Isea 2022 - Possibles



June 13th

Performance / Liveware

Authors: Michael Century, Shawn Lawson


Liveware is an audiovisual duo combining live-coded animation (Lawson) with musical performance (Century). “Liveness” for each modality is understood as a fluid interplay between pre-composed and improvised processes. Liveware extends the traditions of synaesthetic syntax with expanded performance practices drawing on machine learning and cross-modal improvisation.


Theme: liveware, live coding, machine learning, performance

  • Abstract: Liveware is an audio-visual duo combining live-coded animation and musical performance. “Liveness” for each modality is understood as a fluid interplay between pre-composed and improvised dynamic processes. Similarly, the correspondence between image and sound exhibits changing levels of control and indeterminacy. Taken together as matters of degree not kind, these dimensions generate a constellation of changing processual intensities.  Liveware extends the traditions of synaesthetic syntax going back to early experimental film with recent advances in artificial intelligence to generate real time animation using algorithms trained with machine learning (ML). “Latent Cartographies “(2021) uses a ML algorithm trained on images from 100,000 historical maps. [1]. Extended techniques on acoustic piano are processed to correspond with the images. [2] An image noise generator navigates through the latent space of the neural net, modulated by sound intensities from the music. The title of “The Isle is Full of Noises” (2019) evokes a passage from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. An 8-channel soundscape uses texts from characters Miranda and Caliban overlaid with phonemic particles of human speech, animal and nature sounds. The images are generated using an auto-visual system built with a ML trained on contrasting feature films: Videodrome and Planet of the Apes. During the performance the ML utilizes its hyper-dimensional space of learnt imagery to create real-time animation from audio spectra and audio feature data.  Post-colonial and feminist critics have posed the question why Caliban and Miranda, both victims of imperialist oppression, nonetheless are unable to truly “see” one another. Here, their encounter is re-staged and spatialized through sonic means. 

    1 Topi Tjukanov, Mapdreamer (2020) pre-trained network – CC0 1.0 Universal –
    2 The Expanded Instrument System, designed by Pauline Oliveros, is used with special permission of the Pauline Oliveros Trust and Ministry of Maat.

  • Biography: Shawn Lawson is an artist and researcher creating the computational sublime. Performing as Obi-Wan Codenobi he live-codes real-time computer graphics with his open-source software. Shawn has performed, exhibited, or screened in museums, galleries, festivals, and public spaces on five continents. Lawson studied at Carnegie Mellon University, École Nationale Supèrieure des Beaux-Arts, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is an Associate Professor and Animation Program Director at Arizona State University. 

    Michael Century, composer and cultural theorist, is Professor of New Media and Music in the Arts Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Century has worked as an academic university teacher, new media researcher, inter-arts producer, and arts policy maker (Banff Centre for the Arts (1979-93), McGill University (1998-2002), Government of Canada (1993-98)). His book  Northern Sparks:  Innovation, Technology Policy and the Arts in Canada from Expo 67 to the Internet Age appeared in 2022 with The MIT Press.
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