Jesus Canuto Iglesias
Sponsor: V2_Lab Host: V2_Lab

Talking Motors by Jesus Canuto Iglesias is an experimental artistic installation that explores the process of discerning speech within noise. It sculpturally creates the physical embodiment of a machine whose purpose is to communicate through mechanical means. It uses the perceptual mechanisms of understanding stepper-motor speech as a main conceptual driver where the subject of the experiment is the experience of the audience. By being able to replicate spoken tones, the attributes of an identity are given to a polished mass of coils, steel, and wire; and with their amalgamation into sense, our perceptual fragility becomes tangible.

In our minds, the need to have mechanisms where comprehension oscillates between a plane of intelligibility and unintelligibility is significant in generating meaning. In this case, what we understand—or think we understand—emerges from a perception resulting from making sense of the rumbling vibrations of the unbalanced engines in this sculpture, which result in speech. This meaning may be erroneous or inaccurate, yet the process of looking for and finding meaning evokes a specific emotion.

These talking industrial motors attempt to communicate a point of view which parallels the notion of a sentient technological development. And facing us with our reflection, they juxtapose our understanding of the world to the understanding of the world by a machine. What if, losing some of its calculated perfection, a machine would humanize through machine means? What if it would have doubts, or be nasty, or needs to be supported? What if it doesn’t have all the answers? What if it’s wrong?

After experimenting with stepper motors and studying their tonal qualities, I technically enhanced their defects to produce interesting sounds and vibrations. A path of acoustic, haptic and sensorial performative exploration led me to inquire into vocal resynthesis using these engines. This was done by mimicking and applying studies on sine-wave and speech comprehension, adapting methodologies that make pianos talk, giving the machines a voice through the algorithmic analysis of speech with Fourier Transforms and band-pass filters and their transformation into physical pulses. The acoustic resolution was enhanced by adding 17 unbalanced stepper motors of different qualities and sizes to turn talking into motorized chords representing the main component of an instant of a sound.

Stepper motors, among other engines, serve as the backbone of technological development. Their precision has propelled the current wave of industrialization. Furthermore, their democratization—due in part to their use in CNC machines—has accelerated humanity’s manufacturing development-. The pulsating nature of stepper motors, which move in steps per second, serves to draw a parallel between audible and tactile frequency and motor movement. With an accuracy of ±5%, stepper motor drivers can reproduce an almost 1:1 representation of acoustic frequencies. The sound produced by these motors possesses unique tonal, timbral, and other acoustic characteristics which are spatially enhanced by the resonance of the handmade industrial sculpture they are attached to. The offset weights on the motors enhance the resonance of the pulses and introduce a new vibrational stage at higher speeds, which follows the beats, tones, and stalls produced by the motor’s response to numerical commands. These resonances may be what production machines aim to avoid generating, since they impact the precision of their manufacturing, but the enhancement of the vibrations serves a different purpose than originally designed.

This project was developed as part of a Summer Sessions residency at V2_.