Velocity 0: THE PROGRAM
Velocity 0: Transcode/Transmute
Velocity 0: Stress-Test

23rd April - 27th November,

Pre-opening 20th-22nd April

The 59th Venice Biennale

The Arsenale, Venice, Italy

Velocity 0 is an ongoing installation by artist Charli Tapp in which, driven by a series of computerized processes, 88 electromagnets hit the keybed of a beat-down touring Yamaha CP80 Grand Piano.

Contrasting with the fixed nature of production, the artwork is in a permanent state of research and evolution. There is never a final form to Velocity 0, but rather an ongoing growth and transformation. Over the years, Velocity 0’s hardware has constantly been repurposed and upgraded, rather than discarded, considering the machine as a growing organism.

The permanent research has spanned from exploring the heritage of modernist music in generative systems, sonic landscapes, and cultural relics in the age of network connectivity, all the way to the situation of AI in our relationship to machines.

Initially unveiled at the Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial (2017, France),  Velocity 0 started off as an automated player piano programmed to output a spatial generative music piece over the month-long biennial, based on the work of Terry Riley’s “IN C” foundational score. Ever since, each version of Velocity 0 has been an opportunity to modify, upgrade, and redirect the art piece toward different iterative territories.

In 2021, added atop Velocity 0, generative programming gave way to a new neural network model rendering it capable to process the tonal components of the Shashmaqom, a traditional music system of Uzbekistan, for the first large-scale international exhibition of the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Tashkent (Uzbekistan): Dixit Algorizmi.

In 2022 for the 60th Venice Art Biennale ​​(Italy), Velocity 0’s programming was rebuilt from the ground, enabling interactions with live musicians in Real-Time.

The neural module was reworked and a new input processing interface was designed for Velocity0, onto which network connectivity was enabled, inviting composers from around the world to interact with it in a 7-month-long evolutive piece entitled THE PROGRAM.

At a crossroads between being a robotic machine, a musical instrument, and a materialization of our interaction with technology, Velocity 0’s ambiguous position is ever-changing.

Foundations for Transcode/Transmute were laid during Velocity 0: Al NPC’s Estate.
In an attempt to overcome the previously explicited limitation of our technological tools, the programming of Velocity 0 was entirely rebuilt, and a new input module was incorporated into it.
For the first time, the upgrade allows Velocity 0 to interact with live musicians in Real-time.
Transcode/Transmute, a series of performances for which musician from Uzbekistan Abror Zufarov dialogs with Velocity 0’s algorithm, featuring the lonely machine responding to Zufarov’s interpretation of improvisational pieces stemming from the centuries-old musical Shashmaqam system.

To do so, there was a need to acknowledge the incapacity of our generative tools to understand the melodic and rhythmical structures of traditional folkloric music such as the one played by Abror Zufarov.
To bridge the gap between our musical past, and our technological present, a strategy was applied to transfer music into a non-linear format, rather than a time-based one.
As so, at a frenetic rate of 1/128th of a measure, a snapshot of Zufarov’s tonal output is isolated. 
The obtained data behaves as a landscape rather than a song. Now being a fixed point freed from its previous limiting parameters, Velocity 0 becomes capable of understanding Zufarov’s monophonic music as a polyphonic harmonious plane within which it could operate.
The result, a man-machine conversation in sound, is to be played 7 times, each of which will mark a new level of Zufarov’s understanding of Velocity 0’s capabilities, starting from weariness and ending in connivance.

Stemming from the encounter with Zufarov, during the 60th Venice Art Biennal (2022, Italy), the installation morphed into Velocity 0: THE PROGRAM.
The Program, a dematerialized platform, provided a backdoor access channel to composers scattered around the globe, to feed new sound material to Velocity 0’s algorithm remotely, continuously rewriting the parameters driving the score produced by the installation in the Pavilion where it was located.
A foundational aspect of the Shashmaqam is its layering architecture.
Pieces may be interpreted for the complex entanglement of a vocalist and a tanbur player, while dancers may interact with the gender in a parallel 4/4 rhythm. In doing so, it is ambivalently elaborate yet folkloric.
Based on the inner mechanisms of the Shashmaqam, and building forward from the tools developed for Abror Zufarov, The Program - a web-based radical dictaphone - behaved as a layering and polyrhythmical BlackBox.
While Transcode/Transmute explored the harmonical landscape of the Shashmaqam, THE PROGRAM dove into its structural principles.
Through THE PROGRAM, invited composers were able to feed new sound materials from around the globe directly into Veloctiy 0’s algorithm.
In response, feeding on the audio inputs provided, the installation endlessly reconfigured itself to produce new generative outcomes, serving as an 
endless algorithmic concert.
During the span of the Biennale, the installation served as a materializing hub for an array ofinternational composers, invited to experiment with Velocity 0’s algorithm, through this dematerialized platform. Each composer’s input generated a unique generative score, ephemerally played until the next update, feeding the non-linear organic soundscape narrative.


For the closing of the 60th Venice Art Biennale (2022, Italy) in collaboration with Radio Raheem, Velocity 0 met with Italian composer and performer Tommaso Pandolfi (Furtherset), whose music behaves as saturated fields of sound and gliding 
harmonics, rather than melodies.
Stresstests are technical procedures through which mechanical and virtual systems are pushed to the edge of their capacity in order to assess their breaking point.        
Our technological future is often envisioned as disregardful of our humanity, endangering our labor forces, and threatening our intellect itself.
However, another vision remains achievable.
Algorithms may not be our arch-enemy after all, but rather the most human product ever made.     
During the span of the Bienniale, Velocity 0 accompanied the endeavor carried by the public program of looking for new perspectives within a unified future.
Velocity 0 made use of our musical heritage and acted as an interface between the intangibility of the algorithmic future, and the physicality of our species history.    
Often feared to outperform humans, technology remains bound by its physical constraints, and Stress-Test served as an exploration of the realm of those.
For this closing performance and experiment, Charli Tapp was joined by one of THE PROGRAM’s participants, Tommaso Pandolfi, to submit Velocity 0 to sonic landscapes beyond its technical capacities, pushing its real-time reaction capacity to its limits.