invited by Lost Boys London Brick Lane Studio to create something for their "agency Christmas card." What resulted was a reinterpretation of the Christmas tree -- "Mobile Mobile," an interactive display using old mobile phones to play songs (Christmas carols!). The interactive part is that anyone can go online and write their own songs for the display to play.

I'm also musically inclined, so this piece grabbed my attention. The timing of each phone to match each other is really impressive considering they probably had to use Wifi/Data to transfer the information. The writer of the music (or programmer in this case) is also impressive because they have to coordinate all of the phones to make a unified display. 

What this piece did well was bring together the display and the viewer. Although the viewer does not actively participate when they are viewing, they are able to go online and make their own piece for the display to play. In this way, the viewer can become the creator if they choose, so this is actually a very successful interactive piece. 

What they probably could have done better was make the creation more accessible. Instead of having to go online, perhaps having something to allow people to modify the tunes on the spot would have been good. When I first watched the video, I had misgivings about whether it was interactive - nobody else was influencing the display. I had to read the description to find out where the truly interactive part of the installation was. 

The description mentions that it's a lo-fi work, meaning that it uses sound that has flaws which makes the sound different from the live recording. This is particularly interesting because the sound by itself probably wouldn't be too nice to hear, but the combination of sounds together sounds really great. They were inspired by works like this one:

Troika - 'Cloud' - digital sculpture for British Airways
troika london - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42hgPLL8IrA

Although this was more focused on the visual aspect, the lo-fi sounds in the background blend in really well with the changing visuals to create a well-balanced installation. 

I liked the idea Theophane and Kronenberg had of bringing music to the viewer. Although it wasn't 100% accessible, it was a creative way of allowing people who wanted to modify the music to modify it. I probably also want to do something more creative with sound this time. I like beat kills (where the sounds and visuals sync up perfectly - when they happen, it's a great feeling), and I might want to somehow incorporate that into my project. If I were to make a game, I could do something with sound after a person has made a move so that there is no lag between the action and the sound. There's a lot of possibilities that I'm excited to explore. I could also explore lo-fi music, although with my lack of knowledge in this field, it would be more difficult.

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I critique an installation using cell phones to reinterpret the Christmas tree.