documentation video (2’30”), It Takes Spirals to Feed the Spiral, MOCA Toronto, CA, 2022.

This project was presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada and Array Music and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Program Notes:

Blurring the physical and the virtual, Toronto-based Chinese artist Xuan Ye presents a new multimedia installation, It Takes Spirals to Feed the Spiral (2021–2022). Through ongoing research into spirals as an archetype, Ye reimagines conceptions of space and time. The exhibition looks at how spirals repeat themselves in the smallest components of life and the largest forces in our universe; in their practice, Ye refers to nanoscopic imagery that reveals the double helix structure in DNA and telescopes that make visible the spiral formations of galaxies.

Ye intentionally turns forms and concepts inside out. In this space, the immersive vinyl wallpaper constitutes a meta-textual diagram featuring a 3D model of the human cochlea, visually expanding this organ beyond the bounds of the human body. Mapped on an exaggerated scale, the canal of the inner ear mimics the appearance of a cosmic phenomenon, such as a wormhole. Viewers can participate in Ye’s research by scanning the imagery with their smartphone to reveal a layer of augmented reality. The work taps into various fields and cultures ranging from mathematics to biology and astronomy and from ancient civilizations to post-colonial cultural movements such as the Spiralists.

Suspended from the ceiling is a video essay consisting of generative animations and sequences that are driven by text-commanded artificial intelligence algorithms. The moving image presents a journey into a seemingly infinite spiralling realm that is accompanied by an original sound work that blends algorithmic composition produced by Jason Doell with improvised ritualistic sounds and vocalizations performed by the artist.

It Takes Spirals to Feed the Spiral

vinyl wallpaper, augmented reality (via URL), video (12 min, colour, projection), surround sound (1 hour)

Process Notes:

1 This project started from my research on how biometric surveillance impacts the perception of self and time through sound and architectural structures such as spiralling traffic flows.

2 Following the logic of a Fibonacci spiral, I designed the diagram by zooming in and out of various symbolisms and collaging layers of research materials, including quotations, screenshots, and photographs I took in day-to-day life during the research period. I then converted the diagram into a cube map, a method in computer graphics for environmental mapping.

3 The text prompts used in the video, and the lyrics in the sound work are writings I co-created with several AI systems including textRNN and GPT-2.

research materials for It Takes Spirals to Feed the Spiral
research materials for It Takes Spirals to Feed the Spiral
research materials for It Takes Spirals to Feed the Spiral

the meta-diagram and some research materials

The Spire Choir

Microphone, Muse™ EEG Headband, Max/MSP, Ableton Live.

The Spire Choir is a sound performance involving one human performer and a bio-sensing voicing apparatus. Performing with and in algorithms, the Spire Choir intersects the acts of vocal improvisation, mindful movement and neurofeedback. The resulting soundscape spires up through multimodal entanglements of sound, mind, body and cognitive technologies.

live performance excerpt (2’30”), Array Space, Toronto, CA, 2022.
Full performance: