Duration: 10 mins
The development of Chat Room was supported by Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund
Chat Room (2019) is the latest iteration of Wendy McMurdo’s ongoing body of work exploring the relationship between young people and the digital world. In this piece, she uses animation, pixel replacement and still photography to explore the hyper-connected world of gaming. What does it mean to grow up in a world of constant connection where reality and simulation often seamlessly converge? In Chat Room, the four walls of the school room are transformed into the shifting borders and terrains of the game – a world where simulation takes over and the laws of gravity are suspended.
Shot in an Edinburgh Primary School, the camera moves through a series of empty rooms. The traditional elements of the classroom appear – chairs and desks, motivational posters, childrens’ self-portraits and school work – but as soon as the rooms appear, they begin to break down, replaced by colour fields of pixels as the algorithm takes over. The borders of the game become the borders of the room itself.
Fragments of multiple conversations begin to inhabit the spaces – disjointed questions, answers, rapidly typed commands and pieces of advice which have been harvested from gaming chatrooms. Above these fragmented and disparate communications, a single female voice – itself the product of an algorithm – rings out, providing a solace of sorts as she helps us navigate our way through the constantly shifting terrain.
Duration: Projection, 10 mins (looped)
Director: Wendy McMurdo
Animation: Andrew McKelvey
Sound: Zoe Irvine
Notes for Chat Room sound designer Zoe Irvine
‘Taking my cue from the picture and conversations between myself and Wendy McMurdo over the years, I was aiming to work in the space between clear definitions of the natural and the artificial/ digital. I sampled both my own voice humming and singing, with a synthetic voice itself composed of many samples of a real voice actor. My voice is sometimes used as the signal carrier for vocoding so there isn’t a straightforward spectrum of natural to artificial or human to computer.
The primary processes used were granular synthesis (a micro sampling and recombination of sound), vocoding (a way of modulating one sound using tonal characteristics of another sound, in this case human voice) and the creation of glissando (a glide from one note to another). I also used the embedding of Shepard tones (superimposed tones creating an illusion of ever upward or ever downwards moving scales.)
I was also thinking here about all the female AI voices that people interact with – Alexa mainly but also car sat navs, high tech door entry systems etc. There is something compelling about the feeling of control combined with lack of control – how voice, desire and the visceral sit beside the disembodied nature of game space.’