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Elastic 'Firewall' tests the boundaries of life and death through touch and sound

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firewall installation
firewall installation

Somewhere near the intersection of music, motion, and metaphysics is where you'll find "Firewall" — an interactive media installation from Aaron Sherwood and Mike Alison. At first glance, the piece may look somewhat underwhelming, consisting of nothing more than a spandex sheet stretched across a large frame. Once pressed, however, this membrane suddenly comes to life with fiery visual patterns and music that shift according to the depth and pressure of a person's touch.

The depth of the membrane is measured with a Microsoft Kinect, while music is generated using an alogrithm created from Max/MSP software. The volume and speed of this music changes with the force of an applied pressure, allowing for what Sherwood calls "a very expressive musical playing experience."

The New York-based Sherwood says he was inspired to create "Firewall" as part of a forthcoming performance called "Mizalu," scheduled to premiere in June 2013. Within the context of the performance, "Firewall" will serve as something of a metaphysical barrier, separating the audience from the performers, and by extension, life from death.

"During one scene in the performance dancers will press into the spandex with the audience facing the opposite side," Sherwood explains on his blog. "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."