In the winter of 2003/2004, I did my first “live Performance” referencing Khipus: I tied ropes onto a tree in Central Park, NYC, following the shape of the branches, tying knots in particular places, so to encode a word in a similar style than the pre-Columbian fiber devices.
This action can indeed be seen as an analog to the Live Coding action: in the same line that craft, taken as dexterity, is also part of the current Live Coding performances we are familiar with to-date, in which the ability to code efficiently can be seen as imbued with almost ritual qualities (people observe the talent of the live coder, its speed and its awareness of time, almost being tested publicly in an audiovisual invocation of sorts) I also placed my NYC performance within a timeframe, precisely, from midnight to sunrise, in which I had to code a word using knots following the binary Braille convention, mapping the knots usually found in paper to that of the knots now on ropes (dot as knot, space as void) so to achieve “writing” the word “Vessel”: container, net, communication, vehicle... A summary word that condensed the multiple roles performed by the artist, including that of the medium, or mediator. Vessel refers to transportation and both physical and virtual communication, as well as the ramifications created by the interconnection of these paths.
The artist-vehicle, possessed both by zome kind of force of nature and the process of creation itself, is able to recreate the complex network of natural shapes (1). One, as artist, becomes the vehicle that interprets those natural orders in the action of coding.
I have retaken khipu research some years ago, and, continuing with this series, I am currently developing another Quipu-Style device, the Quipucamayo, that will follow similar principles than one of the devices I use for my Sonified Textile performance, the Hanap Pacha Quipu, except that this time the new device that will be presented in the workshop will allow live coding through knot making, that is, it will allow me to tie knots and depending on the combinations of these, sounds will be generated and/or modified. The first prototype will have, ideally, 5 cords with the possibility to tie three knots per cord, allowing a vast quantity of combinations (permutations with no repetitions) that will become the codes to be linked with particular behaviors.
Hanap Pacha Quipu (detail)
The system works like this: I make a knot in, say, cord number 4, thus a sound is triggered I then proceed to make a second knot to the same cord, which in turn modifies that sound. If I just tie up the second knot, a different sound is generated. If I want to play the two sounds at the same time, I tie the third knot. If I want to generate another sound altogether, I tie a knot in knot number 5. If I want to maintain all three sounds plus the effect, I make a knot for all three positions in cord number 4 and the first knot in cord number 5 while also tying a knot in the last position. If I don't do a knot in those positions, a complete different code combination can be mapped, associated to a different sound/behavior altogether if other cords are the ones being tied up.
In this way, gesture (the act of tying knots) is part of the live coding performance as craft, going beyond the keyboard and screen combo, in a way, evoking more traditional orchestral performances while presenting a different approach to audiovisual presentations where textile and fiber manipulation take the lead role in what visuality and gesture is related, in turn, recontextualizing sound.
(1) Arca, Elisa, “Principio Vegetal,” Ansible Magazine, 2018