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Stephen Kelly: Open Ended Ensemble 

Take a walk around King’s Wharf and let artist Stephen Kelly’s Open Ended Ensemble blow your mind

King's Wharf, The Anchorage, 15 King's Wharf
Zone 5, exhibit 500

Ghostly tones emanate from miniature tube guitar amp-looking devices, each trying in their robotic way to hit the same note—matching the hum of a fluorescent light in an eerie automaton choir. Artist, computer programmer and musician Stephen Kelly has created Open Ended Ensemble, a series of installations where his noise-making creations create their own ecosystem-like process of trial and error in an attempt to harmonize. Open Ended Ensemble was born from Kelly's interest in musical automatons, but instead of programming his own he wanted to introduce traits of living biological systems, like adaptability and self-replication, rather than going for the superficial mimic.

Kelly's 2010 sound installation and kinetic sculpture at the AGNS, WaveUp, drew upon similar theories. "There are similarities, for sure. That piece was a complex electro-mechanical installation driven by the the natural environment—ocean wave data—whereas Open Ended Ensemble is an electronic system guided by 'artificial' biological processes," he says. A Nocturne Anchor project, Kelly will bring the electronic and natural worlds together in an odd musical union. Don't judge them if they're a little off-key, this isn't The Voice, folks—what's important is that those sweet little automatons are trying. "They are learning and you can hear the learning process in all its trial-and-error glory."


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