Certain sounds, say squeaking chalk or a cab driver's horn or even human voices, make us flinch. We recoil naturally, as if to shelter ourselves from the noise. Now, in a sound installation in the storefront of the JS55 Gallery on Clinton Street in Lower Manhattan, we can see a dynamic visual demonstration of the impact of everyday sounds.
Skittish Tree, created by artist Martin Bravo, is a sound-reactive projection that came from what he calls "a personal obsession with how recursion works in both nature and programming."
The tree, beautifully illuminated, behaves normally in a quiet environment, swaying every now and then, as if with the wind. But with loud screams or shouts, the tree will then adopt the behavior of a skittish animal, hence the title of the project, getting scared and dropping its leaves and eventually branches.
With gentler noises, however, it moves to the sounds it hears.
According to the artist, it is also an "exploration of ways in which some particular behaviors can be transferred from one being to another completely unrelated, and the emotional responses that it generates in the people interacting with them."
Skittish Tree was originally developed for an exhibition at the gallery, and the street version of the tree uses slightly different technology, using stereo microphone inputs to change the way the tree behaves based on the direction and volume of the sound, evaluates background noise and adjusts accordingly.
The tree's reactions to the winds of noise offer a multi-sensory and participatory experience for the audience. Observe the tree in action below: