Posts Tagged ‘body’
Tony Oursler is a contemporary example of the type of technologist-entertainers art historian Barbara Stafford calls “technomancers”, scientifically informed thaumaturges that use digital effects to produce heightened sensorial experiences that bring the visitor to the brink of the spiritually bizarre. A wonderland of spectral apparitions, Oursler’s work is where garden meets cutting edge projection trickery, using sculpture as an animated surface, thrusting dimensional color in the dark space of the gallery. Under the guise of avant garde multimedia, eminently contemporary, art, Oursler’s work most closely resembles the 18th century phantasmagoria shows of Jean-Gaspard Robertson, who awed post-Revolutionary Paris with his elaborate magic lantern technology, projecting the wispy ghosts of guillotined aristocrats onto mirrors and smoke in the ruins of a convent, showcased by a performance that incorporated newly discovered electrical effects and a “magical” ritual inspired by the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries. Oursler’s installations are less interactive, but demonstrate the same fascination with the spectral transformation and deformation of the human form: bubble heads with giant eyes and mouth, decapitated talking heads, heads wreathed in vapours, flickering lights.
Our team entered this project for the Annenberg Innovation Lab CRUNCH Challenge. Thank you to the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Onomy Labs and Microsoft for making the GeoSurface Map a prototype reality!
The GeoSurface Map is an interactive exhibit for local museums and libraries. Its interface is an interactive table that allows users to collectively browse satellite imagery. But more than a playful and immersive interface for navigating geographic data, the GeoSurface Map is a multimedia storytelling experience about land use practice.
Project Lead / Designer: Lauren Fenton, USC School of Cinematic Arts
Programmer: Shreyas Heranjal, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Project Coordinator: Desdemona Bandini, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
A TANGIBLE INTERFACE WITH THE WORLD
The Interactive GeoSurface Map uses an interactive device created by Onomy Labs called a Tilty Table. The table functions as a tangible interface to create an experience of effortless fly-over navigation through Microsoft’s Bing Maps database of high-resolution satellite images. By tilting and twisting the Tilty Table, the user can zoom in and pan over details of the landscape. By dwelling on hotspots they can access multimedia metadata on important landmarks.
COLLECTIVE RE-DISCOVERY OF ONE’S LOCALITY AND PLACE
Apps like Google Maps and Google Earth allow people to visualize high-resolution satellite images and a database of meta-data about different geographical locations. However, this data can easily become meaningless, as there is no narrative attached to it. The Interactive GeoSurface Map gives the user the possibility of connecting the dots between different data elements, of reading different landscape features of the satellite images as a network, rather than as a random assembly of geographical features, streets and buildings.
Most geographical data apps are meant to be used as individual interfaces on laptops or desktop computers. Onomy Labs’ Tilty Table technology makes it possible for people to browse the data collectively, and to share a moment of discovery through an intuitive language of very simple gestures. A powerful moment of recognition takes place when users understand the infrastructural and historical relationships between different features of the landscape, features they may have casually noticed but had not paid attention to.
FROM GEOGRAPHICAL DATA TO A STORY ABOUT LAND USE
We are collaborating with an institution called the Center for land Use Interpretation, a research institute that creates exhibits about land use practices, from the history of the L.A. freeway system to the water supply network. The GeoSurface Map team adapted their exhibit,Urban Crude, about the oil fields of the city of Los Angeles, for the Tilty Table. Urban Crude explores the way oil is being drilled in the city, by whom, and what kind of strategies they adopt to seamlessly integrate this drilling activity into the urban landscape, which includes hiding oil wells behind fake buildings and churches and disguising pumpjacks and methane vents as inconspicuous infrastructure. The GeoSurface Map adaptation of the exhibit turns different locations on the satellite images into hotspots, accompanied by floating text from the original exhibit explaining the history of oil extraction in that particular site. When selected, the hotspots lead into an panorama of animated photographs. This immersive multimedia experience, which combines interaction with geographical data with text and video, weaves a narrative around the practice of oil extraction within the urban landscape of Los Angeles.
AN INTUITIVE TOOL FOR EDUCATION ABOUT COMMUNITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
By using storytelling and tangible interface technology, the GeoSurface Map makes engagement with land use data compelling and intuitive, making it possible for a wide demographic range of users, from children to grandparents, to gain meaningful knowledge of their neighboring environment, encouraging users to become agents of change and affect how their cities are organized and sustained in the future.
The GeoSurface Map is a learning platform that allows users to become familiar with urban planning initiatives in their area and become the shapers of local land use, water distribution, and transportation policy. Land use data is often restricted to geological and industry databases, even though land use practices affect everyone’s everyday life on a deep level. Thanks to our partnership with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, our solution makes that data accessible and comprehensible to a mainstream audience.
Knowledge about local land use helps people become pro-active about engaging with their municipal governments and government institutions on issues of urban development and the future of their communities.
AN INTERACTIVE EXHIBIT FOR PUBLIC USE
The GeoSurface Map is meant to be an interactive exhibit piece that can be housed in a museum, at a science center, in a public municipal or government building, and in schools and universities. It has the potential to affect a large number of individuals in a lasting way, providing them not only with invaluable information about their home area, but also immersing them in a memorable, aesthetically enchanting media experience.
Our end users include families, young people, and retired persons who have access to and can afford to pay for a museum ticket. The introduction of GeoSurface Mapping devices into public areas that are free of charge (for example, public libraries), would further lower the income barrier of end-users.
A FLEXIBLE HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE ARCHITECTURE
The satellite image database we use, Microsoft’ s Bing Maps, is a free service that the GeoSurface Map accesses through Microsoft’s Silverlight application for Bing Maps developers.
Our code determines a basic interface for an unlimited amount of content. We can add as much text, images, videos, tags and metadata as would be necessary for future iterations and future land use projects. The Tilty Table API, although based on just a few affordances, is very flexible in terms of the different types of actions these affordances can map onto.
The GeoSurface Map is a product that is both a piece of hardware, an interface, and an information/media service. Development of the product involves collaboration with Onomy Labs (hardware/API) and The Center for Land Use Interpretation (as a partnership for content creation), as well as with Microsoft’s Bing Maps service.
Any museum, public library or educational institution can purchase GeoSurface Mapping as an interactive exhibit package (hardware, interface, and content), provided they have Internet access.
The GeoSurface Map interface was in part inspired by the creative cartography work of Liz Mogel and Trevor Paglen. Going beyond representations of data, their maps are narratives that emphasize the infrastructural and social aspects of the annotated space. (http://www.artnews.com/issues/article.asp?art_id=3091). Katherine Harmon’s You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination was also a rich source of imaginative cartographic examples.
Cakeland by Scott Hove: celebration of the artificial, of anxiety, delectability and beauty in danger
Hove’s work is unparalleled in his manner of viscerally soliciting contradictory emotions, both reptilian in their simplicity and existentially complex. You feel through the ramifications of the pieces rather than think through them: analysis through affect, perhaps a perennial goal of art and realized in Hove’s work with almost surgical precision.
interactive VR panorama: click on it to explore Cakeland!
from Scott Hove’s website mshove.com:
Cakeland is a series of sculptures and installations resembling perfect delicious cakes– wall mounted, hanging and standing– and walk-through cake environments complete with their own lighting. The sculptures have all of the appeal of the best cake you have ever tasted, but can never be eaten. The nature of edible cake is fleeting, lasting only as long as the brief celebration it was made for. These cakes last as long as the artist or society have the wherewithal to preserve them. Being such a destination of beauty, Cakeland requires that it be equipped with its own defense, because the reality of beauty and perfection is that people want to possess it. The sculptures, with their display of beauty and potential for satisfaction, lure the viewer into a sense of anticipation. The viewer will slowly notice that Cakeland contains defensive elements, not immediately seen, that create a sense of anxiety and fear. This in turn creates a visual and emotional resonance that is intended to represent what we all have to deal with in our lives everyday… the hunt for satisfaction, and the anxiety that we won’t get it. Cakeland is also a celebration of the artificial, and acknowledges our tendency to embrace the artificial in order to feel safe or receive emotional gratification. Cakeland also can serve as an analogue for the search for temporal love; the experience can be incredibly sweet and indulgent, punctuated by moments of insecurity and terror.
The sculptures are formed using carvable rigid polyurethane foam and plywood. The installations are constructed of cardboard, plywood, and any found object that has a suitable form. They are frosted with a variety of acrylic media, using traditional cake decorating tools, and accessorized with fake fruit and other objects found in stores or on the street.
