Exploring the Longitude and Latitude of Public Space Through Sound Art

This presentation addresses site-specific sonic practices from the artistic practitioner’s perspective. The intention is to outline a proposal for a revitalisation of the field of site-specificity beyond transcendentalism, offering a challenge to conceptualisations of “form” and “content” that still hover around site-specific practice today.

Departing from the assumption that spatial production understood in its broadest sense should always be understood as process (Massey 2005) and informed by Spinoza’s notion of “body,” which later on was developed in Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) “ontology of assemblage,” public space can be understood in terms of assemblage in consisting of a tremendous number of components, human and non-human, material and immaterial, each of which has specific relations and its own agency—that is, the specific capacity to affect and be affected. Focusing on sound, sound from such perspective can be understood as having its own agency as a vital part of the production of the assemblage we refer to as public space.

The focus for this presentation is on bringing forward various crucial effects that such an assumption has on site-specific (sonic) practice in terms of vital spatial practice: “Site-specific practice it’s not a question of how one should ‘install’ a work but a question of how to articulate an assemblage” (Cox and Stjerna 2015). Such a statement returns to the idea of considering the site as a body composed of two vectors: latitudes and longitudes. “Latitude” concerns the specific material, historical, political, and social components of a place and the way in which they establish different relations. “Longitude,” then, is about my ability as an artist to understand and to modify these relations in the work, how I can reformulate those relations through sound.

Consequently, site-specific practice, on the one hand, should be understood as an exploration of the heterogenic and complex force relations that together constitute the assemblage of a place and, on the other hand, the modification of these relations through art. As a practitioner, I think of myself as exploring what Deleuze and Spinoza call the longitude and the latitude of the place. Through some recent actualised artistic projects, I intend to discuss site specificity as an ability to trace the ways that specific relations form or have formed a specific site or spatial context and the ability to alter it through art (Cox and Stjerna 2015).

The proposed presentation is mainly based on the first chapter of my ongoing (still untitled) artistic research project on sound art in public space.

References

Cox, Christoph, and Åsa Stjerna. 2015 [forthcoming]. “Sound, Affect, and Public Space: Åsa Stjerna in Conversation with Christoph Cox.” In Dirty Ear Report. Berlin: Errant Bodies Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London: Sage.

Locative Media Sound Walks: Connecting Nomadism with Contemporary Geolocated Flânerie and Open Source Practices

Soundwalking is a practice that encourages conscious listening and interaction with the sound environment in a non-linear and improvisational manner. There is a theoretical relevancy with “promenadology” and Benjamin/Baudelaire’s flânerie, as the user/listener is invited to wander through an “aurally augmented” urban environment. The result establishes rhizomatic maps and lines of sound/audio walks relevant to the city, as perceived and aurally captured by the artist. The practice of soundwalking suggests wandering new routes, thus questioning linear urban planning, and uses field research and sound recording and their juxtaposition to escape from the model of the “panoramic city,” which is mostly perceived visually.

Most soundwalks and geo-located sound installations use open-source platforms that combine locative media (GPS) with music/sound/performative compositions by applying them to a region’s map. The artist’s and the listener’s function often coincide, both in cases where the sound is recorded while crossing the area and in those cases where the path chosen by the walker/listener determines the artistic result.

In this paper I will attempt to connect the concept of “nomadism,” as introduced and explained by Deleuze and Guattari, with contemporary artistic practices of sound walks, site-specific sound compositions, and geo-located sound interventions in urban public space by juxtaposing the principles of nomad art with those of open-source platforms and flânerie.

As Deleuze and Guattari (1980) imply, many social activities, including art, can constitute a war machine drawing “a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth place of displacement” (ibid., 423) by reforming or acting against dominant systems and/or practices (ibid., 500). In the case of soundwalking, nomadism does not apply by suggesting fleeing the city but by proposing wandering as resistance to its confined and bordered space (Deleuze 1985, 149): in these soundscape compositions, narratives prevail, communities acquire space and voice, buildings are not mere subjects for sightseeing tours, the city is not a collection of historical information but a space to aurally, artistically, and socially wander within the micro-frames of which this space rhizomatically consists. Music and narrative as tools, leave behind ethnography, documentary, score, concert halls, museums, and institutions and become pliable materials, fragments of a living organism, of a city-score whose music is made by and is addressed to people. Actually the notions of nomadism and war machine apply here “as a war of becoming over being, of the sedentary over the nomadic” (Deuchars 2011, 3).

