Making do is dealing with what you have, not complaining about what you donâ€™t.
late summer 2007
Issue 0 September, 2007. London
Making Do is an independent publication Editors Alexandre Coco Andrea Francke Asli Kalinoglu Mary Ikoniadou Contact us at: MakingDo.firstname.lastname@example.org Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions. Unsolicited material is welcome. e-mail us to receive updates on the next issues. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily those of the editors. No article may be reproduced or transmitted without previous consultation.
MAKING DO (NOT IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER)
Making do is not putting yourself out there to create another system. It’s not revolutionary, it’s even a bit lazy. The laziness is not that of a radical pessimism. ıt’s more about taking part in the here and now, and while taking part, doing things that would subvert, shift the production of meaning of that here and now. Making do is getting away with it, but also displaying possibilities. It can be make-believe, it can be fiction. A fiction can render itself more possible, turns or rather is, itself a potentiality. Being somewhere, doing something, it’s a production of meaning, it’s not solitary, it’s collective, even when one negates that.
Making do is dealing with what you have, not complaining about what you don’t. Making do is Ed Wood, to many. simply a joke; to some, there’s nothing of its kind. Making do is slow, it’s not explicitly bold, always modest, yet it makes a change, possibly drastically. It’s not as passive as many would want it to be, well it sure won’t claim the world, but for the time being, it is one of the best ways to resist the powers that be. Making do is recycling as a way of being, rather than a policy about that narrow conception of ecology. Making do has nothing to do with DIY. DIY comes within a commercialism. DIY today is all about advanced capitalism. And that tool of internalizing the seemingly alternative is at hand, now with a distorted division of labor that will make the DIYer buy, buy, buy but never buy workforce. Making do is a refusal of buy, buy, buying; not having enough money is just a side-story. Obligations, limitations, coincidences are enabling aspects for making do, and what it achieves, exceed these, goes beyond intentions. Revolutionary acts need not always be intentional. And finally, making do, is the kind of parasitical practice that is imperative if we wish to talk about possibilities and not about submissiveness. Making do can seem futile, but never was. Okay well, sometimes I also feel like making do is playing in the sand pool, but really, I am fed up with downgrading every option, every “way out”. Yes, it can be naive, but to talk about naivety is to talk about intentions. Intentions are not always the best tool to judge actions. They don’t always match, what an act does and what it intended to do. With making do, it’s more about what the act does, rather than why, making do, can often have naive and careless intentions. But what it does, is the real issue here.
NO BAR, JUST BOTTLES Can Altay
Minibar is basically the temporary utilization of existing urban elements around and between buildings by youth for night-life and socialization. Minibar is not a radical “taking over” yet it forces to shift and subvert the meanings appointed to these already existing spaces which are neither public nor private. In Minibar, space is produced without building anything, and there exists no commercial entity, no service provided, just people being there, bringing their own drinks. In Ankara, Turkey.
Here came the moment the inherent excess was revealed, opening up possibilities. And, one could also see that there was a multiplicity of spaces (in the broad sense) that could co-exist, conflict, contradict in the same physical environment. Spaces produced by same or different parties, physically, socially, informationally, mentally, representationally.
The existing buildings provide a setting but are not really willing to provide; in terms of the intentions of their planning, design, construction, as well as the occupancy. In this sense it is an unpredictable reconfiguration. At the minibar, what we and others who started it were undeliberately doing was finding out a means of nightlife where the service sector got spatially eliminated, so there were no bars but just bottles grabbed from a cornershop, and the space was whatever the buildings and the street provided. Personally, I note its starting point in relation to the economic depression by the end of the 90’s, where young people who could previously afford nightlife, decided to drink for cheaper outside the bars, and to enter as already drunk and ready for fun. As these spots outside got populated people stopped entering the bars, and minibar as it is anonymously named, got more and more popular. However, it was not only the fact that bars were expensive, but also that there existed a physical environment which provided so many means to sit, put drinks, lean on, to hang around. These elements just never were predicted to be utilized as such. There were no squares or large public areas –and it was about small groups anyway–. The physical space was narrow, a sidewalk, a low wall denoting the borders of a garden, a gap in-between two buildings etc. So it was beyond the presuppositions or intentions of any planner, architect, or resident, that these locations could host such a life-form.
COMMITMENT / COLLECTIVITY / COMMUNITY One must also note that there is hardly any commitment to it. There never was an organized gathering, it just grew and evolved in time, and you would just pass by and join a larger group.
It’s very hard to imagine the minibar groups as a community, also because it is so dispersed, and ever-changing. What forms this, as collectivity is just being there. Lately, Aslı Kalınoglu was mentioning “being somewhere” as a mode of interaction, this I think relates to Michel De Certeau’s notion of “making do” and I guess it’s one of the reasons why “The Practice of Everyday Life” is amongst the books within my installation related to minibar. Another thread to follow here can be the current notions around “disentangled community” where certain theorists are claiming the mutuality of meaning production through a non-underlined collectivity: a collectivity of being there-ness such as we see in the works of Irit Rogoff’s reading through Jean-Luc Nancy’s Inoperative Community, to Giorgio Agamben’s The Coming, or Whatever Community.
NON-AUTONOMOUS TEMPORARY AUTONOMOUS ZONES The notion of identity formation, what the minibar defines its actors as, is an interesting topic. It is a shifting group of people, and always changing throughout the years, just as the locations are changing mostly due to interventions and commercial take-over. All things aside, it is an illegal act to drink on the street, so it has this kind of domiciled rebellion within it, because it never gets too aggressive, it’s about fun and socialization in the first place.
TENSION AND TOLERANCE The only important note on commitment is then about keeping up to the tolerances from the residents, in keeping a certain peace, in being cautious about not becoming too aggressive or vandalizing, or having a certain awareness about not making a mess; keeping the grounds to exist un-challenged. Can be seen quite a conformist act, but it is relevant for cohabitation, co-existing with the system. As for the garbage issue, it is either part of this sustaining the excess by themselves, or the papermen (whom I won’t talk about here) would click here to the process and take the left-over cans and bottles.
PHYSICAL INTERVENTIONS This of course sooner got of hand, some minibars got so crowded that police patrol increased due to residents’ complaints. The police started warning and occasionally taking alcohol consuming minibar residents. When this did not work, fences got higher, metal bars were raised to prevent the minibar acts, now it was the residents turn to shape the space (but they were again performing it physically) and thus minibars started to move elsewhere (between or in front of other buildings). The police issue changed with increasing numbers of people as it was becoming impossible to handle so instead it became a patrol system, which would disperse minibars, only to gather again. The important thing about this patrol was that it was also providing the safety grounds so that there are no violent conflicts, or so that girls and boys hang out more easily without being disturbed by other parties. In ways everything was working for one another.
TRANSGRESSION AS REVEALING BORDERS INSTEAD OF PENETRATING THEM “Transgression never seeks to oppose one thing to another, but affirms the limited being, and the limitlessness into which it leaps. This affirmation contains nothing negative or positive, it is simply an affirmation of division, not separating, just designating the difference” Michel Foucault, A Preface to Transgression.
“Transgression is an action which involves the limit, that narrow zone of a line where it displays the flash of its passage, but perhaps also its entire trajectory, even its origin; it is likely that transgression has its entire space in the line it crosses.” (Foucault, 1977: 33-4) The installation at the Walker Art Center, and later shown in a number of places, was a room with three slide projections, ambient sound, and a table of resources where eight books and hand written interventions to the books in the form of post-its were placed. Two large projections showed night images from Minibars.
A smaller and clearer third projection showed day-time images of the physical interventions. The working table not only offered the books and a theoretical framework offered by the post-it marks and notes provided by me, but also left room for further intervention by providing empty stacks of post-it and pencils. Quotes from a series of interviews conducted with people who hang out at Minibar were printed on cheap recycled paper and laid out in stacks on a long table facing a wall piece which consisted of photos and the same quotation papers taped on the wall. Reflecting on the nature of the Minibar, the installation aimed to create a layer within the gallery space that would grow throughout the duration of the exhibition, yet leaving this to the viewers, the occupants of the gallery space. To encourage such an engagement, two rolls of sticky tape were placed at each end of the long table where the stacks of printed quotations laid.
RECUPERATION / COMMERCIAL TAKEOVER The final chapter by far in the history of minibar is entrepreneurs’ revisiting the sites, renting or buying popular spots and corners of minibars and opening up cafes and bars. It is because none of the commercial venues are opened or run by minibar related people, that the situation is partly related to the latter thoughts and partly to the earlier thoughts and what you mentioned. It is more of a situation where the service or the commerce reclaims the grounds they had lost to minibar. When minibar started, it was a pre-bar thing, as it grew everybody stopped going to the bars. After years, a new set of entrepreneurs, took over the spaces, but this time in a certain awareness of the minibars. They rented the most popular spots, built their cafes and bars and started to profit from the sociality that the neighborhood was attributed through the minibars. It is so that there is even now a recently opened bar with the name “minibar” blurring the distinctions even further. I have strong doubts whether minibar people attend there, not the dedicated ones I presume. And yes, the recreation of capitalist conditions is taking place after a detour when the service sector was spatially and economically undermined, and there was no need for any built environment to produce space. Minibar also has its own economy, and its own way of existence, but the new establishments are following the regular service sector models and procedures. In this way it’s a reclamation of space from the commercial sector. I am curious of how it will be continued.
Microsonic Sensibility: The Phantoms of Rhythms to Come words by Eleni Ikoniadou
If seeing is not involved, it does not mean that one sees nothing, but equally that one sees an infinity of things (Bertolt Brecht) 1
Re-Searching Sonic Spacetimes The Japanese suikinkutsu (literally ‘water caves’) are a type of music device and garden ornament in the country’s tradition, originating from the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867). Musician and artist Jem Finer, drew inspiration from the Japanese water chimes for his 2006 installation ‘Score for a Hole in the Ground’. Consequently, this project is an attempt to point to the subtle and beautiful timbres of nature, unspoiled by the ‘touch’ of technology. Finer’s project consists of a deep shaft in Kent’s countryside, where resonant objects of different sizes and tunings are buried next to a lake. Drips of water, assuming the role of the players/musicians, strike the objects ringing them like bells, a tuned percussion played by water. The subtle sound that it creates is amplified by a tube rising up from the shaft into a brass horn twenty feet above the surface. In Finer’s words, “the suikinkutsu is the starting point for a trajectory that leads through John Cage and the experimental music of the latter half of the 20th century, to an early 21st century post-digital return to a physical, indeterminate piece of music, sited within the landscape.” 2 This installation depends exclusively on the ongoing existence of the planet and its weather system, marking a “return to the prehistoric roots of music, the harmonics of the environment”.3 Its intended part in the history of Western music is to complete a cycle that has seen the increasing digitised and expanded exploration of sound and music – and the blurring of boundaries between the two – return to its natural state. ‘Score for a Hole in the Ground’ aspires to point to a break of music and art with the use of technology and demonstrate a harmonically balanced nature, independent from the chaos of culture. In a sense, the project evokes the spirituality of a melodical Earth and the balance of natural forces away from the ‘noise’ of machinery. In so doing, however, it presupposes the purity of an uncontaminated nature up against the ‘alienness’ of technology. Furthermore, it appears to take for granted a necessary axis of evolution in sound, from the unblemished harmonics of a natural musicality to the forced digitalised environments of urban decay. The explicit aim of Finer’s latest venture is to extract the sonic from its cultural and historical artificiality and place it back to its original earthy territoriality. The set of oppositions proposed by ‘Score for a Hole’ probes certain questions about the legacy of perception, the Western notion of space and time and the question of aesthetics, out of which microsonic sensibility conceptualises. In this article, the latter is conceived as an abstract machine that operates within concrete assemblages. Rather than approaching the body and its habitat as passive, pre-determined matter, it argues for a composite of unformed matters that exhibit degrees of intensities. We