Torus is a bouncing castle, an inflatable tunnel, a crawl space to rest and socialize, and a novel. After enjoying the buoyant properties of the platform at the center of the structure, revelers enter the darkly glowing, semi-translucent tunnel that circles the ring. Comfortably wide, and yet not large enough to allow you to stand up straight, the tunnel is a tautological maze that amusingly, gently disorients. Its elastic, squeaky walls have the consistency of a balloon and make for interesting reclining, lounging, splaying and contortion of limbs. Strangers meet as they crawl or wiggle through the tunnel: talk, experimentally intertwine, explore the space together. A system of fans keeps the air of the labyrinth adequately fresh and oxygenated.
The secret of Torus is in the speakers embedded in its walls: the tunnel is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant broadcasts a section of a short novel narrated by the novel’s protagonist. Like in one of Borges’ fantastical stories, the novel has neither beginning nor end – it is literally a circle!
The torus itself is a geometrical object with fascinating psychological properties…sound travels elliptically through it, allowing visitors to experience the ambiance rather than the letter of the novel.
Inflatacookbook: 1970s alternative media/architecture collective Ant Farm’s instruction manual on how to create weirdly inhabitable inflatable structures
In the late 60’s and 70’s, the San Francisco hippie art and architecture collective known as Ant Farm were creating buildings out of giant inflatable plastic bags. Their 1969 work, 50×50′ Pillow for the Whole Earth Catalog led to the commission to build the medical tent–or as Ant Farmer Chip Lord called it, “the Bad Trip Pavilion”–at Altamont.
Ant Farm also created uncannily prescient work about things like the all-consuming, TV-driven, pop media culture and the American fetishization of cars. [They’re the ones who buried that row of Cadillacs nosefirst in the Texas desert.]
from Make Magazine:
“I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Ant Farm co-founder Doug Michels in the early ’90s. He was as delightfully crazy as ever, drawing up designs for spheres of water floating through space filled with dolphins, a Japanese sex theme park, a giant couch, called the National Sofa, in the park across from the White House, where people could come and interact with the First Family via the National TV set. This was definitely not a guy who liked to paint inside the lines. Sadly, Doug died in a freak climbing accident in 2003.”
A Photo Comic of my installation film: production stills from the shoot of Everything Can and Shall Be Cut
Some stills from the shoot of one of the videos for my new installation “Almost Everything Can and Shall Be Cut”
1. a balloon animal in a helpless position
2. the balloon animal in distress
3. a wig is powerless to keep the scissors at bay
4. the fate of the wig: stuffed in a blender
5. wig, ravaged , posing with its instrument of death
6. the slow decomposition of jello
7. the ice-cubes are handpicked for oblivion
8. a cube of polystyrene foam is tortured with a needle
9. green goo oozes from polystyrene’s wounds
10. a steak is posthumously fed with intraveinous liquid
11. a circuit board fears for its transistors
12. circuit board yields its last colorful breath
13. a pillow besides its own stuffing
14. exposing pillow’s inner flesh
15. the pink heart of pillow’s insides
Conceptual Sketch(cast, shot list, reference tables using Prezi )
Floating Donuts and Pink Pipe Joints: preliminary models for my project to hybridize the novel and the playground
These sketches are first steps towards a visualization of my concept of “ambient narrative”. In this case, the book being read is inscribed in the walls of a warren of floating inflatable tunnels (suspended like a octopus-shaped air mattress from a ceiling), in the form of pressure sensors that, depending on the visitor’s ensconcement in a particular branch of the structure, trigger audio recordings of a story. Each chapter of the book can be accessed in a recombinant rhizomatic way – literally the visitor travels through the story, using her body, its movements and its rubbing against the plush fabric of the tunnels, as the decoding instrument that allows her to gather fragments of the hidden text. The story itself, called “In the Dark: The Story of a Disapearance” is an existential mystery or detective novel that is pieced together by the non-linear meanderings of the reader.
This two-channel installation piece examines the friction between texture and violence to bring us closer to the felt idea of flesh. The piece intends to question the relationship between affect and materiality, as well as the psychological economy of desire, destruction, and consumption by simultaneously making the viewer feel uncomfortable and viscerally involved.
A TV monitor presents us with a video of a hand performing different types of incisions using sharp and blunt metal instruments into a large array of materials. The monitor is covered with a loose “tent” of plastic sheeting, allowing the visitor a mysterious view of the video content through the blurring, glowing screen of the semi-transparent material. To get a closer look, the viewer has to unzip the tent’s opening and insert her head into an intimate space shared by the monitor.
The video is a loop of shot after shot of various texturally ambiguous materials or objects being clinically laid out on a chrome table while a hand, alternately gloved in vinyl or rubber gloves discovers the many methods by which each material can be cut up, destroyed, and divided and the specific instruments that do the job in the most satisfying or interesting way.
INCISION is preceded by a tactile prodding of the object followed by the MORCELLATION, FRAGMENTATION OF THE MATERIAL INTO ITS CONSTITUENT FORMS (filaments, bits, crumbs, slivers).The act of cutting can be smooth, swift : sensation of liberation, closure mixed with disquiet of violent end. The act of cutting can be difficult, messy, awkward: sensation of squeamish frustration. The viewer witnesses a Progression in the act of cutting: colorful liquid starts to OOZE out of the harmed materials (recalling old blood or water, displaying a viscous quality)
The second channel of the installation is rear projected onto a sheet of the same semi-transparent plastic wrapping that covered the monitor. The projection is a looping video of luridly colored organic textures (e.g. close-up of a beating heart, a time-lapse of growing mold). The video is processed into anaglyphic images to produce a stereoscopic effect, visible to the visitor with 3D glasses.
As a child, I spent hours with my Sega Genesis or (Sega Megadrive, as it was marketed in Europe) developing digital motor reflexes meant to ensure my survival in a colorful 8-bit world. Rolling up in a little ball to zoom through transparent tubes or accelerate and fall in not-quite-Earth-gravity parabolas became second nature. Sonic introduced me to the delights of a sacharine electronic soundtrack that made the hard primary colors of Sonic world’s shimmer and subliminally controlled my minute pushing and pulling of the tiny joystick. Sonic is a masterpiece in synesthetic design: visual, aural and kinetic mesh together to create a re-embodied experience, more akin to telepresence than manipulating an avatar.
Carnival Night Zone
Apparently, other fans who still have dreams of pinballing through Sonic levels and have developped an automatic jump and bounce response to hearing repetitive synth melodies have posted these walkthroughs of Sonic 1 and 2…a nostalgic flashback to an archaic utopia.
I like the idea of using fabric to transform the geometry of a space: multiplying the possibilities for interaction yet flexible, mobile and eminently adaptable to other architectures
Architecture turned into enjoyment and participation.
instead of contemplating the void of the guggenheim museum‘s central space,
JDS architects have proposed an experience which sees a trampoline net spiraling down
the institution’s rotunda. this idea plays on frank lloyd wright’s original scenography
for the guggenheim in which he envisioned patrons visiting the exhibition from the top,
note how the documentation is edited to techno! The correlation with dance culture is a phenomenological one.
Fowler Museum presents ‘Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth,’ Jan 10–May 30, 2010
Exhibition features 35 of artist’s ‘Soundsuits,’ wearable mixed-media sculptures
By Stacey Ravel Abarbanel October 23, 2009
“Whether Nick Cave’s efforts qualify as fashion, body art or sculpture … they fall squarely under the heading of Must Be Seen to Be Believed.” —Roberta Smith, New York Times
“Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth,” on display at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from Jan. 10 through May 30, 2010, is the largest presentation of work by the Chicago-based artist, featuring 35 of his “Soundsuits” — multilayered, mixed-media sculptures named for the sounds made when the “suits” are performed.
Evocative of African, Caribbean and other ceremonial ensembles, as well as haute couture, Cave’s work explores issues of transformation, ritual, myth and identity through a layering of references and virtuosic construction, using materials as varied as yarn, beads, sequins, bottle caps, vintage toys, rusted iron sticks, twigs, leaves and hair.
Mad, humorous, visionary, glamorous and unexpected, the Soundsuits are created from scavenged, ordinary materials and objects from both nature and culture, which Cave recontextualizes into extraordinary works of art. The Fowler is the first Los Angeles–area museum to feature Cave’s work and the only Southern California venue for this traveling exhibition.
The Fowler presentation of this exhibition holds particular meaning for the artist and for Los Angeles because Cave’s first Soundsuit was sparked by the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992 following the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating.
The Soundsuits almost always cover the whole body, erasing the identity of the wearer. Thus, the Soundsuits can be understood as coats of armor, shielding Cave from the day-to-day prejudice he encounters as an African American man and facilitating a transformation into an invented realm of vibrant associations and meanings.
For this exhibition, Cave also employs animal imagery in ways as complex and multilayered as the human-based suits. While conjuring the spiritual strength and power of animal totems used in ancient rituals from around the world, Cave’s Soundsuits also become vessels of transformation and seek to connect us to the Earth and the animals around us. Using wit, humor and a fanciful sensibility, Cave’s Soundsuits beg us to pay attention and to dream of a different future.
Nick Cave received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1982 and his M.F.A. from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1989. He studied fiber art but is committed to a broad spectrum of interests and disciplines. Cave is an associate professor and chairman of the fashion department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he teaches in the fiber arts program. He has led such workshops as “Extending the Body: Experiments in Clothing” and has designed, manufactured and marketed his own line of men’s and women’s clothing. He has received numerous awards, including a United States Artists Fellowship (2006) and a Joyce Award (2006), and his work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. and Europe.
Matthew Barney, Cremaster I
text: Margaret Morse, Video installation Art: The Body, the Image, and the Space-in-Between
Morse evokes a piece by Muntadas called haute CULTURE Part I, in which two monitors are placed on each end of a seesaw, thereby making an elegant point, couched in physical terms (physical even as in “physics”, since gravity is employed as an artistic device) about the act of comparing both sets of images. This piece offers an example of what Morse calls “kinesthetic” learning, or the kind of information processing and intuition specific to our perception of the organization of objects in space. Kinesthetic perception is synesthetic and active – it involves visuality, sound, and the haptic in a way that allows each sensorial input to complement, suffuse and correspond to another, and using the entire body, including its own position in space relative to other objects, as a sensory organ. The kinesthetic subject is always hyper-aware of her body/herself as key element in the epistemological puzzle posed by the installation piece: all the meaning that can be gleaned from a space must bounce off of her, her critical interpretation changes and accrues only according to her own changing orientation in space. This unfolding signification is also temporally grounded – in fact kinesthetic appreciation can be defined as a temporalized experience of space, a strange, subliminal experience in which we both critically stand outside ourselves to consider ourselves-within-the-world and have an acute consciousness of inhabiting our bodies, of being materially and psychically connected to the outside world. Morse’s term of “body ego” encapsulates this awareness of oneself as an entity, something that participates in both the object and the subject.
Going back to Muntadas’ seesaw, we can see how the artist’s physical demonstration of a conceptual relationship between the two objects/monitors offers us a uniquely visceral insight into an a priori realm of abstract and critical thought. The kinesthetic argument being made is playful – an analogy more than a declaration. Using the evocative power of objects and their wealth of cultural denotations, an artist can articulate kinesthetic phrases, in which different objects constitute a semantic content and their relative positions (taking into account the multiple trajectories of the visitor) operate as syntax. Objects are further mis-en-abime within the virtual windows of screens and video channels – kinesthetic art erases to a certain degree the ontological difference between what is represented (screen-based) and what is presented (anchored in physical space). The resulting aesthetic and epistemological experience is intuitive and multidimensional, blurring the boundaries between thinking and feeling.
Is it candy, jewels, or blood? Skin, froth, mother of pearl, or cream? eyes deadened by narcotics, faces decomposing and yet fluffy with sweet, fresh flesh. Michael Hussar puts the texture back in the visual art, using impressionist techniques to create nauseating and irresistible allegories of desire, decay and sugar. Lovably tactile: sticky, soft, smooth, liquid, ticklish,and with the occasionally sharp claw or tooth to remind us of pain.
Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat
Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice
“I spent much of my childhood trying to distinguish identification from desire…” Koestenbaum confesses, speaking of his adoration for opera divas. Woven in with this reference to his budding consciousness of queerness is a realization of the affect particular to the (singing, musical) voice. Following Barthes, we can consider the affect of the musical body as a potency latent in music in general, so far as it is born from a composer’s/performer’s body and enters the body of another in the act of listening. Music is then, in a concrete sense, voice – the whisper of one subjectivity into the ear of another, but also subjectivity detached from the body of a subject, sent out into the world as a thing to be handed over, contemplated, enjoyed. The voice is also object of desire. This dual proximity and distance of the voice is the measure of its power (an affection rather than an expression), its presence a troubling one because it signifies an otherness that invites itself into my body, passing through a hole in this skin that is supposed to separate myself from what I am not, in the process of my listening, in my act of attention, becoming me. And the idea of queerness Koestenbaum extends to us is by no means simply tangential to this affectionate haunting, the desire for a self / oneself that is not me but could be me, that maybe is me. Identifying myself with another and as another: a space within myself carved out by longing, by a dream of proximity. The queerness of the voice goes deep.