Departing from the distinction of audio walks, sound walks and listening walks, I will connect these contemporary artistic practices with the Deleuzian notion of rhizome and nomadism in order to indicate how the sound routes of wandering create experiential, non-dichotomous relations between public space and people that inhabit it or cross it, and how this process is a becoming-art through the inclusion of lines of flight and soft spots that converse with displaced artistic tools and site specific sound representations.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1985. “Nomad Thought.” In The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation, edited by David B. Allison, 142–49. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1980. Mille Plateaux. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

Deuchars, Robert. 2011. “Creating Lines of Flight and Activating Resistance: Deleuze and Guattari’s War Machine.” Seminar at the Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Unformed Sound in Multimedia Composition: The Šarapovas Project Silver Dust

The idea of the presentation is based on the Deleuzian concept of the deterritorialisation of refrain, using unformed sound and an investigation into how this type of sound works in the multimedia project Silver Dust. The experimental video project, created by Lithuanian artist Andrius Šarapovas, is interdisciplinary, comprising music, dance, and poetry (Nivinskas, Juodkaite, Navakas, and others). The uniqueness of this project is that Šarapovas has been interested in Deleuze’s philosophy for a few years and framed the composition by following some ideas of Deleuze. In the video project Silver Dust, different art lines run separately, parallel, or in different directions, are full of cracks, and at the same time create unity through the invisible links. The project is compounded from twelve short pieces.

How does Deleuze and Guattari’s mention of “broken tones” and “raw sounds” in What is Philosophy? stimulate the appearance of the art’s machine, vibration, and clinches between the different art lines in the composition Silver Dust? How much raw sound and how much sound modification during the sound editing deterritorialises the refrain of composition, mentioned in Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (1987)? How does this machine erase the boundary between natural and artificial unformed sound in music and produce clinches with dance and poetry? Is it the work of a dark precursor, described in Deleuze’s early work Difference and Repetition?

We don’t pretend to identify where the pick of interconnection and resonance becomes obvious and which unformed sound is of crucial importance. Everyone perceives the appearance of resonance slightly differently. Unformed sounds are welcomed into the composition; later sounds are recreated by design, engineering, and montage. As Šarapovas stated in an interview, “When everything is said and all harmony, rhythmic things step aside, there is nothing in front of you; the new briefing and intensity for creation approaches”; the pretext for that is raw sound (in a wrong way, an old double bass sound, a phone call, and the sound of an opening door are played). These sounds from one side are the cracks of a line, a bridge to counterpoints and a condition for experimenting with the intensity of frequencies while searching for deterritorialisation. They are also clinches, in Deleuze and Guattari’s words first of all—flesh, which leads to blocs of sensation, percepts, and affects and waiting for resonance. “Flesh is only the developer which disappears in what it develops: the compound of sensation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 183). Unexpected and unformed sounds inspire the performance’s team, and first of all Šarapovas reacts to the moment “the one which ‘is lacking in its place’ as it lacks its own identity” (Deleuze 1994, 120). That provokes new turns in the art machine. Raw sounds quiet down and, to the contrary, some musical sounds are re-created into a loud noise, experimenting with different pitch and rhythm in the process of sound editing. Consequently, sounds are held, as Deleuze and Guattari state, in their “extinction,” “production and development” by the multimedia art machine. Moreover, Šarapovas tries to compound raw sound/noise in music and poetry and the raw view/noise in image to allow their interconnection during montage, opening conditions for vibrations and couplings between heterogeneous elements, as well as division. “All that, however, would be possible only because the invisible precursor conceals itself and its functioning, and at the same time conceals the in-itself or true nature of difference” (Deleuze 1994, 119).

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.