suggest that these are virtual and temporal intensities that stretch the vibrating body to uncertainty, instead of limiting it to possibility. Picking up where Finer’s project left we may ask: is not nature always and already technological? Is not the urban sonic milieu a becoming cultural of nature, not through modernisation but through a tendency that has always been there? Beyond its apparent organic structure, is not the body a collectivity of vibrating matter, as much technological as it is natural, since the two exist on a continuum rather than a dichotomy? Moreover, is not this piece of score in the ground an amalgamation of all these elements, organic and non-organic matter, soil and metal, weather intensities and hydro-forces? And more to the point, should its resonance in sound, time and space depend upon our perception, our notions of beauty and the problematic distinctions between analogue and digital, natural and cultural, progression and regression, human and machine? This article envisages a microsonic sensibility in which these elements interpenetrate each other, before they are perceived as harmonious flow, pure form and static reality. As such, it questions the validity of the man-machine relationship approached as a pre-determined duality based on differences between species. In this space we attempt to move beyond the anthropocentric model of sound composition that determines beauty and final result, in accordance with subjective notions of taste. Hence, we argue for invisible, imperceptible and microscopic forces that modulate the body, impinging on its capacity to resonate into the future. Microsonic sensibility follows on the footsteps of Spinoza and his notion of the body as ‘the thing’: an abstract life form that affects and is affected by other bodies in a variety of ways. After Spinoza we argue that the body is not exhausted in actuality, but open to a virtuality that constantly reviews and resets what it is, what it can do and what it can hear, beyond the senses. Finally, we ask, is there anything more alien than the alienness of nature? A self-varying and self-organised blob of heterogeneous matter that contaminates and is contaminated by the bodies that traverse it.
Architects of Time Music is a temporal and thus uncertain art; yet throughout its heavily territorialised history music has tended to reproduce and interpret the sonorous, rather than invent it. Musical compositions in the West have largely consisted of organisational forms that include scales; modes; harmonies; limited numbers and theories of counterpoint; punctual techniques and points of origin - all concerning discrete steps in time. However, Pierre Boulez suggests that structure and time do not disappear when occupying sonic territories, but acquire instead an autonomity and independence from measurement. Numbers gain a life of their own, counting time intensively and endorefferentially rather than depending on the metric relationships that are enforced between them from the outside. For Boulez, this strange world of autonomy is part and parcel of the uncertainty that each sonic work must retain. In sound composition it is not the evolution of an idea from abstract and vague to a final and perfect form that we ought to look for. Rather, “it is essential to preserve the potential of the unknown that a masterpiece contains.”4 Still, this autonomy does not mean isolation, or exclusion, even extraction from a logical whole. On the contrary, connection and integration are for Boulez the very stuff that space if made of. Specifically, space is problematiocally reduced to the high speeds and nonmetric numbers of sound; “space is rather the potential of polyphonic lay-out, an indication of the distribution of structures.”5 Space thus move in a polyrhythmic manner, not from a to b but as a plethora of parts that are independent yet related and co-existent We learn from John Cage, who pioneered compositional methods of difference against structure and originality, that ‘musical habits’ constitute a ‘cautious stepping’ that needs to be problematised. To achieve this we need possibilities “revealing to us that musical action or existence can occur at any point or along any line or curve or what have you in total sound-space”6. This sound-space, or what this article refers to as microsonic sensibility, moves beyond merely technical or metaphysical definitions to an altogether different conception. This is a sound plane that fabricates and stretches time, pointing only to unformed potential relations between elements, not fixed structures or subjects. For Cage chance compositions relied on temporal processes not products or objects, freed from the idea of form, of expressive content and of determined morphologies of frequency and duration.7 Time in Cage floats and is not dependent on
meter, pulse or tempo: the movement of time and sound even in silence, cross the movement of the body in space.8 We learn from Boulez that there is a violence in the act of composition that breaks with the idea of symmetrical space and time. This kind of violence unfolds as a temporal force of sonic matter at the level of inaudibility, before it is extracted and articulated in perception. Boulez recognises two notions of time: pulsed time, that is, chronometric duration and amorphous time, global durations that appear on a field of time.9 Drawing on the concept of time as a force, among other forces that generate and traverse microsonic sensibility, microsonic sensibility twists the commonplace idea of three dimensions of space to the one of time. If the latter is the axis on which physical events occur, the amorphous time that we conceive of is the field of virtuality, where matter is supple and bendable but not harmonious. The sonic body for us is spontaneous matter that generates patterns without external intervention. The internality of this process becomes more obvious in the current practice of circuit-bending, as we explore later, than in the exercises of sonic control by the avant-garde. Stockhausen, for example, invented methods of composition that rely on the ideality of matter equated to its properties, its numbers, and the totality of their definitive order. Stockhausen’s serialism suggested that the essence of the sound material itself provides the guide to our perception of space. He therefore determined the frequencies of the generators and the durations of each sound. Within this context of experimentation, composition started to occur at a micro-level of granularity smaller than that of a note, while the goal of electronic music became the proposition that “work and material have the same structure”10. Following Stockhausen’s material idealism, contemporary musician Kim Cascone announces that it is the tools themselves that have become the message, pushing further McLuhan’s famous proclamation. More specifically, for Cascone the failure of technological tools has opened up a new genre of possibilities. This failure has spawned a culture of sonic ambience emerging out of system crashes, application errors, distortion, noise and bugs. Referred to as ‘post-digital’ music or the glitch, this is a deconstructive audio technique that allows artists to “work beneath the previously impenetrable veil of digital media” and therefore “beneath the levels of perception”11. Cascone argues that such aesthetics of failure pervert traditional compositional processes, enabling new forms of production. The blind spot of perception within which digital microsound operates is akin to a notion of object-oriented experience, where the laptop takes centre stage and the glitches of the code are pre-determined and pre-existing, awaiting discovery by the human ear. However, if the aesthetics of this new method of composition rely solely on digital tools, and embrace the fundamentally binary structure of the digital medium at the core of their creation, then how does it distance itself from the Western model of rationality that relies on modernist logic? Is this model of form emerging out of the medium’s structural principles (the laptop in this case) able to account for the connections between body, sound and space? Can we conceive of a different acoustic space that is not entangled in the binary oppositions between the analogue and the digital, the technological and the biological, the real and the virtual?
Of course the replacement of musical linear causality with sonic experimentation is not a novelty of the digital age. John Cage’s work relied on complete randomness and chance, looking to “take personality out of the composing process”12. Cage presented an almost complete loss of control by tossing a coin or composing a piece out of the duration in which a pianist sits at the piano, without touching the keyboard. The random and arbitrary sounds of the environment during a particular moment in time and the use of pianos prepared with paper and nails fixed to the strings, created assemblages of heterogeneous and hitherto non-associated elements. For Deleuze and Guattari, the random processes and pure modifications employed by Cage “is a question of freeing times […] a nonpulsed time for a floating of music. […] It is undoubtedly John Cage who first and most perfectly deployed this fixed sound plane, which affirms a process against all structure and genesis, a floating time against pulsed time or tempo, experimentation against any kind of interpretation, and in which silence as sonorous rest also marks the absolute state of movement.”13 Cage used the term noise to describe a fundamental and inseparable part of the processes of organisation of sound, one that is radically different from Wiener and Shannon’s idea of noise as a disturbance that should be eliminated from the channel. The composer was for Cage the organiser of sound faced with the entire field of sound “but also with the entire field of time”14. After Boulez, microsonic sensibility draws on the idea that what we can know of the world is its structure, not its essence, its relationships and functions, not its substances and accidents. Cascone’s distinction between the digital and post-digital notions of the accident is challenged in microsonic sensibility, as is the claim that an event is the mere outcome of the material’s form. A sonic extraction of content out of form, of abstract out of concrete and of possibility out of randomness, presupposes problematic oppositions that are constructed out of our reflections. In Boulez, on the other hand, there is no opposition between form and content or abstract and concrete. Similarly, microsonic sensibility questions these issues, to argue for a re-visiting of algorithmic space as more than the essence of digital code. Code, notwithstanding, is not excluded from microsonic sensibility but must be re-thought as the discrete instant that cuts along the continuum of spacetime at all levels. In other words, the algorithmics of space are influenced but not determined by code. In addition, code cannot be conceived as the absolute definer of space; the master of the grids and coordinates upon which space and time depend. It is a component of the relationship and not always one that we can cipher and decipher to compose structures, but one that crosses ,microsonic sensibility implicitly, among other forces. Whereas in microsound, and generative sound, time derives from the preorganised seriality of numbers and their properties as they propagate in space, microsonic sensibility proposes an alternative account of temporality. According to Varese, to capture the temporal dynamics of electronic soundspaces, new rhythms and frequencies have to be invented, and a completely new seismographic notation.15 It is as if our machine-spaces (instead of space-machines) and machine-bodies, indicate cross-rhtyhms and polyphonies that we have no language, instruments or notation for. Messiaen too saw an intensive relationship between time and sound, using sound as the intermediary “that makes time sensible” and “organizing the material to capture the forces
of time and make them into sound”16. To the impasse of seriality, moreover, Xenakis proposed the plasticity of time through aleatory and stochastic laws, originating from indeterminism and mathematics and pointing to the passage between order and disorder. Xenakis noted the continuity of this passage, a movement that connects the movement of sound space-times to the movements in us.17 More recently, experiments with technology and electricity lead to a new conceptualisation of acoustic space, known as ‘Circuit-Bending’. Alien Electronic Deflections Circuit-bending is the creative shortcircuiting of low voltage, battery-powered electronic audio devices (i.e. children’s toys, guitar effects, synthesizers etc.), to create new sound generators. In the words of founder Q.R. Ghazala, it is “the electronic art of the implementation of the creative audio shortcircuit. This renegade path of electrons represents a catalytic force capable of exploding new experimental musical forms forward at a velocity previously unknown. The circuitbent instrument, often a re-wired audio toy or game, is an alien instrument. Alien in electronic design, alien in voice, alien in musician interface.”18 As electricity flows through the player’s body and is affected and transformed through the flesh and blood-flow, the body becomes an active part of the sound circuit that emerges in the performing space. In circuit-bending performances, machine-human spacetimes poke matter, tapping into its virtual flow. Here, a motion capture can trigger a visual image that fades out asynchronously to sound; the latter may impinge on the performer’s body or take a life of its own in the physical space that it permeates and disturbs through vibration (air pressure). The human body, a moving water-ball, is thus not only a receptor but a transducer of sound, actively incubating sensibility like a sound chamber without walls. The body is unable to distinguish between internal and external resonance and feedback, and experiences ‘involuntarily’ the nonsubjective movements of impersonal matter.19 These movements constantly transform space itself, brain matter and sensory perception to move beyond the phenomenological notion of lived experience. This is because the notion of the body in microsonic sensibility is not limited by speciation within strictly defined categories. For the microsonic body, biological specification and segregation from what is not human is no longer important. Circuit-bending is “a new
