IDEAS Performance: Trapped in the Clouds, Pondering the Night

MFA Candidate Jon Paden is one of the artists behind the performance of <i>Trapped in the Clouds, Pondering the Night</i>


Date: 2018-03-15
Time: 5-7pm
Location: Calit2 Theater, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego

Guest Speaker: Robert Blatt, Composer and Sound Artist

Host: IDEAS Performance Series


Trapped in the Clouds, Pondering the Night is a participative, multimedia work that merges computer vision with dynamic audio-visual space to create a self-reflexive, interconnected and temporal sound-vision environment. The work monitors the sky with an ultra-high-definition 4K camera, looking for shifts in the chaos of the clouds, analyzing patterns and changes of hue over the course of the day. The 4K stream can be processed via novel computer-vision algorithmic approaches, using rates of change and the gridded relationship of pixel values within the captured image. This approach translates the outdoor skyscape into an indoor soundscape, and that soundscape shifts as day transitions into night.

Artists Jon Paden (left) and Robert Blatt created Trapped in the Clouds...

The monitored sky is displayed in high-resolution on the Vroom display wall in the Calit2 Theater. Changing sections of the video stream are displayed in conjunction with the soundscape of filtered noise, whose density of band-pass filters, spatial diffusion and filter parameters are altered based on the monitored results of the video display, translating the exterior skyspace into a diffuse reflected audio-visual image.

“The image is akin to a reflection pond,” says artist Jon Paden. “Above this pond, visitors have the ability to instrument themselves with electronically modified fishing poles installed at the periphery of the space.” 

The poles each carry a small microphone, camera, multi-processing sensor and an LED light are combined and deployed at the end of each ‘fishing line” where the hook should be. The poles add a second dimension of vision and sound into the space, creating something close to the buzzing of fireflies, whose spatial positioning and vision are connected to the theater’s sound system and video screen. The technology creates an ever-changing feedback loop of perspective within this interior space, while altering the viewer’s relationship to space, both interior and exterior.


ROBERT BLATT is a composer and sound artist whose work is rooted in explorations of expanded sonic situations and the entanglements of sound, space and listening. His practice is experimental and process-driven, using computational, conceptual and psychological strategies. Since 2006, Blatt has created a variety of experimental works utilizing digital sound processing, algorithmic music composition, and the construction of electroacoustic instruments of his own design. Blatt has extensive experience with the SuperCollider programming environment, including numerous performances and installation pieces. Blatt has been supported by residencies including at the Jackstraw New Media Gallery (Seattle) and GEMAK (The Hague, Netherlands). His work has also been presented internationally at Weisslich (London and Manchester), Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik (Darmstadt, Germany),Het Nutshuis (The Hague), Subtropics (Miami), and the International Computer Music Conference (Huddersfield, UK). Blatt recently received a fellowship from the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany.

JON PADEN is an MFA candidate in Visual Arts at UC San Diego, and he leads a collaboration between QI’s Immersive Visualization Lab and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination (also located in the Qualcomm Institute). Since 2014, Paden has worked with computational methods of building interactive, mechatronic artworks – one of which is permanently installed at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. The sculptor and digital media artist’s work crosses artistic boundaries, covering a myriad of materials, techniques and traditions including wood, glass, drawing, painting and technology-driven new media. Programming and algorithms play a central role in the autonomy of Paden’s work. Among his recent works, Paden’s InMemori mixes paper masks and computer vision to build a one-of-a-kind augmented reality artwork that explores digital memorial and how physical objects can be embedded with digital information as memory.