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Worming a way into a sound installation

From Clapping to Sound Art

Designer Raphaël de Courville claps his hands into the funnel-shaped end of the speaking trumpet. The comic-like projection on the wall comes to life: sound worms emerge from an island and wind their way across the wall, merge with others, split apart, mesmerise the viewer. Interactive art or sound installation? A bit of both. The sound worms created by the Berlin design studio Neeeu are fun and encourage creativity.

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And that makes them just perfect for the experiment kitchen and think tank that is the Futurium Lab. When the Neeeu team started the design, tailoring it specifically to Futurium’s "cave", they called in creative experts: children designed the look of the sound worms as part of a Futurium workshop. “We noticed that the children felt intimidated in the big dark room,” says Raphaël of Neeeu. So what is the best way to coax these young visitors out of their shells?

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Ideas are born, changed and supplemented

Through sounds, because the installation makes sounds visible. And it does so in a very playful way. Whoever shouts into one of the three colourful speaking trumpets sends the data of this sound to a computer, which then converts it into symbols. These symbols line up to form the sound worms. This works with single sounds and noises, but even with entire songs. The children’s song “All my little ducklings” in worm language, so to speak.

The lively little creatures give viewers plenty of scope for interpretation. For instance, each worm may remind viewers of a DNA helix. Like cell division in a human organism, living processes take place on the wall projection: animated little birds come into play, separate the worms through their middles and reassemble them again. At the same time, however, the sound worms represent ideas: “A human being’s ideas are born, modified and supplemented,” says Raphaël. Those looking at the hustle and bustle for a little longer can follow the transformation – and may even get a notion of what the idea-finding process is all about down here in the Futurium Lab.

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Jan Windszus

Neeeu is a multidisciplinary design studio that creates spatial experiences in interaction with visitors. It is made up of members who are graphic, media, interaction and industrial designers: “Each of us have our own little super-power, a bit like a group of super heroes,” says Raphaël, “as an enthusiastic team of designers, doers and futurists who are passionate about design, art, interaction and technology.” To them, research, the construction of prototypes, and the design of spaces and products are all part of the creative process.

“New is not necessarily better”

Despite all the gimmicks, it is important to the creators from Neeeu that they handle new technologies responsibly. “New isn’t necessarily better,” says Laurence Ivil, managing editor of the Neeeu team. A critical view of the cult surrounding ever-new technologies is also evident in the design studio’s name: "Neeeu" extends the German word for new ("neu") in an exaggerated way, thereby making fun of the cult in a playful manner.

Because fun comes first for these creators. “We want visitors to clap, sing, shout – to really let themselves go,” explains Raphaël. And regardless of age: “Our sound installation makes adults rediscover their inner child.”