The Saturation Engine
San Francisco | 2001
We live in an age of media overload. Imagery and sound bombard us from every angle. Advertisements adorn every viewable surface. What happens to our conscious and unconscious mind as it approaches and moves beyond the point of saturation?
The Saturation Engine began in late summer 2001 as a collaborative concept between the 47 art collective and Paul Miller (DJ Spooky).
The original idea centered on animated digital graffiti, from talks in San Francisco and NYC, then Burning Man. A week later, 9/11 transformed the direction of the project.
That day, 47 began downloading the flood of jpeg imagery of the unfolding events. An idea soon emerged to develop programmatic, rapidly moving loops of the images, tied to recent research in frame rates and optics. This idea soon moved on to creating software that could create, trigger and adjust the image loops in realtime.
As a story narrative emerged from these experiments, the collaborative group decided the digital graffiti could be used to write over keyframes and divide narrative chapters. Paul provided one of his musical tracks, and 47 asked Barclay Crenshaw to help remix the song to fit the developing narrative flow.
Two versions of the Saturation Engine evolved. One was the live, performed version of the work using the software, where the clips, narrative order, story, and musical accompaniment changed every time. These versions were performed by both 47 and Paul in varying venues around the world, and as projected digital graffiti by 47 in San Francisco throughout 2001 and 2002.
The second version was a final recorded version, titled 911:A State of Emergence. It was shown at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, South by Southwest (SXSW), and Duke University. The project was also selected for the Tenth Annual New York Digital Salon in 2003 at the World Financial Center in NYC, but censored and excluded from the exhibition, due to political pressure.
The Saturation Engine software was later used to create Flags and Logos, two interactive software artworks, shown stand-alone and customized for live performance by both Paul Miller and 47.
Created by: [sic], Billy Blaze and Paul Miller (DJ Spooky)
Software Coding: Billy Blaze
Music: Paul Miller (DJ Spooky)
Music Remix: Barclay Crenshaw
Graffiti Lettering: Justin Chan
Graffiti engine code based on work by Joshua Davis and Scien123