Nazemi, Kate
Completion Date: 

Digital information in tangible form puts knowledge transfer into the receivers’ hand by forming a direct relationship with the receiver. This method also appeals to multiple senses. InsideOut is a prototype for an installation that investigates language through simultaneous engagement with textural objects and associated sounds.

Completed in December 2003, InsideOut is a preliminary case study investigating language – in the form of texture, sound and interactivity – by using a physical object as an interface. This piece aims to talk about the gap between internal and external language through interactions where participants wade through sound by pulling out textured materials from a series of larger than life-size heads. The action of pulling is a metaphor for forcefully stimulating the externalization of an internal language. The texture of materials signifi es the tone of internal content.

The project began in response to the word “tropos” (a Greek word that means–to bring out from within). Initially, several three-dimensional small-scale models of heads with a variety of materials coming out of their mouths were made. These initial small-scale models evolved into two final representations of life-size heads, which were sewn, stuffed, sanded and mounted on to armatures. Two non-verbal expressions were chosen (squeak and mumble) with corresponding textures (soft and sprightly branches, and course rope, respectively). Manipulation of these materials, through the action of pulling, initiated sounds and allowed participants to experience language through the body.

Many physical materials have an emotional value due in part to our organic similarity to them – we are both taken from matter – and, to the personal life experiences we bring to them. They also have an aesthetic value – in the sense that we make use of the fundamental properties of materials. And, of course, materials also have a useful value. InsideOut examines this phenomenon through poetic form: the inherent qualities of leather used to make the heads – protective, tough, opaque – make reference to our own skin. The raw, twisted, and course qualities inherent in rope felt in our hands connects us to the rough and course quality of sounds heard. The focus of this type of interface is on forming an emotional relationship between the object, media and the user, where the user’s action stimulates an esoteric response of sound. The form of the object is so vague and fragmented – mounting only the head on white armatures that blend into the background, the heads are disembodied, suggesting a disconnect in the content that follows – that interaction with them allows for a great number of individual interpretations. The heads and sounds heard are meant to let your mind fill in the gaps. This not only determines the level of interactivity, but, the degree to which the experience is received or understood.

Connecting the physical to the digital through sound was a great discovery. Sound is integrated with texture to communicate the abstract and emotional tone of each head. Here, fragments of speech rather than intelligible speech convey the abstract and complicated nature of a premature language. Human voice was digitally recorded and paired with the action of pulling out materials from the heads. In theory, pitch and tone corresponded to rate of pulling and could be manipulated according to the user’s interactions over time. In this context, the user’s interaction with sound creates an explorative environment for individual interpretation and personal reflection.


Experience is shaped by context, user interaction and the user’s ability to form an attachment to the object. Critical to creating an experience is the creator’s ability to define what type of experience they wish others to have. In my work, this is shaped by (and it may not be until the making is well under way) the semiotics and poetics of an object: it’s material, form, aesthetic, symbolic and emotional value and how they relate to environment. For example, while I wanted the user’s experience with the heads to convey a sense of conflict between an internal and external language, I wanted to do so in a light-hearted and whimsical way. This is what led me to take parts of common things – rope, twigs, leather – stuff them into the mouth of a head, and juxtapose with unintelligible fragments of spoken word. These relationships are specifically designed to be unusual. By appealing to your curiosity (Why are twigs coming out of that head’s mouth? What are the strange sounds I hear?) I hope to capture your imagination and bring you into the experience. Once there, the user must be curious and comfortable enough to interact with the objects. In order to have a simultaneous engagement with textural objects and sound, users must pull out the contents found in the heads. Depending on how fast and hard the forceful action of pulling occurred, alterations in pitch and tone of grumbles and groans were heard.

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