The Opera for Dying Insects 2020 by Ken Rinaldo uses artificial intelligence to track the positions of eating ancient isopods (pill bugs) to activate and sing opera. The video documenting this work describes the use of MAX MSP and Jitter software, a video camera, and Macintosh Hardware to enable a variety of operas
The Opera for Dying Insects 2020 by Ken Rinaldo uses artificial intelligence to track the positions of eating ancient isopods (pill bugs) to activate and sing opera. The video documenting this work describes the use of MAX MSP and Jitter software, a video camera, and Macintosh Hardware to enable a variety of operas.
This work allows humans to feel empathy and understand the collapsing environment’s issues and insect apocalypse before us. As we are dependent on insects and they are at the base of the food chain for so many species, this work is about the tragedy of global warming and environmental degradation. As we decimate their natural habitats, we may be leading to both theirs and our extinction.
Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of our time with global industrial farming, habitat loss, global warming, deforestation, and synthetic pesticide use is the recent realization we are in the middle of an insect apocalypse. It is estimated by one recent study that insect populations have declined by 40% since scientists have been tracking populations. In 2017, a 27-year long population monitoring study revealed a 76% decline in flying insects.
As insects are at the base of the food chain critical to pollination, this is a truly global tragedy with implications to the food chain beyond human food systems. The Opera of Dying Insects sound and video work wishes to address this issue, with an opera that is auto-composed by insects eating a moist log.
In this work, the pill bugs (Armadillidium Vulgare) will be living in a perfect paradise of a constructed moist environment, slowly eating and deconstructing a wet log. They will be co-existing in this ecosystem with domestic insects such as leafhoppers and other species such as fungi and bacteria. As pill bugs are shared and on every continent of earth, the natural insects and soil to construct the ecosystem will be sourced locally.
In the installation, cameras will view the inside of the constructed ecosystem. Bright projectors will project to the walls of the installation a large-scale view of the micro-world of the pill bugs, and the interior of the rotting log.
The operatic parts mixed and remixed from current and past tragic operas will be triggered through MAX MSP and Jitter software playing through amplified computer speakers.
As the insects eat and mate in the glass vitrine, their movements will be sensed with video cameras and analyzed with software to determine location and speed. The data derived from these movements will trigger portions of an auto-scripted opera, that has been partially composed using artificial intelligence with the assistance of Generative Adversarial Networks. To generate the opera, we will use existing and custom recordings of insects and the recordings of opera, and use adversarial networks to allow one to morph into the other.
As people observe the large projected images of the pill bugs and their micro-world at the scale of our own, my hope is humans will notice their subtlety and their beauty and come to a realization that we must cease to dismiss their importance in our ecosystems.
Ken Rinaldo: Concept, 3D modeling, sound, rendering, and direction
TradeMark Gunderson: sound engineering, video programming, Max MSP
Andrew Newbold: Plasma Cutting at The Ohio State University