Charlie Williams

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Here I am here I am (synthetic community #1) is a biosynthetic colony of electronic ‘organisms’— each a tiny computer— which communicate and evolve. Inspired by communication networks ranging from forests to the structure of the internet, it uses biomorphic circuit boards connected through pulsed electrical signals to show an emergent collective activity.

Responding to ambient light, each one shows brighter, faster activity using warmer colours during the day, and slower, dimmer activity with cooler colours at night.

Because the communication in the work is decentralised and nondeterministic, each link in a communication web has agency and can alter the information being passed along in order to suit its own ends. In this the work draws parallels with our imperfect human communication systems resulting in rumours, “fake news” and political echo chambers.

This prototype was created during a Artist in Residency at Wageningen University (NL), with scientific input from researchers Vítor Martins dos Santos (Synthetic Biology), Diana Machado de Sousa (Microbiology) and Sabine Vreeburg (Plant Sciences Group).

It was exhibited 25–29 September in Forum Building, Wageningen Campus with an estimated 3000 viewers.

Further information about the project is available in my TEDx talk, at the blog and in the video of the artist talk given at the conclusion of the residency.

Previous work:

Perpetual Music Machine, 2018

Copper, steel, actuators, microcontroller

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Perpetual Music Machine highlights the shift in our concept of time from metis— communitarian, local, participatory— to techne— state-run, digital, individually-accessed, non-negotiable. It reintegrates the marking of time into shared space using the inherently public and collective medium of sound, invoking tower clocks of the medieval era, which were ‘faceless’, and only told time through their sound.

The complete work, for which this is a study, is a set of twelve sculptures in this form, each tuned to one pitch of the chromatic scale. Over the 24 hours in a day, the sculpture rings out the 24 major and minor keys in an idiomatic cycle.

Beyond striking on the hour, the resonators produce an evolving hum— a musical ‘room tone’— rooted in the musical key corresponding to that hour. Living in or regularly moving through a space exhibiting this work could then give a musical-emotional component to different times of day; the space could, for example, begin to “sound like” e.g. morning, lunchtime, or bedtime.

Organ Donor #2 (Beats), 2018

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Organ Donor #1 (Pedals), 2017

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Reclaimed electronics & switches, microcontroller, wood

Invoking concepts of recycling, ’upcycling’ and technical nostalgia, the pieces in Organ Donor resituate parts of a 1970s-era electronic organ in new forms. Housed in handcrafted, single-purpose enclosures, they are at once functional and art objects.

e to one million places, 2010

Piano, live electronics, super 8mm film, video

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e to one million places is a piece about distance: the kind that can exist between one person and another (physical, emotional), and also the distance between ourselves as we exist in the present moment as opposed to the past and future (spatiotemporal, psychological). Combining live and preexisting video, piano and electronics, it is also an attempt to create a highly technical piece which remains above all else human.

This piece was written at the Aldeburgh Festival’s New Music | New Media residency, with mentoring from Tod Machover (MIT Media Lab), Martin Suckling (Oxford, Cambridge), and Milton Mermikides (Royal College of Music). I performed the premiere at Faster than Sound in association with TEDxAldeburgh, with a further performance at King’s Hall One (London).

Cuddlr, 2015–16


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Developed in collaboration with Canadian artist Jeff Kulak, Cuddlr was a provocative response to Tinder, Grindr and the phenomenon of ‘hookup culture’ in general. This digital tech-intervention was an app that let users find a stranger to cuddle them. By privileging physical closeness over overt sexuality, Cuddlr asked participants to reconsider their social scripts around intimacy.

Over 250,000 people tried Cuddlr, and it drew media attention worldwide, including the New York Times, Salon, the BBC, CBS, NBC, CBC, NPR, and MTV.

Press quotes:

“Vividly beautiful work” — Hämeenkyrön Sanomat

“Exceptional... Very powerful, something you need to experience.” — Jamie Funk, No More Division

“A wonderful change of pace... spoke directly to the Nils Frahm fan in me...” — Sunny Stuart Winter, Fresh on the Net

“A great success... Impressive... demonstrates a virtuosity that deserves a very large audience” — Kreiszeitung (DE)

“An alluring trip through lush soundscapes, ethereal and cinematic. [It] entrances from the beginning… radiant.” — Tom Lynch, NewCity

“Entrancing” — Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times

“Beautiful… introspective… evokes the feeling of lying in a wide open space and staring at an illuminated night sky” — Mark Hornickel, Kenosha News

Collaborator quotes:

“If I ever had to fly a rocket to Mars or figure out a way to beat the bank at Monte Carlo or rescue hostages from the clutches of a warlord, I’d want Charlie at my side. He is inventive, resourceful, and his ingenuity knows no bounds.” — Andy Hill, Grammy-award-winning music supervisor, educator and composer

“Working with you has far surpassed all of my expectations. I’ve learned a great deal from you and I’m incredibly thankful for that. You’ve been instrumental in taking this to the next level. — Jake Giganti, Chief Technical Officer, MYLO

“Charlie has proved himself invaluable not only because of the quality and care of his work, but because of the breadth of his skill set. The result of Charlie's work was not only more that I expected; I hadn't realized that some of his ideas were possible to execute. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and he is an individual deserving of good opportunities.” — Matthew Duvall, percussionist, multi-Grammy-award-winning ensemble eighth blackbird

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