The third iteration of sound installation Maelstrom (James Bulley and Daniel Jones, 2012) can be found from now until June 10th at FutureEverything 2012, in the incredible 175-year-old surrounds of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.
It generates a continuous piece of music purely using audio fragments taken from YouTube and other media-sharing websites, using new material that is constantly being downloaded, fragmented and categorised based on tonal attributes.
The consequence is that it is an extraordinarily strange system to compose for: we score the dynamics, pitch and spatialisation sequences, but the timbral properties of the sound are constantly shifting beneath us. Each repeat of the same section may thus be radically different, rendering it an ever-changing, amorphous hyper-instrument.
The whole of the FutureEverybody exhibition revolves around ideas of collective action and participatory technologies, with many other great works. Ollie Palmer's Ant Ballet draws on ideas from cybernetics and self-organised behaviour to create a multimedia showcase of his experiments with artificial pheromones to influence the movements of real ants, symbolically conducted by a robotic arm.
Jeremy Hutchison's Extra! Extra! elevates Facebook wall postings into analogical headlines, using sandwich billboards from the Manchester Evening News. It's one of those pieces where the actual visual impact is quite different to how it sounds on paper, highlighting the different modes that our mind places itself in when absorbing information from different contexts. The absurd ring of importance that the piece gives to the utterly banal ("Emma Russell: Having An Okay Day").
Visualisation is one of those tricky areas where it's easy to fetishise the beautiful over that which gives real insight, but Stefaner, Taraborelli and Ciampaglia's Notabilia is one of the more . In general, the curation of the exhibition (by Glaswegian Deborah Kell) is top-class, avoiding the typical trappings when staging a show that's firmly tech-centred and focusing on works that are asking significant and engaging questions, resonating deeply with Manchester's history of decentralised growth and social sprawl.