Bright Ideas is an installation that explores how lived experience and technology can shift the perception of an often-forgotten and seldom-heard relic, the service bell.
An anecdote about my lived experience with this sound
In my house, the sound of the service bell is a signifier of a positive accomplishment.
Whether an assignment is submitted or a contract has been completed and signed, hearing the bell means that whoever rang it is proud of their accomplishments and would like to share that with others.
This motivated me to explore how the emotional association with a sound can be altered depending on the context, interaction, and outcome.
The Bell as Technology for Communication
In his poem "The Bells," Edgar Allen Poe describes the various tintinnabulations of bells as individual mediators depending on their resonance. From "the jingling and the tinkling" of sleigh bells, to "the clamor[sic] and the clangor[sic]" of alarm bells, Poe describes a world where the bells are the primary character telling their story through sound.
The type of bell used in Bright Ideas is a familiar service bell. The sound communicates a need for attention. Whether placed on a hotel reception counter or a retail store, this bell can sound impatient or demanding. It communicates a clear division between the customer and the service worker. But what if the story of this bell is wrong? What if the story of the bell ringing is being told while stuck on a perfume counter from the past?
Through interaction and multi-sensory immersion, Bright Ideas, offers a collaboration between the participant and the bell to extend new associations to the sound. As Chelsea Vowel eloquently wrote, "Stories are an inherently collaborative experience, and all stories have a purpose." Through the use of technology, a familiar sound can explore new associations. The purpose of this story is to use sound to share lived experiences and shift expectations.
The Sound of a New Idea
A 1920s cast iron bridge floor lamp supports the LED Neon strand. Bonsai wire is wrapped around the LEDs providing enough support to form a lightbulb.
The lamp was intentionally sourced to be of a similar era as the bell, both objects are working to juxtapose technology and new media practices.
The installation is analog and runs on a 12V system. It requires minimal power which can be charged via solar panels. The intention of this piece is to be able to take it where a service bell wouldn't traditionally be.
Currently, the bell is hardwired to the LED strand. However, by adding a relay transmitter, the bell can be wireless and still cause the light to respond to the sound.
The Future Story
This piece's next iteration will connect the bell to a flame effect. When the bell rings a burst of flame will shoot from the effect. The flame effect is already built, as shown on the right. The bell will be on a reception desk up to 30 feet away and placed next to a small "ring for service" sign.
The unexpected outcome will allow the tintinnabulation to act as a primary character in future stories by subverting the traditional associations with hearing a service bell ringing.
Also, tintinnabulation might be my new favourite word. A word worthy of the sound coming from the little brass bell.
Poe, E.A. "The Bells, and Other Poems." The Gutenberg Project. January 05, 2016. https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/50852/pg50852-images.html#THE_BELLS
Vowel, C. "Writing Toward a Definition of Indigenous Futurism." Literary Hub. June 10, 2022. https://lithub.com/writing-toward-a-definition-of-indigenous-futurism/
INVC 2002 - Materials & Methods: Media