Koestenbaum’s wonderful book brought to mind my own relationships with my diva(s) and their voices. If diva is an attitude more than an attribute, a mask of fearlessness always trying to become a truth, a fierce truth, then the gender of the diva matters little. I remember discovering Iggy Pop as an exemplar of this type of stridently embodied, inimitable subjectivity. My means of contact with the diva were purely digital: first clips of performances, songs and interviews on Youtube and then his albums, illegally BitTorrented, only later purchased as CDs. To this day I have not seen him perform. My fanhood is also, like Koestenbaum’s, nostalgia for an era I never knew: the heyday of the Stooges in the early 70s. Raking the Internet for remains of Iggy, most often period broadcasts or amateur film poorly transcribed into digital form, the resolution atrocious, colors washed out or too contrasted.
Flickering in and out of this (visual) noise is Iggy’s body and Iggy’s voice, his small, electric shape in contortions at the sound of himself, gesticulating towards some impossible gesture. The footage suddenly cuts, I have been deprived of the finish of his movement, an end, that, I am sure – had I actually seen it – would have revealed the totality of his meaning, the “Iggyness” (as if he could be re-produced for me, as me) that squares a square, closing a circle. And his body existing through his voice: a nasty crooning that leaps into a screech, an exuberance that distorts syllables and seesaws the idea of pitch. A voice whose music always threatens to fall apart into noise, an exploration of enunciation whose achievement is the release of that mystery of affect that lies beyond language (the body?).
The queerness of Iggy Pop. 1977 – after the disbanding of the Stooges, Iggy is living with David Bowie in Berlin, who is producing his first solo album. Promoting his album in France, Iggy appears on a French talk show in a dandified outfit: leather pants molding skeletal legs, a tucked-in blue button-down dress shirt, fake large black glasses framing round blue eyes, black hair plastered on his head like a mime, lips painted to grotesque, decadent proportion. I watch Iggy chat vivaciously in German, French and English with the talk show host, who tries to negotiate his non-sequiturs and appear to be “in the know”. And then: the diva moment, the flashing of Iggyness. The talk show host inquires as to why Iggy always performs with his shirt off. Iggy: “May I show you?”. And then he starts to unbutton his shirt cuffs, worldlessly handing over his wrist to the host for his assistance. The host, flustered, begins unbuttoning:“it’s important to be naked?”. Iggy, peeling off his shirt: “Here, I’ll show you what’s important”. Finally shirtless, he stretches out both arms to the audience, asking “C’est joli, non?” (It’s pretty, isn’t?”). I was seized over not so much by the spectacle of a body, but by that mad leap into nakedness, the disrobing of his soul that he masked with a nonchalant invitation of the audience’s judgment – an act that, in the end, seemed to clothe him in something invincible.
John Divola, Generic Sculpture E and Silhouette C
What emanates from the incongrous presence of a foregrounded object? The face of the object clicks and jars with the body of the background. Color as a personality trait. The Inanimate and its soul – as in spirit photography, the dead body is handed a half-presence (silhouette, smoky) more potent than the Living. The cadaver / the object as a Fetish, a mischevious indexical relationship to Human Matters.
Noise II: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”.
Peter Bailey in Breaking the Sound barrier quotes Robert Musil on the ‘sonic shrapnel’ produced by the motor car: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”. Two synesthetic attributes stand out in this remarkable description. First, there are haptic qualities to the noise, translated in terms of texture: how the sound would feel (“wiry”) if you could probe / test it with your fingers, in effect uncovering an auditory topology by using the body as contact surface with the sound (“sharp edges running along it”). Then, Musil recognizes the noise’s kinetic attributes: the sound is in a continuous process of shattering, “flying and scattering”, throwing its components into the world (into the ear) like so many projectiles.
As Bailey notes, sound is vibration (“palpable”) – a series of minute but tangible displacements of matter. Unlike light with its strictly scopic / analytic affordances, the flow of sound modifies physical reality, rearranges the world. As such, the haptic domain – texture – already contains the possibility of sound; noise starts to exist when it can extend itself kinetically, across a spatial and temporal axis, when it becomes a conductor for change and entropy. Musil’s rapprochement between hearing and touch alerts us to the fact that sound unfolds in space concomitantly with its unfolding in time: it travels, working on the body as much as on consciousness.
