The next performance of the Qualcomm Institute's 2015 Initiative for Digital Exploration of Arts and Sciences (IDEAS) season will feature this audio-visual work by Visual Arts Professor Amy Alexander and UC San Diego Music alumnus and sound artist Curt Miller (DMA '15).

Prof. Alexander premiered an earlier work, Discotrope: The Secret Nightlife of Solar Cells, in the gallery@calit2 in 2012, and she subsequently reduxed an earlier installation, Surveillance Video Entertainment Network, or SVEN, at the Filmatic Festival in 2014 in the Qualcomm Institute's Calit2 Auditorium.

For this early-September performance, Alexander is back in the 200-seat Calit2 Auditorium with clarinetist and sound artist Curt Miller, a recent alumnus in the Music department, with Rocket's Red Glare, an improvisational composition derived from YouTube videos of explosions. The work marks the debut performance for the Percussive Image Gesture System (PIGS), an experimental software/hardware visual instrument under ongoing development that allows for emotive, gestural cinematic performance. "The instrument works from the premise that new methods of visual expression can be developed when we think of cinema as fluid and performative, and they can work beyond traditional cinematic constraints of rectangular images and linear playback," says Alexander. "PIGS uses percussion and music as part of its approach to cinematic performance, rather than attempting to match sound directly to the on-screen image." The system allows a performer to combine scribble-like swipes and drum stroke gestures in a "theme and variation" framework to perform a multilayered, cinematic composition that drifts between the literal, the metaphorical and the abstract. For the debut of PIGS, Alexander and Miller developed Rocket's Red Glare to play with the public fascination with, and aestheticization of, things that explode. Alexander's software allows her to use iPads and MIDI drums to perform the videos as fluid forms, using both performance and algorithms to improvise changes. Curt Miller has developed a custom software application that allows him to create a soundscape that is both algorithmic and improvisational, integrating the YouTube sound samples with live and recorded clarinet. The performance will be followed by a Q&A with the artists.

It's the first performance of PIGS, an experimental performance system in development for a long period. According to Alexander, the system remains at an early stage of what she hopes to achieve with it. The instrument and the performance are in the tradition of 20th-century experimental filmmakers including Len Lye and Stran Brakhage, early 'light music' performers like Mary Hallock-Greenewalt, as well as contemporary live audiovisual performance.


Percussive Image Gestural System (PIGS) software: Amy Alexander with contributions by Wojciech Kosma and Curt Miller

Audio software: Curt Miller
Video assistant: Doug Rosman

PIGS development has been supported by the iotaCenter, University of California Institute of Research in the Arts (UCIRA), and UCSD Academic Senate.                                              


Amy Alexander is a digital media, audiovisual and performance artist who has also worked in film, video, music, tactical media and information technology. She has been making films since 1990 and creating art through programming since 1994. Much of Alexander's work is performance-­based, often working at intersections of cinema, performing arts, humor, politics, and popular culture. Her current research and practice focuses on expanded approaches to the moving image that reflect contemporary cultural and technological shifts. Alexander's projects have been presented on the Internet, in clubs and on the street as well as in festivals and museums. She has written and lectured on software art, software as culture, and audiovisual performance, and she has served as a reviewer for festivals and commissions for digital media art, video, and computer music. She is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego. More information at:



Curt D. Miller is a clarinetist and sound artist whose performances and installations repurpose and recontextualize electronic, recorded and spiritual performances through transcription, both digitally and by ear. As a clarinetist, Curt collaborates frequently with composers, performing in numerous premieres and internationally at venues such as the Fromm Players series, Monday Evening Concerts, Miller Theater and the Lucerne Festival Academy. As a member of the trio ensemble et cetera he has begun to expand the repertoire for clarinet, double bass and percussion through commissions, transcriptions and realizations of graphic scores. Curt also frequently collaborates with visual artist Nichole Speciale on installations which extend drawing and painting through sound and video. He completed his Doctorate of Musical Performance at UC San Diego in 2015. Learn more at:


IDEAS events are FREE and open to the public.

Media Contact: Doug Ramsey,
Please RSVP to Trish Stone,


Thursday, 3 September 2015, 5-7PM
Calit2 Auditorium, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, California 92037

Related Links:

Amy Alexander


Image courtesy of the Artists and UC San Diego IDEAS.

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