190 x 70 x 70 cm,
4 subwoofer speakers, 4 preamps, 4 mono block car audio amplifiers, RGB LED stripes, 4 DIY electric stethoscopes, drain pipes, 4 Arduino microcontrollers, construction wood )
1. Description of the project
HEART TUBE is an interactive installation that transmits heartbeats of up to four people simultaneously to the showroom, in real-time. The sculpture explores human communication and interconnectedness through a simple biological process, focusing on the heart as an organ extremely susceptible to external stimuli and internal processes (thoughts, emotions, etc.). The heartbeat makes every physiological and psychological change instant, directly and unconsciously visible - through deviations in rhythm. These deviations are amplified and made visible through the transformation of the sound of the heart and its rhythm into light and strong, tactile vibrations. The volume and rhythm of light and sound again affect the heartbeat of the people who are connected through sculpture, which creates a "communication loop" and a kind of cyber feedback. Experimenting with the interface of technology and biological, the work speculates on the possibilities of creating new, different ways of communication and perception - those based on immediacy and uncontrolled biological processes.
Technically work consists of 4 DIY electronic contact stethoscopes. Each is connected to a separate preamplifier, mixer, amplifier, subwoofer speaker, power supply and an Arduino microcontroller that transforms sound into light pulses of varying intensity. All the devices are built into the sculpture structure made of drain pipes ( tubes ) and construction wood. The speakers are arranged vertically and activated by pressing the button on stethoscopes independently of one another. This creates a specific movement dynamic within the sculpture. The rhythms of four human hearts activate LED lamps beneath each speaker and merge into one dynamic rhythm that resonates loudly in the showroom. The color of the LED lamps changes according to the tempo of the heartbeat and changes to red if it gets faster and green if its more relaxed.
2. Research history
The research for the project began in 2013. while I was working on my MA thesis in New media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb titled: „Interactivity as a medium produces meaning“ focused around researching new ways of communication and perception through interactive low tech art apparatuses, inventions that give rise to a new way of looking at everyday life. In my research I was focused on the body and simple exchange processes within it and in communication between people. The idea for the work came to me while I was learning meditation, focused on my body, a thought appeared in my mind; „how interesting would it be to hear your heartbeat loudly in the room, where other people can hear it too? That would be a simple but interesting communication experiment.“
At the time I didn't have any idea how this work would be realized, I just wrote it down as an interesting concept. In 2014. I applied this concept for a residency program in Pilsen, Czech Republic in the organization of Pilsen 2015 European Capital of Culture.
The idea was to create 4 electronic stethoscopes that would be placed in public spaces- buildings, the main „ organs“ of the city for 2 hours and people in that public space could use the work at that time.
The proposal got accepted and I spent 2 months researching how to create 4 working electronic stethoscopes with 500 euros budget. The task was not as easy as I thought. The first experiment, inserting a small computer microphone into a medical analog stethoscope failed horribly creating a very loud and annoying sound feedback loop and no heartbeat sounds.
While researching on the internet I didn't find any literature on the topic or a similar work that someone had done, which worried me. Only electronic stethoscopes I could find were Littmann stethoscopes which cost 400-500 euros each and I wasn't sure if I could use them or modify them for what I needed. Can this even be done?
After a month and a half of very intense research, trial and error and very careful budget distribution, I made my first working stethoscope using condenser microphones and a special casing combined with sound feedback destroyers and preamplifiers.
Amplifying a very quiet vibration to be heard loudly in the room causes the very sensitive stet mic pickup head to pick up the sound again from the outside then amplifying it again and again until very loud and strange sound vibrations are created.
The first working stethoscope prototypes could (depending on the acoustics of the space where the installation was set up ) achieve only a certain amount of sound volume, microphone sensitivity, before creating feedback but worked well enough for the installation to be presented in five public institutions.
The reactions of the people were very interesting to observe since its a rare occasion that one can hear their heartbeat, especially in a public space, loudly, in front of and with other people. The different exhibiting spaces gave the installation different contexts. Like the shopping mall, cathedral or a government building. It creates a feeling of being exposed and vulnerable but also a sense of interconnection, a certain equality in the existential sense. The use of the work directs our focus on our bodies and space of living, life in the present moment and reminds us of its eventual expiration. Things we often forget about constantly racing through our lives.
Circumstances for a different kind of communication and perception are created.
At the end of the residency, i discovered piezo disc contact microphones and started experimenting with them. Through the years the work was upgraded and a few new versions were developed.
In 2019. I developed the concept to its current form and it was commissioned by KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis for the exhibition: „Extravagant bodies: Extravagant love“. The concept received a production grant from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and I was finally able to perfect it and make the work the way I truly wanted it to be.
Technical co-worker on the programming of the lights: Igor Brkić
Work commissioned by KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis for the exhibition: „Extravagant bodies: Extravagant love“ 2019.
Support received from: Work production grant from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia 2019.