www.evolutie.org

The Mechanics Of Emotions

2005 - 2006
http://www.moben.net/e-mechanics/INDEX.HTM
http://www.lebazar.net

team: Artm Baguinski, Brigit Lichtenegger, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, Marloes de Valk, Maurice Benayoun, Olivier Pasquet

screenshot
Screenshot showing a dynamically mapped emotion
screenshot
Screenshot showing incoming data from the web

The Mechanics of Emotions is a project by artist Maurice Benayoun. Around the beginning of 2005 I got involved in the project, and have since then worked on several bits and pieces of the project. The project continues to evolve, so the information here is about the state of the parts at the time I made my deadline for the software for some exhibition / performance.

The Mechanics of Emotions is an art opera in 13+ parts, in which the Web is considered as the world nervous system. By scanning the web, a real time image of the state of mind of the world is aquired, from which dynamic maps of the emotions of the planet are built by displaying words smaller or bigger depending on the search results (World Emotional Mapping). This data forms the basis of each part of the mechanics, that can be a statement, an event, an installation, an object, a concert, a performance, a website, a business...

Screenshot showing mixed emotions
Screenshot showing mixed emotions
Picture taken at the Ars Electronica festival
Picture taken at the Ars Electronica festival

In Emotional Traffic these maps are interpreted as a musical score, and the emotions are played by the artists (Maurice Benayoun and Jean-Baptiste Barrière), who have control over the speed, the frequency, timbre and texture of the sound. The audience itself participates in the concert, as its movement (analysed by cameras) determines the rythmic component for scanning the emotions. The installation at the Ars Electronica festival (september 2005) consisted out of 5 screens showing the individual emotions, and 1 huge main screen on which a map is drawn showing the mixed results of the 5 globes. The actions of the artists are visualized in the tempo in which the words are displayed, and the speed and positioning of a meridian line, rotating around each globe. All this results in a composition that is generated and reactive, yet controled, and in which visualization and sonification are deeply intertwined.


At the root of the Emotion Vending Machine are the same mechanics as those in Emotional Traffic, but through it's concept of artistic merchandizing the machine deals with the production of emotions in an ironic way. Users can select up to three emotions from a list of nine emotional states. This selection is used to scan the internet, and produce a visual map and a specific musical result in real time. After viewing and listening to the personal result, users can plug in their USB stick to load their map and their emotional sound remix. Here is an additional screenshot of the Emotion Vending interface, as is a cocktail produced by the machine.

Picture taken at transmediale
Picture taken at transmediale

The basis of the software is an engine that uses google search to determine the emotional state of each city. This engine was initially written by Alexander Brandt with php and shockwave technology. As the project evolved I ported it to java and continued developing with help from Artm. Next to Java3D for the 3D visualization, we also use the old xith overlay library for the HUD display. For the communication in a networked setup we use javaOSC. The development of the interface of the Emotion Vending Machine was made easy thanks to the jgoodies forms library. The sound recording and mp3 encoding is handled by the Tritonus java sound implementation and LAME.
The musical software is developed by Jean-Baptiste Barrière in Max, with some synthesis design by Olivier Pasquet.
Once more parts of the project are 'finished', the software will be open sourced.

The Mechanics of Emotions is one of my favorite projects to work on. In essence it is this one simple good idea, that only needs this search engine, but from that base a multitude of possibilities arise, that are all equally interesting and fun, technically and conceptually. I'd still love to do more work on a nice interactive web application, generating frozen feelings, emotional weather forecasts etc. etc., and as always, I'm curious what crazy idea Maurice will come up with next :-)