instrumentarium…stream(ing) unpredictable audio events, elements shifting and recombining in fascinating ways.”20 It is a process that creates new life forms by meshing together existing bodies, instruments, electric devices and spacetimes. As such, it transfuses the potentialities of these elements and gives rise to new (but ancient) tribes “of bioelectronic Audio Sapiens”21. Rather than an aestheticisation of the digital, and away from the idea of technological progress, circuit-bending mobilizes the analogue in order to invoke the cosmic. Microsonic sensibility does not communicate information through technology. It is circuitbending variation: the unfolding of matter towards its own virtuality. Its movements are often inaccessible to the senses but impact on the body constantly, underneath and behind sound. Microsonic artisans pay attention to the microscopic, the subatomic, the molecular and their immanent movements. These movements emerge out of the simplicity of circuit-bending audio toys, like the ‘photon clarinet’ or the ‘morphiums’, indifferent to categories such as digital or analogue. A Microsonic Ontology of Futurity The microsonic sensibility of sound, space and the body breaks away from a subjective understanding of space and time, embedded in the tradition of Western philosophy. Instead, it invents a new smooth space that is not metric, musical or organised, but nonmetric, undetermined and rhythmic. Microsonic sensibility is processoral rather than object-oriented, looking at the virtuality of matter before it becomes a sound object or a sensory organ. It pokes this peculiarity and temporality of sonic matter, whose infinitesimally small rhythms do not cross over to sensory perception. At the level of vibrational matter, the architecture of space and the body is temporal, in other words rhythmic but not metric. Contrary to the psychophysiological notion of circadian body rhythms, whose speed and slowness depend on external cues, rhythmic inorganic matter is not about the actual but about the virtual activity of the body in spacetime. If macrotime is actual, linear and universal (discovered spatially through the Hubble telescope) then the microtime of sonic space is virtual, rhizomatically stretched and cosmic. It is a reality that we cannot measure, explain or represent according to hitherto logics of causality and the Kantian conditioning of possible experience. It is the contingent reality of the “warrior [who] treats the world as an endless mystery and what people do as an endless folly. Focus all your attention on listening to sounds and do your best to find the holes between the sounds. Stay in complete alertness...The sounds have holes in them and so does everything around you. Ordinarily a man does not have the speed to catch the holes, and thus he goes through life without protection.”22 The idea is that before a system of symbols and language is invented to address the experience reflected from sensory phenomena, microsonic sensibility proposes a rhythmanalaysis of movements, at the level of imperceptibility. Space and time at this minuscule scale, no longer address sense perception, methods of measurement, solid forms. The uncertainty of moving blind-folded in space and time, forces an alternative perceptivity of matter’s architecture and one that requires a sensitivity to the vibrations with which it is built. If differential
matter connects and converges seemingly discrepant elements by topologising their surfaces, we may argue that the alienness of these connectivities is closer to reality than the rigidity of visual formations. Microsonic sensibility thus constructs reality via a process of virtual relations, much sooner than it represents. In representation, vision is prominent within the sensory hierarchy, directing the body and providing the mind with logical pictures that correspond to specific objects. However, if matter behaves in accordance to our observations, as well as our subjective experience and interpretation of the world, how can we account for that which cannot be seen or experienced directly? What is the peculiarity and unpredictability of matter without form, structure and direction outside the field of vision and beneath the limits of our subjective knowledge? Is there a possibility to experience microsonic sensibility, the micro-relations between space, time, sound and the body, at a level of vibration that defies phenomenological observation? Microsonic sensibility poses these questions to conceptualise a vibrational plane of variability that is mathematical without being numerical, rhythmic without being melodical and continuous without being seamless. It proposes that at the molecular level, sonic matter has the capacity to bear an infinite “world of innumerable creatures”23. These tiny motions of matter were never granted legitimacy by the molar sciences and philosophies of Western thought, challenged as “ghosts of departed quantities” by the humanities.24 In fact these small perceptions are forever arriving and impinging on the body, only they do not always make into awareness. They are “microawarenesses without the actual awareness, gnats of potential experience”25. These phantom virtualities have yet to occur in a recognisable form, and as such they are ghosts of futurity not of the past. In this sense, they surpass the confines of lived experience as they are not products of human perception. They are potentialities of a life form that is machinic and mutable; a rhythmic turbulence that escapes capture; a fusion of different species jumping from one line of evolution to another. Microsonic sensibility assembles these unlikely monstrosities to invent a space in which the uncertainties, imperfections and rhythms of future matter can unfold, that is, to “meet matter half-way”.26
Eleni Ikoniadou is currently researching her doctoral thesis entitled Virtual Modulations: Stretching Time and the Body in Sonic Topology, at the University of East London. This article was inspired by the above project and an earlier version is published by YProductions Biblioteca at http:// ypsite.net/pdfs/microsonic_sensibility.pdf
