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Firewall is an interactive media installation created by Aaron Sherwood in collaboration with Mike Allison. A stretched sheet of spandex acts as a membrane interface sensitive to depth that people can push into and create fire-like visuals as well as expressively play music.

The piece was made using Processing, Max/MSP, Arduino and a Kinect. The Kinect measures the average depth of the spandex from the frame it is mounted on. When someone presses into it the visuals react around where the person presses, and the music is triggered. An algorithm created with Max allows the music to speed up and slow down and get louder and softer, based on the depth. A switch is built into the frame which toggles between two modes. The second mode is a little more aggressive than the first.

The original concept stems from a performance piece I’m currently developing as Purring Tiger (with Kiori Kawai) titled Mizalu, which will premiere in June 2013. During one scene in the performance dancers will press into the spandex with the audience facing the opposite side. Mizalu is about death and experience of reality, so this membrane represents a plane that you can experience but never get through. As hard as you try to understand what’s in between life and death, you can never fully know.

Aaron Sherwood is currently Artist in Residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, as well as a Masters Degree candidate at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. He holds a BFA in Jazz and Contemporary Music from The New School University. Growing up a musician, he began playing professionally at the age of 15, and eventually moved to New York City. In 2010 he met Pauline Oliveros who introduced him to the wonderful world of Max through her Expanded Instrument System. This led to an unprecedented shift in artistic paradigm for Aaron as he discovered the nearly endless possibilities of creative coding. In 2011, along with Kiori Kawai, he founded Purring Tiger, a multi-cultural, multimedia, experimental performance group dedicated to bringing people together in the context of art, in a subtext of wonder.

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