Black Box

an interactive sound installation

by Lauren Spavelko & Uadani Buttò

Coming Soon: Black Box 2.0

A re-imagining of the original Black Box.
Winner of the 2019 IAWM Ruth Anderson Commission Prize.




Black Box is installation inviting curiosity, interactive play, and novelty in an everyday environment. 

1) How do people respond to an unusual object in their normal environment?
2) How can it continue to solicit their attention once the novelty has worn off?


The box is programmed with different groups of sounds: environmental sounds (birds, goats, car crashes, etc.), sounds of people (laughter, singing, vocalizations, recognizable voices), and musical sounds. Some of these sounds can be deliberately triggered and manipulated, while others are triggered at random or at scheduled intervals (for instance, a grandfather clock chiming the hour). The box has the appeal of a game or puzzle—many passersby spend time discovering what the box can do and also if and how they can make the box produce a desired sound again.

The box is also programmed with a set of sounds that are only triggered if it is left untouched for a period of time. These are designed to entice, manipulate, or annoy passersby to interact with it. Such behaviors include an upbeat salesman-like pitch, whistling, crying, growling, and producing an exceedingly long tone.

Swapping out some of the box's sounds to include more locally specific sounds can personalize the experience and make it more attractive to people in new locations. For example, recognizable voices can be traded for new recordings from favorite local teachers, celebrities, or community figures. Environmental sounds could include unique noises or themes that they would commonly hear in their own city or state (such as a football chant or their local ice cream truck).