Mansi Shah | Lucy Hatem | Torstein Johansen
Counterpoints is a site-specific performance designed to explore boundaries between data and reality, define a sense of place, and test the limits between remote observation and experience. This project reimagines satellite imagery as a musical score, using geospatial and publicly available urban data as a basis for improvisation and spontaneous composition and offering viewers a way to experience a physical location on various levels at once.
How has our understanding of place, and specifically what it means to be in a physically embodied space during a global pandemic, shaped our experience of our surroundings? Satellite imagery from Planet's Fusion Monitoring data product offers a cloudless and un-interrupted daily view of locations around Brooklyn and Manhattan from 2018 through 2021 to show changes over time, while data from NYC’s Open Data collection (converted into prose scores) is interpreted by the performers. This data informs the audio improvisations and presents ways to experience and explore a sense of place from multiple perspectives simultaneously.
The performers use these videos and data-based prompts as different types of scores as a basis for musical improvisation. No two iterations or performances of this project will be the same: just as a person’s experience of a place changes constantly, the improvised music in response to the data and video will be different every time. Audiences are encouraged to experience this performance both live at the exhibition, and through the pre-recorded videos below as they travel through the city, observing how their experience of their physical surroundings changes as they also move virtually through them.
Counterpoints premiered in March 2022 at The Hall in Brooklyn, NY for Data Through Design's NYC Open Data Week exhibition. The project is a collaboration between Mansi Shah (flute), Lucy Hatem (clarinet), and Torstein Johansen (bass).
Special thanks to the DxD team and Planet Labs for helping make this project possible. Thank you to Sara Safavi, Maya Midzik, Leanne Abraham, Sean Gillies, Julia Bloom, Marisa Johnson, Eric Volpert, and Duck Little for their support.
The satellite imagery used in this project is courtesy of Planet Labs.
CHOOSE a location on the map below to begin exploring
VIEW the score for each site, created using data from the NYC Open Data Portal. These scores, along with the satellite imagery in the videos, inform our improvisations for each location.
WATCH the videos (sound on!) to hear the recordings. For some locations, we recorded several improvisations. You may hear contrasting interpretations of our score instructions and the maps.
OBSERVE. How does your experience of the physical world change as you also move virtually through it?
Meet The Artists
Mansi Shah is a flutist and data scientist whose work explores the spaces where artistic rigor and technical curiosity collide. She believes data (like art!) imitates life, and is interested in the profoundly human stories behind the numbers and notes. Mansi works for Planet Labs as a software engineer, helping make the power of daily global satellite imagery accessible to all.
Torstein Johansen is a bassist, improviser and composer based in Chicago, IL and is an active performer in free improvisation and contemporary music. He is continually seeking to find innovative ways to expand the role of the double bass through experimentation with extended techniques and collaborations across genres.