Fleischmann & Strauss
© ; Fleischmann & Strauss

(collective) Monika Fleischmann | Wolfgang Strauss

Energy_Passages ,
Co-workers & Funding
Management and Concept: Wolfgang Strauss and Monika Fleischmann
Technical Team: Adam Butler, Ansgar Himmel, Andreas Muxel, Predrag Peranovic, Stephen Williams
Design: Jochen Denzinger, Vera Doerk, Lina Lubig, Lars Zahl
Onsite Team: Christina Kleinjohann, Rainer Liesendahl, Stefanie Zobel
The project was commissioned by the Cultural Department of the City of Munich.
  • Energie-Passagen
    1310 × 849
  • EP Webseite
    774 × 502
  • EP video
    720 × 576
  • EP Mix
    625 × 913
  • Energie-Passagen. Statistisches Bild der Stadt
    1406 × 1239
  • Energie-Passagen Workflow
    2363 × 1625
  • EP-Fluss-Ukraine
    673 × 179
  • Energie-Passagen, Installation in München
    891 × 601
  • Energie-Passagen, Installation in München
    1350 × 1800
  • Energie-Passagen, Installation in München
    850 × 1134
  • Energie-Passagen, Installation in München
    850 × 1134
  • Energie-Passagen, Installation in München
    850 × 1134

Energy Passages transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary. The daily newspaper becomes a poetic audio-visual field of keywords flowing through urban space. The installation is designed to make visitors think about how language shapes our perception of the world. Participants select a word and its nearest neighbor, as determined by semantic analysis. They begin thinking about how the words relate.

Energy Passages is the interactive visualization of the daily news of a major German newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, in public space over a period of four weeks. In front of the entrance to the House of Literature, a cultural institute in Munich, an audio-visual stream of words flows across the square. Artificial voices read out individual terms, creating an urban soundscape. Passers-by unexpectedly find themselves in an interactive Sprachspiel (language game), a term coined by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his book Philosophische Untersuchungen (Philosophical Investigations). Speaking is part of the interactive work in this project.

A large visual projection of running words is reflected on the rain-soaked stone floor. Words seem to glitter and float above it. The flow of words with the auditory sphere invites visitors into the scenery. Participants select one of the floating words using a touch screen or microphone. The selected word is displayed in a circle of five semantically related words, so-called nearest neighbours. Invisible semantic relationships are revealed as a small linguistic network. The relationships between the terms may seem arbitrary, but they are created by the underlying semantic analysis.
Text to Speech, artificial voices murmur the words that emerge, creating a soundscape that surrounds the visitor with vocal energy. ‘We could have the impression all the current news streams were running through ourselves’, notes sound researcher Holger Schulze while bathing in the light of the word stream. Visitors report that the selection process encourages a kind of inner dialogue and reflection on the meaning of the terms. They make their own associations by spotting a word in the flow that catches their eye. The audience participates in a conversation through their various attempts at interpretation. Some visitors try to understand the context behind the words. Others literally throw words around as if in a theatrical dialogues.

The visitors become participants in a performance of infinite duration and co-creators of unexpected, evolving narratives that go well beyond the actual reports of the newspaper. We had subscribed to the RSS channel (Rich Site Summary File Format) of the daily edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which provides the complete newspaper text in digital form. We extrapolated the top five hundred keywords from the thirty thousand words in the daily publication using semantic text analysis and a synonym dictionary. Given the almost infinite combination of terms according to Norman Johnson and the Urn Model (1969), it follows that the range of interaction is nearly unlimited. The playing time is determined only by the desire of the participants to engage in the language play.

The impression is of a dialogue between human and machine. In reality, it is a communication between people by means of the machine through digital-analogue interweaving of image, sound, language, voice and gesture. The participants become data performers in a space of hybrid reality. The interactivity of the system is enhanced through the interaction between the visitors. and the idea of a thinking space as a collective neuro-aesthetic work becomes apparent

An important part of the four-week installation is the statistical evaluation of visitors’ interactions with the newspaper’s keywords. The most frequently written keywords and terms in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in September 2004 were ‘Germany’, ‘years’, ‘percentage’, ‘millions’, ‘people’. They portray an economically influenced view. A colour-coded bar chart, illustrated as an abstract cityscape, distinguishes different sections by colour and is documented online. Newspaper writers report most often on business (purple), often on politics (turquoise), sometimes on culture (yellow) and least often cover education (red). By analysing the language of the newspaper and the activities of the participants, different realities of the city are recorded and reproduced in the statistics as an image of the city.
The newspaper focuses its coverage largely on business and politics, marginalizing culture and education. In this way, the newspaper shapes public the consciousness unexpectedly far away from art, culture and education. On the other hand, the mood of the citizens is reflected in the emotionally charged terms chosen by some four thousand visitors to the Energy Passages during a four-week period in September 2004, such as ‘cost’, ‘parents’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘love’, ‘food’, ‘girls’, and ‘happiness’.
  • aesthetics
    • site-specific
  • genres
    • database art
    • installations
      • interactive installations
      • mixed reality
      • performative installations
    • performance art
      • video performances
    • sound art
      • sound installations
      • sound performances
  • subjects
    • Arts and Visual Culture
      • spectator
      • theory
        • semiotics
    • History and Memory
      • cultural heritage
    • Power and Politics
  • technology
    • displays
      • electronic displays
    • hardware
      • multi-touchscreens
      • touch screens
      • webcams
    • interfaces
      • interactive media
        • mixed reality-based interaction
        • voice user interfaces (VUI)
      • soundgenerating devices
        • microphones
    • software
      • C++
      • Extensible Markup Language (XML)
      • ISDN
      • PHP
Technology & Material
Installation Requirements / Space
Passagen Keyword Producer & Flow Audio-Visual Realtime Render Engine. ATT Natural Voices, IBM Via Voice, Algorithmen. XML, Java, C++, Open GL, Max/MSP, mySQL Windows Media Producer, DSL, WLAN auf PC-Cluster.
The artists had subscribed to the newspaper's RSS channel (Rich Site Summary file format) in order to receive the newspaper's full text every day. With the help of a semantic text analysis, the 30,000 words of the daily newspaper are calculated to 500 most frequently used keywords. Their semantic relations are rendered by using the synonym dictionary of partners of the University of Leipzig. Each day, the 500 keywords of the day are fed into the system. Due to the imaging mechanism of the C++ real-time graphics, the individual keywords appear as a projected word flow on the floor in different sizes and speeds depending on frequency. The sonification of the data by means of artificial voices extends the visual perception on the auditory level. A text-to-speech method converts the words to a sound panomara that surrounds visitors and supplements the spatial movement of the flowing words complementary.
Embedded in urban space,
five elements form this installation: 1.) The horizontal floor projection of the message flow. 2.) The semantic network of next neighbours. 3.) The vertical screen of the text montage created live by the visitors. 4.) The panoramic audiosphere. 5.) The touchscreen and microphone interfaces.