Consequently, Noise (meaning sound in its raw form, an amalgamation and meshing of vibrations not synched into discrete units of order) seems to have an intimate relationship with affect that expresses itself in the body, namely (Bailey argues) laughter and terror / the instinct to flee-fight. Both of these proto-emotions (or simply motions) are brought together to powerful effect in the tradition Bailey calls “rough music”: “rough music was excessive, repetitive and sustained noise, combining high spirits with a sadistic edge”. Participating equally in a Bakhtinian culture of carnival and a history of institutionalized insanity (Bailey disarticulates the etymology of “bedlam” as the hubbub of the Bedlam inmates), rough music is produced for social purposes of ritual or regulation. Interestingly, Attali links music to the sacrifice of noise and its appendage of violence on the altar of (social, scientific) order. From there, one realizes that to listen to “rough music” is to witness noise coagulating into music or inversely, music decaying into noise – an exhilarating experience of liminality, teetering between forgetfulness (chaos) and culture.
Rough music has many splendid contemporary descendants (Noise, the more distorted forms of techno), thanks to the industrial revolution and the musical avant-garde that sought to rehabilitate or take control over the kind of sonic environment produced by the accelerated motion/collisions of more bodies and machines. The “future sound” that John Cage celebrates highlights the same attributes that Robert Musil discovered in sounds of technology: texture and kinetic force. Cage discusses these as “overtone structure” and “percussion music”, respectively.
“The special function of electrical instruments will be to provide complete control of the overtone structure of tones and to make these tones available in any frequency, amplitude and duration”: overtones are what gives each instrument its particular timbre i.e. the sonic texture that differentiates a violin from a piano; certainly electronic and digital music take advantage of the fact that they can give voice to an infinity of imaginary instruments, in effect to an uncategorizable cacophony of overtones. Allied to the emphasis on “percussion” (“a contemporary transition from keyboard-influenced music to the all-sound music of the future”), Cage’s future sound heralds key components of contemporary rough music in this evocation of tonal din and “repetitive noise” (repetition being primarily structured by beats/percussion). Compared to its 18th century manifestation, Noise engages the confused ear in the gears of a machine in order to better manufacture its violent/euphoric interface with the body.
“The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.” (The Art of Noises, Luigi Russolo)
Remembering what it felt like dancing to drum n’ bass at club last week, I found it useful to consider the mental “attitude” at work in the activity of dancing to as opposed to listening to music, and, in the context of x’ “Music as Technology of Self”, to wonder what kind of mood-modifying agency is at work on the subject’s part in the act of dance, where the body seems to spontaneously achieve an intimacy and immediacy of communication with the mind’s capacity to recognize and organize aural patterns. In the specific case of electronic music, dancing seems to involve an enactment of the music, a physical tracing of the contours of the different elements at work in a sonic landscape: an inverted act of ventriloquism, where rather than giving voice to a (inanimate) body, a body is given to the voice. Drum n’ bass, with its rapid-fire snare drums and broken beats, subwoofers meowing like torpid, hungry cats, creates a kind of atmosphere that lends itself, if not to the spiritual, then to a form of spiritism – the dancers mechanically jumping from beat to beat are automata controlled by the poltergeist haunting the PAs.
Here the particular “aura” of machine-music, as envisioned by Futurists such as Russolo in The Art of Noises, is articulated: the distinction between euphony and disharmony breaks down in the face of the possibility of infinite variations in timbre (different species of noise) and the futility of any form of sonic taxonomy (and therefore, arguably, of categorical judgments about value or taste in music, but this opens up another can of worms). The programmability of the rhythm – bringing to us the hard fact that all digital music is the product of an algorithmic process – creates a backbone, a tensile, resilient structure that supports the volatility of tone and timbre, which is then free to open up a space of mobility, of play to which the body responds. One of the exciting things about electronic music is not that it always produces an arena for free play (most of its forms are subject to the same sort of cultural patterns embedded in other forms of popular music) but that, as a technology, its particular affordance is to produce experiments in procedurality / procedural forms of experimentation. Dancing to drum n’bass feels nothing so much like solving a problem, a result of harnessing the self to a technological framework which momentarily brings the dancer to a higher form of phenomenological enactment – solving the problem of time / temporal existence via body, allowing the body to function as an uncanny inscription device / Ouiji board.