Gabriella Solti

portfolio of prints, drawings, notations, artist books and participatory projects

Category: Participatory Art

The Animated Life of Everyday Objects – video documentation

The Animated Life of Everyday Objects

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AUG 04 – AUG 19, 2017 | WED-FRI 2-7, SAT 12-5


We invite the public to join us to create a series of inventive, and performative artworks that combine accessible technology and the everyday, seamlessly and playfully. We aim to share our fascination with common objects and the value of empirical knowledge to uncover the peculiar and spectacular properties of everyday materials and mundane objects in our daily environment.

We will facilitate daily drop-in workshops featuring different objects and materials each day at four thematic stations (INTERACTION, EXPRESSION, ILLUMINATION, and TRANSPARENCY), exploring the creative potential and inner life of objects such as a toothbrush head, cleaning sponge, fluffy dusters, paper clip, stones, to name a few.

We aim to incite wonder in everyday objects and cultivate an appreciation for their playful reuse through DIY fabrication.
We would like to encourage a more sustainable way of thinking and evaluating how we accumulate, save, re-use, and innovate in a consumer-oriented culture. We will also draw attention to the value of the interplay of creative ideas sourced from many participants.

All events and workshops are free and suitable for all ages and abilities.

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SHOOTING STARS, Creative data visualization of the last 30 years of shooting stars above London

Gabriella Solti, Shooting Stars, light performance, Market Street Alley, London, Ontario, September 17, 2016

Shooting Stars is a light performance Gabriella Solti produced for the Market Street Alley’s light canopy with technical assistance from the talented Liam Wallner, a student of Fanshawe College’s Theatre Arts – Technical Production program. It is a creative data visualization condensing the 12 most prominent meteor showers over the last 30 years. The data is taken from the meteor shower calendar of the American Meteor Society, and historical data from scientific publications. 

 Each meteor shower is represented with a different coloured light while the night sky is formed by dark blue LEDs. While we can’t produce a velocity of 44 miles/sec (Leonids), or 41 miles/sec (Orionids) on the light canopy, the speed of the meteors in relation to each other is scientifically accurate, as is their Zenithal Hourly Rate (the number of meteors a single observer would see in an hour of peak activity). The light performance also takes into consideration the phenomenological characteristics of the meteor showers, persistent trains, bright fireballs, faint (Delta Aquariids), or bright, intensely coloured (Geminids) meteors. 

Thirty years (1987-2016) are condensed into 90 minutes thus one year equals 3 minutes, one month 15 seconds. Meteor showers do not fill the sky consistently every month, so while some months are bursting with activity, the canopy sometimes goes quiet. Just like real stargazing, a moment filled with anticipation can suddenly erupt with a plethora of vibrant fireballs.

The video is only a less than 3 minutes recording of the light show and was taken late in the night when the “stargazing” crowd already dispersed. 

(Note: At 00:18 you can see a passerby throwing up in the air his “firefly”, a hand-made, soft light ball with a flashing, multicolour LED light in its centre. Earlier in the day, starting at 6 pm the public made hundreds of “fireflies” at drop-in workshops at the artist’s table on the street. See earlier post.)


Making FIREFLIES at the Dundas Street Festival under SHOOTING STARS, Saturday, September 17, 2016

Gabriella Solti, Fireflies, a community-engaged art project, Dundas Street Festival, September 17, 2016, (with 150 participants, children, adults and youth, in one and half hour) (Under another artwork of the artist, Shooting Stars, specifically created for the Festival.)

Fireflies is a community-engaged art project, wholly inclusive, suitable for all ages, and can be produced in any location. The project uses low cost materials, and simple creative construction techniques that mobilizes people’s curiosity to create delightful and unexpected experiences.



In my participatory project, Fireflies, I invite the public to create a collaborative, participatory, performative artwork that aims to simulate a spectacular summer phenomenon, fireflies, right within the city. Using simple creative construction techniques, clear food wrap and tiny multicolour flashing LED lights we will make small, lightweight and soft light balls that will rhythmically change their colour through a multitude of vibrant colours.