Notes 1 Bertolt Brecht, ‘Text on Radio Broadcasting’, Brecht on Film and Radio (UK: Methuen 2000), p. 38 2 Jem Finer, for more details on this project see http://www.scoreforaholeintheground.org/ 3 Jem Finer, ibid 4 Pierre Boulez, ‘General Considerations’, Boulez on Music Today (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), p 18, emphasis in the original 5 Boulez, ibid, p 22 6 John Cage, ‘Experimental Music’, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 2004), p 9 7 John Cage, ‘Composition as Process: Indeterminacy’, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (New York: Continuum, 2005), p 177. According to Boulez, Cage’s method of chance composition was highly unproductive because chance is not an aesthetic category and therefore “composing by chance is not composing at all. Composing [instead] means to put things together”, Boulez, ibid, p 163 8 In Cage’s methods the notion of body movement, floating time and sound was further explored in his collaborations with Merce Cunningham’s dance experiments. Leading the idea of synthesizing space, sound and body electronically through chance, the project Variations V was conceived as a multi-media installation as early as 1965, involving Cage, Cunningham, Moog and Tudor. This event used a system of directional photoelectric cells that bended the body, space and sound as a kind of predecessor to circuit-bending, which is discussed later in the article. 9 These are the ‘striated’ and ‘smooth’ times in Boulez that exist in constant communication rather than in separation, according to Deleuze. Striated space-time determines the cuts on the continuum, the measures and sizes, whereas smooth space-time detaches itself from the striated, referring to chronometry globally. That is, “the cuts are indeterminate, of an irrational type, and the measures are replaced by distances and proximities”. Deleuze, ‘Occupy Without Counting: Boulez, Proust and Time’, Two Regimes of Madness (New York: Semiotext(e), 2006), p 294 10 Steven R. Holtzman, ‘Composing Machines’, Digital Mantras, The Languages of Abstract and Virtual Worlds (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1996), p 165 11 Kim Cascone, ‘The Aesthetics of Failure: ‘Post-Digital’ Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music’, http://mitpress.mit.edu/journals/COMJ/CMJ24_4Cascone.pdf 12 Steven R. Holtzman, ibid 13 Deleuze & Guattari, ‘Becoming Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible’, A Thousand Plateaus (London: Continuum, 2002), p 282 14 John Cage, ‘The Future of Music: Credo’, Silence, Lectures and Writings by John Cage (Marion Boyars: London, 2004), p 3
15 Edgard Varese, ‘The Liberation of Sound’, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (New York: Continuum, 2005), p 18, my italics 16 Deleuze, ‘Occupy Without Counting…’ ibid, p 298 17 Xenakis, ‘Concerning Time, Space and Music’, Formalised Music (New York: Pendragon Press, 1990) 18 Q.R Ghazala, ‘:Of a Future’, http://www.oddmusic.com/illogic/illogic. html 19 Brian Massumi explains that ‘looking only at movements’ after Deleuze and Guattari’s real materialism, forces us to accept the “insistence of the material and the impersonal (the “involuntary”) in bootstrapped personal experience” to argue that “there is not essential difference between perception, cognition, and hallucination”. ‘Strange Horizon’, Parables for the Virtual (Duke University Press: 2002), p 206 20 Ghazala, ibid 21 Ibid 22 Carlos Castaneda, ‘A Separate Reality’, Don Juan Teachings, http:// www.prismagems.com/castaneda/donjuan2.html 23 Leibniz, ‘A Specimen of Discoveries about Marvellous Secrets’, Philosophical Writings (London: Dent, 1981), p 82 24 Martin Davis writes about the criticism of Leibniz’s infinitesimal numbers (“so very tiny that no matter how many times such a number was added to itself, the number 1 […] would never be reached”) by the philosopher Bishop Berkeley, in The Universal Computer, The Road from Leibniz to Turing, (New York: Norton & Company, 2000), n7 p 212 25 On this point and ‘proprioception’ see Massumi, ibid, pp196-198 26 Manuel DeLanda, during his talk on Deleuze’s topological thinking, ‘Creative Evolution’ Conference, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, February 12, 2005
WAYS OF LISTENING
When auditory information is received by the ear of the beholder it is usually categorised into two modes of reception: hearing and listening. Both modes operate identically, yet nuances between types of auditory information can cause perceptual differences insofar as the distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing is the raw form of auditory reception, which continuously takes place consciously, subconsciously and unconsciously whereas listening is a more selective mode that occurs only in the conscious (McLuhan. 1980). Listening is an active form of auditory reception that requires a degree of auditory focus. It is a mode of reception that requires a willingness to receive and therefore is usually associated with sound. Hearing, on the other hand, is an unwilling activity that can be associated with both sound and noise. However, the majority of auditory information that is heard is occupied by noise. The continual reception of the human ear, that can pick up frequencies between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, is inundated with a cacophony of auditory information generally known as ambient sound; the fabric of acoustic space. Made up of a multiplicity of omni-directionally immersive auditory events, ambient sound is a composition that is constantly heard and seldom listened to. By switching ones mode of reception from
hearing to listening, this corporeal muzak makes the perceptual shift from sound to music. This was exemplified by artist Max Neuhaus, who, for his compositional work Listen (1966), sent his audience on a trip around Manhattan with the word “listen” stamped on their hand, encouraging an extraordinary awareness of acoustic space. A similar perceptual shift from noise to sound and from hearing to listening is poetically illustrated in Lars Von Trier’s film, Dancer in the Dark (2000), in which the wannabe musical performer Selma Jezkova, played by Björk, slowly becomes blind. Her optical deterioration leads to an increased awareness of her auditory environment in which each noise becomes a constituent in a perceptual soundtrack to the fantasised musical of her life. In Von Trier’s film however, pattern and structure to the noise(s) seem to be ratification for it to qualify as ‘music’ whereas Neuhaus’s earlier performance held no such prerequisites. The significance of this was that Neuhaus questioned the status quo of what was regarded as music by reifying his predecessors Varèse and Cage’s propositions to broaden the definition of music.
