The sound artist Simon Whetham was one of our four subnetAIRs reloaded 2020. Since the entry from France to Austria became impossible at short notice due to travel restrictions, we decided for a subnetAIR at home program. At the „Meet the artists“ event he presented his idea via Messenger to use discarded technology, he finds at the streets, to give them a new use and convert them into instruments. In the subnetAIR program he wanted to use the liquid cooling system of a gaming computer tower, he found at the streets of Marseille.
Simon documented his progress in Marseille/France via his homepage and finally let the results of the remote residency flow into the audio-visual work „Closed System“.
During the remote residency he investigated ways of adapting a liquid cooling system for a gaming computer tower into a sound-making device.
The motors are controlled by Arduino creating two scenes, one faltering and rhythmic and the second a constant running speed. The sound were then recorded from six different positions with contact microphones, a hydrophone and a lavalier mic.
During this project Simon found himself hitting a number of unexpected barriers, which determined the direction the project finally took.
In brief, the idea to power the cooling system using impulses, was not possible. The motors were only working, when supplied with a full 12 volt supply. This also meant, that he could not change the speed, which he hoped to do, to change the pitch of some of the tones produced.
Returning to using Arduino to control the motors, he programmed both of them to function on and off randomly for a period of time (approximately 7 minutes), then to run at a constant speed. With both of these ’scenes‘ or movements he investigated the sounds generated across the system using contact mics, a hydrophone and a cardioid lavalier mic.
The six mics sourced sounds from six different positions and they were fed into Ableton Live, where each could be controlled and manipulated independently.
The idea arose to perform or compose with those six inputs, using the live feed from the cooling system. This was quite a development for him, as he had never used the programme in this way, automating parameters of a live sound. And as the processing of the signals became more automated, the project became more of an installation idea.
Simon considered presenting the work live, performing with it, but as the project developed he decided to present it as an installation with the sounds heard through speakers. So „Closed system“ became a composed piece of approximately 30 minutes in length.