Through his interactive and drinkable “USB Juice Bar” installation, transmedial bio-artist Mael Le Mée experiments with the communication between fresh-squeezed orange juice and music files for a juicy “exfruiltration”!
Pleonastically inclined digital foodies rejoice! Mael Le Mée‘s USB Juice Bar invites you to dip your tastebuds into a weird and wired world intertwining fresh-squeezed oranges and MP3 files for an immersive listening experience, all in good taste.
Mael Le Mée’s homecooked trailer of his “USB Juice Bar” performance:
To better accompany his audience in this cocktail 2.0 digression, Le Mée knows how to dress up his act, as in December 2014 at MuCEM in Marseille, or opening for the Electrochoc festival in Bourgoin, March 14-28.
Standing before an audience that is as much amused as it is intrigued, Master of Ceremonies Le Mée passes out oranges with the instructions to give each of them a pretty name and to knead them well, preferably on your neighbor’s back. Once past this first stage, guests are invited to seat themselves at his juice bar and experience “listening to fruitered music while drinking informed orange juice”.
This bar looks particularly smart, with its USB port nestled in a mini flower pot, USB sound sensor, needled electrodes, frequency meter, juice presser, and of course, at the end of the table, a seat equipped with headset for sipping your juice while listening to the result of this curious “soundshake”. Sometimes, the humor is reciprocal—as was the case when someone in Bourgoin chose to listen to John Cage’s 4’33 (minutes of silence).
After hearing Le Mée explain the concept, the experience seems a tad more serious, especially when we learn that it’s part of a bigger project to explore communication between edible vegetables and computers via USB connection, baptized FrUSBits & LégUSBmes. In this context, the artist of “transmedial digital organic culture” has already committed to creating a genuine USB vegetable garden.
“The forms produced by my company have nothing to do with ‘transmedia’—commercially exhausted narratives that overflow onto a maximum number of consumer terminals for audiovisual content. They belong to transmediality—a continuous flux of meaning and sensations from one media to another, resounding and reasoning together within the bodies in the audience. Our work concerns not the economy of cerebral attention but the ecology of human perception.” Mael Le Mée
“The experience is simple,” Le Mée explains. “The USB file chosen by the participant goes into the frequency meter, which converts it into an analog electric pulse, which then enters the orange in stereo through the two pairs of needled electrodes. This signal then re-enters the frequency meter, which uses an Arduino board to re-convert it into a digital file and send it to the computer, which plays the final result. The last step is to cut the orange in half and savor it while listening to the resulting sound.”
And what a result it is. Properly filtered, the sound takes on a whole new resonance. “The cavities of the orange’s internal parts offer certain resonances. But we also put a few presets into the frequency meter to find the best way to make the sound resonate,” confesses Le Mée between orange pressings. “However, the orange is an especially aqueous fruit, so a good conductor of electricity. It’s also symbolic as an everyday fruit. It wouldn’t have the same impact with a mango or a papaya.”
“USB Juice Bar” performance at MuCEM, December 2014 (video by Hadrien Bels):
Rest assured, the choice of an orange is in no way an expression of outright conformism. As proof, the next stages of the project are just as juicy. “Right now, I’m working on a cat with tomatoes. I’m also trying to download the recipe for gratin dauphinois into a potato, or convert a banana into a USB stick. I already managed to store 2 bits of data in a banana for 27 seconds.” With agent orange Mael Le Mée, at least digital vegetarianism is on the right track.