The Forever Field

An Interactive Multichannel Sound and Video Installation
Music and Video by Michael McNabb


Carousel Road"The Forever Field" is a continuously-running walk-in multimedia installation, which premiered at the 1993 International Computer Music Conference in Tokyo, Japan. It consists of an 8-channel audio environment in the form of two quadraphonic spatial sound fields, two or more video monitors, video projection, and supporting sculptural elements. Recorded and processed sounds are performed and realistically moved in 3-dimensional space in real time by an SGI O2 computer, using synthesized azimuth, distance, and doppler processing. Video and audio sensors react to the presence of visitors by changing the content and real-time processing of sounds, warping the spatial sound fields, and controlling the video projection level.

Steaming Sun Artistically, "The Forever Field" is a meditation on the ways that our lives and identities are inescapably defined and transformed by time. Sounds which evoke the memories of childhood, thoughts of relationships, and impressions of old age swirl together in space in constantly-rearranging and never-repeating patterns of association, representing non-linear psychological time, or memory. Simultaneously, the video monitors display digitally-processed images of distance, erosion, travel, and natural forces, representing spatial and geological time, and entropy. The projection screen displays processed images of carousels in motion, punctuated by fleeting clouds, representing our subjective feelings of the immediate present, or experiential time. The projected images are seen in vertical format within a classical picture frame and are projected only when a person is near the screen, emphasizing the intimate and personal nature of our concept of time. Any sounds made by visitors near this screen are picked up, processed into musical material, and redistributed along with the pre-recorded sounds, adding a "memory" of the visitor to the work itself.


Carousel Rocks This work requires a quiet, darkened (enough for the video projector to be effective) area between 300 and 1000 square feet in size, 8 discrete channels of audio amplification, 8 small speakers, two large screen (minimum 32") video monitors, a small video projector capable of projecting a 40" diagonal image when turned on its side, two auto-repeat VHS, SVHS or 3/4" U-Matic video players, an SGI O2 computer, and audio and video cabling. The artist supplies and installs the custom video projection screen, sensors and other audio and video signal processing equipment, and the SGI O2 computer and sound system (if necessary). The gallery supplies 2 auto-replay SVHS, VHS, or U-Matic video players, and the two large video monitors with stands high enough to put the monitors at head height or just above.

Minimum setup time is two full days. Strike time is 1/2 day. The loudspeakers are quite small and require temporary mounting to the surrounding walls.

Suggested installation layout

Desert Water


Carousel Child