Thursday, 21 February 2013

Not For Human Consumption

[a longer version of a review published in the #348 2013 issue of the Wire)

Online exhibition

CRISAP, ie Creative Research Into Sound Art Practice is a new platform for developing of contemporary critical art and thinking around sound, focusing on developing new ways of engaging with the environment, creating new software and organizing seminars and symposiums, mingling artists and scholars, with the flagship projects such as HerNoise, problematising women’s participation in the sonic and public sphere. The newest way of engaging with the public is the idea of publishing? installing? - a whole exhibition online. We can say many websites, serving as databases, with all kinds of links, mp3, podcasts, are already in a way were creating the experience of entering an "exhibition", conceived as a little world in itself. But Not for Human Consumption, sixth online show by CRISAP is consciously using the format, liquidating this way any other institutional threshold shying the potential audience away, and taking from our everyday experience of online wandering as a ready blueprint of how the future exhibition should work.

And isn’t it a realisation of the avant-garde ideas of overcoming the “space” as a finite concept anyway? Ten or so sound artists and researchers took the task of coming up with a sonic phenomena, tests, by-products and compositions, that didn’t previously exist in the world, challenging the primate of human consciousness in the phenomenal world. Text and mp3 files, distributed randomly on the page like a discontinued milky way, unveil the sounds, sometimes barely audible or unaudible, but possibly audible to the non-humans; sounds of things that do not exist yet or are yet to come. We are, for instance, listening to the listening brain, or the termites activity under earth (R. W. Mankin & J. Benshemesh’s project using geophone), or acoustic vibration tester from NASA, or modern trains DD IRM, helioseismology, solar oscillations, voice-bots, choreography for computers etc. Its sounds that can be only listened to on our behalf by the machines. Of course, in this sense, as such a post-human and even speculative music, it is very much an illustration of the contemporary theories of posthumanity, expanding of our ontological world, like Michel Serres' concept of quasi-objects or Bruno Latour’s theory of non-human actors and the so called Speculative Realism, developing mostly online. One project by Steven Hammer, is even called Towards an Object Oriented Sonic Phenomenology, and what it does is an extremely sophisticated system of listening to objects’ vibrations near a highway.

The brave new world of new sonic objects is still only looming, it seems: the intellectual just as the practical part of such project seem not have matured enough to already speak of a revolution. The non-anthropocentric theory can have of course very interesting ethical consequences, of which we have to still think aboutas explored by SF or recently, by the dystopias of Michel Houellebecq. What I’ve found nevertheless appealing, were the charm of certain projects: even computers have a right to choreography, and the voice-bots getting excited and reverberating to each other is a dream of every bored commuter on the tube, though again, I think these are concepts straight from the SF books, confirming our imagination of the future largely comes from the 30 and more years old SF visions, where there's dreaming of music created by the cosmic vibrations or the inner life of the machines. Still, CRISAP goes against this tedious argument, that we stopped projecting the future. It's speculative music, music of things to come, even if in practice it can come across as a not tremendously appealing "noise". In a way, it is also the final consequences of conceptualism, with internet as a “site specific” place, place that can be one day of a historical value.