25 Oct 2016

Turning sound waves into honeycomb

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 25 October 2016
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Photo: supplied

Auckland designer Gerbrand Van Melle translates sound waves into 3D printed honeycomb and chocolate.

He intercepts, deciphers and then distributes his findings through art work or design. His aim is to learn from nature in order to make nature, he explains.

“We are trying to get our heads around how a system like a little bee system, like an organic living system, how they produce and build environments to see if we can learn in the way we build environments as humans, may be digital, may be physical.”

The sound waves from the hives were recorded on an old iPhone and the spectrum, time and volume of the sound was then analysed in processing software.

“The cool thing is, if you break down things to numbers, suddenly you can start creating again with those numbers. As a designer I find it absolutely fascinating to create parameters and see how a living system can define the outcomes.”

“Where my previous activities as a graphic designer was very much based on aesthetic, purely outcome-based practice, now I see myself designing the parameters… basically a living organism or a recorded living organism starts to define what things look like and I find this fascinating.”

To create the chocolate soundbites, Gerbrand strapped a recorder to his body and captured all of the sounds of his life.

“The thing is that you think a lot of your life is quiet and it’s not. I found that the moment you wake up, your life is actually filled with noise.”

The project was informed by the death of his wife, who passed away from cancer.

“I had to deal with absence and I started to record my life around me and I thought it was empty, but I found out that it wasn’t, so I guess that I used my study as a creative therapy and started making things again from nothing. That helped me to overcome loss. Part of it was a certain grief, but it was also an investigation into making things from nothing and translating sound.”

He originally 3D printed the sounds from his life into donut-shaped objects. On seeing how edible they looked, he had the idea to print them as chocolate.

“Sometimes I honestly have no idea what I am doing and I am deliberately trying to look for that spot and then see whatever happens and that is quite a nice way of approaching design processes.”

Being able to work without a pre-conceived expectation of the design outcome allows Gerbrand the freedom to see where an idea takes him.

“I shared a couple of days of my life in chocolate and I thought that was quite a funny way to share the world with other people.”