My studio and contextual research has brought me to a position where I can begin to unpick and reinvent the act of listening to music. Listening, in all its modes, is the way in which we can engage with music passively or critically. However, in listening, we might fail to appreciate the music we can hear everywhere around us. Over the last century musicians like VarĂ¨se and Stockhausen have embraced the acoustic space produced by our technology and given us a whole new vocabulary for music. As our technologies develop so does our everaccumulating bank of noise = sounds. Musical instruments and Hi-Fi systems naturally create boundaries that limit what music is and can be â€“ they are designed to produce and reproduce sound consistently faithful to the original. Therefore, it may be the responsibility of design to open up the way in which music is produced, reproduced and (re-) presented by leaving room for the inadvertent production of acoustic space (noise) and questioning how music is spatialised. By offering alternatives to the way audio is spatialised, design can facilitate new ways of reading the sound and therefore encourage the producer of the sound to add-in narrative and meaning. Through spatialisation, the reproduction of an audio event can in addition be representational of how the sound was originally produced. Whatever narratives can be assumed intentionally or inadvertently, these types of audio spatial dialectics begin to return the relevance to our acoustic world that McLuhan argues has been lost to our visual world.
Annie Pender is creating characters out of people. She then makes clothes for these characters. Matthew Poutney is DJ Rubbish Shot at the South London Gallery Clothes & styling Annie Pender for A-Wolf Photographs Laura Dalbraith and Jassica Thom Words Annie Pender
This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man This man
is a wise guy, he picks his fights. is picking a fight. fights many battles. requires armour. is hiding and when he can’t hide any longer, he will fight to death. is disturbed. hasn’t, a do-not-disturb sign. lives on his wits. knows he is this man, by his defenses. is mad as hell and he’s not taking it any more. has the garb and the gab. is gonna knock you out, if you only just love him. wants to be wrapped up in swaddling clothes. would buy the emperors new clothes, if it meant people adored him. wants it. wants you to fight him for it. sweats. smiles. wears a poker face. has a screw face. girds his loins. fought his way out of inconvenience. couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. waxes. is a lean mean fighting machine. gazes out from the shadows. is a top universal underdog. does not fight his own battles. only fights other people’s battles. is a painful pleasure. fights for humiliation.
This man would let you think otherwise. This man would rather die than not fight you. This son of a gun is cock sure. This man gets cocky when he thinks he’s won. This man still won’t let you near him though. This man cannot be touched. Just watch.
In My Auntie’s Living Room Words by Anuschka Wiese, Photographs by Anuschka’s aunt
The room I know so well. The same clock on the wall. I can describe it in miniscule detail when I close my eyes, wherever I am.
I have sat in this room on many long afternoons as a child, a teenager and a grown-up. I always longed for the clock to move fast, forward. Back then, the time spent here at the table or on the low three-seater sofa was impatient time. I yearned for my mum to get up so that we could all leave. As kids, my sister and I would beg my mum (already on the way to my aunt’s), not to spend too much time there. The living room never seemed inviting to us. I remember how cold my feet always were, how I shivered while I uncomfortably sat in a skirt and a blouse, the special outfit for the family occasion. The car journey to her two bedroom flat in Treptow was long. From the West to the East, before 1989, even longer. My aunt was always excited about our visits and planned them well in advance. She would cook an extensive meal; three courses at least and on top, she would offer coffee and cakes only a few hours after we’ve been stuffed with meat, potatoes and vegetables. Then came
passed the supermarket. Not many things have changed, neither in the street nor in her flat. My aunt has central heating now, but I am still cold as she prefers fresh air and always leaves a window open – at any season.
She is very excited to see her niece, a rare visitor. We are looking at old photo albums together, across the table. She’s on the couch, I am on the chair. It’s always me who points out at photographs and gasps surprised when seeing familiar faces. My auntie tells me their names, lists their relations - mostly uncles, aunts, sisters and her parents, later on colleagues from work and a few men. My aunt looks like a film star on most of the photographs. She is always well dressed. She would go to a small tailor shop near Savignyplatz (former West Berlin) which took two hours to get to - to order new garments from fabrics she got somehow cheap somewhere, or sent from her aunt who lived in California. I still catch myself looking at the clock regularly, even though I don’t want to leave, I just can’t help it. Today I don’t want the time to pass quickly. I am here to ask her questions about her life in East Berlin, the wall, her fiancée in West Berlin, about her struggle to be united with him, only to flee back to East Berlin. That’s my aunt. That was 1964. My aunt fled to the West only to come back to the East two months later. I look into her eyes while she talks and I can see her pain, which has lasted for over forty years.
She allows me to keep four photographs. the evening dinner. Our stomachs full, our feet freezing, our tights itchy – my sister and I longed for our home, the TV, friends, a bit later on, boyfriends and Saturday night parties, instead of spending time in this place which seemed from another world. Today, for the first time, I came by myself voluntarily. I was surprised of how easily I could find her flat. I remembered the old shortcut through the industrial estate at the back,
Three of them are love letters from her fiancée, photographs with notes on the back. He calls her my little sweet pumpkin. two of the black and white photographs show him and his friends standing by the wall in West looking over to the East side. He writes: Week by week, we are standing here among these ruins and our only wish is to be able to come over to you on the other side. One of his friends is holding up flowers, a present for his sweetheart in the East.
These photographs move me. It’s not that I didn’t know. I grew up in West Berlin and spent most of my public holidays at my mum’s family in the East. Still, as a child, I was too innocent and didn’t question the wall. Now, being let into my auntie’s life, by revisiting these events I am dumb folded. Also, I have never known the whole story. All I knew before I came here this afternoon, was what I could piece together from overheard conversation or from my mum.
