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Marcin Ramocki on John Cage: John Cage is one of those cross-disciplinary composers that an aspiring art student would inevitably stumble upon at some point of their research.

Torcito Project (sonic portraits), 2005 Reviews of Torcito Project Virtual Singer, 2003 Biography


John Cage is one of those cross-disciplinary composers that an aspiring art student would inevitably stumble upon at some point of their research. Some time in 1995 I found Cage’s graphic notations, maybe from “Experiments in Chance Operations” at Dartmouth’s Sherman library. One liberating idea that stuck with me was that sound can be represented visually and communicated through certain conceptual systems. The next logical step for me was "what if we take an existing conceptual system and make it produce sound?" My “Torcito Project” is an experiment in reversed composition: the image is a source of chance which generates sound.

Torcito Project is comprised of seven portraits created in the summer 2005 in Puglia, Italy. The project is based on re-purposing an older Mac music software Virtual Drummer. A matrix of 48 instruments (horizontal) and 64 frames (vertical) contains a bitmap image of human face, created by manual activation of instruments in different frames.  Essentially, the face payout becomes the score for an endless musical loop.

Reviews: Torcito Project (sonic portraits) 2005 - Art Fag City Torcito Project (sonic portraits) -  by Vito Campanelli: Marcin Ramocki, a Polish artist who's also a director of documentaries and independent curator, since his first experiments has focused his research on the construction of metaphors by using the most diverse software programs. Non-linear narration, be it generative and random or interactive, is the common theme of his many projects, even though there are other central themes, such as videogames aesthetics (especially the retro ones), combining old and new technologies, the DIY philosophy (which has recently become DIWO, thanks to a Furtherfield collective provocation or - more likely - thanks to the interactive nature of web 2.0), for example in works like Torcito Project (sonic portraits). This work is composed of seven portraits made in the Italian region of Salento (Masseria Torcito is in Cannole, near Lecce) in the summer of 2005 using Virtual Drummer, an "old" Macintosh software. A 48x64 grid is the canvas used by Ramocki. In this grid there's the bitmap image of a human face which eventually turns into the score of an endless sound loop. Each horizontal line corresponds to an instrument (for a total of 48 instruments) which is activated each time the cathode ray beam hits one of the portrait's pixels. Ramocki's work brings to mind Jacquard's punched cards, but also the pianola and the automatic piano. All these, in fact, are applications of the simple binary principle of full and empty. As is easy to understand, there's nothing too far from the basic principle modern digital technologies, and our information society, are based on.

Virtual Singer, 2003  (video sample)

Virtual Singer is different from regular animations, because its flow cannot be predicted and doesn't end. The melody is created real-time by user's computer. The motionless Singer, trapped behind the wooden fence, strives to be somehow alive, manifesting his rudimentary freedom through random seed generated by the machine. But his being is contained in eight sounds, and even the "randomness" of his singing is a mathematical derivative of computer's internal clock. This very simple, non-linear concept reveals a parallel between the mechanical determinism of the random function driving the singer's melody and our daily life, which is more and more compartmentalized, stratified, modeled, simulated and empty.

The link to this random generator piece which requires shockwave:


Marcin Ramocki is a Polish-born Brooklyn artist working with a variety of computer centered media. His practice ranges from digital installations and online work, to feature length documentary movies. Thematically, these often revolve around conceptual portraiture, fascination by various social networks, and self-reflective commentary on contemporary art world. He is best known for his documentary projects “8 BIT”(2006) and “Brooklyn DIY”(2009), as well as shorter digital forms like “Virtual Singer” (2000), “Torcito Project”(2005) or “Blogger Skins”(2009).


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