Traces – COVID19

Interactive Digital Online Interarts Project


Traces_COVID19 is an R & D interarts project funded by CNZ’s Arts Continuity Grant (with supplementary funding by Creative Northland). It is a four month project to research and develop online and physical interactive works. The online work will be published just after 30 September 2020.

From May to September 2020 the artists journeyed on more than 150 walks along one 10km stretch of beachfront in Whangarei, Northland. The journey was essentially the same but each day brought new surprises: dolphins, discarded KFC detritus, children looking for eels, people walking small dogs, women feeding birds, fisher people, joggers, men rescued from drowning, couples fighting out of their marriage. The artists tracked their journey by physically collecting samples of flora and fauna, by taking images and recording sounds.

Walking for the artists (and for many around NZ) is coping mechanism. A way of connecting to the land and to body but also disconnecting and isolating from the onslaught of digital media. Walking alleviated the mental stress that came from job uncertainty, from observing a new dystopian societal normality and from feeling the existential anguish that comes from the analytics of death.

The final interactive online work (nearing completion as @ 23/9/20) has emerged as a journey. In the online experience the user pushes forward (via the spacebar on their keyboard) through an ephemeral world created by layers of objects and sounds – the traces of things harvested from journeys of coping.

Our world is constantly disrupted by the statistics and analytics of death. In this work raw death data (collected from the John Hopkins site) impacts the journey causing strange glitches in both sound and image. The user may move forward and look from side to side but is eventually forced to face forward and confront the journey ahead.

The journey each day took a similar route but there was always difference (this is represented by using similar images in randomised patterns). And always was the ever present disruption of COVID making white noise, changing perception. At times it coloured the world strangely, at times distorted reality.

To create the work, traces were made of the physical collected artefacts/samples (eg botanica, plastic) by using contact prints (combining the sun, chemicals and vintage photographic paper). These prints were then scanned and processed digitally into a threejs library/environment (an extension of Javascript). These digital images were then also processed (hacked) into raw files and then placed into a sound programme to create background noise.

Both visual image and the resulting sound file were added to the threejs environment. Raw samples of sound from the journey were also added and engaged via a randomising algorithm.

The research and development process has been recorded via the Lab in the category: “Traces_COVID19”. The exploration has been technical, aesthetic and conceptual. While the final work is ultimately the result of photography and sound artistry, research over the four months involved a variety of practices including inner reflection, diary writing, poetry, printmaking, painting, photography, sound manipulation, creative coding, hacking, data analytics, media analysis and interactive digital art.

The final online interactive design is currently being finalised (14/9/2020) with peer review with regional curators taking place week 20 September 2020. Once feedback is received the work will launch in early October 2020.

AwhiWorld is extremely grateful for funding from Creative New Zealand for this project with additional funding by Creative Northland in place to develop the physical interactive work before the end of 2020.