Golden Gum is an interactive audio installation based on the distribution of chewing gum splats outside the PR1 Gallery in Preston. The project was presented as part of The Lancashire Science Festival 28th-30th June 2012 and Digital Aesthetic 3 Autumn 2012.

The piece began as part of an investigation into patterns created through repetitive action by multiple people – unknowingly collaborative activity and unconscious group actions that resulted in a build up of marks with a vague concentration around a particular point or area. The chewing gum was concentrated around the entrance to a University building / Gallery where people dropped it either on the way out or into the building.

I decided to highlight this pattern and attempt to make something beautiful from what could be seen as visually unappealing as well as socially unacceptable.

I initially painted it bright bubblegum pink to reference the material from which it was built up. It turns out most people still couldn’t see it – but I became intrigued by the idea of the pattern as a graphic score or piano roll.

Plan view of the space built from individual photographs of the paving slabs. Chewing gum splats marked in pink. I used this map to create a soundpiece which takes the horizontal axis as time and the vertical axis are notes – highest note at the top. 1bar=1/2 paving slab.

After creating the soundpiece I used the map to build up a database of x,y coordinates for each piece of gum and collaborated with Dan Wilkinson on the final work which translated these coordinates into sine waves of varying pitches (bass tones are furthest from the entrance).

We used an arduino connected to Infra Red and laser sensors (shown in this diagram) to create a series of zones which triggered the sign waves within a surround sound setup – allowing the audience to play the space. The Gum was painted with gold leaf for the installation to elevate it from something throwaway to something precious. I was particularly pleased that many of the audience members may of unknowingly contributed to the installation which they were now enjoying.

Project blog

Sound piece using the x,y coordinates of the distribution of chewing gum splats