Then we will act like a firefly: throw the balls to each other, catch, throw back keeping them constantly in the air. In doing so, we will take our choreographic clues from real fireflies for whom flashing their light is a tool of communication expressing attraction and repulsion, desire and defence. Beyond having fun through making and playing, my project promotes community connections and taking social risk through collaboration.

The following video shows the cavalcade of colours that the ‘fireflies’ produce:

From Foraging to Forging Communities


From Foraging to Forging Communities
A community-engaged art project by Lynette de Montreuil and Gabriella Solti

From Foraging to Forging Communities, is a community engaged art project that culminated in an ecological artwork through the transformation of raw materials and hands-on workshops at Satellite Project Space (Satellite), a public art gallery in downtown London (Ontario, Canada) from June 25th to July 17th, 2016. The project was funded by the London Arts Council with in-kind support from Satellite’s operating partners, Museum London, Western University, and Bealart.

First, we organized expert-led foraging walks in London’s parks and forests where Londoners learned to identify plants, learn about ecological practices and examine how organisms work in unison. The collected grasses were then transformed into handmade paper at Satellite, that we turned into a low-tech, DIY paper making studio. 246 participants (age 3-80) produced 935 sheets of paper in two weeks facilitated by the artists. The last week, working with the newly created paper, participants carefully weighed their choices as they transformed them into sculptural forms that reflected how people perceived themselves in nature. They developed an increased appreciation not only of London’s ecological heritage, its flora and vegetation but also of the value of collaborative labor.

Our project blog, with daily entries and plenty of images, is available for everyone to view: The blog presents the immediacy of the experience as it unfolded, the poster above, on the other hand, illuminates the project from the perspectives of our reflections and learning. We presented the poster at the College Art Association Annual Conference in New York, February 15-18, 2017.



Crossword Canon

zounds 4Performing Crossword Canon – Saturday, August 9, 2014 at Forest City Gallery as part of the program HEAR HERE 09 featuring 8 experimental acts from Ontario and Quebec. This particular Hear Hear, guest curated by Chris Myhr, has been titled Zounds!!

Crossword Canon is a quartet for four voices for “unmusical” performers using a simple instructional score. The score is a linearized crossword, and the “song” is a sequence of words repeated multiple times; each performer reciting the words with a steady rhythm, pitch and volume adding occasional short improvisations with the mouth where the score calls for it. 

This work was inspired by scientific research. Diana Deutsch, a perceptual and cognitive psychologist and a prominent researcher of the psychology of music at the University of California, San Diego, demonstrated in her research that the human brain’s dominant perception of words is musical, but our desire to find meaning in a sequence of words suppresses this recognition.

However, if someone repeats the same sentence multiple times with the same pitch, rhythm and volume, a listener’s brain will soon interpret it as a song. This phenomenon is called the speech-to-song illusion, and it is even more prominent if the repeated words do not form a meaningful sentence. Crossword Canon exploits this phenomenon.

Solti-score-mezzoscore for mezzo soprano

Solti-score-soprano1score for first soprano

Solti-score-soprano2score for second soprano

Solti-score-bass_or_baritonescore for bass or baritone

Crossword Canon is based on a crossword that I flattened out (linearized). I picked simple words from the crossword that are easy to pronounce. I devised a simple notation system that references elements of a crossword such as using squares to represent a beat which is equivalent with a syllable. I also used shaded squares to represent volume. Crossword Canon is for the human voice for four performers:  2 female sopranos, one mezzo soprano and one male bass or baritone. 

It is 2 minutes long which is easy to determine from the score as the score indicates that 1 square is 1 beat and 1 minute is 40 beats. There are 80 squares altogether on the score thus the duration is 2 minutes. The 40 beats were determined based on the fact that counting aloud from 1 to 40 in a steady, slow rhythm is one minute altogether and everyone can easily comprehend and follow such a rhythm.

