Many scholars within the field of media archaeology opt to focus on the backstory behind an influential medium or technology and map out how its inception and organizational logic (re)shaped the world. An alternative approach is the excavation and arrangement of fringe/forgotten prototypes into an array to problematize dominant historical narratives regarding technological progress. Caleb Kelly's recent text Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction uses two consumer technologies, the phonograph and the compact disc, to survey 20th century musical and artistic production. The book catalogs a broad range of experimentation with these playback technologies to create detailed timelines of misuse and critical engagement. In bracketing this realm of sound-producing practice, Kelly proposes "cracked media," a subversion of technological devices whereby "...tools of media playback are expanded beyond their original function as a simple playback device for prerecorded sound or image." Given the prominence of the glitch and lo-fi malformed digital artifacts everywhere from media art to pop music to web video, it is easy to take the aesthetics of failure for granted. The investigation executed within Cracked Media prefigures many of the discussions that underpin generative and glitch aesthetics by focusing on work that foregrounds and interrogates the materiality of two specific mediums. Kelly methodically tracks projects that subvert the CD and phonograph over the entire 20th century and in doing so he builds a fascinating discourse about musical performance and reproduction that is equally comfortable referencing Friedrich Kittler as DJ Qbert.
The Porte-Parole Mouthpiece is an instrument for strangers, its function is to empower those who are deprived of power.
This object encircles the jaw with a small video monitor and loud speakers placed directly over the wearer’s mouth, showing the lips moving in sync to the prerecorded narrative. It is designed to replace the hesitations and fearful silent of an immigrant’s personal voice with a fully formed version of the immmigrant’s story. It function both as a conduit of ones' voice and image as well as a gag that blocks the mouth and prevents from speaking.
Porte-Parole transforms its user into a virtual subject, literally, a cyborg communicating through a high-tech device rather than your own bodily apparatus for speech. The small size screen drives viewers to come closer to the user face in order to see the image of the moving lips and hear the voice.
Music with Roots in the Aether, an artwork by Robert Ashley, is comprised of seven two-hour programs featuring noted American experimental composers, created during the 1970's.
Each program is two hours long and consists of one part Landscape / Interview (one hour) and one part live performance (one hour).
In Krystof Wodiczko's striking installation Out of Here: The Veterans Project, currently on view at the ICA in Boston, choppers roar overhead. People scream in the distance. Glass breaks and shatters on the floor. The viewer can see almost nothing; the large room is dark, except for a few windows high above, created by a row of video projections. The view from these windows is obscured; the piece is as much about what you can't see than what you do see. But even more importantly, the piece is about what you hear--and what you can't hear. The chants of an imam become the sounds of women wailing. Gunshots begin to fire sporadically. Military officers yell harsh commands. The rumble of bass—a swarm of Humvees in the distance, drawing closer—gets louder and more threatening. The longer you stay in the room, immersed in the increasing racket, the more palpable the sense of dread becomes. The harrowing sounds of war are not simply about the sounds themselves, but the spaces in between.
In the intriguing new book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear [MIT Press], Steve Goodman explores the power of sound as a tactic of irritation, intimidation, or even permanent harm. Goodman analyzes "environments, or ecologies, in which sound contributes to an immersive atmosphere or ambience of fear and dread--where sound helps produce a bad vibe."
From a broadcast of the Omni television show hosted by Peter Ustinov ca.1981
Ceci Moss is Rhizome's Senior Editor.
For my top 5-10, I've decided to pull together my favorite online exhibitions of internet-based art from the past 12 months.
Each week or so, Computers Club introduce a new work by an artist. Many of the Computer Clubbers have helped to define the current crop of internet-based art influenced by Larry Cuba and Tron-style computer graphics, such as Laura Brothers, Nicholas Sassoon, and Elna Frederick.
Internet Archaeology is a site devoted to the recovery of graphic artifacts found within earlier internet culture. (Think Olia Lialina's A Vernacular Web.) Their Guest Galleries section features original work using images culled from the collection by Tabor Robak, Krist Wood, Jacob Broms Engblom, Daniel Leyva, Emma Balkind, and Nasdaq 5000. My favorite piece so far is Robak's Heaven, which I posted to Rhizome not too long ago.
Run by Bay Area-based artists Caitlin Denny and Parker Ito, JstChillin's "Serial Chillers in Paradise" series is quite ambitious -- for a full year, they're knocking out a new work, in the form of a solo site, by an artist every two weeks, with an accompanying essay by Denny and Ito.
Like software, the curatorial project NETMARES & NETDREAMS signal the progression of their exhibitions through versioning. The exhibition "2.2" went live last summer, and it is loosely based on beach iconography, with a gloss of dark surrealism. A sense of the ominous pervades throughout, from Harm van den Dorpel's dizzying montage of palm trees to Michael Guidetti's loop of a rippling, virtual ocean.
Now closed, Club Internet's fall exhibition "Dissociation" was ...
Nick Hasty is Rhizome's Director of Technology
Here's my top 5 list of DIY audio art kits to keep you busy in 2010.
Open source, Arduino-based version of the monome controller interface that utilizes usb midi and open sound control. Great for controlling instruments, installations, and performances.
Peter Edwards' Drone Lab is a 4 voice analog drone synth, rhythm generator and FX processor. A great kit from one of the kings of circuit bending.
Simple but powerful kit from the Loud Objects performance group. You can easily integrate your own code to write new low-bit jams.
4ms has been making a wide variety of wonderful and novel instruments for nearly 15 years. These guys are pros and extremely nice to boot.
Open-source version of the Roland TB-303. What more could you ask for?