year 2009

MindBox is and interactive audio/video installation and performance by Christian Graupner/Humatic and Roberto Zappalà/compagnia zappalà danza


*Christian Graupner* (GER) Humatic, concept & video

*Roberto Zappalà *(I) performer, choreographer and theatre director

based in Catania Sicily

*Norbert Schnell *(F) IRCAM, interactive music and sound Design

*Nils Peters *(GER) Humatic, system developer and software artist

MindBox is produced by Humatic Berlin in co-operation with TMA Hellerau and Compagnia Zappalà Danza. The MindBox technology is based on HUMAsystem and the FTM & Co libraries for Max/MSP.


With the audio-visual triptych MindBox Christian Graupner & partners create an audience reactive video triptych which leans in form toward the paradigm of a slot machine.

The installation attracts the visitors’ senses offering a joyful gambling-game based around musical, choreographical and cinematographical elements such as dance & beat-boxing. The latter expression describes a form of vocal percussion from which the installation derives its title.

MindBox is a triple-channel ‘media catapult’ to be touched. The arm and buttons of a modified fruit machine function as a tactile interface to the actions of a filmed character whose vocal & movement clusters can be recomposed and re-performed by the audience.

The MindBox re-stages gambling as the addictive involvement of the player in the performance of dance and music.

In times where sociologists warn of the increasing dangers of gambling addiction and dependency on computer games and internet, Zappalà holds up a mirror to us. In a passionate, occasionally disorderedly looking performance of an uncompleted but continuously reinventing play of gestures and beatbox styled vocals, Zappalà confronts us with themes such as good & bad luck, coherence & friction and lust & doom on which we can react by pressing one of four buttons (as in a millionaires TV quiz show) before mastering the use of the metal lever to either breathe life into the weird character or let him go.

Through a series of working sessions Graupner and Zappalà have created a vocabulary of movements and sounds which Zappalà performed in front of Graupner’s camera unperturbed by changes of environment from the studio or stage to the public spaces of Catania, Sicily.

After inserting 50 cents worth of credits the player is drawn into a game of push and pull. The lever gives the feeling of body-contact with Zappalà and the opportunity to choose the development in the encounter. The complex technology and the cinematic medium occur in the background while instantaneous contact with performer and performance develops with the increasing involvement of the player. drawing an idiosyncratic regenerative portrait of Zappalà in the visitor’s mind.

Not least because of the input from software artists and developers Nils Peters (Humatic) and Norbert Schnell (IRCAM), the MindBox triptych turns out to be a highly dynamic music machine that always produces new rhythmical audio-visual clusters that form the base material for a re-performance of Zappala’s moves. The body and surface design of MindBox follows the concepts of re-performing, re-engineering and re-cycling. The metal designers (stabil-berlin.de) and electronics hackers (Jo Frgmt & Christian Günther) helped to turn the disused gambling machine into an unconventional operating instrument for the body-contact-music of Zappalà. Its intermittent fluorescent letter- and light sequences also mimic the continuous self-completing and counterpointing broken-beat loops and spirals of the video-dancejukebox.

Former graffiti activist Dirk Behrend, who was responsible for the re-design of the graphical surface, matched the face of the pimped-up machine to its (Break)beatbox content whilst retaining its original ‘Bally Wullf’ aesthetics. In keeping with the one-armed-bandit context details such as a live stock price ticker entitled ‘Global Players’, the control display ‘State of Mind’ and the money insert slot speak for themselves.

The soundtrack was developed to take advantage of both Zappalà’s beatbox styled movements and the randomized real-time variation processes inherent in slot machine gaming. The music is centered on percussive noises generated by Zappalà’s mouth, teeth and other body sources. The fricative, impulsive and extensive sound vocabulary is spliced and arranged into a tempolocked time frame adding a distinctive groove element to the sound flow. The processing of the material plays with inherent audio-visual morphologies by freely recombining visual elements (movements, postures, situations) and musical elements (rhythm, melody, timbre) into a unified choreography.