In the digital age of music, Turntablism has long remained a bastion of the analogue, a smoky backroom where arguments over white labels, pick-ups and the merits of the 'S'-shaped tone arm are the order of the day. Only recently has the turntable been dragged into the digital spectrum, beginning with the CD models ten years ago and being followed now by the emergence of hard-drive based decks.
The recent Picasso & His Collection exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA ) of Brisbane, Australia, managed to take the digital deck another step further. A significant part of Pablo Picasso's genius was the posthumous influence he had on modern Europe following his death in 1973, something GoMA's curators were excited to capture in their Contemporary Media Lounge, the centrepiece being the introduction of a touch screen turntable.
Co-ordinated by GoMA's Multimedia Designer, Aidan Robertson and calling on the skills of both the gallery's exhibitions team and post production company Cutting Edge's Interactive Designer, Dan Treichel, the brilliance of the turntables lies in the linking of a platter taken from a Numark HDX deck with an intuitive touchscreen. As the platter spins, the user is able to manipulate a range of adjustable filters onscreen to build, rearrange and reinvent the MP3 songs on the drive. While relatively easy to pick up and play, the turntables also possess a steady learning curve, letting the more committed and ambitious users create works of intimidating aural dexterity.
Thus Robertson, Treichel and their collaborators managed to weave together the practicality of both old and new, keeping the tactile response of the high-torque HDX platter but matching it to the easy access of media and filters provided by a touchscreen. By doing so, they created a compelling experience and in the process made the touchscreen-turntables an unexpected star of the exhibition. By Matt Shea