My aunt never spoke about it openly. My family is not very different, most stories in my family are ‘ just known’ but never discussed or told. My auntie went to prison after she immigrated back to East Berlin for her illegal fled. She was marked ‘not trustworthy’, an opponent to the socialist regime, she was even considered to be a spy. They shadowed her over for many years. After she was released from prison, my auntie was made to work in a shop facing the Wall, not any wall, The Wall, the one which divided one city, one nation, one
family. The psychological terror must have been unbearable. I can still see this on my auntie’s face. Later, she married a policeman. My uncle, who only gave her grief. Someone she couldn’t rely on. But that’s another story. There is a rumour in our family that my other uncle - who is married to my mum’s middle sister, had spied on her or at least gave vital information about her relationship with a West German. No one talks about this today. My auntie only hints. Maybe I will be able to find out, to ask my other auntie about their involvement. Maybe they would agree to talk about this now, so many years later, belonging to a different world altogether. People say that you open up in old age. But people also say that time heals wounds. Today, I’ve seen different.
We work with designers who we feel are pioneers, leaders in a world saturated by followers. These may be well established names such as
How do you choose, approach and select the work of a designer?
We work closely with the designer to develop the curatorial process of putting up an exhibition. Sometimes we have greater influence on the final outcome, and at other times the designer will.
What is your process for putting up an exhibition?
We have finally refined the questions on Maxalotâ€™s past, present and future through the filter of the gallery space and its significance in design (and especially in comparison to art).
Maxalot positions itself as a gallery that specializes on graphic design. It showcases graphic design as a contemporary art-form inviting industry leaders, pioneers of graphic style and technique to exhibit in shows which are free from the boundaries of their client-work. Since its debut in 2003, Maxalot has set course to become an influential force in the global graphic and design.
As I mentioned above, it is a platform for designers to be expressive, creative and no worry about designing something functional or communicative. It appeals to their artistic nature and frees them
In which ways do designers benefit from having a space to display their work?
Could you please talk us through your decisions and the significance of this type of setting?
We felt there was room out there for a gallery which show-cases the creativity of designers, without the boundaries imposed by the functional emphasis of design. In other words presenting design as art - a form of expression celebrating the fantastic creativity and imaginativeness of designers - often using digital tools - presenting them as artists in a gallery setting.
art system. The gallery has also been a much-debated issue within the art world. At Maxalot you have embraced the concept of the gallery as a space that showcases and promotes the work of designers. Why did you decide to open a gallery?
I suppose most of our audience is under 50, but other than that we have a network all over the world from Bangkok to Birmingham ranging from students to mechanics to creative professionals.
What is your audience?
Some do, such as Joshua Davis (who also studied Fine Art) who has exhibited at P.S.1 in New York or Universal Everything whoâ€™s video works appear in leading art galleries around the world.
Do designers that exhibit at Maxalot also exhibit in art-oriented galleries?
13 September 2007 e-mail interview with Lotje Sodderland
Exhibition spaces within a gallery context have almost exclusively been associated with art and are an intrinsic part of the
It is more of a collaborative process which is usually instigated by us, but certainly the designers have a strong influence in the development of the exhibition concept and production.
Do designers sometimes contact you with an idea for an exhibition?
That’s mostly Max and I’s combined role, and it has become more interesting lately as we have been working with many different spaces so we can draw inspiration from them, rather than having to come up with ways to make different exhibitions interesting in the same space.
Who gets involved in the curation of the space?
Often we will come up with a concept which we feel works well based on the designer’s work, medium and technical capabilities. From there we develop the exhibition concept together with the designer.
Do you brief the designers prior to a show?
Build or eBoy - or they may be total newcomers like Pixelnouveau who demonstrates a unique style and remarkable individuality in his work.
We do work with some artists who have also worked in design but are artists first and foremost such as Boris Hoppek. So far we’ve never worked with anyone who is exclusively an artist though.
Would you consider showcasing the work of an artist at Maxalot?
The question of whether it is art or design is still heavily debated, but we Maxalots certainly view the graphic designers which we exhibit as artists.
Do you think designers engage with the idea that what they are doing is art, when they are called to display their work in a gallery space?
The designers we work with tend to be extremely creative, artists essentially. We often hear that working for our exhibitions gives them a sense of freedom and allows them to genuinely express themselves without having to think about the brief, the budget or the clients’ needs.
I can imagine that a designer that is used to work towards a set brief format, budget, client etc would have to adjust or even change his/her ways of working in order to produce work for an exhibition.
from those boundaries set by the commercial industry.
We work with designers who we feel are pioneers, leaders in a world saturated by followers.
The next Maxalot exhibition: On/Off. Build VS Commonwealth 19-25 September It will run as part of the Brompton Design District hub of the London Design Festival 2007, at 5 Cromwell Place, London SW7. www.maxalot.com
We are continuing to work in different spaces around the world, both on invitation and on projects we find interesting. Our invitational productmeets-graphic design series with Commonwealth in New York still has 2 more editions in the series of 5, one with Universal Everything and one with Pixelnouveau. We are working on the graphic-meets-architecture precision projecting which we’re doing in the Hague next week and Miami in December... Also I’m making a documentary!
What are your plans for the future?
YOU HAVE TO BE STUPID NOT TO SEE THE IMPORTANCE OF GRAPHIC DESIGN
ONLY MEDIOCRE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN
Let's Make Some Fucking Noise
Photo by Warren McLachlan
This issue was curated by Phill Wilson-Perkin
Credits Football picture Can Altay Microsoft Word drawings Koray Kantarcioglu Vade Retro poster Alexandre Coco Be Vigilant poster Mary Ikoniadou Mediocre / Stupid Alexandre Coco Dad illustration Cristina Christoforou Something Interesting Kit Billy picture Mary Ikoniadou On the walls book Asli Kalinoglu