The pitch (how high or low the voice) should be steady for the whole duration of the piece.  It is intentionally not determined in advance but to be chosen together by the performers before the performance to make sure each one of them is comfortable with it and does not strain their voice.

Improvisation is a fun part of the piece and offers variety and surprise to the listeners and an opportunity for the performers to express their individuality. The improvisation can be anything that uses the mouth or voice such as whistling, giggling, laughing, yawning, producing a popping sound or a trill and much more.

This piece can be performed by any four volunteers, “unmusical” performers, from the audience without rehearsal. To eliminate performance anxiety, performers usually appreciate if the composer indicates to each one with a hand gesture when they start. After that, they are very comfortable on their own.

This piece is best to be performed by people who never studied music. Those who are musically trained often can’t imagine that something interesting can come out from such a simple piece (but it does!) and they try to bend the rules. They add complex changes in pitch and vibrating and trilling the individual syllables which ruin the piece’s intended effect.

Geometric Laughter

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Geometric Laughter – hexagonal giggle from Gabriella Solti on Vimeo.


02_SOLTI_G_Laughter-to-Go_card_back Laughter-To-Go fitness card - front and back

My work, Geometric Laughter, is a spatialized immersive soundscape inspired by a short section in Robert Smithson’s essay, Entropy and The New Monuments. Smithson speculates that “laughter is in a sense of kind of entropic “verbalization”” and after analyzing the work of the Park Place artists of the 1960s (Mark di Suvero, Robert Grosnevor, Carl Andre among others) he concluded that “the order and disorder of the fourth dimension could be set between laughter and crystal-structural, as a device for unlimited speculation”. He paired the major laughter forms with the six major crystal structures (geometric forms).

My interest in Smithson’s “ha-ha crystal” concept stems from the possibility of representation in a multi sensory immersive environment, laughter being its primary material produced by live laughing performers (“the musicians”) at the vertices of the crystal that I recorded in the centre of the geometric form with binaural microphone during a thematic artist residency at the Banff Centre in the summer 2013. I was interested in the challenge in creating and communicating instructions visually or textually to ordinary performers in order to produce the desired laughter sound (ordinary laugh, giggle, titter, snicker, etc.)

Initially, I asked fellow participants in the residency to listen to a one minute segment of a person laughing (from a sound library recording) and draw the laughter. I asked them to do the same while listening to a giggling person. The resulting drawings were beautiful and showed many commonalities as well as clear differences between visual representation of ordinary laugh and giggle. Still, despite the commonalities I found, it was impossible for me to create an exact visual description (visual score) of laughter that would prompt everyone to produce the same sound if they only have a visual score/notation to rely on.  This led me to look into what science has to say about laughter.

During my residency, I looked into recent research published in October 2012 on the physiology and neurological effect of laughter led by Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, which suggests that laughter is a form of exercise. It inspired me to devise a set of breathing exercises (similar to those we do in the gym as warm up) that naturally produce various laughter sounds and were executed easily by the performers (fellow participants in the residency). In fact all of the performers reported it felt very natural for them doing the exercises and they felt they were really laughing as opposed to mere mimicking (mostly due to the fact that they found the whole situation (e.g. ‘laugh into your knees’) hilarious).

I also aim to actively engage a wider audience with my work as well as Robert Smithson’s ideas. For this I appropriated the usual look of the ‘Trainer to Go’ fitness cards commonly found in fitness magazines and created a ‘Laughter to Go’ card for free distribution in community centres, libraries and public spaces. I am also interested in engaging a diverse public (not just those who regularly visit galleries) on a more personal level by acting as a ‘Laughter Trainer’ giving ‘laughter workshops’ at various locations (community centre, student club, schools, etc.) based on the exercises I devised – a personal and communal experience. This gives me the opportunity to engage with and educate a diverse public (while they are also having fun) on Robert Smithson’s ideas, Minimalism (and minimalist artists’ fascination with crystals and crystal geometry), as well as my own practice and research relating to this project by embracing simultaneously the roles of laughter trainer, artist and community educator.