2023. Moving image: 19min 54sec. Supported by the National Arts Council Creation Grant.
Path. 13, Quaver Cipher continues Boedi Widjaja’s decade-long research into body, memory, language and encoding, informed by the intercultural liminality of his migrant experience. A culmination of Boedi’s multi-year research supported by the National Arts Council Singapore Creation Grant, the film follows an explorer’s search for his pluralistic cultural beginnings as he journeys into mythic realms and higher-dimensional spaces, led by his conversation with muons - cosmic ray particles that travel across galaxies to reach Earth.
Performing for the camera, Boedi interacts with atmospheric muons with his custom-built sensor—a working instrument made of double geiger-counters and an open-source algorithm—in a multidisciplinary work that enfolds performance, algorithmically processed poetry, CGI, and experimental photography. Boedi developed a photographic method to manifest the presence of invisible muons; and the images were described by renowned muography scientist Professor Hiroyuki Tanaka, University of Tokyo, as the world’s first fine art muography that he has seen.
Performer | Director | Editor | Typographer Boedi Widjaja
Cinematographer | Offline editor Harry Chew
CGI producer Big Red Button: Wally Tham | Chew Yibao | Hannah Chua
Sound composer Jonathan Yip
Poet Tse Hao Guang
Producer Audrey Koh
Tse Hao Guang: Boedi and Audrey told me about Zhang Qian's journey to the source of the Yellow River, which turned out to be the Milky Way, and featured encounters with the star-crossed Weaver Girl and Cowherd. I took the original, Classical Chinese text of the legend and ran it through an AI program that converted the text into voice. I then ran the audio file through the AI transcription software Whisper--except I forced the program to output in English. Dozens of lines "sound-translated" by Whisper produced the basis for most of the text in the script, which I selected and shaped with minimal line edits. I wrote Boedi's questions and made a Zhang Qian that had turned into a muon reply using these AI-generated words.
There are two significant parts of the text that underwent a different process, however. First, when Boedi asks the muon for a story, the muon replies with text generated by ChatGPT (again, selected and minimally line-edited). Second, the final line that the muon utters was generated by taking the soundtrack of the video and running it through Whisper, again forcing it to "sound-translate" into English. The soundtrack, from what I understand, is made up of actual space sounds. I ran it multiple times through Whisper before I got it to output anything at all, and the resultant "I'm here! I'm here! I'm here!...." startled me.