Flock (2008-2011) Eastern Bloc, Montréal, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta
Flock is an experimental system modeled on the synchronization of human movement and flight
patterns demonstrated in some species of birds such as Canadian Geese or European Starlings. The work was created for use by a small group of participants on bicycles and incorporates wearable technologies, navigational techniques, and direct participation.
As we navigate public space with another individual we tether ourselves to one another
through our senses, over time the ability to recognize and interpret our companions’nuances and communicative gestures becomes increasingly intuitive. Even with unannounced stops and hesitations, we move together in fluid rhythms: Yet, we know one another, we are together purposely and do not rely on verbal language for simple navigational tasks. Alternatively, how do we adapt when we must spontaneously attempt to understand and communicate with those we are unfamiliar with? How do we understand others movements and intentions when we have only just met?
The work Flock seeks to explore this area of human communication using a task-based game, bicycles, a wearable led light circuit display system and sonar. Modeled on bird flight patterns, Flock sets up the parameters for individuals to demonstrate a range of mediation and communication strategies in an open, unfamiliar and dynamic environment - the street, backc alleys and other pathways.
Flock is a set of wearable cycling capes that display alternating light patterns for participants to follow in the context of a multi-player, synchronization game. Using soft circuits, smd leds (surface mounted display light emitting diode), and wearable micro-controllers, the wearables display a number of different "circuits" for participants to adhere to within a set time period(approximately 30 minutes).
The wearables simultaneously display one circuit pattern at a time and do not organize the individuals or direct them specifically to a position within the displayed configuration. This the main obstacle of the game: participants must learn to develop a communicative system to navigate themselves as a group in order to “win”. The wearables also contain a sonar device that creates a proximity parameter - each member of the “flock” must stay within a certain distance of each other, thus, prosethically using the technology to provide participants with the experience of adopting a sonar sensing organ to navigate in a group (mimicking those select species of fish that use active electroreception or bats that use sonar in conjunction with their auditory system). The work seeks to explore the variety of tactics that will emerge as individuals attempt to stay within the parameters of the game. The game delves into the area of gesture based communication and impromptu decision making: how quickly can participants adapt and can they become fluid in their movements within the specified parameters or circuits? Flock valorizes intuition, group dynamics, and improvisation above repetition and rehearsal.