Monkey C Interactive is on a mission to bring people together in public spaces. Their work combines the visual impact of transforming environments through permanent and movable installations with technology that inspires play and imparts a sense of wonder. As the interactive experience of sound and light unfolds, it ignites conversation and creates a sense of shared community in public spaces.
What was once a cold and harsh industrial space in the historic area of New Westminster, visitors and locals will experience a dramatic transformation in the form of an iconic new interactive sculpture. Transformed with organic shapes, vines twisting and turning upwards along the stairwell beams, fanning out under landings, traversing between open spaces, and clustering into blooms, reclaimed and repurposed street lamps glowing softly in interactive and responsive colour shifts.
Beneath the stairwell, one cluster of lamps blooms from the concrete at hands reach for children and adults. The petal’s interactive surface activates through touch, triggering colour changes in the lights throughout the sculpture and a soft melody or rhythm from the nearby speaker.
When a hand is removed from the petal, the sounds stops, and the light returns to its slow pulse. Those within visual proximity will take notice. With multiple petals to play and each individual only able to control a limited amount at a time, participants will be driven to engage their companions or those nearby and encourage them to join in. As one participant becomes two, then three or more, new melodies and layers of music unfold, and the lens colours of the lights react in sync. A soundscape begins to beautifully come together, with all combinations creating something unique, pleasing, and fun. As one song ends, a new piece moves in and sparks renewed interest, avoiding repetition and monotony.
As participants ebb and flow, the music gently diminishes, returning to the sounds of the city.
The technology will be an adaptation of a system developed by Monkey C, previously used for the 5 storey musical railings in downtown Victoria, BC, that have been successfully running (outdoors) for the last 2 years. Lighting will be LED strips inside the lamps, controlled by a microcontroller. The interaction will be facilitated through sensors in communication with a microcontroller. Custom original sound and music will be composed and created specifically for this installation, making it one of a kind. The soundscapes will be fluid in that they’ll change both organically through interaction and also via connecting to the computer remotely. Customization for volume and lamp brightness is possible at any time and can be automated to fit a consistent schedule.
FLORALUME’S floral structures will be made from reclaimed street lamps (aluminum, steel, tempered glass) and steel conduit/ tubing, acquired through the city of Victoria, meeting fire and safety requirements. The vine structures will be steel conduit/tubing of varying diameters. The interactive elements will include sensors (photoresistors), LED lights, speakers, a small computer, a small amplifier, power supplies, and microcontrollers. The bulk of the interactive components will be stored in CSA approved steel electrical box. The control box will be inside the flower body under the western portion of the structure.
The placement of the floral lamps and vine structures will be approximate to the model shown. In order to prevent and avoid climbing, the vine structures and street lamps will be installed flush to the stairwell and out of arm's reach, as defined in the stairwell building code.
The electrical system will be CSA approved by Geoff Titterton, a Senior Inspector at Intertek Testing, whom previously certified Monkey C’s Musical Railings in Victoria.
Interactions specific to THE FLORALUME will include, but not be limited to, gentle sound performance where all sounds will be playable at one time, seamlessly fitting together (i.e. there are no wrong notes); LED patterns in both the control flower lamps as well as the lamps throughout the structure showcase shifting light sequences, activated by sensor triggers; hidden LED and sonic easter eggs (or rewards) are triggered when specific combinations of sensors are activated simultaneously--encouraging exploration by the participants.
The interactive nature of this piece, controlled and programmed through a computer, allows for simple evolution over time to update music and lighting combinations, preventing stagnation and allowing for the possibility of audio features for a special event or occasion.
Sound and music will gently add to the environment while being unobtrusive by design. Monkey C will accomplish this by addressing volume, content, and speaker direction and proximity to the businesses. Controls will be in place for volume in relation to time of day, with the daytime variant designed to accommodate and not disturb tenants. The custom audio software, developed by David (of Monkey C), easily facilitates time-dependent volume adjustments. Speakers will face downwards, pointed away from the nearest residences and perpendicular to the business entrances, creating a meaningful experience for participants, even at low volume.
At the maximum sound level we anticipate, the nearest residence will experience very little if any noticeable sound. For example, if we set the maximum music decibel level to 65 db (normal conversational level) at 3 meters from the listener then according to the inverse square law, the sound at 6 meters would be 59 db. Doubling the distance again to 12 meters, the sound level would be 53 db. Given that the closest residence is greater than 30 m from the staircase, the sound level will be less than 45 db at the closest apartment in this rough estimate. For reference, a “quiet suburb” is roughly 50 db. In addition, the 65 db measurement would be in front of the speakers. In all likelihood, the starting decibel level would be closer to 60 db for the lowest frequencies. On a normal day in the Old Crow Coffee Co. coffee shop, David measured roughly 70 db of ambient noise with approximately 10 customers and low background music.
The system will be online, so adjustments can be made to the sound levels and scheduling of the sound levels remotely. Monkey C will undertake this as part of routine maintenance. Adjustments to sound and lights are expected within the first two months of the installation, taking into account feedback from the community.
The street lamps will be fitted with 10 watts of LED strip lighting, creating approx 1200 lumens of light. The standard 150W HPS lights that are in street lamps are 16000 lumens. Using these metrics, the LED lamps will create less than 10% of the light of a regular street lamp. The LEDS will be programmed to slowly cycle through colours when they are dormant, and to respond to the music when people are interacting with the sculpture. Since the LEDs only create a fraction of the light of a regular street lamp, they won’t be blinding to drivers or residents. As with the sound, the light intensity can be easily adjusted remotely if needed.
Structural guidelines, material acquisition, model construction, lamp assembly, conduit sculptural formation.
Ongoing sculptural formation, programming, sound, electronics, testing, painting.
Installation, on-site electrical, CSA approval.
Since interactive art is an experiential medium, we set up the Floralume prototype in Waddington Alley in Downtown Victoria on April 29th, 2018, to capture the experience of members of the public engaging with the artwork.
The technology and concept behind Floralume is based on a similar project that Monkey C Interactive built and installed in Victoria, BC, in 2016. It has been functioning successfully for 24 hours a day for 2 years.
In the course of the two years, we received a handful of noise complaints, one of which occurred two months prior to the start of installation. The majority of the remaining ones were triggered by a large industrial rooftop exhaust fan nearby that needed maintenance.
Our contact at the City of Victoria recently informed us that there have been no complaints over the last year, confirming that the project has been normalized and embraced by the community.
As with any public art that is new and potentially challenging, there was a bit of pushback from the community on social media when the project was announced. Thankfully, the pushback was short-lived. Since the parkade is a high traffic area, we installed the railings at night, floor-by-floor over 6 weeks, to avoid closing the stairway and disrupting the hundreds of people who use it every day. Initially, we would start at 9pm and work until 5am, when the parkade was quietest. Over the weeks, as the landings became activated with sensors, lights and music, people would discover them and play. And then they would bring their friends. It became a secret magical spot for people, something they had to share. What was once a forgotten alley in Victoria now had a bunch of people playing, laughing and having fun. By the end of the installation, we had to change our work times because there were people playing with them whenever we showed up, and we didn’t want to stop the fun. So we ended up finishing the installation from 2am to 5am every morning. When the project was officially launched, once again, there was pushback on social media, but because hundreds of people had experienced the artwork and enjoyed it, the negative social media comments were quickly buried by supporters of the project.