A Box that Yawns

In collaboration with Joy (Eun-Jee Kim).

This has so far been the most exciting assignment that I have worked on at ITP. The objective was to:
a. learn to record sounds using the zoom recorder and
b. edit the sounds in Logic X Pro

With this in mind, we explored several ideas for our intended sound piece.  Both Joy and I were sold on the idea of recording and designing a collection of yawns. The core concept was to exhibit the chain reaction that a yawn can cause. We wanted the piece to be a “relay of yawns” that would subsequently make the audience yawn.


Prototype 1:
A soundscape that begins with random spurts of different people yawning leading on to become a sleepy rendition of Mozart’s O Fortuna. We recorded yawn-y male and female versions of Oh Fortuna that we tried to layer over each other for it to sound like the track is escalating. Here is a clip of one of the yawns:

After a couple of iterations, we felt the song didn’t feel like a yawn anymore and we were unableo create the escalating effect that ‘o fortuna’ has. We soon moved on to our next idea.

Prototype 2:
A box that would yawn – Each time you open the lid, you hear a different yawn.  For this iteration, we:

1. Made a box (mostly from collected junk)

2. Created a photocell circuit and Connected it to an Arduino Uno


3. Used the ‘AnalogOutSerial’ arduino example created by Tom Igoe and tweaked it to suit our project. For our version, we did not require an output. We used the input from the photocell to trigger the yawns to start playing.

4. The input was received by Max MSP, where we defined that each time the photocell’s value goes below 50 (i.e when light hits the photocell), a yawn would play.

A big thanks to Gabe for helping us realize this project.


The novel happens as a consequence of, a reaction to, or a response to something else. History ascribes the discovery of the human blood circulation (1616) to William Harvey, while some say that it was DaVinci who in fact inspired Harvey’s discovery. Does the idea, then belong to the initiator or to the one who ultimately concludes it? Evolution of ideas is not one that happens in isolation. It has however, always been as conflicted as it is today.

Susan Meiselas’ point of protest, as she puts it, is the decontextualization of the original image – the image of the Molotov Man, one that became a symbol for the people of Nicaragua – and not necessarily the adaptation of her work by Joy. Considering the context, the artist here set out to tell a certain story and represent the state of events of some from a certain perspective. While Meiselas, sees her work as the story of another, Joy values the picture for its visual quality alone. The intent of the work in question defines a lot of how we look at it.

But is decontextualization really the problem? To those in Nicaragua that see the ‘Molotov Man’ as an important representation of their history, will always associate with the image – be it Susan Meiselas’ picture or Joy Garnett’s painting. To them, it is what the image stands for that is important. At what point does cultural specificity become relevant to the measurement of appropriation?

Was Susan Meiselas then wrong in asking for compensation? Would we be equally conflicted if a big corporation like Coca Cola decided to take Meiselas’ picture, give it their own spin and use it for their ads? Would the conflict remain if Coca Cola decided to use this ‘new’ picture for any of their CSR initiatives?


Scavenger Hunt

As part of our first Video and Sound assignment, we went on a little scavenger hunt for sounds. Here are three of my favorite ones that I collected.

Take it from me, squishy things that produce sound are hard to come by. But here is my idea of a squishy thing – a huge garbage bag.

One of the most fun sounds to collect was of the stranger who told me his ‘deep dark secret’.

The sound of the ambulance we managed to catch on time.

Audio Walk – Her Long Black Hair by Janet Cardiff

As I walked through Central Park to Janet Cardiff’s directions, I felt a certain possessiveness towards the ‘moment/s’ I was experiencing. I wanted the moment to myself – to not share it. Despite having a lovely companion (Joy) on the walk, I recognized that there was a solitude that Janet’s piece brought upon me. It was as if she was whispering in my ear her story, her secret.

What made Her Long Black Hair an engaging experience for me were:
1. Using the Central Park trail as a medium to tell the story
2. The multiple narrative approach wherein her story was interwoven with the directions being given to the listener.
3. The poetic translation of predictability into small moments of surprise for the listener. Now and again she would draw the listener’s attention to familiar scenes – a woman talking on the phone, a couple getting their wedding photos clicked, pigeons on the statue – that made her story more credible and my experience more real.

As I became attuned to sound as my primary sensory cue (and not the visuals I saw), I began to approach my trail based on what I heard. I would tread along a path and validate its accuracy based on the texture of the road or the sound of the chirping birds. Seldom do we have experiences that are so thoroughly multi-sensorial. ‘Her Long Black Hair’ was one such experience for me. I wonder if the experience would have been the same had there been a loudspeaker narrating the story. Is it the illusion of secrecy that made it so personal or the hit of familiarity?

Following are some of the pictures from our walk. Thank you to Eun Jee Kim (Joy) for accompanying me on this walk and also for very kindly clicking all the pictures presented here.