Artists Ian Birse and Laura Kavanaugh, who work under the collaborative name Instance Places, are shown in front of an image from the software they use to create images and sounds inside the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham March 14, 2019. Their exhibit, Breathing Room, will be on display until May 5. (Tom Morrison/Chatham This Week)

If you visit the new exhibit at the Thames Art Gallery multiple times over its stay, chances are you’ll never see or hear the same thing twice.

Ian Birse and Laura Kavanaugh’s Breathing Room uses software called Max/MSP/Jitter to create sounds and digital images.

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Because they have many components within the software working against each other, Birse said all of the components would take a long time to line up in the same way. He compared it to two gears in a clock of different sizes being turned at the same speed.

“They’ll line up every day, for instance. If you have about 12 of those going, it will line up every 300 years that the same thing will happen,” he said. “Things are cycling against each other, but there’s so many things cycling that the parameters keep shifting around, and you don’t really see or hear the same thing.”

The two artists, who work collaboratively under the name Instant Places, set filters within the program and determine ranges for the sounds and visuals, but there is also a randomness that occurs within their choices.

“It’s the kind of thing where you can have ideas, open it up and start building again, have more ideas, build more,” said Kavanaugh. “It’s quite an expansive kind of software that goes in a lot of different directions, and is continually challenged and worked on by people around the world.”

The work they show in each exhibit is also always new, said Birse, because they make changes to their work while they set up in the gallery.

However, he acknowledged they do bring similar ideas to each piece they present.

“It gives you a lot of flexibility of really fine-tuning and personalizing what’s going on with the software,” he said.

The sounds they use this time are “restful,” said Birse.

Meditation was also an influence on this exhibit, said Kavanaugh.

“I think lately we started off with the idea of there being quite a lot of stress in the world on a personal level and on sort of a more global level,” she said.

Their work isn’t about creating a “one-to-one ratio” between the sounds and images, she said.

“They’re going to make sense, even if they’re polarized opposites,” she said. “They’re going to develop some kind of relationship. I think we’re always more interested a little bit more in how the cognitive mind works and how it actually fits those things together.”

Kavanaugh said she feels they still “haven’t arrived” at their style yet, despite working with this type of software for more than 20 years because “nothing is fixed” with this type of art.

“Instruments are changing all the time and tools are changing all the time, and new modes of thinking that are connected with those modes keep changing,” she said.

Breathing Room will be on display during regular hours at the Thames Art Gallery until May 5.



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